IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS corn came in shucks, not in golden cream sauce; fish came with scales, not cornmeal breading; meat was cut to order, not wrapped fat side down in cellophane. The twentieth century, however, has left the harried, carpooling, wait-for-the-repairman wife (or any cook, for that matter) with little time or interest in shucking, scaling or standing in line at the butcher counter. To the rescue have come the food giants—supermarkets with one-stop shopping, check cashing, convenience foods, stamps, coupons and identification cards.
Sometimes, however, modern cooks tire of food that has been flash-frozen, evaporated, concentrated, dehydrated, reconstituted, canned, prepackaged, fortified, freeze dried and preserved. To their rescue we come with suggestions as to where they can—if they're dedicated—get the real McCoy, fresh food. If you think your pocketbook prohibits your shopping for the "real McCoy" consider the pleasure of unpacking a grocery sack without finding your old friends Grapefellow, Count Chocula and the 12 packages of sour raspberry gum which your children extorted or bit through while you waited in line at the supermarket.
For cooks with the time, the rewards of such shopping are great. Here's where to do it. This month we concentrate on Dallas and Houston. Next month we will cover San Antonio.
If your child thinks that all edible fish are spawned by Mrs. Paul, you might consider a trip to one of the catfish farms where he can catch fish in other men's ditches. Actually hatcheries, these farms almost guarantee the youngest fisherman a stringerful. This is the place for the Incompleat Angler: rods, reel and bait are available—as is processing (cleaning)—at nominal fees. If you won't go near the water, you can buy fresh or frozen catfish by the pound. Banbury Fish Farms, Inc. (Danbury, Texas—between Alvin and Angleton—2 miles south of highway 35 on Farm Road 171). No fee to fish. Pay for catch at 75¢ per pound of live weight.
Catfish Acres (Winnie, Texas—between Winnie and Highlands—Farm Road 124, south of Interstate 10). $1.50 fee for anyone over 16 years to fish. Price includes bait and tackle. Catch is 60¢ per pound of live weight.
FFA Auctions (Future Farmers of America). Chicken on the foot, beef on the hoof, lamb on the leg, turkey in the straw as well as rabbits, hogs, and capons are auctioned off each spring by Texas high school FFAer's. Although the prize animals are often bought by philanthropists, the also-rans meet their takers at reasonable prices. Students cut and package the meat for you, usually to your specifications. Check with individual schools for auction dates.
Glatzmaier Fish Market (516 Travis. 223-3331). You would expect to find Glatzmaier's fish in New York City, but it sits atop a three-foot curb on Travis in Houston and looks antediluvian, or at least ante-Gerald Hinesian. It began receiving seafood by rail from Galveston in 1907. Great wooden barrels of fish and seafood are still fixtures in the store. An enormous locker holds run-of-the-gill Gulf seafood (from the deepwater off the South Texas coast) plus turtle, live lobsters, unshucked oysters, frog legs, squid, snapper throats, live crawfish, alligator gar steaks, snapper (15-pounders are not a rarity), carp, buffalo fish, speckled trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, flounder, soft-shelled crabs, and rabbits. In the frozen food section you'll find crawfish tails, Alaskan snow crab fingers, abalone and eel. If you give Glatzmaier's a little notice, they can provide behemoth catfish for you to cut into steaks, or get practically anything else that wiggles in the water.
Orange Grove Game Birds and Hatchery (4602 Orange Grove Drive, Houston. 442-3407). End your small game hunt by taking home a brace of pheasants, a covey of quail or a dozen doves—live, frozen or freshly dressed. For peasants with pheasant tastes, the Stubbes offer fertile eggs of several varieties and incubators. They also raise Araucana hens that lay eggs for gentlemen with heart conditions. Low in cholesterol, these pastel eggs soothe the heart, but at $4 a dozen may irritate the purse.
Farmer's Market Cooperative (2520 Airline). The Farmer's Market's clientele is composed of three main groups: the restaurant buyers who arrive, dicker and load up before most of us have plugged in the morning coffee pot; the parents of unplanned families who heap the pick-up truck with enough vegetables to fill the freezer for the winter; and the newest group on the produce horizon, the vegetable clubbers—ladies in polyester pantsuits who band together against supermarkets, preservatives and high costs. They buy in bulk and then divide the harvest among six to ten families. To this last group and you rugged individualists who are dying for a crate of cucumbers to "put up," we offer these suggestions:
1. The freshest fare is for the early birds. You won't see any old hands arriving at noon for the left-overs.
2. The lettuce in the crate may be like the pig in the poke. Check to see that bottom layers of boxed fruits and vegetables are not in the last stages of decomposition.
3. Apples, pears, onions, etc. are graded according to size and quality. Thus, the bushel at $3.50 may be a better buy than the one at $2.50.
4. Buy what is in season.
5. Comparison shop.
Prices and quality can vary radically. You'll need a pencil and paper to keep track as you move from stall to stall.
If you are not interested in buying in bulk, try Canina's, an open air conditioned produce shop at the front of the market. You will find a stellar assortment of quality vegetables which includes cactus leaves (nopales) and a wide variety of chilis. Prices are below those in most supermarkets. Froberg's Farm (Old Manvel Road, Alvin. Take Hwy. 35 off the Gulf Freeway from Houston to Alvin; stay on Business 35, take a right on Hwy. 6; go 1 1/4 miles to County Road 149; take a left and then a right on County Road 190; go one-quarter mile to