My expectations for this event were high. I was anticipating rivalry, clashes, fury, rib-flinging and to see at least one football. Instead I turned up to a semi-deserted park, with only one tent serving ribs, several big smokers along the sides, and a Rusty Taco doing better business than the rib tent. Where's the pageantry, America? I at least wanted my server to shout at me about HOW DAMN AMAZING THESE RIBS ARE MAN, but no, he was unfailingly polite and friendly.
For my $8, I got a tray of two sets of mystery ribs, two each side, and a pretty serviceable potato salad to separate the two sides, no doubt because of all the FURY in the RIVALRY between these ANIMAL PARTS. If someone separated me from a rival using potato salad, I'd probably be calmed as well. One set of ribs (A in the accompanying photos) had a good spicy rub, the other set were more tender and fell right off the bone.
The sets were quite variable in quality, though, in my experience - I voted Rib B for its tender qualities first time round, and Rib A the second time round, when they'd got the tenderness sorted out and combined it with the delicious rib rub. Also that was the most diplomatic thing to do. I didn't want to get shouted at.
Obviously the identity of the rib-makers had to be kept a secret, as people tend to lose all objectivity when confronted with a choice between anything from a place they love and anything from a place they hate.
Given that this is a blind test, there must have been some people trying to figure out which was which and vote for that one--rather than going on quality. Imagine how bad you'd feel if you tried to do that and then voted for your rivals. "So I voted for the inferior rib on the basis it might have been from Texas, and I ended up voting for Oklahoma as well as pretending to my friends I preferred the Oklahoma rib despite its clear inferiority? FUCK EVERYTHING."
That's the kind of passion I would have hoped for from something called the Red River BBQ Shootout, but no, it was all so amiable. Maybe the Thursday night, when there are eight rib-makers competing, was the night to go to, but with only one option for BBQ purchasing I couldn't help but feel that they could have asked some of the other guys to stay on another night.
I had to leave before the results were in, but my BBQ acolyte tells me that Rib A was Texas, and Rib B was Oklahoma. Rib A won 107-93, and it was from Cousin's BBQ in Fort Worth. So at least Texas won something this weekend.
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