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Spring Has Sprung

Texas Bluebonnets Spring in Texas
by

Here in the Texas Hills, the winter of 1999-2000 came three days at a time. Starting in November, we would have about three days of cold and then a couple of weeks of moderate weather. You never knew what to wear when you left the house, so you just took some of each.

No matter what the weather brings, we still eat two or three times a day. One of my favorite stories comes from an old country boy in Temple. He said, "You know, the biggest mistake I ever made was moving to town. My kids got to playing with the neighbor's kids and found out that the people in town ate three times a day."

The German pioneer farmers in Texas ate five times a day. There was breakfast and then about ten o'clock there was a break for coffee and a sweet roll or similar. The noon meal was always a large one. Two or three in the afternoon brought more coffee and sausage, cheese and more sweet rolls. The evening meal, supper, was another large meal. The physical labor involved in farming burned a lot of calories.

Texas Hospitality

Another tradition of the country folk was hospitality. If you had a visitor, that visitor was offered something to eat. No matter if he or she was a complete stranger. For many years, my family's Sunday afternoon entertainment was visiting. We would pile in the old truck and go visit someone. We were always feted with a nice feed. Summer sausage, cheese and crackers were a popular item, accompanied by something left over from the noon meal, and a dessert -- pie, cake or cookies -- always served with coffee.

My family liked to visit for the noon meal on Sundays. I had five or six sets of aunts and uncles living within easy driving distance of me. During the week it would be decided where we were going to go for "dinner" Sunday. Everyone would meet there after church. The men wore their suits and each had his hat. The ladies were allowed to change into something more comfortable than their go-to-church wear. Everyone brought a dish for the meal. It was like having a family reunion every week. A shame that such traditions have nearly disappeared.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of visits from Aunt Lola and Uncle Eddy. When the weather was favorable, they would come visit one evening. This was before TV took over the entertaining chores. We would sit out on the front porch and talk until the mosquitoes drove us inside. Frequently, there would be a watermelon for the porch. Inside under the bare light bulb that hung over the dining room table, we would unbox a jigsaw puzzle and spend several hours talking and putting the puzzle together. I know it sounds a little "Mayberry" today, but it reinforced the family ties.

Cowboy Coffee

Coffee has been very important all through the history of Texas. The cowboys had coffee if nothing else. The Texas Rangers would spend a month or more in the great outdoors carrying nothing more than coffee, salt pork, salt, flour and a frying pan. The coffee was boiled up in whatever container was available. It was consumed black and in great quantities. In the arid regions of West Texas, the available water was most likely to be a little less than pristine, so the coffee made it potable.

My cowboy campfire cooking club has been experimenting with campfire coffee. There were three basic recipes for campfire coffee.

The first was just plain boiled coffee where you put a handful of grounds in the pot and boiled it until it was done. You got a lot of coffee grounds in your cup using that method. Someone found that putting a whole, fresh egg in the coffee after it boiled would settle the grounds. Just break the egg, drop it in the pot along with the shell and give it a stir. All the grounds will be attracted to the egg, leaving clear coffee for your cup.

The "white sock" recipe was not very popular due mostly to the unavailability of white socks. Here, you put your coffee grounds in a white sock, tied off the top and threw it in the pot to boil.

When I was growing up, there were two ways to make coffee. You could "drip" it or you could "perk" it. The dripolator coffee pot was a three part affair. The bottom was a regular coffee pot, the top was to hold hot water. In between the two was a compartment to hold the coffee grounds. You loaded the coffee in the compartment and poured boiling water in the top. The water seeped through the coffee grounds and gathered in the bottom. The percolator had the little glass thing on top where you could judge the strength of your coffee by the color. It had a basket inside to hold the coffee grounds and a pipe gadget to pump the hot water from the bottom of the pot up onto the grounds. At the grocery store you had to choose the type of coffee you needed, either "drip grind" or "regular grind". Decaf hadn't been invented.

Gosh, I'm getting carried away in the past again. Us old people tend to do that.

Springing Forward

Want to remind you that the new barbecue season will soon be here. You need to take the first chance you get to check your equipment and supplies. Make sure you have charcoal, if you use it, lighter fluid and/or wood. Check to see that your cooker is clean and you didn't leave any ashes or pork chops in it over the winter months. Give the grills a good cleaning. This would be a good time to get that thermometer and that big pair of tongs you never got around to last season. Speaking of seasoning, check your spice chest. Would be a waste to have to stop your preparations to run to town for a new jar of cayenne.

If you have any suggestions for subjects you would like for me to discuss give me an email. I'll be happy to consider your request.

Have a happy Easter.

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