Tales From Texas, Part 4

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

TexasClick here to read part 1 of Elizabeth’s “Tales from Texas” series.
Click here to read part 2 of Elizabeth’s “Tales from Texas” series. 
Click here to read part 3 of Elizabeth’s “Tales from Texas” series. 

My culinary journey into Texas ends with the “Texas BBQ” that my sister ordered from T-Bone Tom’s, who enjoyed some Diners, Drive-ins and Dives fame. Of course, here in the glorious South, BBQ means pork, mustard sauce, white bread, coleslaw, hash and rice, and maybe some cracklin’s on the side.  Well, in the great Texas, it’s a whole different ballgame.  They are all about the beef.  Well, hello?  They are Texas, where pretty much all the beef comes from, right?

So the package of a typical Texas BBQ is smoked brisket and sauce, smoked sausage, potato salad, coleslaw, pintos, bread (untoasted Texas toast), pickles and onions on the side. While we don’t typically cook brisket in the South and call it barbeque, I’m a big brisket fan.  I love corned beef so much I check the prices on it every time I’m in the grocery store.  I love meats that “string” when they are cooked.  I was really looking forward to this food.  My brother-in-law picked it up and I helped set it all up on the table for my sweet niece’s 3-year-old birthday party. I’m not sure how many of the other pre-schoolers got their fill of Texas BBQ, but the rest of us were in good shape.

The brisket was simply fantastic: smoked, that nice dark “bark” on the outside and perfectly cooked.  The sauce was a red sauce, of course, because the rest of the world hasn’t discovered the magical versatility of mustard like we have! I’m sure the smoked sausage was great, but being a less-than-enthusiastic sausage eater, I didn’t try it myself. The potato salad was a pretty typical old-school style, as was the coleslaw, but the pinto beans were awesome.  I guess you’d say they were pretty much the “charros” that you find so often in this part of the country. While all the grown-ups polished off most of the barbeque, the toddlers turned their attention to my niece’s very elaborate fondant-covered dragon cake.  Fine, kids.  Eat your cake.  We’ll handle this brisket!

My first trip to Texas was really great.  I was able to spend great quality time with (most of) my family (my husband couldn’t get away and come with us 😦 ).  Taking my child to NASA was an awesome experience and I know she learned so much. Frankly, so did I.  Visiting the Kemah Boardwalk was fantastic.  Vivver wanted to ride the Boardwalk Bullet roller coaster.  She was tall enough to ride, so off we went.  It is a major league coaster and when it was all over, she was in tears.  But, by the end of our day there, she bolstered herself up and wanted to do it again.  She did fine and confessed to me later that it was her mantra “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok” that got her through it and actually allowed her to enjoy the crazy thrill. 🙂

ElizabethElizabeth writes “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef)”. Follow the page on Facebook. All the cool kids do.

Pork, Freedom and Another Year Older

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

July 4th is right around the corner.  This time of year, we all become focused on the holiday: plans to go to the beach, hosting a cookout, fireworks, barbeque, time off from work.  Wait, there’s something I’m forgetting.  I know I should know this…hmmm.  Oh yeah, my birthday.  The annual parade and celebration of my life is (supposed to be) on July 1st. My friends remember, my parents remember, my sister and my husband remember. The problem is that I always forget my own birthday is coming up.  Once again, it just hit me that it’s in a few days.  But, as usual, I’ve been focusing on the other things.

Here in the South, barbeque is a given on holidays like the 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day and even New Year’s Day.  And barbeque in the South means four things:  pork, chicken, mustard and the all-important-fact that barbeque is a NOUN, not a VERB.  The most common, and most delicious, is good ol’ fashioned pig meat.  There are the connoisseurs who dig the pit and cook that baby for a day and a half.  It’s great barbeque, but I don’t have that kinda time.  Then, there are folks like my mom who will just go out and buy it from a BBQ joint.  Around here, the dumpier looking the BBQ joint, the better.  No flashy signs or logos.  In fact, if it’s a plain cinder block building with a chimney, that’s ideal.

And THEN, there are people like me and my sister.  We’re picky about our meat.  We don’t like meat with bones in it, we can’t tolerate fat on our meat and worse, in our mouths.  And, we’re pretty particular about the type.  So, we’re partial to making our barbeque in the crockpot.  Yeah, that’s right.  I mentioned that I don’t have time to pit cook, so the crockpot was invented for me, I think.  It’s ridiculously easy, tastes fantastic and people can’t believe you made it yourself.  Now, here’s how to do it. Hold onto your hat, this is complicated…

Place two pork tenderloins in your crockpot, add about ½ cup of water then a bottle of yellow sauce.  (You know you can buy Shealy’s in the grocery store, right?) Turn it on low and come back about 7 or 8 hours later.  Pull the tenderloins out and shred them with two forks.  Drain some of the cooking liquid and add more yellow sauce to the pot.  Place the meat back in the sauce, mix it up and warm on low for about 15 minutes.  And there you have it: lower fat Southern barbeque.

Of course, the most important part of the holiday is the celebration of the freedom we enjoy here in the U.S.  Probably all of us have had family or friends who have served America in our military.  It’s so important for us to remember what this holiday is really all about and to teach that to our kids.

Recently, I was able to take my 6-year-old to Washington, D.C.  I was so proud of how well she paid attention to the monuments and what I explained to her about them.  She was particularly interested in the mementos and circes left at the Vietnam wall by friends and loved ones.  She was intrigued with the Korean monument, as she is a big fan of the old M*A*S*H shows.  That may sound silly, but for a kid, it put a face on what the monument was commemorating.  And, when we arrived at Arlington to see the Tomb of the Unknown and the changing of the guard, she sat right up front, stayed quiet and took in every detail.  Afterward, she had lots of thoughtful questions and a new understanding of what our military does for this country.

So, as the 4th of July approaches and I prepare to blow out 44 candles, I wish you all a happy day of celebrating your freedom with your families, friends and a big, saucy plate of barbeque.