Saturday, October 14, 2006

Freddie Fender: 1937-2006

I'm cooking some Tex-Mex, listening to the "Lone Star" soundtrack when I hear the news: Freddie Fender is gone.

I'm two for two now with Texas musical legends dying while I'm listening. Back in college, a group of us decided to listen to nothing but Stevie Ray Vaughn one evening. It was an odd choice for us, as we were more inclined to listen to The Pixies or Depeche Mode. But I'm glad we made it as we learned the next morning that Stevie Ray had died in a helicopter crash the night before. We were shocked and very sad to hear the news, but at the same time we felt like we'd somehow honored Stevie Ray by listening to him instead of one of our usual musical selections.

But there's nothing odd about me listening to Freddie Fender while I'm cooking--as I've written before, it's my favorite way to feel like I'm back in Texas. It sounds like Freddie had a hard life, but I just wanted to say thank you for the music--it makes millions of people happy and it always brings me home.

Friday, October 13, 2006

No cupcake left behind

Did you know that in Texas they have something called the “Safe Cupcake Amendment?” That’s right, under the Texas State Law cupcakes are a protected species. Now I love cupcakes as much as anyone else, but I feel this might be taking cupcake-o-philia a bit too far.

Actually, not all cupcakes are safe, just the ones in the classroom--you know, the ones that parents bring on their kid’s birthday. Government getting involved with children’s nutrition is nothing new, and Texas, despite its reputation of being the unhealthy diet capital of America did the smart thing and dictated that schools should cut out the sodas and sugar. But parents became upset because they were no longer allowed to bring sugary sweets to honor their child’s special day. So Texas decided to pass an amendment allowing this exception to the rule.

Was this the right thing to do? I find it kind of silly. Sure, everyone loves cupcakes, and parents love to make their kids happy, but isn’t this what a birthday party is for? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Homesick Texan Q&A: Stephen Tobolowsky

You may not know Stephen Tobolowsky by name, but you certainly know his work. He's an actor who has appeared in a host of movies and TV shows including: "Memento," "The Grifters," "Groundhog Day," "The Insider," "Single White Female," "Thelma and Louise," "The Closer", "Deadwood", and "Desperate Housewives." He's so ubiquitous, in fact, he even made an appearance in the home movie of my mom's 13th birthday party. And while he's usually a supporting actor he does take a star turn in a new film called "Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party," a sort of meta documentary where Steve tells true stories of his life to a crowd of birthday-party guests. But his talent is not just limited to acting--he also co-wrote one of the best Texan movies ever, "True Stories." And because he's such a cool guy, not to mention a Texan, I thought he'd be a perfect candidate for my series of Homesick Texan Q&As. Here's what he misses:

Where are you from? Do you still have family there? I’m from Dallas. I still can visit my father, mother and my brother's family.

When and why did you leave Texas? I really sort of left in 1975 when I went to graduate school. Afterwards I headed for L.A. The idea was to not be a big fish in a small pond (Dallas and Theatre Three) but to see if I could cut it in the major leagues.

What do you miss the most about Texas? The least? I miss the space, the sky, the food, the music, the women, the excitement (yeah, excitement--don't ask me) and the red bud trees. I don't miss the weather, the heat, the winter, Central Expressway in Dallas.

What's your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in Texas? What do you order? Guerro's in Austin, Joe T. in Ft. Worth (how typical), and in Dallas, the old Guadalajara. I order enchiladas, mixed combo, rice and beans, lots of jalapenos and margaritas.

What's your favorite barbecue place in Texas? What do you order? Dickies--always and forever. I order beef, okra, beans.

Your chili: beans or no beans? I am not the hugest fan of chili...need beeno.

When you go to Texas and you go to the grocery store, what's the first thing you grab that you can't get where you live? It used to be Easy Burger but it was sold to that Butthole Hugo Chavez—yeah, the little crossed guy who owns Citgo and thinks he has a translatable sense of humor.

What's your favorite place to eat Texan food where you live now? How does it compare to the real deal? Well, the BBQ in L.A. is not really acceptable but I do like some of the Tex Mex--Bronco's is yummy. Why are we always talking about food???

Two out of two prefer beans and Joe T’s in Fort Worth--I’m starting to see a trend. In any case, thank you, Stephen--I reckon we're always talking about food because it's what I miss the most! Watch this space for the next Homesick Texan Q&A...coming soon.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Don't mess with Texas

Yee haw, we won! Clearly more a mantra than a slogan, "Don't Mess With Texas," grabbed top honors last week in the third annual Advertising Week's Most Popular Advertising Slogan competition, beating Nike's "Just Do It," Burger King's "Have it Your Way" and "Got Milk?" among others.

The campaign, created by Austin-based advertising agency GSD&M 20 years ago, has featured a host of popular Texans in its spots: Lyle Lovett, LeAnn Rimes, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lance Armstrong, Owen Wilson and even Shamu have urged people to keep Texas clean.

I've always thought it was one of the more clever advertising campaigns, and the fact that the slogan has entered the national consciousness proves its efficacy, I reckon. Of course, I've had some people say, "'Don't Mess With Texas,' what's that all about?" And when I say it's an anti-litter campaign, people just nod their heads and say, "riiiiight." Yeah, I know it has an attitude, but would you expect anything less from Texas? That's what makes it so effective and fun.

GSD&M recently published a photo book celebrating 20 years of the campaign. It's filled with profiles of the personalities who starred in the ads over the years, the history of the campaign, and other fun bits and bites. I have a copy of this book sitting on my desk back at the office and I will give it to the first person who can tell me the answer to the following question: Which Texan starred in the first "Don't Mess With Texas" TV spot?

UPDATE: The correct answer is Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

A bit of Texas in Orlando

I'm staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando right now for work, and I saw on the room service menu a dish called the Texas Breakfast. This is what you get: one fried egg on white bread, tater-tots and a piece of bacon. OK....that doesn't sound terribly Texan to me. And even though I'm on an expense account, before I spend $25 for this early morning treat, I decided to talk to the kitchen about what makes it Texan. The manager said, "Well, it's big." But it's only one egg, a bit of bacon and tater-tots." He replied, "There's also bread." Is it toasted? "No, but we can toast it if you like." Back to the size issue: He said, "It's big for kids. It is, afterall, on the kid's menu." Ah, I see.

Now, I'm not a big breakfast eater, but if I was eating a typical Texas breakfast, I think that it would either be migas with refried beans and lots of salsa, or breakfast burritos, or huevos rancheros, or even eggs, a pile of breakfast meats, buttery biscuits with white gravy and crispy, peppery hash browns. Not tater tots, untoasted white bread, a piece of bacon and a fried egg. But perhaps I'm missing something.

What's your favorite Texas breakfast? And, please, if anyone is familiar with Orlando and knows of a good place to eat let me know!