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Chicken-Fried Steak Night

Story and pictures by May Eynon

Jim and Shelby Tweedle, parents of Texas native and Aspen resident Jason Lee Beavers and affectionately known as “JLB’s parents,” trekked from Texas for their annual summer visit, bringing along their popular recipe for chicken-fried steak. Guests arrived in droves to sample the southern entree, which they washed down with cold beer. Approximately 25 diners enjoyed the feeding frenzy of chicken-fried steak, gravy, mashed potatoes, veggies and cornbread, followed by pie.Paula Eaton, born and bred in Aspen but educated at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, has always had a liking for the southern dish. Her introduction to the meal was at the Elks Club with her father back when she was a student at Aspen High. Throughout college in Mississippi she satisfied her craving at the Cracker Barrel. “I’ve always loved chicken-fried steak,” she stated. “It’s very soothing for my pregnancy too.” (She and husband Barney Edward Eaton III are expecting their first child in September.)Barney, who hails from Jackson, Miss., had a flood of fond memories as he indulged in his dinner. Growing up in the South, Barney often enjoyed chicken-fried steak for lunch (which is referred to as supper where he grew up). He described the Mississippi history of how the cotton farmers and field laborers would rise at 5 a.m. for breakfast, work hard under the hot sun until around 1 p.m. and then take their afternoon meal break. Menu options ranged from Salisbury steak to fried chicken along with sweet tea, cobbler, potatoes and other sides. That would tide them over for the rest of day until their work was finished around dinnertime.”It’s in my genes to have a substantial meal in the middle of the day,” Eaton explained, comparing his eating habits from home with those he’s grown accustomed to here. “To be honest, these sandwiches everybody eats just don’t cut it. We need to bring back the plate lunch.”For some guests at the dinner party, chicken-fried steak was a fairly new dish. Aspen Highlands ski patrol veteran Tim Grogan’s introduction to the delectable dish was through none other than JLB. “My first time having it was with Jason in Amarillo, Texas,” he said. “I think it’s great.””Considering this is our 12th annual chicken-fried steak night and people keep coming back for more, I’d have to say it’s pretty damn good,” declared Beavers as he went for seconds at the buffet.


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