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Archive for the ‘BOOKS’ Category

Ne te quaesiveris extra.

South Texas Food. Local schmocal. Ironic? Contradiction? Both…neither?

2011 is certain to be filled with exciting new challenges and still-unresolved resolutions. Trying to figure out what makes a food a South Texas food has been tricky but a new appreciation has been found for globalization. Eating dirt and sucking on mesquite beans could get old.  So, it’s got me thinking about the benefits and downsides of ‘local’ and jarred the old bean of a recently published book by a faculty member of my alma mater, SWT (I know, Texas State University now, but can’t bring myself to revise it. Ugh.).

James McWilliams is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at SWT/TSU and the author of  “Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly”. This book “outlines the shortcomings of contemporary ideology regarding ‘food miles‘ and offers a series of prescriptive ideas for a more just, environmentally sustainable food system.” What one might like about his writing is that it offers a balance between the fashionably foodie idealists and the overzealous agribusiness capitalists. Critics might dismiss this book, as McWilliams offers no clear financials, statistics or scientific evidence to back up his ideas, but that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from giving it a glance. Numbers can be subjective, too.

Here’s to self-reliance and trusting your gut in 2011. Giddy-uppah!

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Came across this lil’ snippet of1914  propaganda written by Henry Maxwell Madison, an Agriculture Agent for Southern Pacific, enticing entrepreneurs to ranch/farm down in South Texas. The booklet produced by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce covers cost of meat production, concerns re feeding the cattle (pros and cons of farming in South Texas) and a 1914 Land and Live Stock chart of South Central Texas. At the back is a reference to WWI regarding a growing concern for food shortages overseas.

The quote at the end “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” is accurate, but has been corrupted in modern times to “the proof is in the pudding”(which makes no sense).

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Melissa Guerra, author and foodie

From Amazon:

The Wild Horse Desert is the once-disputed area in southern Texas, just above the Rio Grande, that was part of Mexico before the war of 1846; Melissa Guerra’s family has lived there for more than 16 generations, working the land and raising cattle. Much of the dishes Guerra grew up eating were Mexican (though there are some Tex-Mex recipes here as well), and while the term norteño is usually used to refer to northern Mexico, she notes that South Texas is considered part of norteño culture too.

Author of a previous cookbook, the companion volume to her PBS series The Texas Provincial Kitchen, Guerra also sells ingredients and equipment for Mexican cooking through an online store and catalog, and her authoritative text reflects both her culinary experience and her love of the region and its food. The recipes are generally simple, but the instructions are thoroughly detailed, and headnotes and boxes provide information on ingredients, traditions, and other topics; the many photographs, some color, add context as well.

Strongly recommended.

Check out her website for some gorgeous kitchenwares and these sweet Peruvian embroidered sneakers. Guerra also has a physical store in the Pearl Brewery based in San Antonio.

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We went to visit Morgan Weber of Revival Meats in Yoakum, Texas last weekend to see his gorgeous pigs – spotted and mangalitsas. It was inspiring to see such a productive and cared-for operation. Morgan and Stacey are clearly passionate about their pigs and we would all benefit if more farmers followed their lead.

While at the Revival Meats farm, we had the good fortune to meet Ben from Salt & Time and the topic meandered from field harvesting at Broken Arrow Ranch to feral hog jerky…cuz that’s how we roll. After a bit of research to learn more about wild game, I came across these resources for feral hog novices (and wild game amateurs) like myself. NOTE: A lot of folks in South Texas hunt. And I mean A LOT.

So are you ready to kill and cook your own meat? Then Keith Patton’s page is your first stop for wild game hunting and cooking tips:

To minimize wild taste try to kill the animal when he is at rest or does not know you are there.  Dark cutting meat results in a rank off flavor.  This is recognized by the meat industry, identified in the late 1800’s as a phenomena when animals are agitated or frightened prior to death.  Metabolic processes due to fear result in depleted lactic acid in the muscles(meat) this raises pH or lowers the acidity of the meat which allows bacteria to thrive.  This results in a dark, sticky, gummy meat.  This is common in game meat from animals killed on the run, or coursed or chased with dogs.  Every animal I have killed, pole axed, have been great.  All this is why my grand father used to give us hell when we butched hogs, if we agitated them.  He couldn’t tell us why it mattered but he knew that the meat would be of lower quality, and the hams would have a higher likelihood of spoiling during curing.  Try killing your hogs over a feeder and if they get agitated or are running, pass and come back another day.

Dressing & Cooking Wild Game is a tasty and highly regarded cookbook once you have offed your feral hog.

Oh…and don’t forget that jerky.

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Fishing Yesterday’s Coast

Reading a great book called “Fishing Yesterday’s Coast” by Legendary Guide Barney Farley. Wonderful insight on the need for conservation.

From Amazon:

Renowned fishing guide Barney Fariey worked the Texas coastal waters out of Port Aransas for more than half a century. In these stories and reflections, Farley imparts a lifetime of knowledge about fish_silver trout, sand trout, speckled trout, redfish, ling, catfish, jack, kingfish, you name it_and gives advice about how to fish, where to fish, and when to fish. Perhaps no one could chronicle the changes in sport and commercial fishing along the Central Texas Coast more ably and more passionately than Farley. When he came to Texas in 1910, he reported that he could get in a rowboat and using only a push pole, make his way “to the fishing grounds and catch a hundred pounds or more of trout and redfish” in a few hours. A couple of years later, the shrimp trawlers arrived. As they plied the Gulf in increasing numbers, they depleted the shrimp populations in the bays, and Farley watched the fish move farther and farther offshore, following their ever more elusive food source. From his perspective in the mid-1960s, Farley was not satisfied simply to lament the disappearance of once-abundant species. He also strongly voiced his views on the need for conservation. Many of the problems he identified are still with us, and some of the solutions he prescribed have since been adopted. This book is both an appealing reminiscence and a cautionary tale. Anyone who cares about fishing and the health of the Gulf’s waters will find an authoritative and completely engaging voice in Barney Farley.

Here’s a cool pic with him and FDR

President Roosevelt catching a tarpon in Port Aransas, 1937. Barney Farley is holding the tarpon.

President Roosevelt catching a tarpon in Port Aransas, 1937. Barney Farley is holding the tarpon

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