Category Archives: Texas history

My Latest Food Adventure: Christie’s Seafood and Steak

Christie's sign Wednesday evening I received an email media invite to Christie’s Steak and Shrimp Seafood Restaurant to try their new lunch menu items. I was concerned that I had been sent the invite by accident. I’m not actually media, am I? I blog and I use social media a lot to promote myself and others. Hmmm. I don’t know.

So I took a chance and went to the restaurant for the lunch. Christie’s Seafood restaurant has been a part of the Houston scene since 1917. Here is an excerpt from Christie’s website:

For almost a century, the Christie family has served the same incomparable food that made its founder, Theodore Christie, famous. Originally from Constantinople, Theodore immigrated in 1905 to New York City where he worked in hospitality and as court interpreter. In 1917, he relocated to the Texas Gulf coast where he decided to try his hand at cooking, opening a concession stand on the waterfront. There, he concocted a fresh fish sandwich , buttered and toasted po-boy bread with a lightly fried fish fillet with shredded lettuce and tomatoes  that remains unequaled.

In 1934, Theodore moved the restaurant to the Houston Medical Center where business was booming. He quickly began selling 10,000 fish sandwiches a week! His next innovation was the Seafood Platter, a sampling of broiled or fried shrimp, scallops, oysters and fillets of fish plucked fresh from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Remolaude sauce that accompanies the Fried Shrimp is a traditional recipe from 1917. It is homemade mayonnaise and garlic whipped until smooth. 

Other restaurants have imitated Christie’s fried butterfly shrimp, but ours is the original, said Maria Christie who carries on her family’s tradition in the kitchen.

Christie’s food is so outstanding, Jim’s daughter, Roula, got her start as a radio personality as a result of delivering French Fried Shrimp to the KRBE on-air DJ, Paul Cubby Bryant.

Here I am again. When I was a child my parents brought the family often to Christie’s when it was in the Medical Center, and for special occasions when they moved to Westheimer in the late 60’s. I remember playing with the white tablecloth on the table. We weren’t used to white tablecloths (I have 3 brothers!). I remember the big stuffed Marlin on the wall. It was so much bigger than me and I often wondered if it could swallow me whole (and if not me then at least my little brother…).

The marlin is still there and as big as ever.
The marlin is still there and as big as ever.

Well, it turns out that I had been invited to the lunch! Wow! What a special treat! The food was gorgeous and delicious. I’m so sorry the pictures don’t show it BEFORE everyone had gone through the line.

So, I know you are dying to find out what I had.

To start out I tried the blackened shrimp sliders. Now, you may have already read my blog from last year about Christie’s and good memories. Christie’s fried shrimp is the best you will ever have. Their tartar sauce can not be duplicated (they make their own mayonnaise), nor can you buy anything that equals its deliciousness. So the blackened shrimp sliders were good (large tasty shrimp) but not as good as their fried shrimp.

I tried the Tarama. Tarama is Mama Christie’s whipped Greek Caviar dip. It was amazing. Forget the crackers, give me a spoon!

calamariThe fried calamari were cooked just right. I could tell they were fresh, nothing chewy here. The marinara sauce with them was perfect.

The sweet potato fries with the chipolte ranch dressing were good. I’m not a fan of chipolte normally so when I tasted it I had to ask what it was. If I had tasted the chipolte, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been very enthusiastic about it. Here, the sauce balanced out the sweetness of the potato fries in a perfect way.

I’m not a fan of salmon. That said I tried the Salmon Royale with Cajun chardonnay cream sauce. I’m afraid I asked for extra sauce, I mean, chardonnay cream? Come on, double up on that! Well, I’m reporting that the salmon was perfectly flaky with great seasoning and wow, the sauce made it wonderful.  cheese and fruit spread

There was a cheese and fruit display that really was the centerpiece to the room. And the little flaky philo-pastry cheese puffs were a delight.

Not last nor least was the lump crab, avocado, and mango stack salad. YUM! I’m a huge fan of Gulf blue crab always, I love mango and avocado. This salad had giant chunks of tasty blue crab, the mango was diced, the avocado was perfect and plentiful. In between were diced red and green sweet peppers and redlump crab & avocado salad onion. There was a sweet vinaigrette that added a bit of acidity and balanced the whole act.

I think the crowning point of this experience was meeting the lovely Christie family. Mama Christie and her four children, Alexandra, Kathy Christie-Dasigenis, Roula, and Terry Christie. It was such an honor. All these years of loving Christie’s and I got to meet the family. They are rock stars to me! I can’t help but think how thrilled my parents would have been, too.The Christie family

Mom and Dad this one was for you!

Crossing the Line

An enlargeable topographic map of Mexico
Image via Wikipedia

Maria is  someone I have known for many years. When first we met she told me she wanted to learn English better so she could get a good job. I was thrilled to help out. We’ve been friends for about fifteen years. Eventually she met more of my family members including my mother, and I’ve met all of her immediate family.

My mother loves her. So we invited her to work for my mother as her aide. And that’s when we discovered that Maria doesn’t have a social security card. I was puzzled at first. What did that mean? It couldn’t be that she was an illegal alien, surely.

Maria and her husband have been in the United States for over twenty years. Maria has ten brothers and sisters. All of them live in the US. Her parents live in a mountainous region of Mexico, in a village with a name I can’t remember because I can’t pronounce it. Their children recently sent them a computer so they are able to feel more acutely linked to their children and grandchildren.

Maria and her siblings haven’t been to visit their parents in years because of the violence.

There is a terrible civil war going on in Mexico and it doesn’t get much press. They recently found twelve people beheaded in Acapulco, a favorite resort on the pacific coast of southern Mexico. Five women who worked in a beauty parlor were the most recent victims. That should be enough to slow the tourist trade, but it won’t be because this news won’t travel past north Texas. The line is drawn in the sand somewhere along the Rio Grande and not much news on these terrible gun, knife, machete killings gets past it.

It isn’t the only news that won’t travel far. There are wild fires burning from West Texas to Magnolia, just north of Houston. People are losing their homes. But it won’t be big news outside of Texas. I guess our Texas Independent streak comes around to bite us in the behind every once in a while.

Not only are there beheading in Acapulco. There were 64 bodies found just south of our Texas border. These were not just Mexican nationals but some tourists as well. If it weren’t for those tourists, I wonder if we would have heard about it. This is huge. For over fifteen years, there has been a serial killer or killers in Mexico, and this doesn’t get any press. This person or persons preys on young girls along the Texas, Mexico border. Their bodies are found in shallow graves in obscure ranch country, usually on the Mexican side. There’s lots of wide open spaces along there. And there isn’t enough press about it. The warning isn’t out. Girls continue to disappear. And now with the drug wars raging, who knows what or who is involved. Because it isn’t just the young prostitutes now, but entire families who are being murdered.

It’s a regular killing field.

There are revenge killings, and revenge for revenge killings. There is no end in sight. The president of Mexico vows to crack down on the drug lords and the drug lords vow to never stop the murders. Diplomats, US drug agents, city officials, police officials, their families, and so on and on. In Mexico, no one is safe. If you have money, you are not safe. If you do not have money, you are not safe.

When I discovered that my friend Maria was an illegal alien, I offered to sponsor her process to become an American citizen. That was what she wanted, more than anything, to become an American. So I went to an immigration lawyer. I asked what steps I needed to take to help my friend.

“None.”

“What?”

“There is nothing you can do,” he told me.

“I can pay for her papers.”

“No. There are three steps in becoming an American citizen. You can pay for steps one and two. But the law is firm. You can not proceed to step three. Don’t waste your money.”

“But she’s been here a long time. She’s never even gotten a ticket.”

“There is nothing you can do.”

“Is there anything she can do?” I asked.

“No.”

Nothing. Nada. She can not become an American, which she wants to be very much. She wants to pay taxes. She wants to provide a better life for her three children. And she can’t. She can’t go back to Mexico, even to visit her parents. And she can’t become an American citizen.

Where did we cross the line from picking and choosing who gets to be an American? We offer visas to foreigners who would rather blow us up than to ever become productive hard-working citizens. But our wonderful Mexican neighbors who would rather work for sixty dollars a day constructing a roof here, than sit in a card-board hovel begging for pesos in a blood-spattered border town, can’t become Americans. We can’t even pay to make them citizens.

What?

Something is wrong with that.

Odd bits of Texas History: The Last of the Karankawans

English: Historical Marker for a Karankawa ind...
English: Historical Marker for a Karankawa indian campsite and burial ground located in Jamaica Beach, Texas on Galveston Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1819, Jane Long followed her husband James to the wild frontier of Texas. Her husband was always on some mission of one kind or another. He kept leaving Jane behind, first he left her in Mississippi to go to Texas to fight the Spanish, then left her to go to Galveston to recruit the pirate Lafitte, and then he went to Mexico to fight the Mexicans. The Mexicans caught and killed him.

 

I don’t know which is worse the part about James’ propensity for leaving his wife or the part about Jane following him. I think when he went to Mexico the only reason she didn’t follow him is because she was so pregnant. It would be one thing if he left her in a nice, cozy place but no, he left her in a mud “fort” on Bolivar Peninsula which is across the bay from Galveston.  There are no trees there hence the mud.

 

That would have been where I drew the line and would have gone home to mama, but not Jane. This woman was plucky, gotta hand it to her.

 

The Karankawan Indians were the true natives of South Texas. Supposedly they used smeared shark liver oil or alligator fat to ward off mosquitoes. So not only did they smell bad, but they were reputed cannibals.  The important thing to note they didn’t just snack on just anybody. They only ate parts of their conquered enemy. In so doing they were conquering them on the outside and the inside. Something to think about.

 

Their blood-thirsty reputation didn’t win them any awards with the neighbors. So in the winter of 1821 when Jane Long was cast alone on the narrow strip of land called Bolivar with crashing waves on one side and Karankawa Indians on the other side, she didn’t know what to do. The one time she saw the Indians crossing the bay in canoes coming towards them, she strung up her red underwear as a flag and loaded her only cannon ball in their canon and shot it. The Karankawans turned back.

 

The weather grew more dire. Jane, her children and Kian (her maid or servant or slave, history is unclear) had nothing. They were starving. Cold weather gave way to freezing weather. Kian gathered the fish as they froze and rose to the top and floated ashore. They ate what they could.

 

Winter grew even more frigid until the bay froze over. They just knew the Karankawa would cross the water, on foot, and eat them. But they didn’t. Probably because the Karankawa were probably freezing, too. Some passing immigrants saw Jane’s fort, came to investigate and found the women and children. They were rescued.

 

The Karankawa’s reputation continued to spiral downward with more and more immigrants crossing into Texas. By 1850 the Karankawa were almost non-existent. But because of their reputation Stephen F. Austin decided they needed to be annihilated. In 1858 a band of Texans led by Juan Cortino killed the last one. Or did he?

 

Another theory is that there was one Karankawa left from that expedition and he disappeared but a Texas Ranger chased him down and killed him a few years later.

 

Jane Long went on to buy an Inn and then a plantation where she lived during the civil war. She is called the “Mother of Texas” and Stephen F. Austin is called the “Father of Texas”. Both didn’t like the Karankawa.