On New Year’s Day superstitious Texans take out a symbolic insurance policy by helping themselves to a heap of black-eyed peas—a practice that, according to tradition, guarantees one lucky day for each pea consumed. No one knows for certain how this ritual started, but one theory is rooted in horticulture: When planted, the legume replenishes the nitrogen content of soil and improves growth conditions, and thus the pea can be held responsible for the fortune of bountiful crops.
Rites of passage dot the path to becoming a true Texan—riding a horse, having your picture taken with Big Tex—but few are as iconic as learning to fire a rifle. Although there are a variety of types, beginners often train with a .22-caliber. “That’s because there’s minimal recoil, and the gun and its shells are relatively inexpensive,” says Terry Erwin, the Austin-based hunter education coordinator for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
When Ben Z. Grant, a state representative from Marshall, persuaded the Sixty-Fifth Legislature to make chili the official state dish, in 1977, he had history on his side. Many people believe that chile con carne was invented in San Antonio during the late nineteenth century by women called chili queens, who cooked the concoction over open flames and sold it to soldiers and tourists. Although countless variations exist, a time-tested recipe was published in Frank X.
The rules for riding a one-ton bucking bull are deceptively simple. A cowboy must stay on the animal for eight seconds. If he’s thrown off before the time elapses or if he touches the bull, himself, or the equipment with his free hand, he’s disqualified. The maximum score is 100 points, with two judges awarding up to 50 points each, 25 for the bull’s level of difficulty and 25 for the rider’s skill (spurring the bull in tandem with his stride will earn style points, for example).
Before becoming a national Thanksgiving novelty, the deep-fried turkey was a simple meal developed in bayou country, the region stretching from southeast Texas to southeast Louisiana. “People out there already owned big stockpots for crawfish boils, so of course they began thinking, ‘What else can I stick in here?’ ” says Charles Clark, who grew up along the Sabine River and now owns the Houston restaurant Ibiza.
Texas women may not have invented big hair, but they realized long ago the allure of the coiffed crown. Just consider Ann Richards, who made it her trademark and once declared an official Big Hair Day, in 1993. The style is powerful yet elegant, bold but surprisingly down-home.
No mantel in Texas is complete without a bluebonnet photograph. But as any amateur roadside shutterbug will tell you, it’s notoriously difficult to capture the stately flower on film. The bloom’s vibrant colors look washed-out; the petal’s delicate details are lost in a blur.
Modern-day bass fishing owes its enormous popularity to two game-changing events. First, in 1949, Nick Creme rocked the angler community with the creation of the plastic bait worm. Roughly ten years later a fisherman on Lake Tyler, weary of snagging his hooks on submerged timber and vegetation, speared a plastic worm on his hook in such a way that he securely anchored the worm and buried the barb. The Texas rig was born. Why was this technique so revolutionary?
Before tossing a jar of name-brand preserves into your shopping cart, read its label. Made from fruit concentrate? High-fructose corn syrup a main ingredient? Canned in Alaska? “These days, people don’t generally make their own preserves,” says Lynette Gold, the co-owner of Stonewall-based Gold Orchards, which was established in 1940.