There is a fearless statement of the obvious in “Being Texan: Essays, Recipes, and Advice for the Lone Star Way of Life”, a book that invites its readers to remember the power and panache of the late Governor of Texas. Anne Richards, before learning about no less than twenty types of tacos.
Released this month, “Being Texan” is the first of several Texas Monthly titles to come in the run up to the magazine’s 50th anniversary in 2023. It is divided into four sections: Identity & Culture, City & Country, Arts & Entertainment . and Food and drink.
In the introduction, titled “What does it mean to be Texan?” Texas Monthly Editor-in-Chief Dan Goodgame addressed the eclectic aspirations of the book, writing, “Our modest goal was to create a knowledgeable and thoughtful sample of the best in the state. has to offer. To that humble end, forty-two editors have been employed to cover fifty-five topics, which cover everything from the various dress codes that make up “Texas chic” to the continued appeal of Selena.
The resulting richness is everywhere, ranging from the frustration of Texas Monthly editor John Nova Lomax over the frequent pronunciation errors of Texas cities (“From Amarila to Wad-a-loop”) to the bittersweet essay by Oscar Casares on Dia de Los Muertos in the time of COVID (“Souls of the Fallen”).
The book goes from silly to serious quickly, and the pace might dethrone some readers who otherwise would simply appreciate the pride that comes from remembering that Texas gave the world Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, Dr. Pepper, Liquid Paper and the microchip. .
So, in a book that goes from the state’s first example of maintaining a slave republic to an article about collecting San Antonio ghost stories, it perhaps goes without saying that the Chest Essays and beer are the easiest to digest.
“Being Texan” contains, in truth, delicious culinary writings and downright literary.
Joe Galvan’s “Ode to the Raspa” treats the staple of summer crushed ice as nothing less than some sort of edible ambassador of American cuisine. “They serve as an important and necessary reminder of the fluctuating and imprecise words that inhabit American food,” he writes as a professor of semiotics, before becoming poetic about how the raspas embody the innocence of childhood as well as ” the humidity of a July evening found at the bottom of a polystyrene cup.
But readers who are tempted to peruse the section on “The Strong Women of Texas” or “The Evolution of Juneteenth” to get to Paula Forbes’ warning not to skip melted cheese when slow cooking, will have missed an in-depth look at what it means to embrace all the attractive and uncomfortable aspects of the state.
In “A Tale of Two High Schools,” Dan Q. Dao explains how, as a Vietnamese child growing up in Houston, he used the tropes of Texan culture as a tool for survival. “Perhaps for the sake of self-preservation, I fell in love with the golden mythology of Texas, from Alamo folklore to the twang of country music. I wore cowboy boots, showed up for Friday night football games and rarely missed a rodeo, “writes Dao, observing that:” Part of me believed that if I proclaimed my humanity loud enough, I he outsider label would be spared me.
The Texas outsider’s dilemma is ably explored in Skip Hollandsworth’s “Why McMurtry Matter”, a meditation on the ironic popularity of Larry McMurtry, a writer who struggled with his relationship with Texas – especially myths and Hollywood misconceptions surrounding the state. Speaking (in his opinion) about the baffling success of “Lonesome Dove,” McMurtry said: “All I wanted was to write a novel that would demystify the West. Instead, he became the main source of Western mythology. Some things you can’t explain.
There is a lot about Texas himself it seems difficult to explain.
But David Courtney, editor of Texas Monthly, does a good job speculating on that rare amalgamation of conservative pride and fearless experimentation that tends to run through the state, when he writes “Texans to believe they have something deep inside that sets them apart, and so that’s kind of what they have.
Despite the superficial accessibility of a book that discusses the cultural significance of Neiman Marcus and the brand’s extreme loyalty to Whataburger, “Being Texan” offers a rare contribution regarding Texas and its citizens, as well as advice handy for breaking a pair of cowboy boots.