In the Texas Monthly Recommends series, Texas Monthly writers, editors, photographers, and producers offer up their favorite recent culture discoveries from the great state of Texas.

Lizzo, the multiplatinum musician and Houstonian, has not shied away from talking about the joys and challenges of being a big-bodied artist in the public eye—mostly because other people won’t stop offering unsolicited opinions about her looks. One of the ways she’s responded to such criticism is by surrounding herself with a core group of plus-size dancers she calls her “Big Grrrls.” In the first episode of her new Amazon reality show, Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls, thirteen dancers arrive in California with a chance to join Lizzo’s team. The dancers who pass that first audition then spend weeks rehearsing the choreography for Lizzo’s upcoming Bonnaroo performance. The big prize at the end of the show isn’t just a chance to grace the Bonnaroo stage, but also to join Lizzo for the rest of her 2022 tour.

The dancers dedicate hours to rehearsal, growing more confident about their bodies and their athletic abilities as the season goes on. Though dance competition shows are old hat by now, Big Grrrls doesn’t rely on the familiar reality-television tricks and gimmicks. Rather than establishing a routine elimination, the show makes it feels like Lizzo’s goal was for every dancer to make it to the stage with her. In the rare cases dancers did have to leave the show, the eliminations were due to reasons that even the viewers could agree with—whether a dancer’s consistent struggle to maintain stamina or to remember the steps of a routine—and occurred only after the dancers were given loving and constructive criticism and given a chance to redeem themselves. Rather than encouraging cutthroat competitiveness, this reality show is a welcome peek into a space where plus-size dancers are encouraged to grow as individuals, in community, and as professional dancers. This kind of support, bolstered by Lizzo’s trademark humor and vulnerability and punctuated by feats of pure athleticism from the Big Grrrls, make the show a feel-good treat.

­—Doyin Oyeniyi, assistant editor

Grab a Central Market mushroom–and–goat cheese quesadilla

Texans, we’ve made it through winter, and we’re biding our time until summer arrives to melt us all. But in the spring, to paraphrase Tennyson, a young woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of melted cheese. I’ve become particularly smitten with Central Market’s chef-prepared variation, a mushroom–and–goat cheese quesadilla. Pop it in the oven for ten to twelve minutes at 325 degrees, and the Southwestern tortilla crisps up, barely containing the generously cremini-studded filling within. There’s a pleasant, understated heat from the jalapeños and ancho chiles, and a few spoonfuls of pico de gallo added right before serving brighten the whole thing up. It makes a tasty lunch or hefty snack, and in weeks like this (or the one before, or the one before that), it’s an inexpensive, comforting alternative to takeout. 

—Sarah Rutledge, associate editor

Read Let Me Count the Ways

Poet Tomás Q. Morín’s new memoir in essays, Let Me Count the Ways, reads like a Texas summer. It’s bright, noisy, and blistering from its opening act, “On Counting,” in which the author describes his need to number and other compulsions that characterize his experience with OCD. Morín’s anxieties come into sharper focus as they intersect with accounts of his childhood in Mathis, northwest of Corpus Christi, and his relationship with his father, a heroin user. “If you could measure the world and know where everything began and ended, why wouldn’t you?” the author asks, reflecting on his early tangles with addiction, incarceration, and masculine love.

American lyricism has long been marked by a certain distaste for the formal distinctions between poetry and essay, and this newly minted Guggenheim fellow has arrived to take his place among the genre’s greats. Fans of boundary benders from Walt Whitman to Jenny Boully will enjoy Morín’s stylistic romps, borrowed text, and mind-wrinkling metaphors. But narrative traditionalists need not fear: these departures are fluid in a voice attuned to the rhythms of oral history. The reader feels as though they might be sitting shotgun while winding across the coastal plains as a new friend, with equal parts melancholy and nonchalance, shares tales from his formative years.

Alicia Maria Meier, assistant managing editor