What we wouldn’t have given to have been in Lamesa, Texas for their big Chicken Fried Steak shootout held last month. The foodways of New Orleans have their charms but careful breading and frying of cube steak is not among them.
Chicken Fried Steak, one of the core foods of the Lone Star state, is held in the same esteem as Texas Red Chili and Oak smoked brisket.
Unfortunately, the first two delicacies are faltering as restaurants shirk their responsibility and blindly follow national trends in lieu of honoring the ancient traditions of Texas restaurants. Finding a good bánh mì is decidedly easier than finding a superbly wrought CFS.
Hard times in Lone Star.
On the final weekend of April 2016, nine battle-hardened chicken fried steak cook-teams strode onto the proving grounds in Lamesa, Texas. 15 judges sat ready. When the smoke had cleared off the cast-iron pans, Sharon Scarborough of Texas Finest Cafe was declared the champion.
Judging was ‘double-blind’ to assure an even playing field. There were no reports of chicanery in local media and the New York Times stood oddly silent.
Texas Finest Cafe is located on Lubbock Highway in Lamesa. If you travel out that way you can order Scarborough’s champion CFS for under $10.
In 2011, Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed Lamesa, Texas the birthplace of the chicken-fried steak.
The dish was invented on December 14th, 1911 at Ethel’s Home Cooking restaurant. Jimmy Don Perkins was the cook and the creator.
Like many short-order cooks, Perkins’ life was a harsh one.
He was found dead in an alley in Lubbock after being fired from Ethel’s.
An ignominious end to a life that should have been grand.
Please be aware that many diners scattered across Texas do nothing more than reach in a freezer when you order a chicken fried steak. Sysco has made serious inroads into cafe culture in the great state and they have coaxed thousands of restaurateurs into a life of sin.
“Are they made from scratch?” should always be your opening line with your waitress. Only the most brazen charlatans will lie to your face when queried.
If you’re of the most fortunate Texans you will have occasion to eat a CFS off an old time chuckwagon using a fire built out of hardwood. The smoke rolling off the burning oak perfumes the beef in a maddeningly delicious fashion.
There are chuckwagon cook-offs held all over Texas in the Spring and Summer of the year.