Anything but Ramen: Football and barbecue are back

Food columnist Aaron Pellish on cooking a beef brisket in honor of the season

The arrival of September means the beginning of America’s most exciting season. I’ll give you one guess… That’s right: football season! (If you guessed the new season of “Boardwalk Empire,” that wasn’t what I was looking for, but we should probably meet up sometime because we would definitely be friends.)

Football season comes with its own brand of food experiences, from beer-battered fries to beer-battered sausages to basically anything that still tastes good if you throw beer on it.

But the greatest of all football foods is barbecued meat. It is the fuel that lets you keep on chugging Budweiser long after you remember the score of the game. It is the perfect silver lining to a day during which your fantasy team got hammered, and it is the best way to tap into the most macho version of yourself.

Barbecue is easily the manliest food in the world, and if you spot a lady eating barbecue by the plateful, then you ought to propose to her on the spot because, as they say, good women know good barbecue. (If you’ve never heard that expression, that’s probably because it’s a working theory I made up just now.)

I decided to cook a barbecue beef brisket for the first NFL regular season game of the year for a number of reasons.

First, four pounds of brisket costs less than $20 at Walmart. That’s a robbery. Four pounds of brisket is about ten meals worth of meat, which means I’ll be eating brisket for at least the rest of the week.

Second, beef brisket takes a very long time to cook, which means I could potentially multitask and watch the football game while cooking the meat at the exact same time.

Third, I was born and raised a brisket lover, and I wouldn’t have been able to barbecue anything else without my father shaking his head with disappointment.

I cut my four pounds of brisket out of the wrapping and threw it in the oven for five hours because my recipe said to cook the meat for an hour per pound, and then an extra hour after you add the barbecue sauce. Before I put the meat in the oven, I sprinkled salt, pepper and garlic powder all over it. Just as I was about to stick the meat in the oven, I called a Brady-esque audible and dumped a whole bunch of Tabasco sauce on top of my seasonings. Now I had to wait five hours to see if my audible paid off.

I intended to time the meat with the football game so that it would be finished exactly at halftime, which meant putting the meat in two and a half hours before kickoff and praying that the football gods would allow for an expeditious first half. But I guess those nasty football gods don’t take orders from anybody, because I ended up missing two touchdowns and a field goal while messing around with the brisket. So much for multitasking.

I didn’t mind the lack of punctuality so much, though, because the aroma from my oven made my apartment smell fantastic. For a few moments, I thought about buying a barbecue scented candle or cologne so I could smell like meat and testosterone and fire all day long, but then I realized that might be a much grosser idea than I originally believed, so I stopped thinking about it forever.

By the time the brisket was finished, Peyton Manning had put the game well out of reach, but the real excitement for me was just beginning. Taking the first bite of a homemade brisket gave me a joy beyond comprehension. It was like if your firstborn son grew up and became wildly successful and popular and famous… But only if your son also tasted like the perfect combination of Tabasco sauce, barbecue sauce and meat juices.

By the end of the game, I had fallen into a heavy food coma and dreamed of a Willy Wonka-style playground where everything was made out of meat. When I woke up, I ate some more brisket and watched highlights of the game with the dead eyes of a man who has experienced more than he can physically process.

I guess good barbecue does that sometimes even to the best of us. And we have football to thank for that.

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