Homesick Texan (podcast)

Oct 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured Articles, podcast, the show
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The Homesick Texan  Cookbook by Lisa Fain

Homesick for Texas

Whether you were born in Texas or got here as fast as you could, it’s a place that gets under your skin and into your blood and bones and muscle; no matter where you go in the world Texas goes with you.

Being away from this place can set up powerful cravings for the land, cities, people, and—of course—the food.

Lisa Fain, a seventh generation Texan, understands the strength of these cravings. When she moved to New York in 1995, a place she’d dreamed of living while growing up in Houston, she found everything she desired…except Texas food.

She says she always loved the food of her ancestors, especially at the hands of her mother and grandmother. “I took it for granted,” she said. Adding she never expected that when she left the Lone Star State for New York, she wouldn’t be able to find the food she loved–not even what most Texas cooks consider basic ingredients.

Such as Ro*tel.

For the uninitiated, Ro*tel is a canned tomato product consisting of ripe diced tomatoes with green chile peppers and spices. It is mild to hot, regular to chunky, and now they even offer tomato sauces.

It is a key ingredient (along with Velveeta Cheese) in a simple, traditional Queso dip. And that’s what Lisa Fain wanted to make when Texas friends came to visit her in Manhattan. However, after a fruitless search of the five boroughs of New York, she followed a tip and headed by train to New Jersey. She heard of a huge international market there that “had to have Ro*tel.”

After arriving at the market, walking the last mile there in the rain, Lisa discovered the store did not have her beloved Ro*tel. “In hindsight, I probably should have called ahead,” she laughed.

Incidents like the Ro*tel fiasco prompted Lisa Fain to start a blog in 2005 called Homesick Texan, where she celebrates Texas home cooking through stories, recipes, photographs and community. It didn’t take long for the blog to become a hit with Texans–homesick or otherwise–and other folks without a connection to Texas.

People from around the globe check into the site for Lisa’s delicious recipes and great storytelling.  You can connect with Lisa through her cookbook The Homesick Texan, filled with some favorite recipes from the blog, as well as many new recipes and stories that are sure to delight. She also has written The Homesick Texan Family Table and her latest is Queso! Regional Recipes For The World’s Favorite Chile-Cheese Dip .

What would you miss if you moved from Texas (or your current hometown or state)?

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20 comments
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  1. Without a doubt, cheese enchiladas. They’re available most everywhere in Texas but something about the Red River or Sabine just messes up the recipe…sort of like northerners who move to Texas and think they still remember how to drive on ice. If I ever had to move away I’d camp out in Mia’s-Austin’s kitchen until they showed me the recipe. Or even Dart Bowl. Like brisket, its the indicator of whether a Tx-Mex restaurant is worth my time and money. If they can’t make decent cheese enchiladas there’s no point investigating the menu further.

  2. I grew up in Texas but moved away almost 13 years ago. I’m with Don, above. I haven’t found really satisfying enchiladas in San Francisco, Seattle, or Philadelphia – though I’ve tried, believe me. I also miss hot nights, huevos rancheros, and free chips and salsa, which invariably come with a charge “north-a Dallas.”

  3. I divide my time between Austin and Ann Arbor, Michigan, so I am frequently a homesick Texan. Since I am in Ann Arbor today, I can tell you exactly what I’m homesick for, at least for today. I have to laugh, because I’m listening to Cecelia and Kevin on kut.org while making King Ranch Casserole using Lisa’s recipe from her blog, when Kevin announced that Lisa would be on Cecelia’s show today. Fortunately, I am able to find Ro-tel on the “International” aisle of a grocery store here. I would love to have Lisa’s cookbook, for those days that I’m homesick for something else: enchiladas, queso, chicken-fried steak, chili without beans, frito pie… I could go on. Fortunately, I’m headed back to Austin next week so I can load up on these and proper brisket. Thank you Cecelia, Kevin, and KUT for making me a little less homesick in the meantime. Kut.org is a lifesaver!

  4. There is a lot that I would miss, one of which is homemade corn tortillas. Sometimes, they come out hot and smelling so wonderful that I eat them plain. Simple but hard to resist temptations. I will also miss the abundance to deliciious breakfast taco with fresh salsa or pico. Then there is Austin in the spring time when you see beautiful bluebonnets, and the fact that, yes, you can walk around in shorts in winter months.

  5. I lived out of state once, in Colorado for one year. You don’t realize until you leave how much Texas is a part of you. I started listening to country music, and yearning for someone in the crowd to say “ya’ll” instead of “you Guys!”. Being a half breed…half Cajun and half east Texan what I missed most was good gumbo and my grandmothers country cooking…fresh cream peas, smothered pork chops, and Texas cornbread dressing (absolutely no bread or bisquits in it!) My son is now in the USN and recently commented that he started listening to country music, because it reminds him of Texas (he is stationed in Washington state). When I heard this I just smiled, definitely have raised another true Texan 🙂

  6. I would definitely miss mole enchiladas! I suppose I could make them myself if I moved away, but I’ve heard that it takes forever. I know I would have dreams about them….and have to move back to Texas!

  7. What would I miss…now? Well, probably what I missed while living four years in Tokyo: tortillas, rotels, and fresh jalapenos. My mother send me a tortilla press and masa so we could survive…not that we didn’t find delicious food in Tokyo, but we missed our Tex Mex! Or while spending a summer in central Maine studying at an art colony…rotels! I was told by a former attendee to take some rotels as food was good, but bland by our standards. It was popular with everyone in the dining room. So I had to get in touch with someone to send me another case! Or while living in San Francisco, I had to struggle to find ingredients for my Texas fix. There were some good restaurants in the Mission, but I wanted to cook some of my favorites at home. I walked most of the Mission and found almost everything. But at that time, finding rotels wasn’t so easy. Now, they are a standard item.
    Rotels it is. But I would also miss good tortillas if I were in a location that didn’t have a Mexican market.
    Nothing beats Austin, Texas for good Tex Mex.

  8. If I left Texas, I would miss fresh tortillas, especially the white corn ones. I know this from experience, since I had to manage with canned and frozen tortillas for many years in Europe. Flour tortillas are rather essential too, but I would miss the corn ones the most. I also would miss canned hominy for pozole and jars of cajeta.

  9. I would be homesick for Chile Rellenos. There is no other place you can get Chile Rellenos like you can in Texas. Especially the ones made with just cheese. Add a little salsa on top and and you are in Mexican food heaven.

  10. I would miss the fresh veggies from the diverse farms in Austin.

  11. We lived in DC for 19 years and were lucky enough to have a good Texpatriate community that made it culinarily tolerable. But 1999 to 2005 when we were in South Florida was terrible on our taste buds. No decent BBQ. No Tex-Mex. Special orders of Ranch Beans, Rotel and spice mixes. The first thing we did when we got back home to Texas (on Cinco de Mayo 2005) was to drive around with our windows down to take in the aroma of smoked beef. Viva Texas food!

  12. I would miss queso the most. In other states they serve boring salsa with chips and the only thing cheesy resembling queso is velveeta…gross.

  13. I would miss enchiladas and real salsa. Both are found only in Texas.

  14. I would miss Magnolia Mud~from Magnolia Cafe of Course~

  15. I got here as fast as I could, but already I know that if I were to leave Texas I know what I would miss: Fredericksburg peaches, drive thru tortas, and Smitty’s BBQ ribs.

  16. The assumption that you will be ordering queso and that the establishment carries it.

  17. I would miss kolaches so much! They are true bundles of Texas joy… and something I’ve not learned to make yet but want to!

  18. I think I’d miss Texas barbecue most of all. Smoked brisket from central Texas, or maybe cowboy style from the Hill Country.

  19. Breakfast tacos. They’re just not the same anywhere else.