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Barton, in his defense, said all he knew was there wasn’t any Popeyes left at the end of the lunch. “Whatever flak I took it wasn’t from lack of interest in eating the food,” he said.
The razzing seem to be just as much a part of the lunch as the food itself. “We sometimes poke fun at each other, I mean it is, after all — for lack of a better term — a pretty tight fraternity,” Weber said, though he noted that the members give a lot of “deference” to the only female Texas Republican, Kay Granger.
“She’s such a classy lady,” Weber said.
But that doesn’t mean Granger is toning down the caloric value when it’s her turn to buy lunch.
“I don’t think anybody, even Kay Granger, provides what would be called truly health food,” Barton said.
Notwithstanding Barton’s Popeyes, whether it’s Hill Country or Tortilla Coast — or the ribs Louie Gohmert used to make before the Architect of the Capitol shut down his balcony barbecue operation — the food is generally steeped in saturated fats. It is, according to Barton, “all the stuff you’re not supposed to eat.”
And members love it. They try to outdo each other in what they provide, like when Steve Stockman went the extra mile by supplying burgers and We, the Pizza — just because.
But the real way to outdo your colleagues, members said, was to out-Texas them, hence why Hill Country is such a popular choice.
The Penn Quarter-based barbecue joint takes care to make the dining experience as Texas possible. Beyond the Shiner beer on tap and the Gruene, Texas, neon signs, Hill Country ships in its meat and the Post Oak wood used to smoke that meat from Texas, and ships the chefs out to Texas.
According to McCaul, the member who claims he first brought the Hill Country for lunch, “it’s probably the closest thing we have to Texas barbecue up here,” meaning it’ll do the job, but is still, perhaps, not Texas enough.
If any restaurant can make their process more Texas, they’d probably find a spike in the delivery business on Thursday afternoons.
As Weber put it, seeming to sum up the lunch preferences of many Lone Star Republicans, “I like anything that’s from Texas.”
And to top off the Texas Republicans’ meal, they have a Texas dessert: Blue Bell ice cream, shipped in from Brenham. “I don’t know that there are any abstainers in the Blue Bell,” Barton said.
Barton first brought the Blue Bell more than 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until John Culberson forgot to bring lunch one day as a freshman in 2001 that the Blue Bell became a staple.
“My atonement was I would always have Blue Bell ice cream there,” Culberson said, who noted that the duty had been passed on to more junior members since.
Blue Bell’s motto screams Texas: “We eat all we can and sell the rest.” And if you ask Texas Republican Ted Poe, it ought to be the motto of America’s foreign energy policy. (He recently said as much on the House floor.)
But that’s pretty much the most direct line you can draw from the lunch to policy.