His hands on the steering wheel of an off-road utility vehicle, Larry Barton bounces along a few of Indian Mountain Ranch’s trails looking for brown-striped piglets. This is his ranch, so the area—a mix of open grasslands, dense woods, and plenty of mud pits, midway between Fort Worth and Abilene—is familiar to him. But the piglets are tough to find.
You know what’s not the hippest thing in the world if you’re a Texas teen these days? Beef, apparently.
Everything about the following story will make you feel a little bit better about the world: It’s got pre-teen twins with a sense of purpose and accomplishment; it’s got people overcoming disabilities to achieve something great that works because of compassion; and—most importantly—it’s got goats.
The father of the 1015 Texas sweet onion stared at the salad bar, considering his options. I had come all the way to Atlanta to meet Leonard Pike, a 73-year-old former horticulture professor at Texas A&M University who’d founded the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center in 1992 and run it until his retirement, in 2006.
A shot of tequila at the Lost Horse Saloon, in Marfa.
The liquor arrives at a warehouse in El Paso after crossing the Franklin Mountains on the way north.
Barrels line the walls at a distillery near El Arenal, Jalisco.
No beast on this planet eats bitter produce, unless forced by dire circumstance. But man eats grapefruit, and therefore is no beast. Grapefruit is bitter because it contains a flavonoid called naringin, one of many bad-tasting compounds Mother Nature created to protect plants from hungry animals and to let animals know which plants are likely to hurt them. Naringin can, in fact, hurt us: it interacts in unpredictable ways with many common medications, including antihistamines and blood-pressure drugs.
At lunchtime outside Mel’s Country Cafe, in Tomball, a truck dealership’s worth of pickups are jammed into the gravel parking lot. Inside, their owners are sitting cheek by jowl, enjoying Jeff Henry’s famous chicken-fried steak. Whether it’s the light golden crust, the tender cut of meat, or the thick white gravy, the collective mood at Mel’s is buoyant.
The maze is part of Barton Hills Farms’ annual Fall Festival & Corn Maze. Each year’s maze is Texas-themed (last year’s gave participants the chance to get lost in the outline of the state itself), but the folks at Barton Hills outdid themselves with the Willie Nelson corn maze, which features a guitar adorned with a bandana and Willie’s iconic braids, along with the words “Always On My Mind” carved into the stalks, which stand over 7’ high in parts.
On October 2006, at a global food trade show in Paris, several representatives from the U.S. pecan industry found themselves pursuing something of a fool’s errand. They were seeking a European market for their product. The Europeans have flatly rejected the pecan since colonial times, preferring the taste of walnuts and chestnuts to that of America’s only edible native nut.