I’ve only known two people named Horace, and one I didn’t really know, but his mellow, deep Texas twang filled my home every morning while I corralled three boys for school and he read the Farm and Ranch News for KTVT television in Tyler, Texas. The day Bookbub offered a cookbook written by Horace McQueen, I knew it had to be my favorite agricultural journalist.
And sure enough, Southern Heirloom Cooking: 200 Treasured Feel-Good Recipes is co-authored by McQueen with his older sister Norma Jean McQueen Haydel. The book offers me a walk down memory lane with the taste of East Texas. Most folks don’t think of East Texas as having a flavor profile, but it does. A long cry from stereotypical Texas, East Texas is piney woods, roses, rolling hills, tomato fields, pecan orchards, and black-eyed pea and sweet onion festivals. It’s country cooking, fresh vegetables, homemade jelly, BBQ, fried catfish and Albert’s Hot Sauce. East Texas is so close to Louisiana that Cajun and Creole flavors waft over the state line and into Texas kitchens.
The recipes the two have assembled remind me of 17 years calling East Texas home. For dozens of dishes, I recall familiar faces, pot luck dinners, backyard barbecues, tomato gardens, berry picking, church bake-offs and favorite restaurants. Texas Caviar, Black-Eyed Pea Salad, Cheese Garlic Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes, Chicken Fried Steak, Double-Dipped Fried Chicken, Boudain, Tamales, Chicken Spaghetti, King Ranch Chicken, Zucchini Bread, Texas Buttermilk Pie, Dewberry (like blackberries) Cobbler, Lemon Squares, Fig Preserves, Hot Pepper Jelly, Watermelon Rind Pickles and Venison Sausage all transport a friendship memory.
Though titled “Southern,” this is truly an East Texas recipe collection with the expected dash of Louisiana. Along with plenty of seafood recipes, they’ve included instructions on how to make a roux plus two different gumbos, all with unique East Texas ingredients. It’s the first roux I’ve ever made that specifically uses self-rising flour. Their mother’s chicken gumbo offers a chance to add oysters, and the seafood gumbo calls for hard-cooked eggs, liquid crab boil and a jalapeño. Now that’s real East Texas cooking.
Horace McQueen died in 2009, but anyone who ever listened to KTVT in the morning will well remember his wake-up call, “A pleasant good morning to you, hope everything’s off to a fine start in your house this morning.” Thanks for the memories and the recipes, Horace.