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'Tales of Texas Cooking'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

To accompany her submissions to “Tales of Texas Cooking,” Courier former staff writer, Carolyn B. Edwards, submitted this photo of herself and Junkasaurus. Although no longer on display on FM 3240, Junkasaurus now reposes in a private art collection in Bandera County. Artist Dave Chandler created the wondrous beast from old car parts and society’s flotsam and jetsam.

If you like cookbooks, family stories and Texas history, have I got something special for you!
“Tales of Texas Cooking,” published in 2015 by the Texas Folklore Society and edited by Frances Brannen Vick, is filled with “stories and recipes from the Trans Pecos to the Piney Wood and High Plains to the Gulf Prairies.” With a nod to Woody G., this land – Texas, that is, and – this cookbood was made for you and me.
As a member of the Texas Folklore Society, Courier staff writer, Carolyn B. Edwards responded when a clarion call for stories and recipes went out for inclusion in the memory-cookbook. She submitted recipes for her mother’s white bread and ice cream.
To a non-cook like me, the recipes seemed inordinately difficult, but as Carolyn pointed out, “White bread’s made with flour, yeast and water. How hard is that?”
Well, Carolyn, it’s not the ingredients. It’s all that punching down and kneading and getting the temperature “just right” to activate the yeast that seems so time-consuming. However, I enjoyed this accompanying passage – mainly because I love old quilts made with flour sacks:
“She made her bread with white flour she bought in 25-pound sacks made of printed cotton. She collected the sacks until she had enough to sew one of us a dress or a shirt, or make a set of new curtains for the kitchen. When the clothes wore out, she recycled the soft cotton fabric into kitchen towels and finally into cleaning rags.”
However, for some unknown reasons, the Powers That Be at the publishing house stuck Carolyn’s submission in the Post Oak Savannah region rather than the Edwards Plateau area, which includes Bandera County. “I guess they didn’t know where Bandera was,” Carolyn said.
I like this recipe from Mrs. Ida Goertz Grohman because one of the few things my non-cooking Nanny made was egg noodles. I recall her making them just like Mrs. Grohman.
Egg Noodles
Start with one cup of flour and one teaspoon salt mixed together and put in the center of the kitchen table. Make a hole in the middle of the four and add two eggs. Work until smooth and then work in another cup of flour to stiffen the dough. (It should not be sticky at this point.)
Roll real thin, cut into strips and keep well floured. Hang the strips around the kitchen on the back of chairs, etc., to dry.
From the Blackland Prairies, John W. Wilson offers the backstory for a dish called “Slang Jang: The National Dish of Honey Grove.” The story is interesting, but if you want to try Slang Jang or any of its myriad aspects, you’ll just have to purchase the cookbook ‘cause I’m not crazy about oysters – unless they’re an integral part of a stew offered in months that contain an “R.”
Author Kenneth W. Davis wrote a detailed treatise on “Central Texas Canning Customs in the Thirties and Forties,” but, again, since I don’t can, you’ll have to buy the book to learn about ‘em.
I wasn’t aware this taste treat originated in San Antonio, but I consumed it mightily in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, during the 1990s. It tasted like Texas for sure.
Old Time Texas Favorites, Frito Pie
Chili con carne
Onions, chopped
Longhorn cheddar cheese, shredded
Salsa picante
In each individual bowl, spread about ¾ cup of Fritos and sprinkle onion equally on top. Put equal amounts of hot chili on top of Fritos and top with cheese. Pass the salsa at the table.
Originally, a small individual bag of Fritos was split down one side and spread open to allow for chili. The other side was flattened so the package of Frito pie would sit on a table.
The following recipe is from “Boardin’ in the Thicket” by Wanda Landrey. As the story goes, one day while Old Hickory – aka President Andrew Jackson – was still a general, he sat down to have his noon meal. The night before, Jackson’s cook had been drinking white mule (Southern moonshine corn whiskey) and the cook’s eyes were as red as fire. Never a man to mince words, General Jackson told the cook to bring him some country ham with gravy as red as his eyes. Some men nearby heard the general, and ham gravy became red-eye gravy from that day on.
Red-Eye Gravy
Take a large frying pan, put a heaping tablespoon of lard into the pan and melt it. When melted, put in slices of ham and fry them until well done. Add one cup of water and one crushed glove. Bring to boil and simmer for five minutes. Remove the ham and serve some gravy with the ham.
Another recipe from Landrey’s “Boardin’ in the Thicket, this one comes from the chef’s manual from Harvey House restaurants – and there’s nothing like homemade mayo.
2 eggs
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups salad oil
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon red pepper
Put eggs into mixing bowl. Add dry mustard, salt, white and red pepper and flour and mix until thoroughly blended. Slowly add salad oil. When mayonnaise thickens, add boiling water and lemon juice and mix thoroughly.
According to Craig Stripling, this is the “best potato dish ever.” From the sound of it, Craig might be right.
Skillet Potatoes
and Onions
Peel 8 potatoes (big new potatoes, medium large Idahos or Yukon Golds or whatever you like). Peel 6 medium-large onions – preferably a sweet type such as Vidalias, Noondays, Texas 1015s or Walla Wallas. Drizzle olive or penut oil over the potatoes and onions after you’ve set them in a covered or foil-sealed baking pan. Bake them an hour and 45 minutes in the 375º oven.
Put 1/8-inch olive oil or peanut oil in a cast iron skillet. Once the cooked potatoes and onions cool, coarsely chop them and put into the skillet. Heavily salt with sea salt and generously shake on finely ground black pepper. Turn skillet on medium high.
When the potato and onion mixture starts browning and sticking a bit, turn it over with a spatula. Drizzle more oil if necessary. When the mixture starts to brown again, you’re ready.
In conclusion, once I realized that Mary Margaret Dougherty Campbell’s recipe for Maria’s Mom’s Tamales covered four and a half pages, Carolyn’s submissions didn’t seem that hard after all.