As I delightfully babbled with Chef Chris Williams about what I love at Houston’s eclectic Southern charm, Lucille’s, he quickly noticed that I’d skipped over one of his most prized creations. I contended that I’ve had the deftly seasoned Fried Green Tomatoes, sumptuous Blue Crab Beignets, decadent Shrimp and Grits, and incomparable Country (Eggs) Benedict (spoiler alert: It includes a chicken fried, poached egg (yes!); Applewood smoked-bacon, tender, sauteed collard greens, and truffled hollandaise)! Despite my pleasure with everything I’ve eaten, I kept skipping over the “Pork N’ Beans.”
Perhaps like you, I immediately summoned up childhood memories of the sweetened, but tangy orangey beans in a can with little pieces of cut up hot dogs. Child friendly, yes, but now that I’m all grown up, I like to think I have a more sophisticated palate. Nevertheless, I was unwilling (on my own), to try this new item – even with the description listed on the menu. I couldn’t separate what I thought I knew from what I perceived the possibilities could be. Chris is a pleasantly, relentless sort. Armed with a charming smile, he insisted that I try it upon my next visit. So I agreed.
My reward? A fork tender, roasted pork shank, encrusted with pickled mustard seeds, nestled in fresh greens and an al dente three bean ragu, kissed with a grape tomato confit. The throwback to my childhood for the sweet and sour effect? An agridolce reduction – translation (as I had to be educated last night), often seen in Italian and French cooking, a tango of sugary and vinegary sauces that simmer into a gently, thickened succulence. Joining the party on my plate were herbs, spices, and sauteed onions that countered the notion that this was anything like my mama’s pork n’ beans from the 80s. This was Pork N’ Beans 10.0. Reinvented.
So you know, in Carla Brown fashion, I have to give you the life lesson that undergirds my food adventure. It’s about shedding our tendency to avoid things based on what we know. When I first met Chris, after a momentary conversation, I quickly discovered one thing we had in common. We shared the belief that food is a narrative on a plate. Similarly, our choices tell their own stories. They illustrate what we believe, where our interests lie, what we fear, and what we’re willing to concede. What do your choices say about your journey?
Are you holding so tightly to what you’ve already learned that you opt not to venture into new places? Not just physical places, but those places in your mind where inspiration runs free; those moments when you allow yourself to fearlessly imagine possibilities. What could you accomplish if you loosened your inhibitions? Reasonably so, of course; but, enough to actualize your full potential? I regularly dine at Lucille’s not simply because I’m a fanatic about all kinds of food, but because I like the element of surprise and the opportunity to conquer my suppositions. It compels me to reinvent my future. Join me for the journey. #pursueyourpassion, #trysomethingnew, #trylucilles