Cover image for Texas cooking
Texas cooking
Wingate, Lisa.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New American Library, [2003]

Physical Description:
311 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"An Onyx book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Library
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

On Order



No one is more surprised than Colleen Collins when she's offered a job writing fluffy magazine articles about rural Texas cooking. But after only a few days in the charming little town of San Saline, the big-city reporter is falling for the local residents, and finding it impossible to resist the infuriating True McKittrick, a local boy-made-good whose mere presence makes her feel alive...and at home.

Author Notes

Lisa Wingate is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker and a national bestselling author. Recently, Lisa's Blue Sky Hill Series received national attention with back-to-back nominations for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award for A Month of Summer (2009) and The Summer Kitchen (2010). In 2011, Lisa's Novel, Never Say Never, won the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award.

Lisa is also the author of The Tending Roses, Daily Texas, Moses Lake, and the Texas Hill Country Series.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Collie Collins has come out of a Washington, D.C., newspaper scandal depressed and minus a job and a boyfriend. Her friend sends her out on a free-lance magazine assignment to Texas writing about two things she knows to next to nothing about: small town life and cooking. She ends up in San Saline, Texas, where the pace is slow and where, as the Yankee, she's the butt of many jokes. But she becomes enamored of the small town and one of its leading residents, True McKitrick. The prodigal town son, True is an enigma; yet he and Collie connect despite clumsy matchmaking tactics on the part of some townspeople. When Collie learns that she's now a hot item in D.C., she has to make a hard decision: return to her fast-paced life or stay in an enchanted town with a man she has only known a week. Wingate's empathic writing style is beautifully suited to this contemporary romance in which the simple life is portrayed as heroic and romantic. --Patty Engelmann Copyright 2003 Booklist



Chapter 1 Food and stories go together. They have been paired since the first tribes of man gathered around campfires in caves, or tents, or crude brush shelters. They are like an ancient couple married longer than anyone can remember, bringing warmth and comfort, wisdom and laughter to those who sit with them. Many of the oldest stories are about food and where it came from-like the Native American legends about how the People got the first seed corn, or how the buffalo came to be, or the biblical one about the Garden of Eden and how Adam and Eve brought about their fall from grace by eating the forbidden fruit. In my family, some of the best stories are about food, like the one about the time my grandmother tried to create sauerkraut in a five-gallon crock and filled the basement with a gas so noxious no one could go down there for months. Or the time my great-aunt decided to try the new Mexican cooking fad on Easter Sunday, and created something so horrible even the dogs were afraid of it. Cooking talent, in my family, is like eye color. You never know who's going to get what. I got blue eyes, no cooking talent. I'm not bitter about it. I have no cooking interest, either. My mother spotted this deficiency in me early, and gave up trying to mold me into a culinary genius. She decided that, along with my grandmother's curly red hair, I inherited Gran's nondomestic personality. Just like my grandmother, I didn't fit the traditional mold that society sets out for girls. I was scab-kneed and redheaded, tall and not the least bit refined, and determined to do everything my brother could do. I rejected all things girlish, including cooking. I spent my formative years reading about adventure, or running the fringes of the neighborhood looking for adventure, but never in the kitchen, unless my grandmother and my great-aunts were gathered there, and the room was filled with wild Irish stories. My mother, a prim schoolteacher, was often scandalized by what was said at those gatherings of the Collins clan, but she let me sit and listen anyway. Perhaps she knew it was important for me to fit in somewhere, or perhaps she was just happy to see me finally in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or snapping green beans, finally learning how to cook, or so she thought. The fact was that I learned a lot about my family, and listened to some wonderful Irish stories, but I didn't absorb a teaspoonful of cooking knowledge. Which is why it's so strange that cooking took me on an adventure as wild as any of my great-aunts' tales, and changed everything I thought I knew about myself. It all began with cooking. A story about cooking. Texas cooking. I was so aghast when I got the offer, I sat silently staring out the window with the phone buzzing in my ear. "Collie?" Laura Draper's voice brought me back to reality. "Collie, are you still there?" "Laura, are you sure you dialed the right number?" I asked. "I don't know anything about cooking. I don't know anything about Texas. I cover D.C. stories, remember? Washington, D.C. Real stuff." Fortunately, Laura ignored my burst of attitude. "You can't do any kind of stories sitting in bed with the covers pulled over your head, Collie." Only a really good friend can put you in your place like that and get away with it. "Now get off your butt and check your fax machine. I sent the proposal over two days ago, in case you hadn't noticed." "I hadn't," I muttered. "I'm not surprised," she fired back. "It's an eight-story run, and the pay isn't bad. Eight thousand plus expenses." A huge sigh trembled through me, and the sound of it made my eyes burn. It was filled with the sense of hopelessness that had become the biggest part of me. "It just isn't my kind of story...." "Stop it, Collie!" The volume made me hold the phone away from my ear. After so many weeks of quiet, her voice seemed like thunder rolling through my brain. "You're going to have to face the fact that you're out of luck in D.C., at least until this lawsuit thing is old news. I know you've got bills to pay. Go to the stupid fax machine, pick up the stupid assignment, and get on the stupid plane. I need the first article by the fifteenth." "Of June?" Swinging my feet around, I stood up like a coma patient finally wobbling out of bed. My joke bombed. "Very funny. The fifteenth of April. One week. Don't miss deadline. Enjoy the warm weather." Click. So there I stood in a darkened room full of unwashed clothes and empty food containers, staring at the papers in the fax machine, wondering how I had come to this point. It's a long way down from award-winning Washington correspondent to unemployed freelance writer. The bottom of the pit is filled with dirty laundry and dried-up Chinese food. Testify in a lawsuit against your employer, and this is where you end up. I never guessed the way out would be through Texas. *** I pondered the idea as I sat on the plane reading the outline for the article series-quirky stuff about summer food festivals and bed-and-breakfast inns with famous recipes. Touchy-feely stuff. Not my kind of thing. It would have been more suited to any number of feature writers who were actually from Texas, and I'm sure Laura knew that. The fact that she'd given it to me only pointed out what a good friend she was, and what a charity case I had become. "So, you never did tell me why you were headed to Texas in the first place." The guy beside me was an engineering consultant from D.C. Earlier on, we had been commiserating about being sent to Texas on business. "I have a series of articles to do there." I hoped I was sounding cordial but romantically uninterested. Three months of wallowing in self-pity had left me a little rusty on social niceties. He smiled, looking interested in more than just my work. "In Dallas? It sure would be nice to have someone from D.C. to talk to while I'm stuck there." "In San Saline," I interjected before things could go any farther. I could force myself to go to Texas and write articles about cooking, but romance was out of the question. Not now. Probably never again. "I guess that's a suburb of Dallas." He laughed so loudly the lady across the aisle stopped her needlepoint to look at us. "Not quite. San Saline's in central Texas, an hour or two west of Waco. You're headed to the middle of nowhere." He gave a rueful snort that made my stomach drop. "You've got a lot to learn about Texas." Leaning back in his seat, he crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes, still grinning like a Cheshire cat. "There's nothing out there but jackrabbits and goat farms. Like the commercial says-'It's like a whole other country.'" "Oh," I muttered, and that was the end of the conversation for the rest of the plane ride. He fell asleep with his glasses askew and his mouth hanging open, and I sat reading my papers, having a waking nightmare about dropping off the edge of the world. I was trying to find San Saline on the map as the plane landed. Beside me, my seatmate woke up and straightened his glasses. "Down here." He pointed over my shoulder to a small dot with a tiny name beside it. "Oh," I said, folding up the map as the plane stopped at the gate. "Thanks." "No problem." Standing up, he pulled his carry-on from the luggage bin. "So, are you in Dallas overnight?" My mind quickly made the decision not to be in Dallas overnight, as I grabbed my luggage and followed him from the plane. "No. I'm going to pick up my rental car and get going." "Can I buy you supper before you take off?" "No . . . really . . . but thanks." For a moment, we stood pinned together in uncomfortable silence at the end of the gateway, waiting for a group of reuniting relatives to finish hugging and move out of the path. It reminded me that I hadn't even called my mother to tell her I was going to Texas. I'd have to think of some way to explain what I was doing here. Anything but the truth. I couldn't possibly tell my parents that the prodigal daughter, the one they were so proud of, was now largely unemployed and writing recipes for a women's magazine. I hadn't even worked up the guts to tell them that I had been fired from my job, and why. Lies beget more lies , my grandmother would have said. The crowd finally cleared, and my traveling partner followed me across the hall to the rental-car counter. I had the uncomfortable feeling he was going to ask for a ride somewhere, but as the agent handed me my keys, he seemed to give up the idea. "Well, have a good trip," he said, turning toward the baggage-claim area. "Thanks." Clutching my rental-car keys, I watched him disappear into a sea of blue jeans, boots, ball caps, and cowboy hats; then I took a deep breath and dove in myself. One girl from D.C., heading for Nowhere, Texas. The drive turned out to be prettier than I expected. As I traveled west out of Dallas-Fort Worth, the countryside opened into an ocean of rolling grass-covered hills dotted with pink and white poppylike flowers. In places, the ground was carpeted with thick blue wildflowers, blanketing the roots of gnarled trees that looked like crooked old men yawning after a hundred-year nap. "This isn't so bad," I muttered, passing old farmhouses and metal tractor sheds. All in all, it was serene, peaceful. Not too crowded, not too empty. Just what I needed to break out of my rut. It didn't look like the middle of nowhere. Except for the details of vegetation, it looked a lot like Maryland, where my family had vacationed for years on a guest farm. That picture made me think of my parents again, and I spent the next forty miles pondering what to say to them and how much to tell. There was something surreal and definitely not right about the fact that I had concealed from them everything that had happened in the past three months. Actually, a couple of skilled performances over the phone were all that had been required. Thirty-six years old, and I was still hiding from my parents . . . Near Waco, I stopped for a snack and a drink at the exit where I was to leave the interstate for a two-lane highway that led due west into what, on the map, was a section with nothing but towns in microscopic print. The cashier, who underneath his John Deere cap didn't look a day over fifteen, cocked a brow at my roasted soy beans and bottled water. "Health nut?" he drawled. I laughed, thinking of the mountain of pizza boxes and greasy egg-roll containers I'd put in the Dumpster before leaving home. "Trying to get back in the habit. Is this State Highway Eighty-four?" He drew back, looking at me as if I were a leper. "Man, you from New York or someplace?" "D.C." Not that it's any of your business. "Why?" "You talk like a Yankee." He grinned an impishly charming grin that made me forgive his ignorance. "Yeah, that's Highway Eighty-four, right out front." "Is it the road to San Saline?" Craning his neck again, he squinted at me. "Well . . . it eventually goes to San Saline. It's, like, two hours that way." "Oh." I tried not to make obvious my dismay. "Is there a better way to go?" "Well, you can go on Farm Road . . ." He paused, looked me over carefully, then shook his head. "No, ma'am. You better stick to the highway." As if to say a Yankee couldn't possibly be trusted with the more complicated shortcut. "All right. Thanks for the information." "We've got a huntin' lease in the San Saline area," he went on as I tucked my change into my wallet. "We go down there a lot during deer season, and in the spring to get rattlers." "Rattlers?" I repeated absently, fumbling with the latch on my purse. My hesitation turned out to be a mistake. Shutting the cash drawer, he leaned on the counter and made himself comfortable. "Yeah, rattlesnakes. You know. Diamondbacks? They're all over the place down there. I mean, we've got 'em here, too, but down there you can catch 'em and get lots of money for the big ones at the Snake Days." "Snake Days?" I was half-mortified, half-fascinated, like Buck Rogers landing on a new planet. "Like a . . . fair?" He said it slowly, as if maybe I didn't speak English. "All the towns down there have one. If you bring in the biggest snake, or the most pounds all told, you can get five hundred dollars." In pure amazement, I said, "Oh. What do they do with the snakes after?" "Fry 'em up and serve 'em with gravy. Usually hundreds of pounds of 'em." "And people eat that?" My stomach rolled over at the concept. "Uh-huh." "They do this every year?" "Uh-huh." "Don't they ever run out of snakes?" He laughed so hard tears came to his eyes, and it took a long time for him to answer. "Not hardly. Rattlers are like weeds around here. They're everyplace." That wasn't comforting news, considering my present destination. "Yuck. You're kidding." "No, ma'am. Last year my uncle and me caught one eight foot long and over six pounds. It was the biggest one at the Lometa Diamondback Jubilee. That's the skin on the wall." He pointed to a long piece of wood overhead with an enormous snakeskin shellacked to it. He went on as I stared at the skin. "We were drivin' through this pasture just south of Lampasas, and we stopped to open the gate by this cattle guard. They aren't supposed to shut those gates on the county roads, but . . ." The story went on for another ten minutes before another customer came in and saved me from hearing any more. Taking one last glance at the record-setting snakeskin, I hurried out the door, into the car, and onto the highway, having learned my first three lessons about Texas: Stay off the farm roads if you're a Yankee. Snakes are everywhere. And everyone has a story. If you pause for more than an instant, they'll tell it to you-whether you want to hear it or not. I kept a watch for eight-foot rattlesnakes as I left Waco and traveled into hilly country, which gradually grew more and more unpopulated, ceased to look anything like Maryland, and started to look more like the edge of the world-at least the edge of the populated world. Miles passed with the only sign of humans being one or two cars and a smattering of gateways with ranch names on them. Occasionally, houses and barns were visible at the ends of the driveways, but mostly there were just gates and dirt driveways, winding off into nowhere like the wagon trails of old. The sun slid slowly toward the horizon ahead, dimming the landscape, making it seem even emptier. Or maybe it was growing emptier. It was hard to say. All I knew for sure was that it was the least populated place I'd ever been. The car lurched suddenly, the tires making an ominous clump-clump as they ran over something I couldn't see. My heart hammered upward as I glanced in the rearview, watching a fragment of wood fly airborne in the car's wake, then tumble end over end and disappear beyond the glow of the taillights. I started wondering whether there were any nails in it, and what I was going to do if a tire went flat, and if I could get the spare on alone, and how far I might have to walk to get help, and whether rattlesnakes came out at night, and how I would explain it to my mother if something happened to me in the middle of Nowhere, Texas, when I wasn't even supposed to be here. I was relieved when I crested a hill and saw the lights of a town nestled in a valley in the distance. Civilization. At last. I would get a hotel room and travel on in the morning. As I came closer and exited the highway, my hopes evaporated like a mirage in the desert. The town wasn't much more than a highway crossing with a feed mill and a tractor dealership on one side, and a crumbling main street on the other. The sidewalks had clearly been rolled up for the night. Not a light was on, anywhere. No motel. No convenience store. No restaurant. Nothing but darkened buildings, locked-up churches, and what looked like a smattering of houses squatting among the trees on a hillside. The lights I had seen were nothing more than a few yard lamps, three flickering streetlights, and a dim neon sign in front of the tractor dealership. Stopping in the middle of the main street, I stared blankly at the flickering green neon outline of a tractor. Friendly's Tractors , the words said in faded black paint. Home of True the Tractor Man. "Save me, True the Tractor Man," I muttered, and a comic-book image came into my mind-greasy ball cap, worn-out coveralls, a cross between Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle. I could practically see his silhouette in the dirty window glass of the tractor showroom. . . . Shaking my head at myself, I put the car in drive again and stretched in my seat. I was more exhausted and food-deprived than I thought. I was starting to hallucinate. I needed a bed, a meal . . . and some gas. The gauge was below a quarter tank. The highway sign said, San Saline, 58. My mind did a little mental algebra. Ten-gallon tank, maybe . . . three gallons left, maybe . . . Thirty miles per gallon, maybe . . . thirty goes into fifty-eight . . . No problem. Straightening my shoulders, I stepped on the gas, and the car went . . . nowhere. The needle sank past empty with Titanic speed. The engine coughed, wheezed, then died, and the car coasted slowly downhill, coming to an unholy rest beneath the flashing neon sign of True the Tractor Man. Saying a silent prayer, I tried to start the car again, but nothing happened. All at once, I was marooned in Nowhere, Texas. Cursing my luck, I dug my cell phone out of my purse and flipped it open. A tow truck, I'd just call a tow truck and this would all be . . . The phone flashed two little words. No signal. No signal. No signal. "Oh, I can't believe this!" Slamming my hands on the steering wheel, I let my head fall against the headrest, and closed my eyes. Think, Collie, think. Think of something. No good ideas came to mind. Walk the half mile or so to the lights on the hillside and hope there were houses. Sit where I was and wait for a car to come along. Lock the doors, curl up in the backseat, and wait for morning. The soy nuts were gone. I might starve to death before then. . . . A knock on the window made me jerk upright. Clutching a hand over my exploding heart, I looked sideways into a pair of jeans and slowly upward into a face hidden from the neon glow by the shadow of a ball cap. Alarm bells zinged through my head as I rolled the window down a crack. It was well after dark. I was a female alone on a deserted street. A man was knocking on my window. .. "Are you True the Tractor Man?" came out of my mouth. In spite of my fear, I flushed from head to toe at the stupid remark. A warm, friendly laugh rose from beneath the ball cap, and I felt better instantly. "Are you lost?" "I'm out of gas and my cell phone won't work," I blurted. Stupid, stupid, stupid. If he was a psychotic killer, he would now know I was helpless. "I mean, I don't . . . No. I'm all right. Can you call a tow truck for me?" Hands in his pockets, he leaned closer to the window crack, and I could just make out the neon-lit outline of a masculine chin and a shadowed profile that told me he was younger than I had originally thought, probably in his thirties. "The nearest tow truck's an hour away." "Oh, God." I groaned, feeling that familiar sense of despair come over me. Nothing, but nothing, went right for me anymore. "Is there a motel around here?" "No, ma'am." He had a slow Southern drawl that made the words sound almost like a foreign language. "Nearest motel's in San Saline." I couldn't really see his face, but I could have sworn he was smiling, as if the whole conversation were a little amusing. "You're not from around here, are ya?" "No," I bit out, aggravated, desperate, uncertain of what to do next. "You from New York or someplace?" The second time in a day I'd been asked that question. Only this time it wasn't funny. "D.C. Why?" "I figured someplace like that." He nodded, his chin disappearing into the shadow, then appearing again. "Where ya headed?" Jamming my fingers into my hair in frustration, I pulled the tired, frizzed-up mess out of my eyes. "San Saline. I have a room waiting for me there at the Hawthorne House Bed-and-Breakfast. Can you give me any ideas as to how I might get there tonight?" "You need some gas." He chuckled at his own joke. The playful sound of it whittled the edge off my temper. "You're right. Is there a gas station near here?" "Not that's open." "And the tow truck's an hour away?" "Yup." It came to me then that he was enjoying giving useless one-sentence answers to my questions, so I thought very carefully before I spoke again. "Have you any idea as to where I might get some gas at this hour, and, if so, will you tell me what it is?" He grinned, a glimmer of straight white teeth barely visible in the shadow of his ball cap. "Sure. You just sit there, and I'll get some gas out of the tank out back." "You will?" I breathed with the wonder of a child being told Santa just filled the Christmas stockings. "That would be just . . ." I realized he had already left me and was headed toward the building. Looking out the front window, I watched him cross the dim parking lot with a long-legged, unhurried gait, then disappear behind a row of tractors. For a fleeting moment, I was given to the terrifying thought that he wasn't coming back. Get real, Collie. Just stay in the car. He'll be back in a minute, and you'll be on the road. When you get back to Dallas, you can sue the rental-car company for giving you a defective gas gauge. Yes, sue the rental car company. That would feel good. . . . Five minutes ticked by, and I started to worry again. Then he appeared out of the darkness like Batman coming to the rescue. Batman in well-worn jeans and a ball cap. Lugging a gas can. My hero. "Pop that gas-cap cover," he called as he passed my window. I did, listening to the vacuumlike sound as he opened the cap, then the sweet swish-swish of gas going in. Within moments, he put the cap on and closed the cover. "That oughta do it," he called, stepping into the shadow of the sign pole, so that I could barely see him. "See if she'll start." I turned the key, and the car sputtered stubbornly for a moment, then roared to life. "Sounds good," I called. "What do I owe you for the gas?" "Not a thing, ma'am." Stepping forward, he tipped the brim of his ball cap. "It's been a pure pleasure." He turned away and headed toward the building before I had a chance to tell him thank-you. Rolling the window down, I stuck my head out and called, "Thank you!" He waved a hand over his shoulder to tell me it wasn't necessary. "Have a good trip to San Saline. Straight down this highway. You can't miss it. Watch out for deer." Watch out for deer. Eight-foot rattlesnakes and now deer. If I ever made it to San Saline, I was going to call my friend Laura Draper and demand hazard pay. Even so, as I pulled onto the highway and cruised into the star-filled Texas night, I was strangely glad I had come. It felt good to be out of bed, gone from my apartment, and doing something again. I had a sense of regaining myself, which was strange, considering that nothing around me was familiar. In the bright moonlight, I could see the shapes of the hills becoming steeper and sharper, the thick stands of brush changing to wispy grass, dotted here and there by thick clumps of twisted, heavy-limbed trees. Through the open window, a cool, dry breeze brought a heavy floral scent, reminding me of the blue flowers I had admired earlier. I would have to ask somebody what they were called. . . . from Texas Cooking by Lisa Wingate, copyright © 2003 Lisa Wingate, published by Onyx, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher. Excerpted from Texas Cooking by Lisa Wingate All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.