Monday, November 30, 2009

Adapt and Overcome

Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak. - Larry McMurtry

Another Christmas project finished!

We were also out of school today for Thanksgiving. This extra Monday is what we get instead of a break around Columbus Day. I often use it to decorate for Christmas, but today I had other plans. Notice the word "had." This morning I worked on some chores, both physical and cyber. I also planned to fix lunch for my husband, the kind he usually doesn't get because I don't want to make that much mess during a work week--chicken fried steak fingers. For those of you not from Texas, chicken-fried steak is a steak, usually round or sirloin, sliced very thin and then tenderized like crazy, dipped in flour and milk and flour again, and fried in a skillet. Cutting the steak into strips before frying makes it fingers. Today I did an extra batch in order to have leftovers for supper, so I was loading the cast iron skillet three times. By the time you get to the third frying, a considerable amount of flour has accumulated at the bottom of the skillet and is getting very brown, so you have to watch carefully so that burned flour does not attach to your finished product. I managed that fairly successfully, removed the last batch of steak fingers to the paper towel to drain, and dashed back across the kitchen to read the reviews for some audiobooks that were on sale. I had the kitchen vent on full blast over the stove. I knew I smelled something scorched, but I ignored it, thinking it was just the flour. Well, it was just the flour and grease because I had forgotten to turn off the burner. There was not enough grease for a grease fire, but that flour was smoking like crazy. The vent had kept it away from me, but the smoke had drifted into the living room and the utility. I rescued the skillet to a dry sink, opened the doors into the garage, and tried to breathe. I had 20 minutes to decide what to do about dinner. After a cell phone consultation, here's what we came up with. I grabbed the plate of steak fingers and the salt shaker (turned out that I got the pepper becaue I couldn't see) and climbed in the car. My dear husband came home and got in the passenger seat, holding a plate of steak fingers in his lap. We drove to the local fast food establishment and ordered French fries and a container of gravy, and drinks. We got our order, parked in their parking lot, which is on the corner of Main Street and the highway, and watched locals and travellers come and go while we ate steak fingers off a china plate and French fries from styrofoam. It was a sunshiny winter day like we often have in this part of the country--44 degrees and no clouds--and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

By the time I got home, the house was still stinky and sort of made my eyes burn a little bit, but no smoke was visible. I left the door into the garage open for much of the afternoon airing things out. Either it smells better now, or my nose has gotten used to it. Then I knitted--hence the finished project.

Add-on for English teachers: A few years ago I was teaching Out of the Dust, a YA novel about this very part of the country during the Great Depression. I was preparing research topics for my class so that we could have some interesting presentations to go along with the book. Teenagers and food always go together well, so one of the ideas was dust bowl/depression food. Much to my surprise, everything I found on line that was authentic to that time period in this particular area turned out to be pretty much what we eat all the time and just think of as regular food. The "depression steak" which I'm sure sounded so quaint to people from other parts of the country is on the menu at practically every restaurant in Texas and western Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico. I've been told that it starts disappearing by the northern part of Kansas, but I've never checked that out. I do know that when I was growing up, if you said "steak," you meant chicken-fried; on the rare occasions that you meant a grilled steak, you specified "grilled." In case you're wondering why this would have been depression food, the tenderizing process makes a little bit of steak expand tremendously, sort of like pounding gold into gold leaf.

Tonight I'll have to finish getting the rest of my grades entered into the computer since they are due for the mid-period grading tomorrow morning. It's great being able to do that from home.


Carrie said...

Glad to hear you two are keeping the romance alive in time for your anniversary. :-)

Did you spot the black chicken?

Deb said...

Thank you for the explanation of chicken fried steak. I was never clear as to whether it was a piece of poultry or beef!