The Word on the Street
If you want to understand a culture, eat its streetfood.
To be honest, that's probably a load of old sphericals but stuff it, it sounds good and you sort of understand what I mean. Getting to know a local culture isn't about hitting all the museums, or wandering every foot of cultivated parkway, or climbing its highest tower. No, it's about slipping into sync with the local population and, in my experience, that's quickest achieved if you hang out in local cafes and non-chain coffee shops and funky bars and eat or drink something that's synonymous with the region.
After the last 24 hours or so then, I think I can claim that I now have a better grip on Texan life than I got in the first two, three days. To what do I owe this smug claim? Some classic Texan snackage.
And, it must be said, a night at the rodeo, where several thousand fans create such an atmosphere that even a cynical Brit could damn near shed a tear as a sparkly-shirted middle-aged man went all Mariah on the national anthem. Extreme Bull Riding followed - including a bull's hoof / rider's leg incident that will linger long in the memory of those who saw it - but the highlight has to be Mutton Busting, the junior rodeo event that sees small children of 4-6 put on the back of a sheep and told to cling on. If you want a giggle, YouTube it now.
With the rodeo comes a fairground. And, with a fairground comes many junk food eating opportunities. Despite the temptations of chicken fried bacon, I only succumbed twice: to my first ever corn dog (like a battered sausage only with a frankfurter and a slightly sweet, corn-based casing that's really not at all photogenic hence the shot of the sign and only makes sense when you coat it in mustard) and a couple of curly fries.
That degree of moderation only lasted as long as the following morning, with a breakfast of Chilequilas at Las Canarias restaurant. As the picture suggests, it's a hash of eggs, cheese, peppers, chillies, tomatillos, etc., served alongside refried beans and tortillas, and it was pretty good. Good spicing too.
The mood continued over lunch and - some fellow bloggers rejoice - my first burger of the trip at Centerpoint Station. As their sign at the top of this post suggests, they keep it simple and good. They make their own bun, the patties were soft and fresh, the red onion properly piquant and the cheese appeared to be the requisite Kraft slice: all in all, a classic US burger and very enjoyable. I wasn't so enamoured of the fries - decent enough but lacking the crispness I do snobbishly prefer - but can't say enough nice things about the onion rings, or the chocolate malt that was so thick the first attempt at sucking it through a straw nearly made my head implode.
The mood continues this morning with a "taco breakfast" so more on that - and the raw delights of dinner last night at Parkside - in due course..