Yesterday was a rainy day in NC so that meant no yard work. I didn’t feel much like housework either so I figured it was time to hit a couple of thrift stores! There’s a new thrift store in town that, for me, has had a bit of a slow start but I didn’t care when I saw this cookbook, Diamonds In The Desert — published by the Ozona Women’s League of Ozona, Texas. I’m so used to the quarter sales at the other bookstore I almost fainted when I had to pay three times that. No, not really. Seventy-five cents is still a heck of a deal.
I could tell it wasn’t particularly old, but there was another reason I picked this cookbook up. First, I saw the magic word “Texas” and I’ve made it plain that Texas cookbooks are almost a must-buy for me, but then I saw where in Texas and, well, it struck a nerve when my eyes saw the word OZONA.
If one were blindfolded and taken on a long trip involving a lot of twists and turns, then they found themselves dropped off near Ozona, they would take off their blindfold and assume, “I must be in Texas.” Don’t get me wrong, Texas has a vast array of different regions, but the area around Ozona is probably the most stereotypical picture most non-Texans have of the state. When making that long east-west drive down Interstate 10, the big five landmark towns you pass are Junction, Sonora, Ozona, Fort Stockton, and Van Horn. If you’re going to get gas or a quick bite to eat between El Paso and San Antonio, those are your big five. If you break down, you’re going to be towed to one of those too.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved the name Ozona. For me I think it is because after driving for hours and hours I feel like I am starting to “space out in the ozone” or something and when I see that sign I think, “hey, I made it!” There is an old saying, “The sun has ‘riz, the sun has set, and here we is, in Texas, yet” … and that is really the truth. Driving on Interstate 10 is so boring, one looks forward to seeing these familiar exit signs because they indicate that, yes, progress is actually being made.
The town itself is a little ranching town of fewer than four thousand people, I’ve stopped a couple of times, mostly for food or gas or both. There isn’t much else of interest to the traveling public. Life there centers around business and that business is ranching. (if you are from Ozona and beg to differ, I’ll say now I haven’t made the drive in 30 years).
Not long ago I published a novel called The Fever about a guy searching for a lost gold mine in West Texas … he travels that same highway and every one of those towns is mentioned because a significant portion of the story involves that long drive. Ozona is referenced a number of times because, well, like I said, I like the name.
Anyway, let’s get back to the cookbook. It was published in 1987, but this is a 1989 reprint. Both print runs were 5000 copies. Remember, this town has less than 4000 people … and they reprinted after a 5000 print run? Amazing.
What is more amazing is the fact that an organization with 52 members (stated in the introduction) put together a really nice hard-bound cookbook of 350 pages. Granted, there is not much else to do in Ozona, but still. That’s not the cookbook committee. That’s the total membership.
And where else are you going to find recipes for things like “Goat Fries?” Hey, ranches raise goats and sheep as well as cattle and most of the males have to be, well, uh, er, um, you know. It’s a long way to the store … can’t waste anything, I guess. If you’re squeamish about such things I suggest you skip reading the recipe in any detail. Rest assured, this is just a part of ranch life … that’s what you get when you read a cookbook from ranching country.
The book is quite comprehensive, a bit like a Junior League cookbook. I’m wondering if one or two members had a little JL experience prior to moving to Ozona.
There are quite a few interesting recipes and they’ve managed a good variety as well, and through it all they never forgot they are in the Southwest, in cowboy country. For instance, here’s a recipe for “John Wayne Quiche.” 1987 was firmly in the “real men don’t eat quiche” days and Ozona is he-man rancher country so this was a gutsy inclusion … but a quiche with green chilies? Sounds awesome.
This meatloaf hero reminds me of something we made when I was in the Girl Scouts (yes, I was in the GS — a camp leader when my daughter was a Brownie) — and seems an ideal and innovative sort of dish to make when out camping (or at home!).
Diamonds In the Desert is a delight.
I can’t wait to stop in Ozona for gas again someday.
Oh, and if you’re interested in my novel, The Fever, it is available for kindle at Amazon, and for nook at Barnes and Noble. Amazon also has a print-on-demand paperback version. Just search for Thomas Fenske.
You can click the title above to get to the novel’s web page for more information, or you can copy/paste from here:
Hey, buying it helps me keep this blog going. .