by: Marv Van Zandt, GonzoToday contributor
In feudal Japan, the samurai were born bound to an ancient code dedicating their lives to a perpetual journey of mastering oneself. Samurai saw life’s purpose as a refining process to make tomorrow’s version of oneself better than yesterdays. In Texas we don’t have many samurai but we do have barbecue.
Like the samurai, Texas pit-masters dedicate their lives to their craft, concentrating every sauce covered calorie in an effort to make their next pork butt better than their last beef rib. Some follow old secret family recipes passed down through generations. Others equip themselves with modern tools and apps to straighten the learning curve of the long and arduous smokey process. Either way the end goal is the same; a hunk of meat with black crispy bark and succulent tender tissue.
In the past, the only way to show off one’s smoked meat skills to their social circle was to host a barbecue. They purposefully invited rival smokers to fill their bellies with grub and their hearts with envy, asking nothing in return but to exceed their expectations with each savory bite.
Then those brief moments before falling asleep Sunday night fantasizing about the return to the office, picturing themselves as victorious legionnaires parading down the streets of Rome with their co-workers throwing compliments at their feet like flower petals. All is right in the world because they know they created something subjectively good.
This local tradition of pageantry changed with the advent of social media. Digital meat pioneers have embarked on a new quest for the social frontier of the internet. Now these meat bards command a stage from which they can serenade their smokey tune to woo other meat lovers all across the world.
Today they fill our timelines with juicy pictures of sizzling meat, creating a new genre of social media, Meat Porn. Meat Porn Twitter is a friendly, yet critical group of mostly men who post pictures of barbecued cuts of pork, lamb, turkey, beef and chicken.
From what I, a gringo, can tell the collective accepts all walks of life with only one rule: M.P.O.G.T.F.O. (MEAT PICS OR GET THE FUCK OUT). Although these meat artists do not have any formal creed or conviction, they do have an unspoken ambition that appears to be desired by all participants: putting some respect on their mother fucking name.
Every Sunday meat porn combatants post staged pictures of bark and gristle to our timelines: a parade of gauntlets cast down before the field of battle challenging all those who bear witness. However well they think they did though is null and void. The only judgment worthy of placing a crown on their head is solely possessed by the faction of meat critics in their mentions.
Considering the prize, the risk of losing one’s pit-master street cred by way of public criticism would flash warning signals to lesser men. Like a samurai stranded alone with his sword drawn facing a roaring mob of invaders, the weekend pit-master unsheathes his camera phone lunging it forward seeking the critical opening as he angles his attack with precision and purpose. He pays more attention to lighting, positioning and presentation than when tasked with taking photos of his wife before a girls’ night out (GET THE SHOES!!!).
The hunger for approval from other pit-daddies is akin to a budding THOT framing her first thirst trap for weak men like me. They couple their meat shots with captions of chest beating rhetoric, like a warlord holding the decapitated head of his fallen enemy demanding respect from his followers and putting fear in those who oppose him.
Meat posting consists of three phases: Prep. Process. Prestige.
1. The Prep: An uncooked meat marinated and smothered in dry rub getting ready for placement in the smoker. At this point a novice smoker will ask for well wishes before casting off on the virgin voyage through the tricky sea of smoke. For a more accomplished smoker, this will be a time to boast their “secret” recipe and challenge masters of the craft for seasoning criticisms.
2. The Process: This is a “how are things going” post. If all’s well the poster might throw up a picture of the forming bark with a caption conveying confidence emboldened with a smirking sunglass clad emoji. Others pleased with their findings might just post the meat on the grill, frame in a cold sweating beer in the sunshine with a reflective caption counting their blessings. Either way it’s all done with the end goal of virtual pats on the back for a job well done.
3. The Prestige: The third act encompasses the big reveal, the money shot. However you cut it, there must be smoke rings and thick bark or buddy you better have as thick a skin as your dry ass meat.
Most backyard pit-masters only post the finished goods, protecting their baby until it has matured through their private ministrations of rubs and sauces, baptized in fire and clouds of rich and flavorful carbon monoxide.
Now that we have a better understanding of what is happening, we can ask why is it happening? The pandemic flipped on the gas that met the spark, setting our timelines ablaze with this growing trend. With most of our favorite restaurants closed due to COVID-19 and/or using better judgment to quarantine and limit social interactions, the demand for home cooking has skyrocketed. Coupled with boredom and living in a narcissistic, flex first society, meat porn went viral.
Now for the foreseeable future every weekend our timelines overflow with these meat voyeurs combating for meat dominance. Documenting their journeys for the world to see. To what end? Some just like to watch the meat burn.
We do not know why
We just sit and look at meat
Then we become it
First-time GT contributor Marv Van Zandt is from Dallas, Texas.