I was about 15 years old and Dad and I were heading home from Rockdale, Texas, with a load of watermelon and cannalope grown on our farm outside of town on FM908. We had worked hard and Dad decided we needed to treat ourselves to a fine lunch. We drove into town and headed over to "Andy's", a local cafe on the other side of the tracks but well known for it's county-wide famous chicken-fried steak (CFS).
Andy's was an out of the way place with really no parking lot but a dirt lot that spilled out into the street with pickups, cars, flatbeds, station-wagons, police cars, and even 18-wheelers parked down the block. Now Andy didn't spend a lot of money on decor but he did have a juke box. Everyone was there for one reason only...the CFS and all the homemade fixins'. They all came. The mayor, politicians, the laborers, the farmers, the cowboys, the police officers, the truck drivers, the rednecks, they were all there. We sat down at one of the few booths in the place while people crowded in at the lunch counter and the tables. The line was going out the door into the lot but nobody was leaving. The waitress came over, no menu necessary, burgers and CFS was it this time of day.
Dad looked at me and said,"How about a chicken fry?" Oh, yes...bring it on. I recall someone standing at the juke box playing Beatle tunes....."Hey Jude" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which had already been ingrained into by teenaged brain. A few minutes passed and a couple more songs. Then IT was here. The waitress suddenly appeared at our table with three oval platters spaced out on her left forearm and another platter in her right hand. This woman certainly knew how to bring it to the table. She was one of the original "multi-tasker" and suffered no fools this time of day.
The waitress served my Dad first then me. The CFS platter was one of those 12" white oval platters and laid out on top was the best CFS and cream gravy I would ever eat in my lifetime. Andy used the entire beef round steak, tenderized by hand using a meat hammer, double dipped in his secret batter and quick fried to a crispy but meat tender meal. The CFS actually hung over the edges of the platter and the serving of homemade cream gravy drippin' over the lip of the plate into my lap was to die for. The waitress turned around and then slipped us a basket of warm homemade yeast rolls with butter on the table between us and then followed that up with the remaining two platters of homemade 4"-6" fries. No other side-veggies were included or needed. A huge plastic tumbler of iced tea to wash it down and we had arrived at CFS-City.
We just rolled up our sleeves, tucked in the big paper napkins and began feasting. No conversation or small talk. Our food was on the table.
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was coming round again on the juke box and I began to sing under my breath to myself while munching away. This was "CFS Heaven" and as I was happy to be in The Promised Land. I looked up from my platter and glanced over to my Dad, he was singing along to himself, too, probably an Eddie Arnold song, while trying to do justice to this remarkable meal.
Andy's is no longer there. It was the original Texas CFS institution in the area for many years and everyone that enjoyed CFS in Central Texas had journeyed there. This was the type of experience and memory that make me proud to be a Texan.
God Bless Texas!