Traditional Texas Food
Articles about Texas' most famous foods
by John Raven, Ph.B.
My Favorite Things
Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Photographed on Fiesta Dinnerwareby John Raven, Ph.B.
We all have our favorite foods. I'm going to run down a few of my favorite things for you. I know some of you are going to say, "He eats that?" Well, you probably like things I wouldn't touch on a bet, so here we go.
Favorite Breakfast FoodsBreakfast is my favorite meal. There is nothing like a good, hearty breakfast to get your day off to a good start. Given my choice, I'll have two eggs, fried over easy, five or six strips of crisp country bacon, a ration of crispy hash browns, several biscuits, a smear or two of pineapple preserves and a beaker of coffee. This will keep the boiler going until time for the noon meal, which is known as Dinner here in Texas.
When I get back on my diet next week, breakfast will be one egg, over easy, two flour tortillas and the coffee.
I love a good omelet, but that is more of a Brinner (combined breakfast and dinner) item than a straight breakfast dish. Good omelets take a while to prepare, and I don't always have the alarm set early enough to accomplish all the preparation.
A good case can be made for having sawmill gravy over biscuits for breakfast on special occasions. It's easy to make a whole lot of it if you have company.
I've known folks who had a can of Pepsi and a cigarette for breakfast every morning. Their lives were short and miserable.
In a pinch, most anything will do for breakfast. I've broken the fast on everything from cold pizza to leftover meatloaf and survived.
Dinner (in Texas - Lunch Elsewhere)
In the hard-working, blue collar family I grew up in, dinner was very important. You had already worked off the breakfast calories, and it was time to restoke the boiler. I guess my favorite back home was the country fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy that mama made. Along with a considerable amount of white bread, this would keep you going the rest of the day.
It was a custom in our family to have a little break along about two-thirty or three in the afternoon for coffee and a sweet roll. This was more of a social event than a real meal. You discussed how the day was going and what time you could be expected home for supper.
I ate a lot of sandwiches. While I was working in the construction trades, there was seldom time for a sit down meal at noon. A lot of the time there was no time to stop at all, you just ate on the run when you could. I ate a lot of sandwiches. My favorites were the cold roast beef with sliced fresh onion and Louisiana hot sauce on white bread. Quite zesty and filling. Another of my favorites was the Spam and American cheese on white bread. Lots of good calories there.
There were times when I went to work without packing a lunch. (Dinner is called Lunch if you put it in a brown paper bag or a lunch box). On these days, I would head for the nearest grocery vendor. My favorite such bought dinner was (and still is) a can of Vienna sausages, a bag of barbecue-flavored potato chips and a quart of chocolate milk. Such a combination of flavors and textures will bring tears to my eyes. Also high on the list is Spam spread and saltine crackers with of course, the chocolate milk. Although I ate a lot of it, I never did really like the potted meat that comes in the little can. I never, never had sardines. They just don't look right to me.
For a while, the 7-Eleven stores had a stick of summer sausage in their ice boxes. You pared off as much summer sausage as you thought you needed or could afford and got a twenty-five cent box of saltines along with an onion. (You can tell this was a long time ago by the price of the saltines). The only drawback was the onion would make you so sleepy in about an hour. Not good when you are driving a truck.
I once worked with a gentleman named Mr. Paul Kilburn. Mr. Paul would eat a whole head of lettuce at noon every day. He had other things in his lunch box which I never identified, but the lettuce was always there. Whatever the menu was, it agreed with Mr. Paul because he could work me down and he was nearly twice my age.
Favorite Supper Time FoodsI can't think of any one thing that is my favorite for the evening meal. On the farm, the evening meal had fried meat, either brown or milk gravy, lumpy mashed potatoes, over-cooked vegetables, and the ever present white bread. It was a leisurely meal. The day was over and there was nothing pending other than the bath and bed. It was a good time to review the events of the day and plan the schedule for the next day.
In the past few years, I do have on a regular basis a big bowl of pasta with my home made red sauce and cheese. This is not for those with a delicate constitution.
I'm running short on space so I'm gonna give you my recipe for Saw Mill Gravy so you can fill up that hungry breakfast crowd.
Saw Mill GravyIn a large, heavy pot, melt two tablespoons of shortening. Crumble in a pound of breakfast sausage (hot or mild, as you prefer). Cook and stir until the sausage is browned.
Add about three heaping tablespoons of flour. Stir it in real good and cook for three or four minutes. Be careful that the flour doesn't burn.
Slowly stir in a can of condensed milk. This mixture will be really thick so keep stirring from the bottom so it doesn't burn. Add more condensed milk until you get the consistency you prefer. (Don't get it too runny -- it has to cling to the biscuits).
Add a half teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper per can of milk used. Check for salt, add if needed. Let it simmer ten or fifteen minutes.
Serve over split, fresh biscuits. Don't waste good gravy on them canned biscuits. You can find my recipe for Quick and Easy Biscuits in the Texas Cooking Online archives.
Enjoy it while you can. The Fat Police are lurking everywhere.
See you next month. If you have a subject you would like me to expound on, send me an email and I'll consider it.
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