2015 Foodways Texas Symposium: The Texas Mexican Table

La Popular WallI traffic in recipes, in ways to make food. But sometimes I take a recipe and step back a few paces, and think about the ingredients and where they came from, how they got to my kitchen, such as when cumin came to the west with the Spaniards in a time of conquest and imperialism. Or, sometimes I will write about how a recipe was made by my mother and her mother before her, and that my grandmother learned it from her aunt, or something of that nature. When I do that, instead of merely reciting a list of instructions teaching a way to make a food, I am talking, on a personal level, about foodways. And I could talk about and dissect my family foodways, my history and place, as studied through the lens of food, all day. This you know.

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Bluebonnets in Clay County

Bluebonnets in TexasJust because I’m not writing about it doesn’t mean I’m not cooking. I’m cooking. I’ve simply been cooking to feed, not necessarily to create. Sometimes, when you’ve put 300 some odd recipes out in the ether, you need to sit back and enjoy them. So I’ve been doing what you have hopefully been doing now and again, rummaging through this website and making good food. It is fun not to have to do each recipe three or four times, or cook with a camera around my neck. But, I have been working on a chocolate cake…

I’ve been wholly distracted by life. Good life. In May of last year, on my birthday, on Mother’s Day, too, actually, I fell in love with a bit of earth on the Red River. I fell headlong into going home. Or at least, close to home…spittin’ distance, if you will. Clay County is due east of Wichita Falls. Henrietta is the county seat. If you’ve driven north on 287 you’ve been through both. You better not tell me you’ve never gotten off the highway. My place is out there. Take a few turns off the highway and as the roads get narrower and narrower, and less paved…I’m out there every moment I am able.

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Camp Brisket 2015

BrisketAs luck would have it, I recently found myself in the lobby of a hotel in College Station, TX, having secured a coveted seat for Camp Brisket. A few years ago, I went on for several linear feet about the joys of the BBQ Summer Camp put on by Foodways Texas and the Texas A&M Meat Sciences Center. Now I will wax sentimental about this sister-camp dedicated to that quintessential Texas smoked meat, brisket. Buckle up, friends, this is a long one.

Not just a few jokes have been made during the Foodways Texas BBQ events about how lovely it is that a group based out of the University of Texas should come together in such an ecumenical fashion with a bunch of Aggies to throw a meat party. But that is precisely what it is. And, Brisket Camp is an offshoot of BBQ Summer Camp devoted entirely to the art and science of, and devotion to, this one cut of meat. Apparently the greatest of rivalries can take a few days off when BBQ is concerned.

I bumped into Robb Walsh, a founder of Foodways Texas, in the lobby and we decided that the best way to begin two days of eating little other than brisket was to hustle out to a seafood spot and eat something aquatic. Over oysters and other things, we caught up on life and his upcoming book on one of my other favorite food groups, chili. And a whole group it is, as you will learn…but that is a talk for another day.

Thursday morning, people began showing up at the Meat Science Building well before sunrise. As usual, the students in the Meat Science program had been working far earlier than we ever considered awakening, and pits were already fired up. I showed up a few minutes early and got a tour of the mobile smoker of Russell Roegels, who most recently served a ton of brisket to the secret service who were guarding Texas parachutist George Bush, Sr. during a recent hospital visit. Yes, that one. I was fortunate enough to get a peek at the pepper crusted briskets slowly cooking inside the mobile smoker, and started the day smelling like a proper Texan.

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Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm BarnI have been blessed with some rather intoxicating travel opportunities in the last few years and now that I take a moment to consider them as a whole, I see that few were of my own making and that I live in a mode of perpetual gratitude for my luck in family and good taste in friends. My mother turned 70 years old last week, which is surprising enough…because she doesn’t seem 70 and because having a 70 year old mother says more than I want to hear about the stunning vortex that is adulthood where years fly by you as though the universe is pitching 100 mph fast balls to see how many of the years you will hit out of the park, how many will be nice safe ground balls, and how many you will swing hard on and miss.

In this analogy, the celebration of this maternal milestone counts as a grand slam. We don’t typically do family vacations as we are all running in so many interesting directions…we all fend for ourselves and briefly gather when we can for laughs and that refueling that you only get from being with your very own people. But for this, she gathered us all up and took us to Tennessee so that we could be together, kids running free and fast, adults engaging in utter gluttony and comfort at one of her favorite spots on the planet, Blackberry Farm.

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Hello Friends

Photo of my gardenHello friends.

I’ve been avoiding this like the plague, but here goes: I’M FULL. I’m existentially FULL. Stuffed to the gills.

And, I’m as busy. I’m busy doing the things that I’m supposed to be busy doing and it is leaving me unable to think of wonderful new delicious things with which to be busy. And even if I thought of them I’d be too busy to photograph and write about them. Alas, paid work and mothering is taking a front seat to my unpaid ramblings.

Instead of just embracing that and looking around at the new and exciting situation, I’ve been fretting about neglecting PIE, and by extension, you.

Since this is not a mommy blog. I’m not going to blog instead about my day to day happenings. I promise. But I did just want to say this:

PIE isn’t going anywhere. Occasionally, I’ll throw some fun new recipes up here, so sign up for the email alerts and you’ll be the first to know. But they will be slightly less frequent. Approaching PIE’s 4th birthday, it is hard to believe that I posted 3 times a week for a few years. Now, I’m lucky to squeeze in 1 per week.

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