The Austin Chronicle

Food, Foodies, Foodways

Cookbooks and cultural conversation starters top our summer reading list

Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, May 23, 2014, Food

The Homesick Texan's Family Table: Lone Star Cooking From My Kitchen to Yours

by Lisa Fain 
Ten Speed Press, 288 pp., $29.99

Food blogger Lisa Fain, a Texas native who moved to New York in the mid-Nineties, started her blog ( in 2005 as a way to share recipes and stories from her Texas upbringing. Since then, Fain published her first blog-to-cookbook in 2011. Fain's second book, The Homesick Texan's Family Table, doubles down on her claim that cheese enchiladas are just food – it's the act of sharing them with family that makes them special. Indeed, I imagine serving the Crazy Nachos featured on the cover at a Friday Night Lights-watching party and reveling in deep layers of nostalgia for bygone fall days under warm Texan skies. 

Most of the recipes in the cookbook are special-occasion or splurge meals. While the chicken spaghetti is rich and flavorful, with four cups of cheese, it is very much a "sometimes food." But I will definitely be adding the beer-battered catfish tacos into rotation for the summer months. The batter had excellent flavor that wasn't lost when I opted to bake, rather than fry, the fish; the accompanying cabbage slaw was exceptional, helping to round out a light evening meal. Great Grandma Blanche's Chocolate Muffins combine deep chocolate flavor with a touch of cinnamon; while they turned out a bit dense, they make for a nice lunchbox or afterschool treat. Bring Mom's Raspberry Bars to your next dinner party and prepare to win hearts and minds. 

Fain's personal stories and brightly colored photographs of Texan life and landscapes poignantly flank the regional recipes; we've all got a relative (likely a grandma, mother, or beloved aunt) whose recipes we associate with growing up in this state. If nothing else, this Family Table will inspire a deeper appreciation for the meals those women served with love.

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