What a year it has been. Every time I looked at the news, it seemed another awful thing was being reported. Not to mention there was an inordinate amount of strife and loss in my friends' lives this year, too. I am very much looking forward to a fresh start in January.
That said, despite the challenges of 2016 there were some bright spots for which I am very grateful. I traveled to some amazing places, I wrote another book (more on this soon!), and best of all, I spent a lot of time this year with my far-flung family and friends. And even if we happened to be gathering for a difficult situation, such as when my mom’s house flooded in the spring, there was still peace and harmony to be found, most often when we were gathered around the table.
For instance, when we were helping my mom move into her temporary home, people kept bringing over breakfast tacos, salads, and sandwiches to keep us sustained as we dealt with the mess. When the food arrived, we’d stop what we’re doing, sit down, and eat. And when we paused things began to seem a bit normal again. With my friends I noticed this trend as well. During this year’s political season we didn’t all see eye to eye and sometimes the arguments were heated. But whenever we’d stop and share a meal, we were able to find our common ground once again. At the table there was peace and harmony.
Every year around this time, I start to test black-eyed pea recipes to share with you. It’s a lot of fun for me as I adore these earthy legumes and don’t eat them often enough. Hominy is considered a good-fortune food in El Paso and New Mexico, so I decided combining it with black-eyed peas would be a novel thing to do.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Last week I found myself with a surplus of chicken livers. This doesn’t occur very often in my kitchen, so at first I wasn’t sure what to do. But I shouldn’t have worried as I soon decided frying them up and dipping them in cream gravy would be the best way to use up what I had.
Fried chicken livers are a classic Texan dish, but you don’t see them very often these days. Perhaps your grandmother made them when you were young, but it’s only on rare occasions that I spot them on restaurant menus or even in someone’s home kitchen. And this is a shame as these crunchy nuggets always hit the spot.
While I was pondering fried chicken livers, I thought back to the last time I had them. It was two years ago in the East Texas town of Silsbee when I was on tour for my last book. After my event we went to get lunch at The Cottage, which was a happy place filled with comfortable furniture and friendly people who jumped from table to table visiting with each other. Dining there was like being in someone’s home.
The owner, Flo, is famous for her hamburgers and hand-cut fries, which were indeed very good. But when I spotted fried chicken livers on the menu, I ordered a round of these for the table, too. They arrived along with a side of cream gravy (that’s the preferred dipping sauce though I’ve known some to go with buttermilk dressing or even ketchup), and we all picked up a piece, dipped it in gravy, and savored the crisp texture and lush flavor. It was a fine beginning to a hearty meal out in the East Texas woods.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Frito pie is a Texas icon. This tangle of corn chips topped with chili, jalapeños, cheese, and onion is a staple at football games, church suppers, school lunches, and perhaps even your own kitchen. It’s certainly a favorite of mine and I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy one either when I see them out in the wild or have some extra chili and Fritos around.
Now, a few years ago someone mentioned to me that Frito pie was not from Texas but instead came from New Mexico. This, of course, gave me pause. Not only are the chips from Texas but so is the chili. Not to mention, the dish itself is so deeply embedded into our culture it just seemed impossible that it could be from anywhere else.
A little research lead me to discover that the first published mention of it was in an Abilene, Texas newspaper in 1947. This was enough tangible proof for me of its heritage, and as my grandparents had told me stories of eating Frito pie in the 1940s as well, I know that it was popular with Texans at that time.
But after more digging I found that it was mentioned in a New Mexico newspaper in 1948. So it seems that the folks in New Mexico have been enjoying Frito pie almost as long as Texans, and it became clear why someone might think that it originated there.