The Texanist is a man who, in both his personal and professional lives, dons many hats. In fact, his rack is populated with straw hats, felt hats, gimme caps, bucket hats, a woolen Irish newsboy cap, a French beret, a Ben Hogan-style flat cap, and a fancy top hat. There are no porkpies. The Texanist doesn’t wear porkpie hats. Anyway, the point is that after a much-too-long hiatus from taking letters and doling out his signature fine advice, the Texanist, by what he perceives to be popular demand, has dusted off his consultative lid, peeked into the old mailbag, and will, right here and right now, for the first time in a long time, assist folks who have come to him—albeit a while back—in search of advice, answers, direction, correction, or just an ear to bend.
And, lest you have forgotten, the Texanist is always reachable by email at [email protected], as well as by old-fashioned mail at P.O. Box 1569 Austin, Texas 78767-1569, care of the Texanist. Feel free to reach out to him with your problems, your pickles, your quandaries, your queries, your bedevilments, your annoyances, and your general vexations. Or just to say “howdy.”
Now, these patient souls have waited long enough. Let’s get to it.
Q: For more than twenty-five years, I’ve eaten Tex-Mex every Friday night and often during the week, frequenting a vast number of places. On a recent Friday night, I waited forty-five minutes for a table at a highly-touted Tarrant County restaurant I had never tried. The food was just okay. Are enchiladas, tacos, tomatillo, and chips losing their thrill after a quarter century? Or was the food really just okay?
John Thomas, Dallas
A: Sir, you are a man after the Texanist’s own somewhat grease-clogged heart. When too many days pass by without a classic Mexican plate, an el Jefe, an el numero uno, a taco plate, enchiladas verdes, or a #3 with queso, the Texanist tends to get a little cranky. If he pushes it too far, more serious withdrawal symptoms occur. It’s not pretty. But there is a flipside to this comestible coin. Tex-Mex may be a delicious staple of the Texan diet, but—the Texanist can’t believe he’s about to say this—one must be careful to not overdo it. As it is with many of the good things in life, so too is it with the eating of Tex-Mex. By spacing your Friday night and mid-week supplemental Tex-Mex feedings too close to one another, you may, the Texanist fears, have finally overdone it. That it has taken a quarter-century for you to feel the effects of too much Tex-Mex speaks to your intestinal fortitude, so congratulation in that regard. But gosh, if you had, say, four ounces of refried beans with each meal, that would be, the Texanist assumes, roughly eight ounces a week. Eight ounces multiplied by fifty-two weeks is twenty-six pounds of beans a year. Multiply that by twenty-five years and, well, it seems that you very well may have consumed some six hundred and fifty pounds of refried beans. That is a lot of beans. Well done, señor!
It is the Texanist’s educated guess that there was nothing wrong with the Tarrant County Tex-Mex joint you visited recently and that the perceived mediocrity lay not with the actual fare as much as it does with your fatigued palate. Now, the Texanist isn’t here to tell you to eat Tex-Mex less frequently, although that would very likely help resolve your problem. He will, however, recommend two simple exercises that ought to help. Number one: try spicing things up a little bit. If you are a married man and have been a married man for a while, Mr. Thomas, you surely know of what the Texanist speaks. After a while, even the objects of our strongest desires can start to seem lackluster. Maybe you should try playing with your tortilla preferences. Go flour when you would normally have gone corn. Tweak your bean choice. Swap refried for borracho—or, perhaps, just skip the beans now and then. Kick your order up a notch with a side of grilled jalapenos. Ask for a fried egg on top. The Texanist can think of few things that are not improved with the addition of a fried egg on top. Maybe try opting for the sherbet instead of the praline or the praline instead of the sherbet. However it is you usually roll, do it the other way around. Second, it’s important that your overall diet have balance. Man cannot live on cheese enchiladas, rice, and beans alone, though it would be nice to imagine a world where we could. Break up the Tex-Mex with barbecue or an occasional steak. Or a bowl of chili or some King Ranch casserole. Maybe a chicken-fried steak. And don’t forget that the Dallas area is blessed with endless international options. Have you ever tried interior Mexican?
Q: A while back the family and I headed to Lake Georgetown for a weekend of camping and kayak fishing. After a day on the water we pulled our boats ashore and left them beached while we walked up to the campground for cold drinks and a snack. When we came back, my tackle box was open and most of my good quality bass tackle was gone. Let me be clear about something: they didn’t steal my tackle box, which would have been much simpler. Instead, the degenerate malefactor took the time to open the box and go shopping for the good stuff. And based on what he took, two things are evident: the perpetrator is an adult as well as a fairly knowledgeable bass fisherman.
Now, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday; I know criminals exist in all facets of life. But where I come from (the Panhandle) there used to be such a thing as honor among thieves, however limited it may have been. You didn’t steal from your neighbors, or pickpocket loose items from the open bed of a pickup. And be it baseballs or fishing tackle, you just didn’t steal from a fellow sportsman. What happened to the world I used to know?
Jason Walker, Houston
A: Why that no good, rotten, dirty, bleeping lowdown crook! What kind of a snake sneaks up on another man’s tackle box, opens it up uninvited, and snatches his cherished crankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits, skirted jigs, sidewinder and shoehorn spoons, and pre-tied finesse worms with shaky head, wacky, and favored Texas rig setups? Like you, the Texanist is aware that there are such dastardly bastards slithering amongst us, but he is still dismayed when he hears such stories. Fortunately, he doesn’t hear them often. And while it may seem to you now that the world you used to know has changed for the worse, it’s the Texanist belief—based mostly on his sunny disposition, cheerful outlook, and never-ending optimism in his fellow man—that the actual number of lowlife, sticky-fingered scoundrels such as the one who pilfered your prized fishing gear is about the same as it has ever been. Still, the Texanist is sorry that you and your tackle box were victimized by such a yellowbelly sneak thief. Are you a believer in karma? The Texanist is. So, here’s to wishing this sorry sumbitch many snags, backlashes, tangles, crossed lines, and ones that got away.