Roar of the Crowd
Readers respond to the August 2015 issue.
Nothing whips our readers into a frenzy quite like the perceived defilement of one of our native foodstuffs. To wit: that ill-fated suggestion by the New York Times to add peas to guacamole. The ensuing Twitter firestorm inspired senior editor John Nova Lomax to invite Texas chefs to come up with twists on classic New York recipes—and turn them into actually palatable, presumably green pea—free dishes. So far, our one-of-a-kind Tex- York menu includes savory Manhattan Gulf Oyster Chowder and a mouthwatering Chili With Matzo Ball. If you have an idea for a Big Apple—Lone Star mash-up (Corned-Beef Kolache? Bagel, Lox, and Queso?) that you would like us to consider, drop us a line at [email protected]
And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers.
Island in the Extreme
I read with great interest your article about Galveston [“Calm Before the Storm”], by Robert Draper. Galveston needs to work with nature and not against it. A levee around the city proper (the East End and not the West End) makes some sense but only in the short term. With sea-level rise and the loss of the beach, time is ticking. It would have been more balanced if Mr. Draper had talked to those who are concerned about the Ike Dike’s impacts on the environment and not just those who want to build this multibillion-dollar structure. I believe that if we want to protect the Houston Ship Channel, then the big channel industries need to either construct new levees or raise their existing levees using their own money and not seek ours. They have a fiduciary responsibility to protect their companies’ assets for stockholders.
I hope we do not see the likes of a big hurricane for many years. But we are playing with fire by placing more people in harm’s way. That is not good public policy and will not be an acceptable excuse when that storm comes.
Brandt Mannchen, Houston
Okay, so I’m an Australian living in Houston. As such, I can’t bring myself to call that area where the water meets the land a “beach.” What I can say is that the people of Galveston have amazing strength and a strong community spirit, which is what helped them pick up the pieces after Ike. And [these qualities] will shine through again when the next one hits, whenever that happens to be.
Kristie Jackson, via Facebook
The homage to LBJ for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 lacks irony [“Our Dignity, Our Destiny”]: LBJ was a master manipulator of votes and voters in his campaigns until he thought he was safe after being elected president. He openly bought Hispanic votes in his race for the U.S. House of Representatives, and we all know how he first got elected to the U.S. Senate. This left a stench of illegitimacy over his entire Senate career. Only after he was elected president did he become a crusader for voting rights. Due to the unrelated reason of Vietnam, things then got out of control for him and his desire for a second term. The current degree of voter corruption in the Valley is another sad tribute to his legacy.
Alan Ernst, San Antonio
I enjoyed the article about Curtis Graves [“The Agitator”] in your recent edition. One of the high points of Curtis’s career in the House of Representatives came early one session: The press table was located directly in the center of the House, and the microphone used by people challenging the speaker was at the rear of the table. One evening, Jim Nugent was engaging in what we then called “guarding the microphone.” Curtis repeatedly attempted to get to the microphone but was thwarted by Nugent. Vowing not to be ignored, Curtis, with his long legs, leaped up on the press table and ran the length of it, kicking pen and paper asunder, yelling, “Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker!” For at least one moment in that session there was stunned silence in the House of Representatives.
Former Texas legislator Carl Parker, Port Arthur
Katy Vine’s fine article richly illuminates both the activism and political career of Curtis Graves, an unsung black legislator, and how social change transpires in Southern race relations. Thank you for sharing his life and accomplishments with Texas Monthly readers. Regrettably, Vine makes two errors, one of which can be attributed to Graves himself: Edward Brooke was not, in fact, the first African American U.S. senator. Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce both served in the U.S. Senate from the state of Mississippi during Reconstruction. Vine errs, however, when she describes the 1960 Texas Southern University sit-ins as “the first sit-ins west of the Mississippi River.” Student sit-ins in Wichita, Kansas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, each predated the massive wave of sit-ins that swept the nation in 1960. Although small points, your readers should be aware that African Americans in other Western cities also fought for dignity and full equality like their counterparts in Texas.
Albert S. Broussard, via email
Having started life in Plainview, I have vivid memories of the Granada Theatre, especially seeing Elvis movies like Spinout, Clambake, and Speedway there (it seemed that for a while, that was all that came to town) [Lead]. The Saturday matinee popcorn fights were often far more fun than watching Elvis.
When Interstate 27 bypasses were created around communities like Plainview and Tulia, they seemed to cut out the heart of the town. So for that reason alone, I wish Mr. Holland well in his efforts. I left Plainview in my rearview mirror long ago, but I seem to carry a piece of this community with me wherever I go and in whatever I do. Plainview deserves a crown jewel, and the Granada is a diamond worth polishing and celebrating.
Reb Wayne, Austin
Good interview with Scott Henson [Chat]. I have followed Grits for Breakfast for many years. I had to chuckle when Scott said he writes Grits for himself and not us. Using the blog to validate or adjust his own thinking is actually quite admirable. Few deep thinkers would do that. I’ve commented on Grits before, and the few times I’ve written intelligently enough for Scott to respond, well, I guess I can say I might have contributed to something.
Scott’s views are dead-on concerning incarceration rates, the number of deaths while incarcerated, and prison health care, among other issues. He has been a voice of reason for many years, and it is good to see his appointment as director of the Innocence Project of Texas, as it raises that voice by a few decibels.
Tiapa, via texasmonthly.com
Prosecutors who misuse the power granted them by the state will not be deterred until their own sentences become equal to the years spent in prison by the people they wrongly convicted [Behind the Lines]. Then the state should pay the innocent person a minimum of $1 million per year for each year confined since the original arrest date, plus reimbursement for all costs associated with his defense.
Ammoalamo, via texasmonthly.com
The same mentality that allows a DPS trooper to abuse his authority during a “routine traffic stop” is the same mentality that allows this type of miscarriage of justice to go on for decades. This isn’t even an isolated case. There isn’t nearly enough actual justice in Texas, and far too much sanctioned vigilantism by public servants.
Diane Treider, via Facebook
“George Bailey . . . declared the addition of sugar to cornbread ‘an idea born of the devil.’ ” Preach it, @TexasMonthly [Vittles].
Kolby Kiwitzky, via Twitter
Completely with you on the “no sugar” bandwagon (although I am in favor of frivolous women).
Dave in Texas, via texasmonthly.com
@TexasMonthly, I went from #TexasSheetCake—my wife’s is WOW—to #Cornbread and never left #Heaven.
Chris Arrington, via Twitter
I was surprised that the Texanist did not give his Marble Falls reader more complete information on the classic Texas chocolate sheet cake. First published in the Austin Heritage Cook Book, it is generally known as the Driskill’s 1886 Room Chocolate Sheet Cake (named after the Austin hotel’s founding date/restaurant). I’ve found it at the bakery at Central Market in Houston, but it’s so easy to make (and so popular) that any Texas baker can whip one up in no time. Tip: use the extra-dark Hershey’s cocoa powder and it’s even better!
Alan J. Hurwitz, Houston
The secret is, do not use an electric mixer when making this cake.
Mary Jeffers, Hamilton
I first baked this cake in 1960, when a friend in Marshall gave me the recipe. The first direction for this recipe was to use a large, deep cookie sheet (hence the name). And a comment to the writer of the letter: please make one. I’m assuming you have your grandmother’s recipe! Takes a little time, but it is not difficult, and I’m certain it will be delicious! But please use Texas pecans, not coconut, or it won’t be a Texas sheet cake!
Jeanie Philpot, via email