The family that sleds together, stays together, right? I was scratching my head trying to figure out what was going on in this vintage photo I found on ebay. But the Rodeo is in full swing here in Houston, and all of a sudden it dawned on me — these are Alpine professional bull riders, honing their skills without the benefit of a mechanical bull. Of course!
Arm up, Bud!
Last year I watched two hours of professional bull-riding at the Rodeo. It was fascinating. The goal is to stay on the bull for 8 seconds. That doesn’t sound so hard, until you see the bulls, and then you just start praying that the cute cowboy doesn’t fall off and get trampled or gored. The bullriders, whether on a real bull or a mechanical one, wave one hand in the air to help maintain their balance. As one person describes, bullriders don’t just wave their hand in the air to look cool, even though it does. You’re not supposed to hold on with both hands–that’s why you only get one glove. You waive your free hand in the air to help adjust to the bucking of the bull, much like a tightrope walker keeps his arms outstretched to help with his balance, or a drunk person keeps his arms extended trying to walk a straight line for the officer.
Part of the fun (OK, a lot of the fun) of the Rodeo is the carnival food. There’s tacos, nachos, pizza on a stick, giant smoked turkey legs, chocolate-covered cheesecake, and bacon-topped cinnamon rolls, for starters. Then there’s fried everything — red velvet cake, twinkies, cookie dough, Kool-Aid (huh?), and Fruity Pebbles, just to name a few. (Local favorite columnist Ken Hoffman described Fried Fruity Pebbles as having the 4 basic food groups covered–sugar, fried, brown, and a stick.)
My daughter said the Fried Oreos were to die for. Or maybe she said they’ll kill you.
Fried Twinkie — yum or yuk?
I read that new this year is something called a Popcornsicle — “a ball of candy-coated popcorn on a stick kept in dry ice, making it so cold it emitted vapor clouds.” I wonder if your tongue sticks to it if you lick it? But more than anything, it wouldn’t be the Rodeo without barbecue. The Rodeo kicks off with the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, a three-day event where approximately 300 teams compete for barbecue glory. You can smell the smoke for miles.
Do I smell barbecue?
Seems everyone’s got a favorite barbecue recipe, and my Mom was no exception. French Barbecued Chicken was one of her most requested “dinner party” recipes — she used to boast that one of her friends told her she should never cook chicken any other way. Inspired by the photo of the Alpine sledders and the smell of smoke wafting over from the Rodeo, I offer you French Barbecued Chicken. It’s an oven-baked dish, and is about as French as I am (just like anything with water chestnuts in it is automatically crowned “Asian.”). The “French” in the recipe is half an envelope of Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix. This is, of course, not “barbecue” in the Texas sense of the word, but it is tasty, and you don’t need a smoker or a cowboy hat to prepare it. Yee haw!
- ½ package dry onion soup mix
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup catsup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Pepper, to taste
- 6 skinless bone-in chicken breasts
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl, and mix together until well combined. Place chicken, breast side down, in a 9" x 13" baking dish and cover with half of the sauce. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Using tongs, turn chicken over and coat with remaining sauce. Bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes, until sauce is baked onto the chicken. Transfer chicken to serving platter and spoon any sauce remaining in the baking dish over the chicken.
Bon appetit, y’all!