The No. 1 sign that it’s cold in Texas? The Frito shelf is bare at H-E-B
DAVID STONE | OUR TOWN TEMPLE
I’m sorry Amanda Sheppard, but it’s happening again.
Last year, Amanda’s spirited social media rants about the ongoing Frito shortage and her quest to make Frito pie made the news. Specifically, it was the lead story in Our Town Temple.
I, too, am a huge fan of Texas’ beloved corn-chip pie, and it’s just not the same with generic corn chips. And, after my own recent quest for a bag of original, non-flavored Fritos, I’m sad to say the shortage is back. And it’s brutal.
Brace yourself, Amanda. We have to go with Plan B. Last night, I made my first bowl of Lentil Chip pie. It sucked.
Most Texans are seasoned veterans of the Frito pie wars, we seem to run short of the main ingredient every time the temperature slips below 20. Yep, we know how to stay warm here in Temple, America.
But for those who do not know about this regional delicacy, I will explain. Frito pie is the simplest of dishes — and the most complex.
The Frito part is a breeze — you buy Fritos, open the bag, and dump some in a bowl. Then comes the hard part: You cover the Fritos in chili.
Of course canned chili will work, but homemade Lone Star chili is highly preferred. I’m not getting into the beans, no-beans debate, because that’s not really important to me. As long as the chili is meaty, is complemented by but not smothered in tomato sauce and has a bit of a kick, it will work fine.
Every bowl of Texas chili is a bit different — some folks add shredded carrots, onions, lots of garlic and chopped peppers — and that’s just fine for Frito pie. After the chili is on the Fritos — you gotta move quickly, soggy Fritos are unacceptable — pile on the cheese. Specifically, cheddar cheese. Optional toppings are chopped onions, sliced jalapenos or habaneros, and sour cream.
For many Texans, the Frito pie initiation came at a Little League Baseball game. Sure, you can get one at a pro game, but it’s not quite the same as a ladle full of chili poured into a split single-serving bag of Fritos. My first Frito pie was at a concession stand in Corpus Christi after a big Seagulls game. The concession lady used liquidy nacho cheese instead of cheddar, but in her defense, she had lots of nacho cheese and probably a tight budget. It worked — I was hooked.
Mom usually made me wait until we got home before I could dig into the awesome-smelling treat in my lap. I’m not sure why — what could happen with a bag full of chili and molten cheese in the back seat of a car?
There are variations of the Frito pie around the country, most notably in Cincinnati where they eat something called Chili Mac. It’s basically the same thing in theory, except you substitute the Fritos with pasta. Chili Mac is good, and I would drive well out of my way for one if passing through the Midwest. But, there’s no substituting that Frito crunch.
Amanda Sheppard, can I get an Amen?