When living along the Gulf Coast of Texas – or just visiting it – , it doesn’t take long to fall into the relaxed life style and share what the area offers with neighbors and friends. Two of the things that the coastal lifestyle offers are legends of the area and boat loads of fresh caught seafood, the likes of which can be found no other place. The long Texas coastline offers a treasure chest full of both things, just the thing for family fun.
The Blue Crab that can be found in almost every waterway in the South can be boiled, bar-b-qued, or cleaned and added as lump meat in a profusion of tempting dishes. But it is not only a delicious meal, but the source of mystery and an interesting legend. Many people have looked at and cleaned a great number of crabs and never know the mystifying tale which, when once heard, will never allow them to look at the lowly Blue Crab the same way ever again.
On the back of every Blue Crab is a mysterious, faceless woman. Catch one and look at its back. Starting at the side opposite the pinchers, you can trace out a faceless head, a lady’s bodice, her arms and a full skirt (see attached picture). She is always faceless, so her identity is a mystery but her specter is on every Blue Crab. No one is sure who she is, but some who live on the coast think she may be the image of Theodosia Burr, the only legitimate daughter of Aaron Burr.
In Texas, the legend of Theodosia Burr, in a nutshell, goes something like this. It is told that Theodosia had been captured by pirates (possibly one of Jean Lafitte’s henchmen) and was shipwrecked at the mouth of the San Bernard River where she died in the arms of an English-speaking, cannibalistic Karankawa Indian. Circumstantial evidence suggests the legend is true, so Blue Crabs (especially those in Texas) may just bear the image of Theodosia. But this is just one story of families and food associated with the coast.
Texas’ long coastline has also lent itself to family saltwater expeditions as long as people have been able to journey to the coast. The shrimping industry has long been part of family gatherings in the form of a shrimp boil. The shrimp taken off the Gulf coast are delicious and legendary – both at home in family settings or at any of the coast’s numerous seafood restaurants.
People from everywhere travel to the coast to get in on legendary fishing as well. They come for offshore charters, but mostly for the opportunity to catch the “Saltwater big 3” inshore fish: Flounder, Redfish and Speckled Trout. Many fish recipes are shared by friends and families along the coast, and here’s one that is easy, family friendly and sure to please – Chippered Trout.
Since Speckled Trout are plentiful when the spring warms the coastal waters, catch a few, grab the kids and start cooking this legendary dish! It’s easy! Just take a bottle of Green Goddess salad dressing, trout fillets, and a large bag of Ruffle’s potato chips. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Get a 9 × 14 inch (preferably Pyrex) baking dish and set it aside. Now, gather the kiddos and get ready for some fun in the kitchen.
Take the boneless trout fillets and place them on a plate. Open the bottle of Green Goddess salad dressing and pour some of it over the fillets. Put enough dressing on the fish that both sides are totally covered in it. Once that is done, set the coated fillets aside and give the kids the job they will love. Take the Ruffle’s potato chip bag and poke several small holes in it with a fork so the bag won’t break when the kids take it and crush the chips (a rolling pin, soup can, etc. will help the process along). The chips need to be pulverized into meal while still in the bag. Then comes the hard part – getting the crushed chips back from the kids while they are still in the bag.
Carefully cut the bag open and flatten it, leaving the crushed potato chips in its center. Take the coated fillets and, one by one, roll them in the crushed potato chips until they are completely coated. Put these coated fillets in the 9 × 14 inch ungreased baking dish and place in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Finally, take the trout out of the oven and let them set a couple of minutes before you devour them. This allows the fish to crisp up before you eat them. Fish and chips in one dish!
But along with the crabs, shrimp and fish oysters are also part of the legendary foods of the coast. The following tale, passed down through local Indian lore, is a story of the origin of the Karankawas, also known as “Fish Eaters”. They were on the Texas coast when Stephen F. Austin brought the original 300 to this area and are a part of the area’s not so distant past. The image of the Karankawas is colored by their description – they were tall, muscular, and naked covered only in stinky bear grease and mud, cannibalistic, and unemotional. The Karankawas mysteriously vanished – became a lost tribe – after the battle at Jones Creek in 1824. This is the story of their origin.
Suspend reality for a couple of minutes, and take this flight of legendary fantasy. The very first Karankawa was the child of the sun god and the moon goddess. The clouds in the sky were the platform where his oyster shell cradle rocked to him to sleep by the gentle rocking of the sea breezes. One day, the sun god and the moon goddess got into a family quarrel. That squabble must have gotten pretty heated because it, their baby’s cradle was knocked over and he fell into the Gulf of Mexico. So, the legend says the first Karankawa came to the shore from the sea and he ate fish. In his ocean voyage, he had been protected by the oyster shell, and, as a result, Karankawas revered the oyster. And the rain along the coast? Well, that’s his mother still crying for the loss of her son. Then, can hurricanes be attributed to the sun god and the moon goddess up there having yet another major family quarrel? Maybe they should seek marriage counseling!
The lifestyle of the people of the Texas Gulf Coast breeds legendary stories and seafood and its coastline is rich in both and just waiting for new visitors and the local citizenry to discover the delightfulness of each!