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My Great American Road Trip – Texas, Utah

October 5, 2020

My couple of trips to Texas have been memorable.

The first time I went was on June 13, 1994. I know that because all anyone on the plane was talking about was the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, which happened the day before. I was there for an orchestra conference and while I was there my friend (and at the time boss) Gene and I ate at the famous Mansion on Turtle Creek which I remember as being the height of elegance, and went to a baseball game at the newly built Ranger Stadium, that was mostly notable because OJ was on his epic slo mo car chase.

The next time I went to Texas was in late December, 2018 to celebrate the new year. Gene, with whom I had been in Dallas all those years earlier and I took the pilgrimage to Marfa, a bizarro little border town that has become famous as an arts destination. The way you get to Marfa is to fly to El Paso and then just drive for hours on a long empty road. Even the Simpsons (not the ones from my last trip) couldn’t believe it!

Marfa became an arts hub when Donald Judd, he of the giant concrete boxes, moved down there. Now it is a bustling little artsy town that feels like Brooklyn with a bigger sky and tumbleweed. We loved it.

We took a night off to go see the famous Marfa Lights, which we did not actually see. And of course, no trip to West Texas is complete without a visit to Prada Marfa.

What we ate in our little border town visit was bbq and Mexican food. And for Texas, I decided to go with the tried and true and delicious, enchilada.

They are very east to make and very worth it.

The enchilada filling is basically ground beef, but I has some steak left, so I just chopped it into pieces and browned it with some onions. While that’s browning, you make the chili sauce which is a can of tomato sauce warmed up with 2 tablespoons shortening, 2 tablespoons flour, some chili powder, s&p and 2 cups of water. Then you warm up some corn tortilla so they are soft and pliable Corn please, none of this gringo flour tortilla bs.

Next comes the assembly. Roll a little bit of the meat mixture in the tortilla. (turns out that ground beef would have been way easier), top with a little cheese and put it in a baking dish. When all the tortillas are rolled cover the whole thing with the sauce, green onions, and cheese and bake until it is bubbly and brown.

They were so good. I wold make this over and over again.

For dessert, I had my Utah offering. I’ve had it for a few days now. I’ve never been to Utah, but what I know about it is Mormons and the Salt Lake City Olympics. Turns out, the both played a role in my cooking.

For some reason, that has to do with one time NEA chair, Dana Gioia, who was an ad rep in an earlier life, and a desperate attempt to market the jiggly goodness to families, jell-o and particularly green jell-o became the go to food in Utah. In fact the most prized pin from the Salt Lake City Olympics depicts a bowl of the little gel cubes.

I used a most traditional recipe for my green jell-o salad. Make some green jell-o. The add a jar of pineapple including the liquid into the mix (don’t use fresh, even if you live in Florida).

Next whip up some heavy cream til its so stiff that it won’t spill on your head when you hold the bowl over you (I’ve always wanted to do that.)

Add it in, spread the whole shebang in a dish of some sort and let it chill til it’s set.

I would have told you this is a completely foreign concept to me, but when I bit into the creamy mess, it was the most familiar flavor. Somewhere in my youth and childhood, I must have eaten my share of this concoction.

It lasted about a week and was the best snack, dessert, and sometimes lunch. I might even make it again.

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