The best part of my hometown? Brick

There’s a lot I don’t like about Tyler.  For a little town so full of Evangelical churches, the odd thing it seemed most to be missing was soul.  Tyler may be the Rose Capital of the World, home to the Rose Festival and the Rose Gardens and the fancy dress-up Rose Festival, but it isn’t the roses, no matter how sweet the smell, that pretty-up the oh-so-conservative town where no out-of-state plaintiff ever wants to find itself (but that’s another story).  No.  What gives Tyler its character, what constitutes, in my mind, its saving grace, is one residential area near downtown where the streets are made of brick.  Worn, deep red bricks, slick after the rain, bumpy to drive along, beautiful.  Tyler named those 29 blocks of brick a historic district and is determined to protect them, which makes my heart smile.  There’s an article about the almost 14 miles of brick streets, here.

The small, tree-shaded neighborhoods blessed with the brick streets give another gift to the town’s character.  The homes in this neighborhood feature wide and deep lawns of St. Augustine grass that provide the perfect backdrop for explosions of pink and white and red azaleas that every March burst forth their blossoms in an effort to make their brick streets proud.  Teenage girls dressed in pastel antebellum skirts carry parasols and pose for photos during the Azalea Trail each year, but the Southern Belles are outdone by the beauty that nature plus those brick streets provide.

azalea5

A few blocks away the asphalt paving threatens to overtake, with its easier and cheaper maintenance beckoning tax-conscious Texans.  If you don’t know where to look, you could easily thing the whole town is that same, conventional, asphalt paved, suburban subdivision, soulless place.  But drive near downtown, feel the bumps of the bricks, and luxuriate in those few blocks where brick has created character that prove beauty can be found anywhere.


Mouths Wide Shut … Unless You’ve Got A Hot French Fry Handy

All memory is faulty, so I’m sure I didn’t really eat only french fries as a child … but it sure seems like I did.  Mashed potatoes (my daughter’s favorite) are just a waste of a good fry, in my humble opinion.  And while I do like a good baked potato with a steak or, now, even on its own, there’s still part of me that regrets even as I’m enjoying it that it’s been baked and not cut up and fried.  I definitely qualify to write about today’s Daily Prompt, on picky eaters.

Endless French Fries

Endless French Fries

I’d order a hamburger but eat only the fries.  I skipped breakfast, and I had a sandwich and chips for lunch at school, but dinner almost every night featured crispy, hot, home-made French Fries.  I didn’t like pizza, or Mexican food, or Chinese food, or pretty much anything else and frankly I wasn’t exposed to many types of food growing up in a small East Texas town where it made big news when the IHOP opened.

And my Mother tried.  One day she cut up a cantaloupe and said I couldn’t move from the table until I ate it.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

So I sat.  And sat.  And sat.  Absolutely 100% refusing to touch the thing, even if it meant I never moved from my seat.  It was the one time my stubbornness outlasted my Mom’s, because I finally was able to get up without taking one bite.

Rebellious child refusing to eat

Her next tactic was to fry me so many fries that I’d eat my fill and get so sick of fries that I’d turn to something else.  She bet me that I she could fix more french fries than I could eat.  At first I was in heaven.  Crisp, hot, salted, beautiful french fries to my heart’s delight.  But after I went through the first mountain of fries and looked to my left through the pass through to the kitchen to see my Mom standing at the stove, a new batch frying, and an almost full sack of potatoes still to her left, waiting to be peeled, I admitted defeat.  I could not, in fact, eat french fries non-stop as fast as she could peel and fry them.  But eating until I made myself sick did not, unfortunately, cure me of my obsession.

I’d go out with my friends to the pizza parlor and sit while they ate.  I’d go with my family to the Mexican restaurant and drink water while they ate.  I was actually quite skinny despite the pounds of potatoes because I hardly ate anything else.  One would think I’d venture to taste a bite of something, out of sheer boredom if nothing else.  But no.  I have no idea what I was thinking (or not, as the case may be).

In college I didn’t buy the Meal Plan even though not buying it meant I ate every meal out at a restaurant or in my room by myself.  I had a routine.  Wednesday night was 3C BBQ, barbecue brisket sandwich with fries (yes, I did eat barbecue brisket sandwiches, often at Dubs Barbecue in Tyler, Texas where we sat in wooden school desks with sawdust on the floor and it was heavenly).  I don’t remember the other nights exactly, but it was a rotation of hamburgers and turkey sandwiches and spaghetti.  I missed out on a lot of my college experience and spending time with my friends by not venturing downstairs in my dorm to the cafeteria.  You’d think I’d have at least tried if for that reason, if nothing else.  But I didn’t mind eating by myself, as long as I had a book handy (and I always did).

I eventually expanded to club sandwiches and, finally, pizza and a few other basic food groups, but still nothing one might consider healthy.  Then I moved to California.  Then I met my health-nut, eat-anything husband.  And while I wouldn’t venture to say I’m adventurous in my food choices, nor am I someone who appreciates good food (other than the boiled and triple fried fries I was served in Scotland that were the most amazing fries I’ve ever had in my life and that, as you now know, is saying A LOT), I have expanded my dining options.

Every morning I have breakfast, and for breakfast every morning I have a smoothie with 4 oz of cranberry or pomegranate juice, 2 leaves of kale, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1/3rd of a cucumber, with some frozen blueberries, strawberries and pineapple thrown in, along with Dr. Lipman’s protein powder.

My breakfast!

My breakfast!

And I limit my fries to once a week and sometimes not even that — not even keeping count just not needing or craving them unless it’s the type of place where you just know you’re going to get a good fry.  I eat spinach salads with strawberries and goat cheese and walnuts and balsamic vinegar and love it.  I had the Restaurant Week special a Puesto in The Headquarters on Friday — a Mexican fruit bowl with two fancy chicken tacos and grilled corn — and raved about it all day.  Sometimes I even try a bite of fish!  But never shellfish.  I can’t eat anything that still looks like the animal it once was because I can’t bear to think about an animal being killed so I can eat it, but boneless skinless chicken breast seems innocuous enough as long as I don’t think too hard about it.  OK I guess that’s another picky food quirk still in my quiver but I’m definitely making progress!