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The Texanist

Our estimable advice columnist on saying “I do” to a potbellied pig, bidding farewell to supper, giving your regards to Texas, and complaining about cold tortillas.

By June 2016Comments

TEXANIST-Illustration-Jack-Unruh-June-2016-FULL-HEIGHT

Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: The woman I am engaged to is an animal lover nonpareil, with three dogs, two cats, and a tankful of exotic fish in her care. As we live in a rural area, she also keeps an eye on a fox, numerous deer, countless birds, and an assortment of rodents. Against my advice, she has now asked her sister for a miniature Viet-namese potbellied pig as a wedding gift. Does this sound like a good idea?
Name Withheld, San Antonio

A: It’s been a long time, but the Texanist seems to recall the most exotic item on his then-bride-to-be’s wedding registry wish list being an exorbitantly priced pepper mill from Williams-Sonoma. How the Texanist even survived all those years on canned pre-ground pepper is a mystery that confounds him to this day. But you’ve come with your own conundrum: the impending arrival of a miniature Vietnamese potbellied pig. Whether this idea is a good one or a bad one is a moot point (don’t tell the future Mrs. Name Withheld, but it sounds like a very bad one to the Texanist). Look, your fiancée’s predilection for keeping pets of all makes and models is something you must have been well aware of during y’all’s courtship. The smell alone had to have been a dead giveaway. So seeing as you were undeterred then, putting your foot down now would be a tricky undertaking. In fact, with all the paws, hooves, claws, fins, and tails you’d have to be careful of in doing so, it would be damn near impossible. The Texanist apologizes for making light of your situation, but he couldn’t help himself. And, unfortunately, he can’t help you either. While you were probably hoping for some kind of novel advice involving a hot bed of coals and a rotisserie, there’s simply nothing to be done at this point. But on the bright side, there’s the chance that one day, years down the road, you’ll wonder, as the Texanist sometimes does about the joys of fresh-ground pepper, what life was like before the love of that pet miniature Vietnamese potbellied pig. Congratulations to you and your bride. And welcome to the menagerie.

Q: For the first 45 years of my life, I ate breakfast, dinner (around noon), and then supper. Sometime about thirty years ago someone changed it to breakfast, lunch, and dinner (around suppertime). I noticed you used the word “supper” a couple months ago. Can you tell me who stole my supper?
Linda Brown, Horseshoe Bay

A: Time was when you weren’t the only one who took her grub in the old breakfast-dinner-supper manner. Nowadays, the only suppers one is likely to find are fundraisers put on by Rotarians, Kiwanians, churches, schools, or other service organizations at which spaghetti or pancakes are served—at newfangled dinnertime. Real supper, as you point out, is a thing of the past, having been supplanted by dinner, which was, somewhere along the way, supplanted its own self by lunch. Who is to blame? It appears that lunch would be an obvious suspect. But the Texanist also has his eye on the inexorable march of time and its associated semantic progression.

Q: I’m planning a trip to the coast later this summer, and I’m wondering whether a group of fun and willing non-fishing people would prefer a day of bay fishing to deep-sea fishing in the Gulf?
Sarah M., Abilene

A: The Texanist applauds your adventurousness. Both the briny deep and the briny shallows along coastal Texas have a potential bounty to offer, even to the novice angler. You’ll need to decide whether you’re after the speckled trout, redfish, and flounder of the calm bays or the red snapper, tuna, mahimahi, and amberjack found in the deeper and somewhat more wavy waters offshore. The Texanist is working under the assumption that you, as does he, prefer a catch better suited for a supper—pardon the Texanist, dinner—plate than the wall above the mantel. Also, both trips are available as either a full- or half-day outing, so you’ll want to decide that too. Once these questions are answered, all you’ll need are a fishing license, a trustworthy guide/boat captain, sunscreen, a hat, a tube of lip balm, a bunch of sandwiches, a lot of beer, some Dramamine for the less hardy, a cooler for hauling your salty booty, perhaps a few more beers, and a little bit of luck, which the Texanist will wish you now.

Q: Last week we were in New York City and dined at a good restaurant in the West Village. Our waiter was from Texas. He told us that his father had asked him to return to Texas last year to learn the family business, but that after a month or so in West Texas, he told his father that he had to return “home,” meaning New York City. From the waiter’s description, his father’s shocked reaction almost resulted in the waiter’s inheriting the business right then and there. My questions are, Is it really possible for a born-and-bred Texan to leave this gift of God for the chaos and craziness of New York? And are there intervention teams that could help this grieving father bring his son back to him?
Terry Tobias, Georgetown

A: It’s not uncommon for Texans who run into Texans while abroad to share some of their Texanness with one another, but sheesh, this guy really went into some detail. Sounds like he pulled up a chair and enjoyed the small plates and aperitifs right there at the table with you. For your sake, the Texanist hopes he at least comped the cheesecake. Regardless, you might be surprised to learn that the Texanist is not at all surprised to learn about the ins and outs of your New York City waiter’s life story. An innate desire to strike out for new territories is a quality possessed by many a Texas-born soul. For instance, Beyoncé, Steve Martin, Jerry Hall, Patrick Swayze, Robert Rauschenberg, Barbara Jordan, Tom Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Larry L. King, Janis Joplin, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson are among the multitudes of those born in Texas who set sail for fresh frontiers. Some will have their wanderlust quenched and return home after a spell, and others will stay gone, settling for that little bit of Texas that’s lodged deep in their hearts. The Texanist is sorry for the young man’s dad, but believe it or not, it would be wrong to round up his maverick son, make him give up his career waiting tables in the West Village, and force him to come home to run the established family business out in beautiful West Texas.

Q: I was at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Dallas recently where I had a pretty good platter of fajitas that was completely ruined by the unheated tortillas it was served with. I choked them down without saying anything to the staff, but I’ve been bothered by it ever since. I really wish I had said something. How big of a stink should a person make at a restaurant that serves unheated tortillas with its meals?
Name Withheld, Dallas

A: Tortillas are at their very best when they are freshly made and served warm and soft and in abundance. That they are at least warm when they hit the table is one of the most basic and unbendable rules of Tex-Mex cuisine, and it ought to go without saying. But on those rare and unfortunate occasions when it needs to be said, it absolutely should be said. After all, it’s not as if you are pointing out a flaw in the way the peppers and onions are sliced, or are unhappy with the gauge of the kitchen’s cheese grater. You are doing everyone in the restaurant a favor. As egregious a culinary error as cold and stiff tortillas are, the remedy could not be simpler. All you have to do is ask. The Texanist would save the real stink-raising for the $3.50 charge for chips and salsa, an appreciated appetizer that should always come gratis.

The Texanist’s Little-Known Fact of the Month: Of all the three-thousand-some-odd springs that gurgle forth across Texas, it was the splashy stunner located on Big Springs Ranch, outside Leakey, that was chosen to portray the pure and refreshing waters of the “Country of 1,100 Springs,” with which Pearl Beer was brewed—at least in its seventies-era advertising campaign.

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