Coming Home and Some Chicken Fried Steak
Seven months ago today, I packed up the last of my things and left Nebraska to move home to Texas.
One of the reasons was the need to be closer to family and friends, which could have meant a move to Texas (family) or to D.C. (family of friends). But the reality is that what I wanted most was to move to Texas, the home state of my heart.
Since it’s only a two-day drive from Omaha to Austin (if you don’t kill yourself with a 16-hour, one-day drive), Sunday will mark seven months of living in Texas. And I have loved every moment of it. Well, except for the time I found out there was a half-inch screw in my Xterra’s tire. That kind of sucked. But at least the guy at the tire shop was more than willing to help a damsel in distress. Not the point though.
So what does moving home to Texas after having spent most of my life in the diaspora mean? Well, it means that I no longer feel like I’m not where I’m supposed to be. It means that the longing in my heart to be somewhere else has quieted. If there’s a wish to be somewhere else, it’s not because I’m not happy where I am, it’s because there’s an awful darned long list of things I want to do and let’s go there or do that next.
For this reason, I think I can relate to some of what my friend Ellise Pierce may experience as she divides her time between Paris and Texas. No matter where she is at the moment, she seems to love being there, but she’s also excited for what she’ll be able to experience next – whether it is the next bowl of queso, the next brocante or the next trip (in either direction) across the pond.
Ellise’s home encompasses Texas and Paris. And so does her cooking. She has shared her recipes with us through her blog, Cowgirl Chef. And now she’s sharing her recipes that encompass her love of Texas and Paris in her new cookbook, Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent.
In honor of Ellise’s cookbook launch, the #LetsLunch bunch is honoring her (one of the group’s co-founders!) with posts about recipes that bring together two cultures.
I didn’t have to think long about what I wanted to make in honor of Ellise. For me, making Chicken Fried Steak represents a part of home because it brings together different elements of my life into one dish. Much like Ellise’s dishes bring together the elements of her life.
Chicken Fried Steak reminds me of being in my Grandma Mary Lou’s grocery store while Cathy, the store’s butcher, cubed a steak for a customer. Chicken Fried Steak also reminds me of meals with my Grandma Mary Lou, who shared her recipe with me. But Chicken Fried Steak also reminds me of my Mom and Dranny making Schnitzel (which is an awful lot like Chicken Fried Steak) using a recipe they learned while living in Germany. And Chicken Fried Steaks also remind me of dinners with Mom and Dranny at the Lakehouse in Kerrville.
And every single one of these memories reminds me of home, even if home isn’t a single place.
So, last night, I set aside my fear of burning the ever living daylights out myself and fried up some Chicken Fried Steaks. I made some creamed gravy and mashed potatoes to go with ‘em, too.
All things considered, the Chicken Fried Steaks turned out just about right. I need to keep practicing my frying technique, but the crust was crunchy and came away from the meat just the way it’s supposed to. The gravy wasn’t lumpy, but it’s been a while since I made cream gravy and need to work on the consistency and seasoning. And the mashed potatoes were purple. What more could I ask for?
All-in-all, it was totally worth setting aside my fear of frying and to tackle something on my “let’s do that next” list.
To Ellise, I’d like to say: CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am so happy that your talent is being showcased in your very own cookbook. And I cannot wait to make your recipes a part of my collection and my home.
To see how the other members of the #LetsLunch bunch are celebrating Ellise’s cookbook, check out the #LetsLunch hashtag on Twitter. I’ll try to add links to the other posts later this weekend. No promises yet, though; there’s a Texas-sized list of adventures to get into, after all. =)