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Comfort and Joy

Written by Jill Lawless, Editor.

comfort-food1Aah, tamales. Those spicy, corn-husk-hugged morsels transport me to a happy place somewhere deep in the holiday traditions of my South Texas childhood. And, based on the Facebook response to our inclusion of the Texas Tamale Company in the November issue, hundreds of our readers feel the same way about the steamy treats: “Delia’s Tamales in the Rio Grande Valley!” “Alamo Tamales in Houston!” and “Pedro’s in Lubbock!” were among your exuberant recommendations.

Trendy, traditional, or just plain tasty: Send your top comfort-food pick—and where you go for a fix—to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Box 141009, Austin, TX 78714-1009, or on Facebook and at www.texashighways.com/comfort. We’ll reveal a full buffet of your favorites this fall. Loosen your belts a little. We’ve got a big year ahead.

In 2015, our Texas Top 40 conversation turns to food—specifically the comfort kind. It’s that scrumptious, soul-satisfying, happy-dance-inducing sustenance that, at first bite, brings on bouts of eye-rolling delight.

Everybody has a favorite comfort food, and we want to know yours. Whether it’s gumbo in Galveston, spring rolls in Big Spring, fried okra in Fort Worth, chess pie in Odessa, chili in Amarillo, or King Ranch casserole in (yes) Kingsville—tell us your tops, and which Texas restaurant, café, or diner does it best.  

What qualifies as comfort food? According to James Beard Award-winning writer and culinary historian Robb Walsh, co-founder of Foodways Texas and author of Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook: “Comfort food is defined by the tastebuds of the beholder. Every Texan feels a yearning for cheese enchiladas the second the wheels of the plane touch the tarmac. But in the last few years, foods that once seemed foreign, like Mexican carnitas, Vietnamese pho, and Indian curry, have also entered the category of comfort food in some parts of the state.

“Disgruntled molecular cuisine chefs dismiss such soothing dishes as meatloaf and chicken potpie as ‘glorified baby food,’” Walsh adds. “But a lot of other fine dining chefs are embracing comfort-food classics under the rubric of ‘heritage cooking’ or ‘Americana cuisine.’

“Look what’s happened to fried chicken and barbecue. Eating these dishes tends to make Texans smile and daydream about simpler times—the telltale signs of a comfort food reaction. But strangely, both are also among the trendiest foods in the country right now.”

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