I don’t know where to begin today. Kristi and I started our normal “Where do you want to eat?” conversation at about 9 this morning. We bounced around from Cajun to Mexican, then back to Cajun, only to land finally on Mexican.
It’s a tough conversation to have because of the many good places around here to grab some grub.
We saw some Mexican food joints last week after we left Las Salsitas. If you didn’t read about that one, check it out HERE. It’s on College St. in Beaumont. College St. is rich in Mexican food. We passed several that we said we would return to.
We actually started out for Elena’s in Beaumont, hoping to be there just as it opened at 11:00 AM. We didn’t make it. When we got there it just looked too fancy. I’m not against fancy eating, but it wasn’t what I was looking for in today’s lunch. What we were looking for just happened to be right across the street. There is a tiny restaurant called El Paraiso. It’s TINY. But they had room for two TVs playing Mexican soap operas
We walked in and were greeted by a vice lady behind the counter.
“Buenos Dias,” says the nice lady.
“Do you have a menu?” asks the tall, good looking, gringo who just walked in the door.
“No menu. Habla Espanol?” replies the kind lady.
“Kristi, you’re going to have to take it from here,” says the confused white guy wondering what they were going to do now.
Kristi is great at Spanish. But she speaks it with a strong hick accent. I knew she could pull through for us.
So they didn’t have a menu. So they didn’t speak English. No Problem.
All of the food for the day was right in front of us. It all looked good and fresh. Kristi went first to show me the ropes.
The first thing she ordered was soft taco with ground meet and veggies. It was solid. They had a condiment bar where she piled on the garnishes. I didn’t get a taste of it to verify its goodness, but from the fact that it was gone before I could ask for a bite, we can all assume it was a worthy eat.
The second taco she ordered we are still trying to determine what it was. It wasn’t muscle tissue from a farm animal. It wasn’t vegetable. There was a definite mix up in the translation because Kristi thought she was getting something to do with shrimp. What she got had nothing to do with shrimp. See for yourself, and if you can identify what it was, please let me know.
And here it is after a few bites.
She’s pretty when she’s eating Mexican food.
When I ordered I just pointed and grunted. I think I made my desires known well enough since I ended up with a plate of food, a taco, and a large drink thing.
Here goes for my order.
On the left side of the plate is a serving of potatoes and stuff. Don’t ask me what the stuff is. Just trust me that it works together. The greens beside the potatoes are peppers. I believe the white cubes are tofu, but I could be wrong about that. I’ve never eaten tofu on purpose so I don’t have a frame of reference for it. The main protein for the plate is pork in green sauce. It was tasty. And you have to have refried beans. Their beans were as enjoyable as anyone else’s refried beans. It was a good plate. It was made even better by homemade tortillas. I love it when they are thick and warm and fresh. I’d go back just for the tortillas.
The taco was another adventure.
This is where it gets authentic. I don’t even know where you buy these kinds of ingredients. I’m sure it’s somewhere on College St. since there are multiple Spanish markets in the area. All I have to say is this: don’t shy away from the pig skin. It’s savory and tender and good to eat. I topped it off with some green sauce and veggies and it was amazing.
Since they didn’t have a menu and we couldn’t make heads or tails of all we were getting I didn’t know what to expect when we were checking out. This might have been the best part. Turns out we only ran up a bill of $16.75. Kristi turned out to be a cheap date! Sure made this guy happy.
So if you’re ever of College St. and you can remember the phrase, “Estoy Hombriento. Quiero Comida,” then stop on by. I’m sure the folks at El Paraiso will be glad to see you. Tell them the good looking hombre with the awesome wife sent you.
There 6 people who will read this who know where Fairy, Tx is located. Most of those folks do not live in Nederland, Tx, where we currently live. Here a little map to give some perspective:
We’re a long way from home.
We were going there to honor this lady. She’s my Nanny Red and she passed away this week. She was from Fairy, Tx.
If you want to read something really interesting, get off this post and upon up this picture. The newspaper article from when she was in high school is a riot
I wrote a post titled From the Rising of the Sun to the Setting Thereof to set the tone for our travels. With kids in school and a busy weekend ahead, we didn’t have the time to stick around and visit and stay with relatives. It was a quick trip, 15 hours in the making.
Here’s the trip in miniature. I’ll fill in the details the time-lapse glosses over. Watch it carefully. I videoed Iredell, Tx in its entirety. See if you can spot it. This may take you to another page, so please come back for the details.
We started in Beaumont before sunrise, and we end in Beaumont after sunset.
As with any adventure, the interesting stuff happens in the middle.
Included in the middle of every trip back home, or to Fairy, includes a stop at Woody’s Smokehouse.
Someday I’m going to find a way to have all of Woody’s smoky goodness available without having to make a day’s long journey to get it. I can’t think of a time when we’ve gone through Centerville, Tx without stopping at this carnivorous oasis.
As usual, we stocked up on enough jerky and cheese to survive a brief ice age. Then again, very little of it makes it home with us. It’s good while it lasts.
After buying gas and enough protein power to fuel of for the rest of our journey to Fairy, we headed into the heart of Texas.
It’s a crazy drive. We started out down here in the Coastal Plains. It’s a flat here as it is in Amarillo. Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself in the Big Thicket and the Piney Woods. The pines swallow you up for hours. After leaving Centerville, the trees diversify and thin out. By Waco the landscape rolls gently, accented with round cedars, thorny mesquite, majestic oaks, and stately pecans. Last year’s little blue stem, waist high, waves in the breeze welcoming us back to central Texas.
Enough about the flora.
Our family gathered in a place we’ve gathered on many occasions before, First Baptist Church of Hico. Do me and them a favor, click on their link and LIKE their Facebook page. They took great care of us.
Family members and friends from near and far came together to catch up, share some stories, and encourage one another. We had all of the funeral food we could eat. Funeral food is different than regular food. Funeral food has no calories. It nurtures the soul AND the body. Every church I’ve ever been part of has excelled in bringing out the best victuals for those who are grieving.
One of my best memories in my entire life took place inside the sanctuary at FBC Hico. That’s where, two decades ago this year, Kristi became my wife. Here’s a dark picture of the inside of the sanctuary and a shameless picture of Rylie in the sanctuary. We didn’t stay there long. I just wanted her to know that room was a significant place to me.
We traveled on from Hico, over the Bosque River, past the Bluebonnet Country club where I learned to play golf, and on into the agricultural heart of Hamilton County.
So here’s a picture of our goal for the day.
There’s not much there, and there won’t be much there. The cows outnumber the people, and the deer may outnumber the cows.
There are three generations of Burden’s buried in the Fairy Cemetery, as far as I can tell. There will be more to join them (we all hope later rather than sooner).
We sent Nanny Red off with a short graveside committal service. It was what she wanted. With her family gathered around, I read a passage from the Bible she gave my grandfather.
I don’t know how long ago she gave it to him as a gift, but I can tell by the yellowing of the pages, the Bible has been around at least as long as I have.
In 1988 Nanny Red chose 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 as the passage to be read at her funeral. It reads:
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I think this passage served us well. We closed the service with a prayer, took a short walk to observe and honor other family members. It was 35 degrees and windy.
There was another stop in Fairy we felt we had to make. It wouldn’t have been right to have traveled all those hundreds of miles without dropping by Fairy Baptist Church.
The old dude standing in the cold above preached his first sermon at Fairy Baptist Church. Bro. Bob Ray gave me my first chance to speak a good word from the pulpit. I don’t know how good it was, but I do know it was short. I think that first sermon lasted about 7 minutes from beginning to end. I’ve started to stretch them out a little, but I always try to quit preaching before the congregation quits listening.
Bob and Rosalind Ray have been serving the Fairy Baptist Church since 1965. That’s 50 years, this year, of faithful service. Their extraordinary service is an inspiration to so many. I’m thankful for the start they gave me. They have a vibrant ministry there in Fairy. Follow them on Facebook and check out their website. I’m sure they’ll appreciate a visit if you find yourself in the area on a Sunday morning.
Fairy is where the Burdens are from. But I have more family than just the Burdens and I preached at more than one country road church.
The other side of my family comes from Cranfills Gap. The cemeteries there are filled with Viking names, Norse families, Norwegian settlers: Knudsons, Sorensons, Finstads, and the like.
Bill Schibler was the pastor at First Baptist Church in Cranfills Gap back when I was starting out. He, like Bro. Bob, encouraged me by letting me use his pulpit on a Sunday morning. Bill was one of the most influential Christian men I knew. He pastored churches all over the place. There’s probably not a community in central Texas he did not have an effect on. His grandson was part of my youth ministry in Iredell, Tx. He’s in fulltime ministry just like his grandfather.
There are a few other churches I preached at once or twice or more, but we didn’t have time to stop at each of them. They all have a special place in our story and along our journey.
There are a dozen routes you can take to get from Fairy, Tx back to Waco, Tx. We chose one that would take us through The Gap and would spit us back onto HWY 6 near Clifton. The only reason I cared to go through Clifton was because of a little bakery I’ve been meaning to stop at. I have a weakness for Czech food. This bakery wasn’t there when I was growing up. It’s an innovation in Clifton and kind of an invasion, but a welcomed invasion I’m sure. The Czechs know about fine crystal and kolaches. The Sulak’s Czech Bakery and Meat Market didn’t have any fine crystal, but they did have some fine kolaches.
Now for you and me to be friends, we need to come to an understanding. Those things you’ve been calling kolaches, those sausage and cheese stuffed rolls, those are NOT kolaches. They are pigs-in-a-blanket. These glorious FRUIT filled things above, those are kolaches.
You can’t get them just anywhere. The sell something that looks like kolaches in Centerville, Tx at my beloved Woody’s Smokehouse. They are knock-offs, and overpriced. Sulak’s on HWY 6 between Meridian and Waco sells a legitimate Czech kolache. But if you’re ever just north of Waco on Interstate 35, pull over to the Czech Stop Shell Gas Station and Bakery. Those, my friends, are the real deal. I’m not even joking about that.
I’m digressing and getting off course. Food has a way of doing that to me!
With our quota of kolaches filled, it was time to get back on the road.
The drive between Waco and Centerville seems to take forever. It’s a kind of traveling purgatory. I have nothing against those communities that dot the Texas map on HWY 6, or HWY 7, or HWY 287. I just wished the road was paved better and the speed limit was 300 MPH.
As it is, because my SUV stinks at MGP, guess where we ended up for a second time in a day? Woody’s Smokehouse. Since we were well stocked with jerky from our previous visit, all we had to do was top off the gas tanks and avail ourselves of the recently remodeled bathrooms. Ever since they opened a Buckey’s a few miles down Interstate 45 from Centerville, Woody’s has been getting it’s bathroom act together. They might have one of the best bathrooms (this side of Buckey’s of course).
I had a goal in mind from the moment we left. My plan was to return through Woodville at eating time. You can’t drive almost 700 miles without stopping to eat at least one BIG meal. And that’s exactly what I had.
Kristi and I were driving through Woodville last November and stopped into a cool little restaurant that looks like it could have been a gas station at one time. Perhaps that’s what gave rise to it’s current name: Z’s Fillin Station.
I don’t want to bore you with all of the delicious details. I’ll save that for another post. I just want to share with you what first caught my eye before it filled my belly.
I was hungry for just about anything. They have a big menu for such a small place. On the top of their burger selection was something called the MEGA BURGER. I would have ordered it just for bragging rights except that it was $32 and included 2 pounds of burger, 1 pound of BBQ, and was built up with bacon and cheese and many other fix-uns.
That didn’t stop me from ordering the MINI MEGA BURGER. It didn’t say how many pounds of meat I would be getting. I assumed it was going to be a close, but diminutive relative, to the MEGA.
There was nothing MINI about it.
Oh My Gosh. I about flipped when they brought it out. What in the world was I going to do with all of that food?
I didn’t even know how to go about eating it.
I studied it long and hard before I made my attack.
I partially took it apart to see what advantages I might find. The deeper I got into the burger the better it got.
There were three very different but very good things going on here. There was BBQ, there was burger, there was bacon, there was cheese, and at the bottom, to my great surprise, there was avocado.
Some culinary engineer put this together with a real heart for the burger lover in mind. At least that’s what I’d like to think. It may be that they had a lot of stuff left over one day and decided to put it all together between some buns.
Does it matter how great things come together. The point is, they got together and the result was a cacophony of flavors that tantalize the taste buds and satisfy the stomach.
Actually, satisfaction is what I felt about half way through this monster meal. By the time I arrived at the bottom of this skyscraper, I felt like I had swallowed a bowling ball. It was worth it. I doubt I’ll try it again, but every time I pass by, I’ll remember the time I bested the MINI MEGA BURGER.
The best part of the meal was the company I share it with.
There was no need to stop any more between Woodville and Nederland. It was a long day but a good one. We pulled into the driveway around 9 PM. I didn’t need any encouragement to go to bed. We slept like babies, happy that our babies were all at home with us. There’s great comfort knowing your loved ones are near.
So that was our journey. A lot of miles, a lot of memories, and a few blessing to share along the way.
It took us about 12 hours of driving to get it all done. But for me and Kristi, the trip goes on and on. We’ve been driving together from Fairy, Tx, from one church to another for 16 years of ministry now. Someday, the road will lead us back to Fairy as we join those who have gone on before us. But until that time, we’re going to keep traveling the road together, doing what God wants us to do together, making memories worth sharing together.
If you end up being one of those 6 people who read this and know where Fairy, Tx is, let me know. I’d be glad to hear from you.