Chicken Fried Steak, or…

 

Why I Will Never Be 100% Texan

I went to a Christmas gathering the other evening (5 down, 17 to go), where chicken-fried steak was the predictable entree.  Before I tell you my real opinion, allow me to describe this carnivoric concoction for those who may think I’m writing in oxymorons:

Chicken-fried steak is steak fried in chicken batter. It’s that simple, but there’s more. The steak in question seems always to be the most grizzle-permeated, toughest slice of beef from the oldest milk cow ever to be sent, in the name of McDonald’s hamburgers, to the slaughter house. As the various cuts of beef are making their way down the conveyor belt to be ground and smashed into all-meat patties, there is a wizened old man who watches all day for those chunks of meat with no marbled fat, no discernibly chewable texture, and no possibility- none- of being cut into stew meat or turned into a chopped BBQ sandwich. If there are big tough ingrained tendons still hanging from it, so much the better. Our wise old man grabs that piece of meat and sends it to the chicken-fried steak slicer.

Where it is inspected one more time. If any parts of the cut can be saved for dog food, they are cut away and put aside, so that the butcher now has only the bottomest-of-the- barrel beef with which to work. He then sets about slicing that meat into the thinnest portions possible that will still meet the FDA’s definition of “steak.” (That’s .0078 of an inch, about the thickness of two playing cards stacked on top of one another.)

At this point, the slices are packed and shipped to banquet managers all over Texas. These are the party planners who work for companies and organizations that want to give their customers and members the impression that they are down-home, sh*t-kickin’, good old boys, who- by god- remember Grandma’s chicken-fried steak just like the best of ’em. “Git ‘er done” they order as they pass on the pitiful pile of pinkish “meat” to the batter specialists.

The batter specialists are immersed all day in vats of flour, Sysco System sized cans of Crisco and chicken broth, and other stuff that I don’t know about and will never want to know about. They slather the meat in a mixture of all the above, then set the meat to frying in pans full of not-hot-enough grease so that calorie-laden fat has the optimal opportunity to soak through to every molecule of this mess. But, once cooked and cooled down to to a tepid temperature for serving, there’s one more coup d’ grace to be performed:

A big spoonful of white gravy is plopped down over the entree. White gravy– you read that right: tasteless and coagulating the moment it hits the cold, grease-sodden entree of the evening. It looks like this:

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Now, in this picture, the gravy is on the side, but- be assured- it won’t be for long! I chose this picture, so that those who have never seen a chicken-fried steak may now know one of the archetypal psychological horrors that Jung never had the chance to write about, and which haunts some of us transplanted Northerners to the point that we are unable to relax- ever- when we know there is a banquet we must attend. (“Please, God, a steak, or chicken- grilled, baked, broiled, even boiled- but NOT chicken-fried steak! Please, God, in your mercy..Amen)

Real Texans love their chicken fried steaks. But, just so you know: I don’t. At all. And that’s why, despite the fact that I love living here, and will consider myself one day lucky to be buried here, that I will never be 100% Texan. I will have to be happy, as will those around me, with only being a 98.9 percenter.

(for a slightly less biased view, Wikipedia has the inside story here.)

Santa Claus is Coming..Run!

It’s a three year old tradition in the Weber household. We gather around the egg nog, hang our stockings with care, turn down the lights, and surf again to our favorite Christmas website: Santa Claus Scaring Little Kids!

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It’s a collection of 150+ pictures of kids who want to be anywhere but on Santa’s lap. “Mommy!, Mommy!” you can hear them crying in terror. The men behind the hot, scratchy beards usually look equally dismayed, hung over, or- occasionally- outright evil. The photographer, wanting to see the line of kids behind her go away so she can finally sit down or go have a cigarette or go home, takes the shot as quickly as possible, with none of the finesse of a Kmart or Olan Mills factory photographer who is usually able to eke out at least a passive look of indifference from most children, who would rather be anywhere else but sitting still in full view of the toy department or food court.

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The faux Santa in this picture is a good one. Notice the jocularity and kindness with which he disguises the iron grip of “Sit the hell still!” behind what appears to be gentleness. Notice the practiced skill he employs of wedging the child between his knee and his hand with seeming goodwill.

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Now this guy gives credence to those who equate Santa with Satan! I wouldn’t have allowed my daughters to live in the same town as this guy, let alone get up in his lap. Despite their seemingly calm appearance here, don’t you just know that “something about Santa” would scar their memories of Christmas for years to come?

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“Please, Mommy, make Santa stop breathing on me!”

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For Billy and Sally, it was a joyous Christmas. For Bobby, it was a door opening into the Dark Side.

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Christmas, 1965. Sister begins a lifetime of sneering hostility toward Mom, men, and everything about the patriarchal, materialistic, sexist, and bourgeois society into which she didn’t ask to be born. Brother becomes catatonic.

And, one more. This is the guy who will be in your house on Christmas Eve- the one that the cookies and milk have been prepared for. Pick up some pepper spray on the way home tonight.

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One More Reason I Love Texas. . . . . . . ."Great, Speckled Bird"

It’s 1975, in a small West Texas town. The Band Director of the high school announces to the band and the baton twirlers that he has arranged and choreographed the 1936 Roy Acuff gospel song “Great Speckled Bird” for them to perform. I’ve got to believe that no similar announcement was ever made by another Band Director, anywhere.

Don’t read any further, though, without listening to the song first. Then try to imagine the embarrassed horror of being a 15 or 16 year old member of the band or twirling squad and having to perform this song, with appropriate choreography, on the football fields of other towns, in front of other 15 and 16 year olds, at halftime. As I’ve heard the story, the performers marched, twirled, and cringed, all at the same time.

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The song was written by a Rev. Guy Smith. It is based on Jeremiah 12:9, “Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.” Right off the bat, we have a 2500 year old metaphor that is being absurdly used in a mid-20th century context, and the attempts to make it work fail, I think, miserably. Look at some of the verses:

1. What a beautiful thought I am thinking
Concerning a great speckled bird
Remember her name is recorded
On the pages of God’s Holy Word.
2. All the other birds are flocking ’round her
And she is despised by the squad
But the great speckled bird in the Bible
Is one with the great church of God.
3. All the other churches are against her
They envy her glory and fame
They hate her because she is chosen
And has not denied Jesus’ name.

From Baptist Singing Conventions in the 30s, to the Grand Old Opry in the 50s, to football fields in Petrolia, Chico, and Alvord in the 70s, the Great Speckled Bird was both a testimony to Jesus and a psychological trauma for many Texas teens. Where else could a song achieve such a legacy?

Oh Texas, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways..

Star Wars Trumpet

Again, in the interest of public awareness and community safety, I am bound by my personal code of ethics to make you aware of this video.

Should you choose to accept this assignment and watch said video, your hard drive will begin to fry at about 0:10, and destruction will be complete shortly before the video’s completion at 2:53. There will, thereafter, be no evidence anywhere that you deleted almost three minutes of your life watching Ms. Stacy Hedger ("Miss Douglas!") and waiting- and praying in vain- for her to do something well.

Thanks and a tip o’ the hat goes to Ms. ChaosKitty at Stumbleupon !