The holy trinity in Texas is chili, barbecue and chicken fried steak. However, in a state that’s bigger than France, there are other things to eat.
For example, in the town of Snook on Saturday mornings Czech cowboys sit in booths at a local bakery eating fresh, hot kolaches filled with sausage or fruit to fortify themselves for the rodeo later in the day. The state’s long border with Mexico led to a mingling of northern Mexican fare and cowboy food that has come to be called Tex-Mex. Think the combination platter.
Chili, the Texas state dish, is an example of an American food with Mexican roots. The chiles come from Mexico, the meat probably from the other side of the border. Whatever its provenance, chili is serious business in the Lone Star State. You can probably be put in jail if you add beans or tomatoes to chili. To Texans, chili is coarsely ground beef, chili peppers, spices and liquid – usually beer or broth.
Chicken fried steak – which is neither chicken nor steak – probably is a variation on the weinerschnitzel that the Germans (who followed the Czechs to Texas) brought with them. It is a thin cut of beef round that is breaded, fried and served with cream gravy. It is wildly popular.
Texans are probably laughing their 10-gallon hats off as barbecue joints open in New York City and Washington, D.C. The best barbecue places in Texas often are in small towns off the highway (the town of Lockhart with four is considered the barbecue capital of the state). They have swinging doors and amazing aromas. The ambiance, if you will, is wood floors, long tables with butcher paper and knives. Forks are rare. The fare is sausage, ribs and brisket. The portions are large. Remember, this is Texas.
– Bonny Wolf
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