Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Wrapup: What I ate

My daddy's beautiful pond, which he dug himself.

So, I'm sorry I vanished. Christmas really grabbed me by the throat this year, and it seemed like I had no opportunity to think, much less sit down and write something coherent. Now, here we are, umpteen days since my last post, and I'm finally able to breathe.


You see, for the first time in ages and ages, I went home for the holidays, where home = Texas. It was awesome, actually; everything was pretty much right where I left it. Even the feed store (do they have feed stores in California?) was in the exact same place. The unchangeability of small town Texas is deeply impressive.

My family, too, was quite awesome, with my dad and mom still playfully bickering about pretty much everything. My sisters are beautiful, strong, amazing women, and my two baby nephews take adorableness to whole new levels. I am not allowed to post pictures of them, because the cute would kill you. For serious.

And I don't have that many readers.

Anyway, one of the best things about going home is eating food you never get to eat normally. I didn't get any pictures, sorry; too busy stuffing my face. But I thought I'd take you through some of what home tastes like for me.

Cracker Barrel - Okay, if you've never eaten at a Cracker Barrel, you so seriously don't know what you're missing. Or maybe you hate Southern food - and freedom - and you don't care. But I had dreams of this place before I left for Texas. I think the farthest west I've found them was in Arizona, so it's been...what...six or seven years since I've eaten here? A long time.

I ate at Cracker Barrel every single day I was there except Christmas day, and then only because they weren't open. There's nothing healthy on the menu: the hash brown casserole is dripping with cheese and sour cream, the carrots are glazed in sugar, the chicken is deep fried and everything's smothered in sweet milk gravy. (Sweet milk is the opposite of buttermilk - it's what the rest of you heathens call "milk".)

Heaven. Particularly because they have ...

Sweet Tea - Ah, yes. The nectar of the South. This is iced tea (plain old Lipton tea) with lots and lots of sugar in it, but that doesn't do it justice. In California, they always serve iced tea (and it's not nearly as ubiquitous here as in the South) unsweetened. You can add sugar to it, but a.) people look at you askance and b.) it never seems to really dissolve once the tea's cold and leaves a big puddle in the bottom of the glass. You have to put the sugar in the pitcher when the tea's still warm.

Besides, as I told my mother, it's not really about putting sugar in your tea; it's about putting tea in your sugar.

Basically, I drank it like it was laced with heroin. The Cracker Barrel waitress finally just offered to leave the pitcher on the table.

Boudin - My parents live in Southeast Texas, which is close enough to the Southwest Louisiana border that it's still marginally Cajun Country. There are plenty of Guilbeaus and Thibodeauxs there, at least. (People there call Cajuns "coonasses", which is really rude and still makes me laugh.)

I preface this that way because Boudin is a strictly Cajun thing, and outside of Cajun Country, it's pretty much unheard of. Actually, according to wikipedia, what they serve there is actually "boudin blanc". It looks like sausage; at least, it's stuffed in a pork casing like sausage. But it's really a rice dressing - pork sausage, parsley and herbs, mixed with white rice. This is then stuffed in the casing, and either baked or steamed until hot.

You split open the casing, scrape out the dressing and spread it on Saltine crackers. If you're not deathly allergic to cayenne pepper like me, you then douse it with Tabasco. It's a staple appetizer at home, and we actually had it as a part of our Christmas day dinner buffet. I didn't realize how much I missed it until then, and suddenly paying $40 just to have it shipped to me actually seems doable.

I'm hoping I get over that.

Wolf Brand Chili - Yes, it's canned chili. And yes, I should be embarrassed. But I'm not, because it's better than any stupid canned chili in California. Stupid California chili.

So, I bought a bunch of it and stuffed it in every spare nook and cranny in my suitcase. My parents noticed, but said nothing, bless them.

Of course, it's not as good as...

My Mama's Chili - Or her homemade cookies, for that matter. She makes spicy chili with big chunks of ground beef, and serves it over rice with lots of butter. She had some made the last day, when I stopped by before leaving for the airport.

She also made lots of cookies for Christmas: oatmeal chocolate chip, sugar cookies with colored icing and these cherry cookies that were to die for (also, pink). When I was driving to the airport, I opened my bag to find a ziploc baggie full of cookies for the road.

There really is no place like home.

And finally, to make up for this nearly picture-less trip, here's a picture of me, taken by my three-year-old nephew.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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