Right in the middle of our “Let Us Now Praise Texas Women” pop up restaurant event planning, a monstrous kerfuffle arose out of New York when Time magazine published their Gods Of Food issue. Advocates for women rose up across the world to decry this blatantly misogynistic attempt to lionize the male chefs of the restaurant industry, while entirely omitting the thousands of female chefs who stand shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts in kitchens the world over.
We watched bemusedly from the sidelines as we we patiently plotted our course.
After a month of sweatneck research we’d chosen 6 women whose contributions to the world of food towered over many male cooks. Lionizing women folk is part and parcel of the Scrumptious Chef modus operandi.
We would be shattered without them.
Like Time magazine, the male-dominated local media in Austin made no mention of our woman-centric event (excepting Eater Austin). We were left to wonder what sort of attention a “Let Us Now Praise Texas Men” pop up would receive. Maybe one day some female food writers will make their way into Austin’s corporate media world.
No matter. With recipes from Lisa Fain aka The Homesick Texas, Zephyr Wright-LBJ’s White House cook, Sylvia Casares-Houston’s Enchilada Queen, Helen Corbitt-Neiman Marcus’ chef, Ladybird Johnson-former first lady, and Mary Faulk Koock-founder of Green Pastures we were confident that we were running fully loaded with a nonpareil menu of heavy hitters.
A modest crowd of in-the-know eaters descended on Tamale House East for this, our thirteenth food party since we began the series way back in Summer of 2012.
A look at the dishes:
It was weird not implementing our own solid-gold posole recipe, but once we’d spent a half day in the kitchen making Lisa Fain’s version our confidence grew. We followed the recipe to the letter, except for using smoked pig feet stock in lieu of water. Nobody seemed to mind as the kettle was destroyed inside an hour.
No chef stands as tall as Helen Corbitt when it comes time to talk about women’s role in the history of Texas cuisine. You haven’t lived til you’ve had her tortilla soup that was created during the good chef’s tenure at Neiman Marcus. Master saucier Paul, who’s been on our cooking team for almost a year now knocked this recipe out of the park.
We needed an insanely delicious refried bean recipe as a side dish so we turned to Jason Cohen over at Texas Monthly who’d written a piece on Sylvia Casares aka The Enchilada Queen of Houston. Not putting manteca in refrieds is plainly wrong, but Casares’ recipe was vegetarian dynamite.
Lady Bird Johnson’s King Ranch recipe is a Texas housewife classic with plenty cans of Campbell soup, and tons of grated cheese. We stayed true, but boosted the signal with a roasted Peeler Farms chicken, the finest poultry purveyor in the Great State.
You can’t have King Ranch without a side of rice, and we brought out the big guns in Mary Faulk Koock. The founder of Green Pastures wrote a recipe for baked rice back when Moses was young, and it was fun explaining the importance of Koock to the Austin food scene to all the eaters who’d never heard of her.
While we remain philosophically opposed to putting tomatoes and onions in Texas chili, we hewed perfectly to former Texas governor Ma Ferguson’s recipe for our event. Of course anytime red meat is involved in one of our dishes we head straight to Salt and Time Butcher Shop to procure the best beef coming out of Texas. Dry-aged, single origin, Black Angus beef powered this kettle, and while we maintain that it was a stew and not a true chili, there are plenty people who disagreed as they went caveman style on enormous bowls.
As a grace note to our feast, we visited the kitchen of Zephyr Wright, LBJ’s White House cook, and creator of one of the finest pecan pie recipes ever committed to paper. We brought in Cindy, a member of our Texas Hot Guts sausage project to bang this one out and her mastery of crust making proved crucial; this was the best slab of pecan pie ever served in the city of Austin.
Our celebration of the importance of Texas women in our state’s food history is in the books. Our dedicated core of gourmands who ritually attend each of our events left sated and happy as we retired to the side patio to drink Tamale House East dry and being plotting our next event.
Hope to see y’all in 2014.