Somewhere down the road of my life a friend of mine and I developed this way of saying the word barbeque that was completely ridiculous. It sounded more like bar-beee-cue than barbecue. Whenever the subject of barbecuing came up we would laugh and slaughter the sound of this word with our exaggerated pronunciation. It was one of those inside jokes that make no sense to anyone other than the people who made it up.
Since that joke developed I have come to learn that in some parts of the world barbecue is no laughing matter and that poking fun at it is not a good idea. Fortunately my education started before I moved to Texas where I have to come to decide that barbecue has to be the “state food”.
If you’re like me and you’re not from the South you might think barbecue is something you do and not something you eat. Fortunately, I learned this from my husband before I moved to Texas or I would have been completely confused by all the billboards going down the road advertising barbecue. I would have had this picture in my mind of either thousands of people having cook outs or hundreds of stores selling outdoor grills. The two pictures go hand in hand but that’s not what is being advertised. The signs are directing you to countless restaurants all of which claim to have the best barbecue around. In Texas the number of barbecue joints is comparable to the number of Starbucks in Seattle. You can find one on almost every corner.
Like most Southern California girls I had no idea that barbecue is a method of preparation that doesn’t involve a grill. That’s right there’s no Weber and the debate about what wood is the best for smoking meat – could split a family not just a tree! That debate typically takes place while people are gathered for a meal in the Lone Star state because when folks get together there’s a 99% probability that you are going to have barbecue. Barbecue is everywhere you go and the standard menu of sausage, brisket, ribs, beans, cold slaw, potato salad, white bread, and cobbler for dessert doesn’t even need to be published. If you’re from Texas you just know.
For the out of town folks all this barbecue probably sounds delicious and it is but I’ve got to confess I don’t know if I can take much more. I feel like I’m drowning in sauce because almost every gathering I’ve been to has served barbecue. Add to that the take-out barbecue that’s been served at home because it’s a quick easy crowd pleaser and I’m totally saturated.
With this confession I feel ungrateful for a whole list of reasons and yet I still feel the way I do. Before you write and scold me please consider that I can make a list as long as you can about all I have to be thankful for. Having a meal to eat is a certainty for me and a luxury for more people in the world than I can even imagine. I understand this.
What I’m saying with my cries is that I miss what is familiar to me. Moving, getting married, blending families, and figuring out what’s what in one of the largest states in the union has been a little overwhelming. While it’s all good that much change in such a short amount of time can leave a person craving all things familiar including their favorite foods and barbecue just isn’t mine.
A few weeks back at the reception for new families at my son’s school while I was sitting with a plate of barbecue in front of me I felt a little bit like the Israelites in the desert complaining. After such a short time into their journey they started grumbling to Moses and Aaron and worried that they would starve. They went so far as to say their life of slavery in Egypt was better. I’ve read the story many times and thought they were very ungrateful to complain after they had just been released from captivity. Knowing the end of the story and that God provided for them it’s easy to be judgmental and criticize them but lately I have a different perspective.
Change is unsettling and when you are trying to navigate through a sea of it you want to feel connected to something. The easiest things to feel connected to are your routines and for most of us the routine things in our life involve familiar faces, places, and you guessed it – foods. There’s a reason we call those foods “comfort foods” and it’s because we associate them with memories that steady our mind.
I’m not a theologian but I can’t help but wonder right now if all the Biblical commentaries that criticize the Israelites for their complaining in the dessert are missing an important point. I think the Israelites were missing with their hearts more than their stomachs but didn’t know how to say that. It’s easier to say a bowl of ice cream will make you feel better than it is to admit that you just want to eat some ice cream with a familiar face and someone who knows something about you and your life experience.
More than anything what my last plate of brisket and the near meltdown it brought told me was that I need to make a point amidst all the change going on in my life right now to connect to people that I have some history with. It was a bar-beee-“cue” that I’ve been so focused on physically getting settled that I haven’t paid enough attention to the emotional aspect of feeling settled. These relationships and the familiarity of them remind me of who I am and the purpose I know God has for my life. There’s no shame in admitting that I miss what is familiar and comforting. It doesn’t represent any unhappiness or lack of gratitude for where God has me – it’s just honest.