The four of us entered with the best intentions. I'd gathered three friends to help me evaluate the barbecued meats of Pecan Lodge, and "the trough" seemed like the only way to go. The $65 plate (sides not included) offered plenty of everything the restaurant had to offer, and according to the menu served four or five people. Besides the efficiency, it was just fun to say. "I'd like the trough, please."
While our wait to order was painfully long, our meal arrived minutes after I settled the bill. The trough hit the table with a resounding thud. The brisket and ribs quivered as they landed, and the sausages and pork ribs looked beautiful. Still, the plate was intimidating. More than 5 pounds of meat is a lot for four people -- even if we've all dutifully skipped breakfast and ate salads of lightly dressed greens the night before.
The pace was fast at first, a frenzied clamoring and clawing to get at what each of us thought looked best. A pork rib disappeared in an instant, and I tore into the beef rib with another friend. "Is this better than the brisket?" I asked, tearing a large hunk of meat from the bone with a plastic fork. I got no answer. Instead a resounding chorus of mmm's, lip-smacking sounds and audible slurps filled the air as the meat disappeared. As the bones began to bare I briefly imagined hyenas laughing as they tore into a buffalo carcass. The vision troubled me. Then I picked up a sausage.
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Two minutes later, more than a quarter of the plate was gone and the pace had slowed. Suddenly the sides looked attractive, if only as a break from the endless mouthfuls of meat. It turns out they're quite good -- much more than a necessary break from the carnage. Regardless, we'd hit a wall. A break was in order.
Massive swigs from cans of Coke and loosened belts afforded the ability to start in again, though with slightly less enthusiasm. We were no longer lions but gazelles. We cautiously grazed while awaiting some unknown fate.
And then they descended. Grease-stained napkins drew an arc through the air before they landed on the table like white flags of surrender. When the fourth napkin fell (after it was briefly picked up for one last nibble and discarded again) the scene was quite grisly. A single pork rib remained in addition to some meat on the now nearly naked beef bone. Brisket remained too, along with a sausage and a small mound of pulled pork. We were defeated and shamed. The trough was too much. Thoughts turned to afternoon activities like naps and evening planning.
I was off to listen to beautiful music in Forth Worth with a belly that might split, but two of my friends had a much worse fate. That evening they were to hang out with parents. Tex-Mex awaited. I never heard from them again.