I have a confession to make. I'm not from here. By here, I mean Texas. I mean, I am from here, but by way of Minnesota when I was one and a half. And to Texans, that makes me not from here. People love to comment on my lack of an accent (although quite common in Austin, even for the natives). Growing up in a small town I was a complete anomaly. Jewish, spicy foods were all too spicy, family voted democratic... In short, square peg, round hole.
You know what though? We stayed. Slowly the tinges of the Midwestern accent I picked up from my parents faded until only a few words make it bubble to the surface. A few more fellow Jews came to town and I plugged away at those spicy foods until, lo and behold, I frequently complain that foods are not quite kicky enough for what has evolved to be my Southwestern palate. Oh and yeah, and democratic bit? Well, I live in Austin now, home to most of the states democrats.
After years of mumbling, "I'm not from Texas, but I got here as quick as I could" I finally feel like you know what, 32 years? I'd call that native. I'm from here.
But nothing jars you out of your sense of being a native as a little antiquing trip to small town central Texas. Yesterday me, my mom and my sister drove a mere 45 minutes out of town to Smithville. What's Smithville you ask, why it's where the movie Hope Floats was filmed and I'll be damned if that's about all they're famous for.
On the trip in we realized we were starving and locating the best brisket in town pronto was at the top of my agenda. Like the city slicker that I am I whipped out my iPhone and tried in vain to get UrbanSpoon to work its magic (is there a trick, that program has never ever ever helped me locate food, there is no magic). So much for that tactic. I ended up finding some reviews of a place right off the highway, Zimmerhandlers. It was an orange metal building with approximately 2 small windows. Well, we rolled in and stuck out like the sore thumbs we were. The walls were lovingly decorated with the heads of about 12 deer and at least one bobcat. We all proclaimed it authentic, to which not a few patrons turned around to stare at us ominously. And yes, we ordered practically everything on the menu as my family is wont to do... you know, just to taste it all. There was brisket and chopped beef (okay, we didn't get the sausage, oh well), white bread, beans, coleslaw and mustard potato salad. We topped it all off with a slice of buttermilk pie and another of coconut pecan pie. I was really shooting for some banana pudding, but the pudding they had was nanner and nilla wafer free and I could not abide by that.
Well, on to driving through the town. We said we were looking at pretty old houses, but really we were looking for the Hope Floats house. Just about every two story house set off a car full of squealing women, Is that it? That must be it! Is it? No.... and on to the next house. Well, fifteen minutes later and we were all hoarse and defeated. We could not confirm that Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr. had lingered on any of the porches we drove past (lovely as they all were). So we proceeded on to the antique stores, where my mother finally broke down and asked, Where is the Hope Floats house? Turns out we passed it and deemed it far too fancy to be a candidate. Shows what we knew.
We spent the day poking around antique shops where I scored a marble rolling pin at a steal, a purty picture of a windmill and a swiss army knife with my father's name engraved on it. He's gonna be thrilled to bits. My mom got herself a teapot and my sister disappointed me terribly by not purchasing a thing, thereby making me feel all the more guilty about my purchases. Thanks for nothing, Jenna.
From there we hopped into the car and headed towards Bastrop where it was also just cute as all get out. I believe there was more than one soda fountain on the main street. The houses were even better and my mom scored even more stuff at a little shop there. I had to hold myself back from buying a HomeEc baking book from 1936, owned by Mrs. Edith Lee in Thrall, TX.
We closed the day by feeding my sister's cows and donkeys on her land. Notable experiences: A cow ate out of my hand! Its tongue is grey! A mudd dauber landed on me! Okay, so clearly nothing of note happened, but it was nice to visit the animals. They're cute and stinky and all of them have big adorable eyes.
Okay, I'll stop this tale here to point out something of utter urgency. There is something missing from this story and I'll bet you already know what it is. It's Texas-y and it's sweet and goes with barbecue and I order it every single time it's on a menu ever. Why, Peach Cobbler of course! I'd love to end the story here by saying I then trotted on home and whipped up some peach cobbler then and there, making yesterday the perfect day the end. But alas... it wasn't so. Here's where that last vestige of not being a native Texan rears it's ugly Yankee head. Just kidding, we don't talk like that. But as I was saying, this is where it's clear I'm not from around here. I. Can't. Make. Peach. Cobbler. I know.... I probably can. I went to pastry school. I most likely can. But every attempt I've made has been an utter and miserable failure. Sometimes the top never cooks. Sometimes it's too bready, sometimes it's too sugary. Never never has it been that perfect balance of biscuit buttery lightness and sugary sweetness that I so so so so love. And every barbecue place from here to Louisiana can do it better, so I'll just eat theirs.
That didn't solve my problem last night though. There is no way to polish off a truly Texas day without some peaches cooked into a sugary slurry, topped off with something to contrast with all of the peachy goodness. While peach cobbler remains elusive, peach crisp scented with rosewater and cardamom is not. And neither is frozen yogurt. I whipped it all up and it so hit the spot. So okay, I admit, I'm not from around here, but I love it all the same.
500 g Greek Yogurt, full fat
200 g water
100 g sugar
100 g corn syrup
5 g lemon juice
Combine water, sugar and corn syrup in a pan and bring to a boil. You just want to dissolve the sugar, so once it's dissolved take it off the heat. Combine yogurt and lemon juice and pour sugar/water mixture over it and whisk to combine. Chill overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker the next day according to instructions.
Rose-Cardamom Peach Crisp
For the filling
5 cups sliced peaches
2-3 Tbsp rosewater
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
For the crisp
1/4 cup butter, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine sliced peaches with rosewater, cardamom, sugar and cornstarch. Add more sugar if your peaches need sweetening. If they're really not tasty I recommend waiting till peaches are ready next year, but if you can't wait, squeeze in some lemon juice.
Put peach mixture in a small casserole dish.
Cut butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a fork. You want it to look like cornmeal. Mix in the nuts, oats, cardamom and salt. Squeeze it together with your hands so you form some small clumps. Sprinkle the mixture over the peaches.
Bake for 30-40 mins. Wait till it's cool to eat! The rose and cardamom flavors are best when it's room temp or cooler. Serve with the yogurt.