A Fake Story of Chicken Fried Steak Made Lamesa, Texas the Dish’s Capital
When the conversation of comfort food comes up, chicken fried steak always tops the list of favorites. There is just something about that piece of beef steak dipped in batter, fried to perfection, smothered in gravy and served with a side of fried okra and mashed taters. I will not apologize for making you, and me, hungry. The dish is so good. Lamesa, Texas is the home of chicken fried steak thanks to a story that isn't true but has grown to be true tale.
A Texas Tall Tale
The story goes that in 1911, Jimmy Don Perkins, a short order cook at Ethel's Home Cooking in Lamesa, either misheard or misread an order for chicken and fried steak. Perkins took a piece of steak, dipped it in milk and flour, fried it and served it with French fries and gravy. Thing is, this story was completely made up by Larry BeSaw, a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman at the time. The story spread and was even picked up by a couple of national publications. Despite BeShaw's best efforts to show the story was a spoof, the legend became truth.
The city of Lamesa embraced this legend turned true. The State of Texas has even recognized this incredible tall tale and passed HCR 134 declaring Lamesa, Texas "Legendary Home of the Chicken-fried Steak."
Chicken Fried Steak Festival
The town hosts a festival to celebrate chicken fried steak every year in April. The 13th Annual Chicken Fried Steak Festival was held April 28 and 29 of this year with a 5K, concerts, car show, a parade and, of course, a chicken fried steak cookoff.
There you have it, one of our favorite comfort food dishes comes from a West Texas town where the story isn't even true. Enjoy some for dinner tonight.
H.C.R. No. 134
WHEREAS, Texas is renowned for its innovative cuisine, and certain beloved dishes have become integral elements of the state's culture and folklore; one such food is chicken-fried steak, and the epic deliciousness of this specialty has inspired not only countless satisfied diners but also an enduring Lone Star legend; and
WHEREAS, For generations, Texans pondered the seemingly eternal mystery of who invented the chicken-fried steak; then, in 1976, came an answer: Larry BeSaw published an article in the Austin American-Statesman explaining that this wondrous combination of beef, batter, and breading had first been dropped onto a well-oiled
skillet in 1911 by Jimmy Don Perkins, a short-order cook at Ethel's Home Cooking in Lamesa, Texas; according to the published story, Mr. Perkins had mistakenly combined two separate orders for chicken and fried steak into a single culinary creation whose savory goodness became famous far beyond West Texas; and
WHEREAS, The account received wider attention after being picked up by a syndicated columnist and was later repeated in publications that ranged from the Washington Post to Texas Monthly to trivia books; cited again and again through the years and given a further boost through Internet postings, the anecdote about Jimmy Don's handiwork earned Lamesa the enviable status of being the home of the chicken-fried steak; there was just one small problem: it was not true; and
WHEREAS, Mr. BeSaw had created his article as a spoof, never intending it to be taken as fact, but the story quickly took on a life of its own; though the journalist has tried numerous times to set the record straight, the yarn continues to be widely told, having attained the status of a Texas tall tale; and
WHEREAS, Not wishing to spoil a good legend, the city of
Lamesa has embraced its role as an epicenter of epicurean
invention; it celebrates the lore of its mythical short-order cook with its Chicken-fried Steak Festival, which includes a cook-off competition for its namesake dish in addition to live music, a classic car show, and numerous other activities; and WHEREAS, While everybody knows that honesty truly is the best policy, residents of the Lone Star State have long demonstrated their appreciation for harmless exaggeration and some good old-fashioned leg-pulling; in that same spirit, and because the Jimmy Don Perkins tale is just a darn good story, it is indeed
appropriate that the city of Lamesa be recognized for its role in this imaginative and imaginary incident in Texas history; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 82nd Legislature of the State of Texas
hereby declare Lamesa the Legendary Home of the Chicken-fried Steak.