Looking Back At The Genuine Texas Handbook, 30 Years Later
This past weekend I found a copy of Rosemary Kent's 1981 book The Genuine Texas Handbook at a thrift store off Highway 290. The 224-page golden treasury of Texicana hails from a time when 1980's Urban Cowboy and the oil boom was coloring the worldview of the Lone Star State, for better or worse.
No tacos, no Geto Boys, no SXSW...
The book is only a little bit over 30 years old, making it outdated to say the least, but still amazingly prescient in some passages. It's made up of infographics (which is how everyone gets most of their news now anyway) and cute chapters on things that you must know to be a well-adjusted Texan.
The Handbook tackles everything from food, drinking, clothing, shopping, oil, rich people, and everything in between, with a pinch of Texas history and a whole lot of outrageous generalizations.
The Texas the book describes is not the one we know today. This is a genteel, stereotypical, and prosperously white Texas. There are no mentions of upscale cuisine, gays, codeine, pollution, hip-hop, or any minorities beyond Mama Ninfa, border town shop owners, Charley Pride, or Freddy Fender.
So it's like a time capsule, or hanging out with a grandparent who doesn't know that it's 2012. But for all it's shortcomings you can't but feel some sort of demented state pride while holding the book. What other states besides maybe Louisiana and California warrant a "handbook" -- no matter how sarcastic -- for its citizens?
According to the book, there are really only four kinds of food found in Texas --- barbecue, Tex-Mex, chili, and chicken-fried steak --- for us jeans-wearing, cowboy-boot stompin' drunks to grub on. Okay, that version of Texas doesn't sound like such an awful state to call home. Modern Texas foodies would clutch their proverbial pearls at the usage of the word "cook" in place of "chef."
There is no mention of food trucks, Vietnamese food, sushi, or even Tito's vodka, things that I can't imagine living in Texas without. Not so even a mention of the offensively named "roach coach" is to be seen.
Speaking of drunks, the book lists Lone Star, Shiner, Pearl, Texas Pride, and Gilley's as our state beers, naturally. A few other Mexican beers and the margarita are listed as more exotic options. The land before micro and craft brews my friends was no place for those looking for IPAs and the like.