Glorious garlic and four other things

I’m very lazy. And so faced with the choice of writing about refried beans or writing about myself, (but wait, you may be saying, isn’t every one of your posts about yourself?) I’ve decided to tell you five things you may not know about me. When I was tagged by the sassy and smart Vanessa over at What Geeks Eat, at first I balked. I hate being told what to do and being tagged for a meme certainly falls in that category. But in the spirit of community and keeping the peace, I’ve decided to play along. And hey, how often do I get the chance to write about stuff that has little to nothing to do with food?

I admit, coming up with five things has been a challenge. There are countless things you don’t know about me, everything from I didn’t own a TV for 12 years to I listen to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos every single morning (it’s the only way I can wake up completely). But that’s silly stuff—I’m sure you want dirt, real gossip not found anywhere else. So if you’re still reading, (drum roll please!) here are five things you don’t know about me, the Homesick Texan.

1. I can drive a tractor. Before I turned 16 (the legal age for driving in Texas), all I wanted to do was move. I’d ride my bike very long distances all over my part of Houston, and while good fun and good exercise, I yearned for the power of an auto. Visiting my grandparents’ farm one summer when I was in my early teens, I asked my grandpa if I could drive his car. He declined, but offered to teach me how to drive his tractor instead. And even though it only moved along at about 20 miles an hour (if that much), I was in heaven. Looking back, I think my tractor-driving lesson was probably just a ploy to get me to mow the vast pasture. But I had a blast and when I took it out by myself on those gravel-coated country roads, I had my first taste of freedom.

2. I love garlic. It’s glorious! Not only do I think it’s one of the most beautiful and photogenic foods, but I cook with it constantly. I probably go through at least three heads a week. It is the one ingredient I am never without and if I am, then a trip to the market is mandatory.

3. When I was in high school, on a field trip to Austin I confronted Ross Perot in the state capitol. He’d lobbied heavily for all these public-school reforms, which in hindsight were sound policies, but as an unruly teenager, I balked. The discussion between him and my classmates made all the major Texas papers. There were some colorful stories, but my favorite one appeared in the Austin American-Statesman. Here’s the lead paragraph: “High school student Lisa Fain looked the short man right in the eye and began to vent her anger. Never mind that she was picking a fight with a world celebrity—H. Ross Perot—in the halls of the Texas Capitol.” After our confrontation, the short man decided to run for president. Coincidence? I think not!

4. I share a birthday with Larry McMurtry. I know it may sound silly, but I find this very, very cool. He’s one of my favorite authors (and his being a fellow Texan probably doesn’t hurt) but beyond his beautiful novels, he’s also a real down-to-earth guy. I met him a few years ago when a reporter and I were sent to do a story on Wichita Falls, TX. Right outside of Wichita Falls is Archer City, a small town that McMurtry has single-handedly revived by opening a used bookstore called Booked Up, which is housed throughout the town in several storefronts. It’s a breathtaking experience, wandering the main street going from shop to shop and having all of them be a used bookstore (save for an excellent cafe serving some top-rate chicken fried steak). And he works the store just like any other employee. When we arrived for the interview, we found him buried in the stacks, shelving titles on Texana. (How appropriate!) Not to mention, he wore jeans and cowboy boots to the Oscars last year. You’ve gotta love that!

5. I am a complete and total klutz. I’m constantly bumping into buildings, walls and people. I also trip on my own feet and stumble going up the stairs. And don’t get me started about icy sidewalks and slick, snowy streets. But despite my utter lack of spatial balance, I can juggle three balls (or round fruits) with a modicum of grace. I think it’s best, however, considering my clumsiness, if I don’t advance to juggling knives or batons of fire.

  1. My grandpa pulled the same stunt – he had all of his grandchildren at some point over the summer as “farm hands.” I think most everyone was tractor-savvy by 14 or 15.

    And #5 has a name in my house: Southern Grace 🙂

  2. What does it say about me that I could read your whole post, and the only thing that truly stuck is “chicken fried steak”? Other than that I am clearly hungry?

  3. It turns out we have much in common. I learned to drive at 14 on our farm truck, for me it’s the Goldberg Variations, Larry McMurtry is one of my favorite authors and has been ever since I read Leaving Cheyenne, and of course garlic…well there just isn’t enough. Thanks for sharing.

  4. The County Clerk


    I do Rimsky-Korsakov in the mornings… the dogs get fired up and life is full of vim. It is like audio caffiene.

    I’m not surprised that you have “southern grace” because you are clearly thinking of other things. A small price to pay for an expanded (and simultaneously limited) perspective, no?

  5. Lisa Fain

    Shawnda–Thank you for that wonderful term–Southern Grace indeed!

    Laura–No worries, were on the same wavelength–when I wrote the post all I could think about was chicken fried steak. Guess what I need to cook this weekend?

    Vanessa–I love it, so many tractor drivers! Who knew! And Godlberg Variations, also an excellent morning choice. Thanks again for the tag, doing it was a blast!

    County Clerk–This is turning into a morning-music confessional! And that’s a very sweet explanation for my “Southern grace.”

  6. Anyone who loves Larry McMurtry and garlic, and tells off Ross Perot, is high on my list! This has been a fun meme; it came my way a few weeks ago, and I’ve enjoyed seeing it go ’round and ’round.

  7. I’d love to see that article on Wichita Falls. Can you give me (and the rest of us) a pointer on where to find it? (I just happen to live there, and yes, I’ve been to Archer, though we didn’t stop, but now I think it looks like a good trip for the weekend.)

    My first driving experience was also a tractor. A Mini-Cat. I got the great pleasure of disking a half acre on a little metal tractor that might have clipped along at a whoppin’ 3 mph, but it was like riding a tank, so i thought I was the coolest kid on the block!

    Perhaps I’ll tackle this meme later today, since it appears you’ve now tagged the entire food blogging community 😉

  8. suburban housefrau

    I’d love the article too – I grew up in Wichita Falls and my sister was born in Archer City. (This is where I went to Piccadilly, mentioned in the comments of your entry about Luby’s)

    My parents recently told me Larry picked up and moved out of state???

  9. i’ve been reading your blog for about a month now, and each post elicits from me the same response: “me too!”. i LOVE pimento cheese (esp on club crackers), have a standard meal at furr’s (baked fish, fried okra, and coconut cream pie), ache for good tamales, am grateful they sell ranch style beans in kansas city, grew up eating frito pies at west texas football games, and learned to drive on a tractor (when i was 12 years old). what a great place to call home…

  10. Hi Lisa – thanks for sharing!

    Wow, there’s alot more of us tractor-drivin’ gals out there then one might think – we actually own a tractor, as we hay in the summertime. There’s nothing like it on earth.

    The Ross Perot story is too funny!

  11. Beautiful picture of that garlic!

  12. Lisa Fain

    Lydia–It has been a blast seeing what everyone writes about themselves.

    Jerry–I don’t think it’s online, I’ll see if I can get .pdfs made of it.

    Suburban Housefrau–OK, I’ll shoot y’all an email when I figure out if I can get .pdf of the piece. I hadn’t heard that about Larry. Say it isn’t so!

    Laci–Oh yes, frito pies at football games. I swear, I only watch that TV show Friday Night Lights just so I can see the characters eat Texan food!

    Gilly–Another tractor driver. Woo hoo! I love it!


  13. How exactly did you manage #1 considering #5? 😉

    At least you write gracefully.

  14. Tractor drive rhere, too – Uncle Bill’s 1950s gray little Ford up in Vermont. Before I got my license, I loved nothing more than just driving it around. As it was Vermont, the farm was quite hilly – so much fun.

    He never let me drive the big John Deere bucketloader or the big blue Ford, though. 🙁

  15. scribbit

    The smell of roasting garlic is just about heaven to me.

    And Ross Perot? How funny. Go get ’em.

  16. Anonymous

    My uncle had a tractor when I was growing up but he never let me drive it. I always wanted to though!

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  17. Wow I never thought of Garlic as a photogenic food before. It does have a classy look in the picture though.
    Icy sidewalks and slick, snowy streets make klutz of all of us.

  18. I loved the stories, another great thing about the blogging community, you learn there are so many people out there just like you. Filled with “Garlic and Grace” and a little bit of spice. For me it was Mr. Powell on capital hill.
    By the way I just posted my try at your Chili Gravy and linked back to your recipe. Thanks for tips on South Texas, we leave tomorrow.

  19. Good list. I’m guessing having tractor driving as a skill makes you unique among your fellow Manhattanites.

    And more great pictures. I like the sort of chiaroscuro effect.

  20. It’s great to know more about you. I have two things in common with you… nos 2 & most especially 5! Wanna see the bruises? lol.


  21. sandi @ the whistlestop cafe

    Now, I bet there are some secrets that didn’t make it to the blog…

    Did you ever run over anything with that tractor?

  22. Lisa Fain

    Susan–I have no idea!

    Adam–My gradnpa’s tractor is a John Deer, but it’s normal sized, not a huge bucketloader. And yes, it’s tons of fun driving a tractor!

    Scribbit–I agree!

    Ari–Aw, that’s a shame your uncle wouldn’t let you drive the tractor.

    CB–What’s this about Mr. Powell? Do tell! And have a blast on the beaches of South Texas!

    Julie–Thanks! And I reckon it does!

    Mae–Not only is this becoming a morning-music and tractor-driving confessional, but all of us klutzes are coming out of the closet as well! Let’s hear it for Southern grace!

    Sandi–Ha! Nope, I don’t think I ever ran over anything with the tractor believe it or not!

  23. Omigosh! OK, after reading about the Love Dip I read all the way down and discovered the Green Dip. I LOVE THAT STUFF. We used to get it in our local Los Cucos restaurant. I like it more than red salsa, and what does it for me is the cilantro with the tomatillo.

    Once again I am glad I found your blog!

    I also read about Luby’s and although it is indeed, not cool, I miss it too. I love to tell the Brits about how much really good homestyle food you can get for $6.

    Seriously, I never ate when I was growing up in London. I learned to eat when I moved to Texas.

    After reading your blog, I won’t feel so guilty for going on about Tx in mine. I made a list of all the foods I miss there, and one of them was chicken fried steak.

  24. Chicken Fried Gourmet

    I love garlic too. My wife is deathly allergic to onions so I always double up on the garlic. I guess it works because nobody has ever said anything 🙂

  25. wheresmymind

    Ross Perot made that race TOO much fun! 😀

  26. Melting Wok

    oo..I’m so with you on #5, a huge butterfinger ME, myself, except the juggling part *kudos to u* Cheers !:)

  27. Anonymous

    Hi! I really enjoy your blog! It always reminds me of home in Houston (going to college in Chicago now and I yearn every moment to get home for the food!)

    Anyway, my mom’s side of the family is actually from Archer City, my grandparents went to school with Larry McMurtry. I’ve had a lot of good experiences out there – including driving on the tractor with my late great-grandpa when I was just a little kid!

    And, it just reminded me, regarding ice, I have no idea how to walk on the stuff. I’ve fallen down three times since I’ve been here (beginning this past September). It takes some sort of Northern sense of balance that I don’t have, apparently!

    -Channing W.

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.