Maybe it’s our climate, and knowing the toll that either a dry spell or a flood can take, that drives us Texans to be prepared for anything.
Perhaps it’s the Lone Star state of mind that instills our sense of self-determination. But there is an undeniable spirit of perseverance that permeates the culture of Texas, small towns and big cities alike.
In Mason, Texas, the Burns family prepares future generations of Texans for whatever challenges and opportunities may come their way. Julie Burns is a registered dietitian and biology teacher at Mason High School. Kade Burns is the athletic director and head football coach. They also work to devote time every day strictly to family, and helping their daughters prepare for the days, and years, ahead.
Like all school faculty, their days are demanding and their roles influential. Julie teaches every student at some point in their high school career, and Kade is present at every sporting event played at home in Mason. Meanwhile, their daughters Avery, 10, and Ainsley, 7, participate in gymnastics, track, basketball, golf and competitive academics.
But at dinnertime, Julie and Kade turn to focus their attention and energy on their immediate family.
They make a meal sure to bring the family together—meatloaf—and instill quintessential Texan values into their children. Of these is the importance of setting time aside to spend as a family despite busy schedules for parents and kids in kind. And, like older generations of folks across Texas, they take the opportunity to lead by example.
“Your kids are going to see how you eat and your habits, and they’re going to mirror you,” Julie says.
Your kids are going to see how you eat and your habits, and they’re going to mirror you.Julie Burns
Meatloaf has long been a Burns family favorite, and draws everyone together not only around the table, but in the kitchen. It also offers a generous amount of the iron that Julie has found her diet to be lacking in the past.
Tonight’s meatloaf is dually inspired by two key Texan cultural pillars—family and community. The basis for the dish is Julie’s mother’s recipe, with a few tricks picked up from the community cookbook. Past Mason Texans have ensured that future generations are prepped with quick, easy, delicious and nutritious meals by compiling the Mason County Cookbook.
As the girls eagerly help prepare asparagus and Brussels sprouts, Julie teaches them the value of a well rounded meal as well as how to fix one. “I tell my girls and students all the time, some day when you have a family, feed your kids the rainbow. Different colors give different nutrients, and just introducing those foods early is so helpful.”
In addition to meatloaf and veggies, respect and good manners are staples around Texan dinner tables. “One thing that’s really important to me,” Julie says, “is no phones. No electronics at the table.” It’s a matter of appreciation for the food being eaten, as well as the family that provides and prepares it.
The Burns’ leadership and influence is a responsibility that is not taken lightly. Mason embodies small-town Texans’ heightened sense of community responsibility, particularly to the children.
“Everybody has a vested interest in how the kids in this community are growing up and watching them succeed,” Julie says. “Being in a small town, you see your students after they graduate for years to come. I just hope that when they leave my class they know I care about them as students and as people.”
Balancing work and life is a common challenge, but Julie and Kade’s duty towards their students and athletes makes balancing those priorities that much more difficult, and that much more important.
So tonight and together, after helping to prepare the future of their community, they prepare meatloaf.
Living in a small town in Texas is a big responsibility. Julie and Kade serve their community as teacher, dietitian, athletic director, coach, and as mentors and community leaders. But for the Burnses, dinnertime is a crucial opportunity to reconnect with their family after a long day of being involved and invested in the lives of children other than their own. At home, after all the preparation is done and dinner is served, they focus on their family, its future, and of course,
Burns Family Recipe
- 10 Cook Steps
- 4 Servings
- 1HR Cook Time
1 medium onion
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 medium chopped onion
4 oz. of tomato sauce
Combine loaf ingredients.
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
Lightly mix by hand.
1 can of olive oil spray
Spray bread pan with oil.
Put loaf in bread pan & shape with hands.
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1 Tbsp. vinegar
4 oz. of tomato sauce
Combine sauce ingredients.
Pour sauce over shaped loaf.
Bake at 350°F for 1 - 1 1/4 hour.
Cut meatloaf in 1 inch slices.