There's something about visiting a locale that puts me in the make-believe mode. I pretend I live there, and I know all the local secrets, and I talk with the local accent using local colloquialisms. It seems to me that I am pretty good at it, and that I fit right in, until my sister purses her eyebrows and crinkles her lips up, cocking her head to the side as she says beneath her breath..."What ARE you doing?"
Yesterday my sister Libby and I flew southward against the returning birds of spring, all the way down to Houston to spend spring break with my daughter Kate. We hit the ground running, shopping until the stores closed, staying up till 2 am watching reruns of Crossing Jordan, sleeping in, then shopping again for ingredients to the fabulous food we're gonna cook. Kate had arranged to meet some of her closest friends for a late breakfast at the famed Breakfast Klub in the heart of Houston. On our way there we passed by a car dealership with a large silver flagpole, a banner of red, white and blue flirting with a slight southern breeze. I glanced, then looked again.
"Is that a Texas flag?" I said, surprised that it was not an American flag.
"MmHmmm," Kate responded. "When I first started teaching, five years ago, my students pledged allegiance to the Texas flag. You'll often see the Texas flag flying above the American flag."
I was dumbfounded. Seriously? Isn't that unpatriotic?
Depends on where you're from.
Texas is BIG, with a capital B! And I'm not just talking acreage. Her sense of self is solid. She throws her chin up and pumps her chest forward as she struts. It feels almost arrogant to this Utah girl, except that the people are so friendly, their warm southern drawls softening the sharp edges of overconfidence.
We stood for a big Texas sized hour waiting in line outside the Breakfast Klub, a thread of happy people wrapping itself out the front door and around to the back of the building. "So worth it", people said, as an energetic employee walked down the curb of the sidewalk, holding a plate of chicken fried chicken, home style gravy and mashed potatoes, declaring that this is the special of the day and that these here are real honest mashed potatoes. She stopped at Libby and asked if she liked mashed potatoes. Lib responded that she's from Idaho, and we call them "spuds". (I wanted to repeat after her, emphasizing the word spuuhhds with a real Texas drawl, but for Libby's sake I resisted.)
Inside, when Kate made her order of French toast with strawberries, scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon the cashier held up her hand and declared "a big five for that one!" It was her favorite, too.
Our plates overflowed with Texas size portions of waffles surrounded by fried chicken wings, biscuits and gravy, buttered grits and pancakes.
The energy in the place matched the portions: BIG! And tasty.
It's 1:30 in the morning and if I don't go to bed I'll have to go get something to eat. So much to do. So much to see. So little time. I'll drift off to sleep with The Yellow Rose of Texas skipping like a scratched 45 in my head.
Texas. It's super sized, and it's hard to discipline oneself and taste it in healthy portions. It's just so tempting to over stuff.
Tomorrow, for instance, we may have to stretch our jaws wide open and taste a little San Antonio.