catfish toes and steak fingers

I’m at a parlor.  A type of catfish parlor, the kind with wooden fish and oars mounted on pine walls, with life preservers, water skis and neon Dos Equis and Shiner signs.  It’s not, as one might suspect, a waterfront shack.  It’s a pit off a high-traffic road, North FM 620.  The FM stands for "farm to market" because back in the day, roads like this were designed to get you from the farm to the market.  And now, en route, there’s this sign-decorated "Boat House" that along with "catfish toes" and "steak fingers" sells their own tee shirts.  Some of the shirts have an image of a galvanized bucket–which I presume is filled with dead fish—stamped with the restaurant name.  They sell hats and beer cozies.  To the right of the counter, right beside the iced tea kegs, is a red and white sign that reads, “We Fried Your Mom… Please Clear Your Table.  Thank You.”  Ha.  That’s awesome, I thought after placing my order.  A good 98% of the menu is fried, so it makes sense that they fried my mamma along with a batch of their green tomatoes (which sound far better in principle than in reality).  Then I reread the sign.  Ohhhhh.  We fired your mom.  I liked it better when I thought it was fried.    



  1. Did you or Phil experience any kind of "culture shock" when you first moved to Texas? You haven't written much about the differences you've found from NY (I imagine there must be one or two).

  2. I was wondering the same thing as Katherine actually. It has to be a huge adjustment from NY to TX… But it looks as though you're adapting really well.

    Hope you're doing great Steph!

  3. If you didn't like the fried green tomatoes, methinks they weren't prepared correctly. I adore them…the sweet-tartness of the tomato combined with the crisp saltiness of the thin cornmeal crust is truly addictive. In the country, they serve them on a buttermilk biscuit with breakfast…so freaking good.

    In NC we call these kinds of restaurants "fish camps" but I'm loving the term "catfish parlor."

  4. I'm with Amy. I miss Texas, especially when I hear someone talk about steak fingers. That was Friday's selection in the middle-school hotline (along with something, biscuits maybe, covered in white pepper gravy).

    I was actually born and mostly raised in New Jersey and then moved to Houston in the seventh grade (my dad is a chemical engineer; most of Houston is oil-industry-transplanted). The culture shock for me was intense, probably because I was at that pivotal adolescent cusp. I had to lose my accent within months — no more aw-range or fa-rest, but oar-range and for-est — but never got used to saying "fixin' to" do something. And I still never say y'all. There's more to Texas than that, I always think.

    And while I'd never buy a bumper sticker that said "I wasn't born in Texas, but I moved here as fast as I could," there are times I feel homesick.

  5. Ooh…Can they FRY my mother-in-law? Stephanie, you're definitely not in NY anymore. Sounds like a fun place. Enjoy your new adventures!

  6. While I applaud your positive attitude and willingness to be open minded…do you really like it here?

    My husband and I are transplants as well. We came here for his job and were excited at first. Oh! Warm weather in winter! The fabled hill country scenery! But we both were (are) city people living downtown Chicago. We miss it.
    After a year we decided we really miss the friends, the city we left behind. Austin is the only city in Texas we could have lived in; there are some cultural things here and yes, there is the music. But it's just not what we left behind.

    Before anyone jumps in defending Austin this is not an attack on the city. Sometimes you just miss home and realize you made a mistake.

    The places like you describe used to charm us as well when we arrived. Now I just roll my eyes. Eh. Not for me.
    We make fun of the annoying overly 'proud to be Texan!' stereotype as well. We stare blankly at the "Dont' Mess With Texas!" bumper stickers and remain puzzled at the Longhorn mania. Strangers in a strange land, indeed.

    You even went LINE DANCING. I could never do that. My husband certainly wouldn't either. I hate country music, line dancing, all of it.

    It's nice you try all of these things. I just wonder if you plan on moving closer to home again. Even upstate New York if you want a less urban experience to raise the children? You'd be closer to family and friends.

    Having children (we are new parents) makes you think about these things I guess.

    FROM STEPHANIE: We should definitely get together.

  7. Oooh, did the tomatoes come with blue cheese? I had this for the first time at a classed-up "homestyle" restaurant, and they actually came with this fantastic gorgonzola crumbled on top. To die for. I'm a NYC-er but something about southern food makes me want to run for the mason-dixon.

  8. Have you had Rudy's BBQ yet? I love their extra lean brisit, ultra-creamed corn, and banana pudding.
    You would think that moving here from south Louisiana wouldn't be that much of a change, but I'm already starving for some SEASONED red beans and rice and fresh gulf seafood, including boiled crawfish! So happy to be heading home for Thanksgiving:)

  9. Ahh the good eats boat house on 620, my husband and i have been there a few times:)

  10. I love that place. My friend owns it. But I think I would like it even if she didn't own it. It is a truly Texas kind of place.

  11. AMY B , I to am from South Louisiana, and weep at the thought of fresh Gulf seafood, I would sell a kidney for a tray of cold oysters on the half or a decent boiled crawfish. I am counting the days until I am elbow deep. No matter how great the cusine anywhere else, you can't beat the flavor and ingredients of Louisiana. Or the cadence and spirit of our people. Gumbo…Shrimp poy-boy…beignet..P.J.'s coffee….Roast beef debris poy-boy….abita beer… more abita beer….Etoufee… Oh I am so homesick.

  12. I think I just moved right near the place you are talking about… I have been reading your blog (and book) for a few years… we just moved to Austin last month (from Stamford, Connecticut) and we live off of RR 620 in Steiner Ranch. I have two little ones. Let me know if you're interested in a playdate!

  13. PLEASE tell us you're kicking around the ideas for your third book, and that it will include Fried Green Tomatos, Farm to Market Roads, those $@*&$!~ Scorpions, and everything else the New Yorker has learned about things larger than life in Texas :) And, have you mentioned it yet and I just missed it, the bats under the bridge?

  14. Have you been to a crawfish boil yet? There's a lot of that in Texas, although it does not seem like a Texas Thang, but rather more like a Louisiana rip off. Anyway, there are a few restaurants in Austin that do it. There's something oddly appealing, in a primal way, about having a bucket of crawfish dumped onto the table top to be devoured with your bare hands…

  15. Have you been to a crawfish boil yet? There's a lot of that in Texas, although it does not seem like a Texas Thang, but rather more like a Louisiana rip off. Anyway, there are a few restaurants in Austin that do it. There's something oddly appealing, in a primal way, about having a bucket of crawfish dumped onto the table top to be devoured with your bare hands…

  16. mmm fried fish.
    my grandaddy used to have a fish fry for my family when i'd come home on a visit from Chicockgo. Beer batter bass, cheese grits and coleslaw.
    God I miss him. Sometimes I think I can still hear him humming.
    I love that you thought it was "we fried your mom"
    that made me giggle.
    Welcome to the south, Stephanie. You're adapting quite well.

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