Q: My wife has recently taken a keen interest in my backyard barbecuing duties. In fact, last weekend she asked me if I wanted her to start cooking the beans from now on. As much as I would like the help, do you think bean preparation could be a gateway to her eventually wanting to flip some meat?
Scott B., Austin
A: It is a fact that the vast majority of barbecue pits here in Texas are manned by men. This smoky, charry, meaty, and ofttimes beery occupation just does not, for some reason, seem to attract very many cooks of the female persuasion. Flies and dogs, yes. Women, not so much. The Texanist is going to leave speculation about why this is the case to the anthropologists and sexists. He would, however, like to point out that there are some notable exceptions, in particular the remarkable Tootsie Tomanetz, pit mistress of the highly rated Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington. Considering that Tootsie has, in this magazine’s own estimation, been among the top tenders of meat in Texas since 2008, the Texanist is thinking that perhaps your missus is on to something. Maybe it is high time we broke that glass firebox door and followed the path Tootsie has helped to blaze. Maybe you should allow Mrs. B to give those beans a stir—and wield the meat fork. It is 2013, after all. Hell, it’s nearly 2014. Shouldn’t women have already been freed from their place on the barbecuing sidelines by now? Shouldn’t they be able to don sweat-and-blood-soaked aprons and mix it up with the boys pitside? Can they not read a thermometer and poke a fire with a stick? Can they not fall asleep in a lawn chair ’neath a shade tree on a pleasant Texas afternoon? Come to think of it, isn’t it time men were liberated from their traditional efforts at the fiery pits? Why is it the Texanist’s job to produce the delicious bounties of succulent smoked meats that his family, friends, and neighbors so enjoy? What if he wants to sit on the sidelines for a spell? Just once, he would like to be able to spend the afternoon inside, garnishing the deviled eggs and stirring the iced tea and chatting with Mrs. McGillicuddy from down the street while the AC whirs. Perhaps you should ask yourself, Mr. B, whether you might like to do the same. The times, like the pitmastering roles, are a changin’. So say it with the Texanist now, loud and proud: What do we want? To arrange the centerpieces! When do we want it? Now! What else do we want? For Mrs. B to bring us some barbecue! When do we want it? Pretty darn soon—entertaining all these guests is making us hungry!
Q: I am a native Texan in the midst of my freshman year at a college on the East Coast. I like it here a lot and I’m doing well in my classes, but I’ve recently started to feel like my Texas accent is negatively affecting how I am being perceived by my fellow students and professors. I’ve developed a self-consciousness and am now reluctant to speak up in class and in social settings. Will my accent fade with time, or am I going to be that Texas hick dude for the next three and a half years?
A: This reminds the Texanist of a New York City resident of Texas origin who once wrote to him with a related concern—that her accent, of which she was quite proud, would erode during her time abroad. The prospect alarmed her greatly, for she understood that a good solid accent, be it drawl or twang, is one of the out-of-state Texan’s most unique characteristics. In his response, the Texanist made comparisons to the showy plumage that defines the peacock. Reapplying that same analogy, it is not surprising that, tossed into an unfamiliar birdcage such as you have been at your new school, a fledgling would become acutely aware of his own colorful feathers, especially when compared with the bland quills of his non-Texan classmates. But do not overreact. The Texanist’s ornithological experience doesn’t go much beyond bacon-wrapped dove, but it is nonetheless his opinion that plucking these brilliant plumes is not the answer. First of all, they are deeply rooted; attempting to remove them would likely be painful and ultimately futile. Second, well, just take a moment to picture yourself as a bald peacock. Do you see what the Texanist is saying? Your accent identifies you. It tells anyone within earshot that you are, indeed, a singular bird among the flock. Out there in the world, it will serve you well. In fact, the Texanist recommends a little preening, followed by a test strut around campus. See how that feels and please report back.
Q: Where is West Texas? Not West, Texas, the town that suffered the recent tragedy, but West Texas, the region. My husband says that Abilene is in West Texas, but if you look at a map, you’ll see that Abilene is smack in the middle of the state. Isn’t Abilene too central to be considered a West Texas town? Where is West Texas?
Carolyn Brown-Thompson, Plano
A: The Texanist is sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your husband is right about this one. Abilene is in West Texas. The Texanist knows this because his mother was from Abilene, and she was a good ol’ West Texas girl, as the girls from West Texas are known. To the unschooled, the nomenclature attached to the state’s different regions can be very confusing. And turning to the Texas Almanac for clarification on the topic does anything but clarify. The pertinent section, “Facts,” the Texanist will have you know, features a map of the “Almanac’s Popular Regions,” which is accompanied with a heading that reads, “Where in Texas Are We?” The state is depicted well enough, but the regional lines of demarcation are as squiggly as a $5 carton of night crawlers inadvertently spilled on a lakeside dock. A helpful (not) caption alongside the map reads, “The five major regions include sub-regions that can flow into different areas. For example, parts of Southwest Texas could also be described as South or West Texas. The Hill Country is included in Central Texas, but some of its western extensions would more likely be described as West Texas—West Texas being a term broadly used.” Good luck with all that. A simpler rule of thumb, and one that has served the Texanist well in identifying whether he is in the eastern or western half of Texas, is to take a minute and gaze around for the presence of trees. If there are trees, you are not in West Texas. Conversely, if there are vistas before you that appear broad and full of horizon, you are not in East Texas. What did you see the last time you passed through Abilene?
Q: I recently bought a brand-new pickup truck that came with an unlined bed. Now I’m trying to decide whether I should install a bed liner or just leave it unlined. Any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Paul Tucker, via email
A: There is no material advantage to using a liner. Your truck will not last longer or get better mileage. And in some sense, a liner will diminish your truck’s essential truck-ness. A truck, you see, is a tool. This used to be more clearly understood. There was a time when all pickup drivers thought of their vehicle as an instrument of utility—like a shovel or a sixteen-pound sledgehammer—that should be treated with respect but not fastidious overprotectiveness. Back then it was all about loading up a pile of bulky, heavy, or jagged material and transporting it from point A to point B, where it would be unloaded and arranged in another pile. Queries like this one confirm the Texanist’s growing sense that nowadays trucks often fall into the hands of those who are more concerned about whether a particular payload will leave superficial scratches on the bed floor than getting the load to its destination. Honestly, if you’re going to fret about such things, maybe you shouldn’t be driving a pickup truck in the first place. Get a sports car or one of those tiny fuel-efficient curiosities, and when you need to haul something, call a buddy. The Texanist is of the mind that a truck’s bed should be left in its unlined, unprotected, and natural state. It just feels better that way.