Texans like to eat. A lot. A recent study listed Houston as the most obese city in America. Dallas was further down the list but still in the Top 20. Cities of the South dominated the list. There may be many reasons for this. From the non-objective view of these Eyes on Texas it seems Southerners do enjoy their food. Fried. They fry vegetables. Not just spuds. Tomatoes, okra, pickles. Annually the State Fair of Texas picks the Big Tex Choice Award, which usually ends up being something fried, like Fried Thanksgiving Dinner, Fried Turkey, Fried Butter, Fried Coke and many other fried items one would not ordinarily think were fry-worthy.

Meat products of various sorts are coated with a flour mixture and thrown into a vat of boiling oil and labeled 'chicken-fried' whatever the meat type. Usually this is chicken-fried steak. Or it can be chicken-fried chicken. Texans do not find this redundant. What was first thought to be some sort of joke for the benefit of transplanted Yankees, turned out to be true. TEXANS FRY TURKEYS. An entire bird is submerged in a tank of oil heated by a propane torch. It is actually quite good, cooks fast, and is not at all greasy.

A trio of menus from a couple Texas Events

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To give you some idea of the Southern and Texan concept of food we have gleaned a collection of quotes from an Internet discussion that started out being about okra, that wonderful vegetable, imported from Europe, which never caught on much in America... except in the South......

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Eyes on Texas comments follow the excerpts,delineated by being in smaller print.

I'm not a huge fan of Okra unless it's fried. I usually add sliced jalapenos and use corn meal for the breading. Tasty!

No comment...

In Alabama we used to do it with cornmeal and green tomatoes (also coated in cornmeal like the traditional "fried green tomatoes")...

Are fried green tomatoes always sort of mushy? Or did we experience a bad batch?

One of the great things about living in the South is that we don't have *any* limitations on what is, or is not, considered food. With the possible exception of scrapple (which even a Southerner knows to stay away from).

If you are at all squeamish you may want to avoid reading any of the following excerpts which talk about 'scrapple'.

Finally...something we solidly agree upon. Scrapple is not food and is not to be put into one's mouth. If someone were to request scrapple at my house I would be offended.

Now you are likely curious as to what 'scrapple' is and you'll likely read til you find out, even if you are squeamish...

What is scrapple?

Even some Texans have no idea what 'scrapple' is.

Even though I grew up in Texas, I've never been able to bring myself to try scrapple. My older brother was a HUGE fan of it (still is) and loved to fry it up and eat it with maple syrup. Maybe it was because I knew what was in it, but the smell of it cooking was enough to turn my stomach.

'Turn my stomach' is another way to say squeamish...

In the Deep South, we refer to 'scrapple' as souse or head cheese. White folks hardly ever ate it, or pig knuckles, or trotters or hawg jowls.

I guess we now know what 'scapple' is. Fried head cheese.

Turkey Leg Eaters

At the State Fair, at Six Flags, at Street Fairs, at Flea Markets, at Canton Trade Days, at parades, at just about any public event at which Texans gather there will be purveyors of barbecued Turkey Legs. And multitudes of Texans chewing on them. You don't ever seem to see turkeys being fried at public events however.

The turkey leg chompers you see here were chomping at Six Flags.

There's a chain around the D/FW Metroplex called "Red, Hot, and Blue" that serves fairly authentic Tennessee style BBQ. *Pulled* pork, not chopped (they do also offer beef for the heathen Texans). They don't seem to have "the touch" on getting the meat right (it's often too dry), but the sauces are pretty authentic.

An example of the debate that rages over barbecue styles between Texas and aficionados of other state's barbecue styles.

I had a friend from Mississippi tell me that "Red, Hot, and Blue" was pretty good in Jackson, MS. I haven't tried them. I am in San Marcos (Texas) and the only time I get that far north is when I'm headed back to Tennessee. Beef and pork require different temperatures to be their best. The cooks at the Texas locations probably dry out the pork by trying to cook it like beef.

Sounds funny to Yankee ears to refer to Tennessee as 'far north'...

Okra flash fried in hot bacon grease is the only way in my humble opinion...

As opposed to fried in 'cold' bacon grease?

My white mother, who was raised on a ranch in the panhandle, relished head cheese, brains and pig knuckles. My father even liked the pig knuckles. I tried the brains in scrambled eggs a couple of times but it was too much like cannibalism to me. The head cheese was disgusting. I never knew that I knew what scrapple was.

The way this guy describes it makes it sound so tasty.

My Dad was known to cook "chittlin's" in my Mom's kitchen once or twice when I was a kid. We all left the house for a couple of days while he was indulging. He says that chittlin's are good when there is some grit in them. But, I don't know if he eats scrapple or not. He should find this web site interesting.

Chittlins? Have heard of them on the Beverly Hillbillies, but no idea what they are. Are they like grits?

I think Poke Salet proves that quite well.
For any Yankees reading this: "You don't wanna know."

Hey. This is one Yankee who wants to know. That Poke Salad Annie song has never made any sense.

My cousin's wife loved scrapple, she was the only one in the family that ate it normally. She got me to try it, I ate it once but could not get into anything fried that was still squishy.

Sounds like the same problem from which fried green tomatoes suffer.

Polk Salad is the greens from a root vegetable similar to a turnip. Poor southerners, black and white, ate Polk Salad, especially after Reconstruction. Poke Salad is the leaves of the Poke weed. As it matures, the stalk turns a reddish color and the plant produces purple poke berries which are poisonous. The leaves have to be parboiled or they are also poisonous.

That didn't sound so bad. Except for the poisonous part. Why would a Yankee not want to know this?

You really don't understand Southern food traditions if you think people would buy poke salad. Finding and picking it is part of the experience. I think most grocery stores would be a little reluctant to stock produce which was known to be poisonous if eaten raw or improperly prepared. That might break a few people of the habit of grazing in the produce department. Killing ones customers is generally not good for business in the long run. Now there might be a market for the parboiled and then frozen poke salad. People might be willing to pay to avoid stinking up their own house. Maybe poke salad can be the next peasant food to become hip and trendy.

Poke Salad is starting to sound like one of those impenetrable Texas Traditions like Billy Bathing.

Ummmmmm...brains and eggs. As a kid in west Texas, we had it for breakfast with homemade biscuits and thick gravy. I never considered that it was really hog brains! I enjoyed it so much that it never seemed repulsive to me.

Hog brains. This guy must have been very thrilled when he discovered IHOP.

It's more of a pig head reduction. Brains? Probably, but I'll take pig-head and cheeks with sage and pepper, over those lymph nodes and salivary glands (chorizo), any day. You have to cook scrapple properly. Cut 1/4 inch and fry on medium heat for 9 minutes a side. Never let the sides touch, and don't fondle the slices too much. Crispy heaven.

The more detailed the 'scrapple' description becomes, the less appealing it becomes.

Crisp scrapple w/ maple syrup and some eggs on the side. Now I'm hungry for sure. Haven't had any for quite a while.

All this 'scrapple' food talk on an empty stomach has caused both a loss of appetite and desire to eat something good...

Didja ever notice the Red River crossovers can't discern the subtle difference of Interstate 45 asphalt in the Galveston area with it's moderate salty flavor vs. the rather plain taste of Interstate 30/Texarkana armadillo, known in Shreveport as 'possum on the half shell'?

Well. No more possum on the half shelf for this Texas. Who would have guessed it to be armadillo road kill? So tasty....

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