A few weeks ago, Julie and I went back to Houston for a friend’s wedding. Despite having spent a third of my life there, I don’t identify much with Texas in conversation, and I warn against making vacation plans to anywhere except Austin. However, it’s always nice to spend time with family, and that Sunday, we decided to visit the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. That would sound like a very Texan thing to do, but my family never went while I was growing up, so it was worth trying.
If you go by the name, there are supposedly 2 big draws to the rodeo. The first is to show livestock, and we did wander through the stalls of sheep and cows. I don’t interact with animals in regular life, and I think that’s true for most of the rodeo-goers, but it is fun to be close enough to touch the animals.
The second obvious reason for being there are the rodeo games themselves. Although we didn’t make it to any of the big events, we did take a wrong turn when we tried to leave and ended up watching mutton busting while watching for people to use the washroom.
That is indeed a kid hanging on the back of a sheep. It was quite entertaining, and I recommend watching a video online of this event.
But in truth, I think there are 3 other reasons why people actually go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
First, city slickers like me can don their cowboy hats and boots to get back in touch with their rancher roots as Texas. It’s kind of like dressing up for the Renaissance Faire. However, none of my family owns anything like that, so we dressed for the cold and wet weather that day.
Second, music lovers can go to the big concerts. Although they do have country singers to fit in with the rodeo vibe, they also have popular acts come through. On the day we visited, The Chainsmokers, an electronic dance music (EDM) duo, was playing. Apparently they are quite popular because I heard a local radio station giving away tickets for callers, and the traffic going into the rodeo when we left in the early afternoon was awful.
Third is the big draw for me: innovative fried foods. My love for unhealthy, novelty foods recently took me to Taco Bell in search of a Naked Chicken Chalupa, which the cashier unapologetically told me was already over. I also host a Deep-Fried Day every year where friends can come by, deep-fry anything, eat, and feel bad ourselves.
At the rodeo, they give out the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards for best foods in different categories. We, of course, went for the best fried food: a crispy shrimp taco.
To be honest, I expected the winner to be some food item entirely encased in batter and fried, but the taco was actually really good. Fried food, however, just isn’t the same when served without regret, so we also went for the second best fried food: a fried pecan pie.
It’s a comfort food changed just right. The filling and crust on the mini pecan pie were already delicious, and the warm, runny filling and powdered sugar made it even better.
Overall, we really enjoyed the quick weekend visit back to Houston to see friends and family. As you can tell by the pictures, we also enjoyed the food. Other than those things, I usually don’t attribute much of value to Texas, but that might be all that matters to me being Texan. Pecan pie, tamales, and fajitas sound like comfort food to me. They say that everyone laughs at southerners, but southerners themselves most of all. Enjoying fried food and football despite their absurdity fits squarely into that category. Texas is worth the vacation, and being less embarrassed about it might make me a little more Texan.