B's dad asked that I pass along his thanks for your vote for Round 2 of Project Food Blog. Round 3 requires contestants to host a luxury dinner party. As you will soon see, the definition of luxury was left open to interpretation. You can vote for me by clicking "Vote For This Entry" on this page
"I'll keep my guns, freedom, and money. You can keep your hope and change." The hubster and I looked at the bumper sticker on the red Ford pickup in front of us and then the backseat of our car, stuffed to the brim with our fragile glass items, precariously stacked boxes, and a large SpongeBob SquarePants pillow that I just couldn't bear to ship. We were moving to Texas and this bumper sticker was a clear indication we had arrived.
See, the hubster and I are big city kids. Not just big city kids but rather, West Coast big city kids. We grew up in neighborhoods where no two families were from the same country, celebrating holidays like Chinese New Year and Diwali were just as common as celebrating Christmas, and most importantly, great sushi was available year-round. The prospect of moving to Texas, to live a life of guns, cattle, and country fried steak, was just plain daunting. Because when you're from California, you just know everyone in Texas has a gun, a cow, and a deep-rooted love of country fried steak.
But between the guns, cattle, and steak, there's something the stereotypes forgot to mention. The people. Over the last two years, we've been blessed to make friends that sometimes take an entire lifetime to find. We found friends who invited us to our first mudbug fest where notoriously squeamish yours truly sucked the juice from a crawfish's head, friends who shared their faith and took us to church with them on Easter Sunday, friends who picked us up from the airport at 5 a.m., friends who took us to our first rodeo, and friends who got us Texas-in-a-Bag when they found out we were moving. But most importantly, we found friends who introduced us to Tex-Mex. Not just Tex-Mex but great Tex-Mex. Enchiladas con carne, chili con queso, and brisket. Glorious brisket, perfectly spiced and tender as can be, piled on tacos, nachos, and enchiladas.
So it seemed only fitting that my luxury dinner party be a tribute to all things Tex-Mex. And in the middle of all the dinner party planning, when I found out we had to move back across the country the day after our party, I just kept on truckin', Texas style. For the last week, while I've been frantically packing and preparing for the party, the slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" has actually been "Don't mess with Tex-Mex." It didn't matter that our house was littered with boxes, all our pots and pans had been packed, and oh, we had to eat off of paper plates. Luxury is what you make it, and when you've been packing frantically and eating cereal for the last three days, luxury is eating Tex-Mex (off of paper plates) in the company of dear friends.
We started with a chicken tortilla soup with a roasted tomato relish and avocado crema. Warm and comforting with crispy bits of corn tortilla and a cooling swirl of avocado, served in between stories of the time M forgot her heels and had to wear her flip flops to court and the time B had to leave her gym bag as collateral because she forgot to bring cash to pay the parking attendant. We moved on to stacked brisket enchiladas with roasted poblanos and cotija cheese, served alongside cilantro-lime rice and creamy black beans, and laughed about the time I thought the local taco place, Taqueria Arandas, specialized in spider tacos (What? Arañas are spiders but Arandas is someone's last name. Anyone could get those two confused, especially because tongue or lengua tacos are rather common, so spider tacos are not that much of a stretch). All through the reminiscing, M's husband patiently cared for their baby (my youngest dinner guest ever!), henceforth dubbed "the cutest baby ever."
And over a dessert of sopapillas, glistening with cinnamon sugar and dripping with honey, we talked about how the three of us came to Texas, looking for different things, and along the way, built a friendship that feels much older and deeper than two years. A mother, a runner, and a storyteller shared their dreams, their frustrations, and most importantly, a love of Tex-Mex. We stood side-by-side to welcome babies, mourn the loss of loved ones, and share our lives over countless dinner parties. And so, we gathered for one last dinner party in Texas.
As we drive back to California tomorrow, the hubster and I aren't sad. We are taking our Texas-in-a-Bag, some fabulous memories, a top secret brisket recipe, and a sticker proudly declaring, "Don't Mess With Texas."