FRIED PICKLES AND COWBOY HATS

For the past couple of years my immediate family has gotten together with my expanded family to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ve become quite the “modern family” of ex-husbands, ex-wives, stepchildren, uncles, aunts, and various family connections that don’t even have a proper connotation, like my brother’s mother-in-law. I’ve always believed we’re all related in this world anyway, so why not get together and celebrate, the more the merrier?

Last year we banded together in Northern California with a slightly different cast of characters; this year it was Dallas, Texas, where my son Hans and his fiancée Jennifer live. Since they are getting married sometime next year, we all wanted to meet Jennifer’s expanded family. There were 15 of us for a feast the day after Thanksgiving at a wonderful Dallas hotel. No awkward pauses or long silences: Southerners (or shall I say Texans) are hospitable, have great senses of humor, and don’t hesitate to hug one and all.

On Thanksgiving Day, my son gave a few of us a driving tour of Fort Worth, a true Texas town with historical cowboy attractions, like the stockyards and Western themed restaurants and souvenir shops, mixed with a modern art museum and a Western museum. We drove around the downtown area looking for a place to eat, not too difficult a search since younger members of the family are always equipped with the most modern cell phones. While headed toward an IHop, we spotted a restaurant with a distinct Texas flavor.

 

Thanksgiving Texas Style

The Ol’ South Pancake House was adjacent to a freeway overpass and a rail line, and dated back to 1962. Nothing fancy, this was a reasonably priced place for just plain folks, especially those who were fans of the nearby Texas Christian University. There were groups of families eating as well as a few tables of male friends. At least a dozen of the men of all ages wore cowboy hats, including a grandfather next to us with his family. He’d come in with the aid of a walker, proudly sporting his chapeau.

The menu was far from gourmet: sandwiches, burgers and fries were popular, typical soft drinks and ice tea; a special Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings was priced at $12.99. I enjoyed the Texas touches—most of the sandwiches could be served on Texas toast (thick slices with butter on both sides and broiled) and an order of this toast as a side dish was offered. The atmosphere took me back to the 1960s.

The South is known for its fried food: I’ve heard about fried butter, fried Snickers, and just about anything else that might be fried. My mother, who grew up in Virginia, had a knack with fried chicken in the days chicken pieces were dumped in a paper bag full of flour, shaken up and then placed in a large frying pan greased with Crisco.

I had never heard of fried pickles, but my daughter had and she ordered it. I had to have a few small slices. It was rather strange but tasty. “Well, I’ll be damned…” as an old Southern saying goes, or as I remember, “I swannee, but that’s good.”

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