Historically Speaking: What’s Cooking?



As my family and I picked pecans off of the ground in La Vernia a few weeks ago, I began to think about the future of the pecans we were collecting. Where would they wind up? How would we use them?

I thought about how diverse our county is and how every one of the diverse groups uses pecans in recipes. Come to think of it, recipes, cooking and food has been a connecting conversation topic among varied ethnicities in our county.

With the holidays fast approaching, recipes, cooking and family will unite. Family recipes have been made and shared for generations. Some recipes will never leave a family, and some are shared leisurely. Growing up, I remember watching the art of the Tamaleada. The Tamaleada is when people get together and make tamales. Every process is different, depending on the family and the leading lady. I’ve witnessed the Tamaleada change and morph, but the core idea remains intact; family comes together to continue a long lasting tradition. The Tamaleada isn’t shared due to the unwritten recipes. I have never seen a written recipe. The cooking consisted of “a shake here,” “add a little water there,” “just add enough chili to get the right color.” Attempting to write these down would result in absolute confusion, and occasional sarcasm.

My wife, Leigh Ann’s family, on the other hand, has had a documented history of recipe sharing. Her Grandmother Mary (Gates) Maxwell was a collector and contributor of local church recipe books. These publications of recipes are a very organized and precise collection of the past. The recipes shared are likely tried and true home recipes that families enjoyed for generations, and some seem like the fad food of the times. Regardless, a look through will educate you on past practices and ingredients that’ll have you looking through a dictionary (oleo was the common term for butter in older books).

In a 1978 publication, Leigh Ann’s Grandmother shared a recipe for Atascosa Mud Cake. Pay close attention to the technique and ingredients and compare them to today’s standards. What a different time.

Folks, enjoy your Thanksgiving and your time with family.

-Martin Gonzales

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING is written by Atascosa County Historical Commission Chairman, Martin Gonzales, on behalf of the Atascosa County Historical Commission. If you have history to share, you may contact him at 830-480-2741.

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