“Sometimes, the simple things are more fun and meaningful than all the banquets in the world ...” - E.A. Bucchianeri
Sometimes a short getaway helps one get hectic, harried thoughts to settle down, helping to relax the body and settle the soul once again. Stepping away from the world of long workdays, continuous talk of politics, and other daily concerns helps us to regroup, and to remember who we are and what we believe truly important.
For me, the best place to do that is on the shores of the Gulf Coast where I grew up, and many of you may feel the same way. There is something so calming about the waves, the sand beneath the feet, and the salty breeze that helps a person to calm down and refocus. But sometimes, seeing something new is helpful, too, and can serve to bring about all sorts of new inspiration and ideas, as well as a new sense of calm.
I find similar respite in a little Texas town called Round Top, population 90. This little town is located in Central Texas, not far from Brenham, where Blue Bell ice cream is headquartered, and just about an hour and a half drive north of Houston. It’s the place where TV’s “Junk Gypsies” live and have their store and inn. It is full of charm, art, and fun, and it was just what my sister and I needed for our annual sister trip.
Twice a year in the Round Top area, an event takes place called Texas Antiques Week. It has grown so much that it actually now spans a just over a couple of weeks; this spring, it runs from March 21 to April 8. During the “show," as they call it, the town of 90 expands to a temporary population of over 100,000 people, all looking for treasures, relaxation, and fun. There are innumerable white tents, filled with beautiful and interesting things, set up in cow pastures for a stretch of several miles. Every empty barn or empty old house has a beautiful shop set up inside it. Food trucks from Austin and Houston descend, feeding the hungry masses of visitors. Traffic along the two-lane highway can get congested, but no one complains, no one honks horns at other cars. Everyone is laughing, listening to music, and talking about the things they have seen at the show, from rusty windmill blades to architectural elements to priceless French antiques. It’s a feast for the eyes.
Sherrin and I have been several times now, wandering aimlessly for hours, talking about whatever is on our minds, frequently stopping to look at things we’d never seen before, or things that we remembered seeing in our childhood. Last time we were there, in 2018, we flipped through old books, tried on handmade jewelry, and sat in Amish-made porch swings that make us long to linger.
We didn’t buy much; I bought a pair of beautiful earrings made with guitar strings and sea glass, and she got a t-shirt with a horseshoe emblazoned on it. But we took away so much more than that, in the form of inspiration.
Inspiration doesn’t easily come to a cluttered, too-busy mind. Creativity flows best when we’re clear-headed and calm, when we are able to slow down for just a minute, unconcerned with meetings or bills or doctor visits. Slowing down helps us to regroup, allowing our mind to catch up with us again. That can happen when strolling through a cow pasture filled with tents and creative, happy people while sipping an iced tea, or it can happen while you’re walking on the beach or fishing on a lake. Wherever it is that feeds your creativity, I hope you’ll carve out some time to do it. Our days seem long, but our years are short.
While enjoying a live band under a tent one Saturday night in 2018, we dined on sandwiches and chips, and shared a small piece of homemade pie from the regionally-famous Royer’s Pie Cafe. We decided to try their buttermilk pie, as Sherrin had never had it. Many of you reading this may recall your grandmother making buttermilk pie; it’s a simple, sweet dessert made with ingredients most kitchens are stocked with. I’ll share the simple recipe with you here, in hopes that you will at least take a few moments this week to sit back in a rocking chair or swing and savor the flavor of a small sliver of this sweet, dense dessert. Maybe while enjoying it, you’ll find some inspiration of your own.
Buttermilk Pie with chocolate chips and pecans
8 tablespoons butter
2 cups sugar
1⁄4 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, whole or 1 cup pecan pieces (optional)
1 deep dish pie crust (don’t overfill; use 2 smaller crusts, if necessary)
In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs and flour, mixing well.
In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, nutmeg, and vanilla, and stir into mixture.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts into the unbaked shell and pour mixture over them.
Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until set.
(If you prefer a plain buttermilk pie, omit the nuts and chips)
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph”. She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.
She is married and has three sons who are considerably taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com, and she’d love to hear about your own favorite recipes via email at Steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com.