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A Brit's Guide to Texas: They Eat Moles Here?!

Updated on August 1, 2012

Food oddities galore!

One of my favourite places to meander around is a supermarket, so one of my first sightseeing tours of San Antonio was conducted within a store native to Texas, called 'HEB', (according to the TV commercial, the acronym stands for 'Here Everything's Better!', when in fact it is the initials of the man who's mother founded the company; Howard Edward Butt.)

So, grabbing a trolley (or 'cart' as they're called here!) I headed down the first aisle, my eyes having a field day as I took in all of the unfamiliar brands and food types, occasionally commenting with a loud, 'Ooo!' or 'Ahhhh', to my fiancé who followed me with a bemused look on his face. That bemused look quickly turned to gales of laughter, however, when I abruptly stopped in the Latino food section, and expressed my shock and disgust at the fact that poor little moles were being turned into sauces. Yes, 'Mole' sauce. And yes, I truly did believe it was made from moles! (Pronounced 'moe-lay', it's the brown chili-type sauce that you find poured over enchiladas!)

Jalapeños
Jalapeños

Pickled pigs feet in jars, chili peppers and jalapeños, and more flavours of fizzy pop (soda!) than I'd ever laid eyes on before - that's your typical Texan supermarket. And nestled in-between all of this, you'll find flip-flops, BBQs and grills, charcoal, and many, many different ice chests - 'cus they sell an awful lot of ice here too! Every now and then, I'd spot an item I was familiar with; Coleman's English mustard, Baxter's, and Campbell's soups, Jacobs cream crackers, and, if you go to one of the 'super' HEBs, a small selection of European Cadburys chocolates, biscuits, Ribena, and cooking sauces - all available for the price equivalent of a small car! A great invention in supermarkets here in Texas are the child-friendly carts (trolleys) - designed to look like little cars complete with steering wheels, making a trip to the grocery store with your younger kids far less stressful! It's also difficult getting used to the fact that your bags are packed for you at the checkout, especially when you end up with your cans of baked beans sitting on top of your tomatoes! You might also be surprised to see that all of the cashiers are standing - no sign of a stool or chair in supermarkets here - but that's a whole other story!


Schlitterbahn Water Park
Schlitterbahn Water Park

"Happy Holidays!"

Holidays in Texas are an experience in themselves, particularly Christmas, and if you ever have the opportunity to spend a Christmas here, I really do recommend it. OK, so you won't have snow, but that is more than made up for in the spirit of the season, with peoples' homes and yards, stores and streets, adorned with every decoration you can think of. Back home in the UK, an abundance of Christmas decorations in/on someone's home, is usually considered tacky, but here in Texas, the more wealthy you are, the more spectacular your decorations!One of the most famous areas in San Antonio is a suburb named Windcrest; each year the streets around the neighbourhood are lined with slow-moving cars as families drive by to take in the brilliant lights and lawn arrangements, and the neighbourhood has an annual contest as to who has the best decorations. ***There is no political correctness here in America when it comes to Christmas, so if the word offends you, it's probably best you stay away, because it's in integral part of many Americans' lives, and it is celebrated with pride.

*** Note from author: Since publishing this article, it has been brought to my attention that I am in fact incorrect about the use of the word, "Christmas" here in the States. Back home in the UK, 'Christmas' is rapidly being phased out of cards and town decorations for fear of offending non-Christians, while here in America, "Happy Holidays!" seems to be the standard greeting you are given at the festive time of year. I personally find this insulting and will refuse to say anything but, "Merry Christmas!" - but again, that's an entirely different article! ***


Toys for Tots, and Elf Louise

Christmas dinner is a little different to the traditional type in Britiain. While turkey is usually the main course, it is often set out buffet-style, with everyone helping themselves before being seating. Side dishes vary from, stuffing, candied yam casserole (sweet potato/yam chunks, covered with marshmallows, and then baked in the oven), green bean casserole, ham, mashed potatoes, pea salad, macaroni cheese, raw veggies with dip, and different breads and/or biscuits. Dessert is the traditional pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie, served with cool whip (sort of like fresh cream but much sweeter).

You cannot visit a store in December without hearing the familiar (but rather annoying!) jingle of the bells held by people from the Salvation Army, who withstand all weathers to collect for their cause. It can be a little intimidating walking past them, as you do tend to feel obliged to donate, especially when they're all but blocking the entrance/exit of the shop you're in! Toy donations are another big thing each Christmas, with the US Marines running the 'Toys for Tots' collections, and San Antonio's own local, 'Elf Louise' - all accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys, which can be dropped off at various locations, such as bank foyers, and other establishments.

A typical front yard in San Antonio.
A typical front yard in San Antonio.
People often sit out in their front gardens/yards.
People often sit out in their front gardens/yards.

A sense of community...

One huge difference between America and the UK is the sense of community. It is somewhat easy to understand the stereotype that befalls us Brits (the 'stiff upper lip') because we do tend to keep to ourselves, where as here across the pond, neighbours are far more involved with one another, and look out for their fellow neighbour's well-being. Yards and front gardens are rarely undecorated throughout the year with cute little bird baths, plant pots, and other garden ornaments, and it is very rare for someone to come along and steal or vandalize someone's yard - unlike they would in the UK. People over here certainly take pride in their front gardens, and it's a common sight to see homeowners sitting out front on swings or garden chairs, watching the world go by. In fact, many Texans will have BBQs and parties out on their front yard - something completely unheard of back home in Britain. It's just one more thing that adds to the sense of community and belonging here.

Next time, in Part 3: Downtown San Antonio, and the Alamo!

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    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Brit, you're actually lucky that they know London is in Britain.... I'm from Switzerland and people here always mix it up with Sweden, lol...

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Thanks so much, @novascotiamiss! Ah yes, the old saying that goes something like, 'two countries separated by one common language' - I've had my fair share of funny moments because of it. I am usually either greeted by strangers with, "G'day, mate!" or, "How's London?!" (like London is the only city in the entire of Britain, lol) so I like to have a bit of fun and tell them I'm from East Texas. That confuses them. bwwwhwhahahahah

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Brit: I had an absolute ball reading your article, keep them coming! It reminded me of some hillarious encounters we had. One of them was my South African husband, asking a texan gas station owner for quarters (kworters). After approx. 15 minutes of frustrating explaining, a lady said to him: "Bob, he wants "kwadas". So Bob said: "kawadas? Why didn't you say so in the first place".......

      I'm pretty sure that people are struggling with your pom accent and your vocabulary, while you struggle with theirs.

      You might enjoy reading my hub "why fast food was invented in North America and slow food in Europe".

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      LOL! Another Hub in itself right there! :O)

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Well the baked beans certainly shouldn't be on top of the tomatoes!!!!!!!!!!

      Sounds like a rookie sacker to me :/

      Yes Texas is probably the last place in the world where we'll ever be the slightest bit worried about offending non Christian sorts...and I do like that.

      ....but I have no idea how Christmas ever got to be considered "Christian" anyway...but try telling many Texans about pagan roots to holidays, and they'll look at you sort of funny :/

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      HAHAHAHAHHAH! Love it! Mazzy, I've actually just published another Hub about political correctness - you are quite right, I was wrong about it not being an issue here in America - it's becoming more and more noticeable nowadays. Hope you'll find my other article interesting too. Thanks so much for your comment :O)

    • Mazzy Bolero profile image

      Mazzy Bolero 5 years ago from the U.K.

      Interesting stuff about Texas, Brit. I think there may well be a bit of political correctness around Christmas in the U.S. because in the song "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" the words used to be "In the meadow we will build a snowman, and pretend that he is Parson Brown." Now they sing "and pretend that he's a circus clown".

      The bit about the mole sauce reminded me of a Pakistani guy I met who had recently arrived in the UK. His family took him to the sea-side and he was horrified to see signs advertising hot dogs.

    • BritInTexas profile image
      Author

      BritInTexas 5 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      Daddy Paul, no offence meant - I've noticed some bell ringers are more 'in your face' than others. I think by now, we're all aware of who the Salvation Army is, and why they're outside many stores - it can be just a little too much when the bells are rung non-stop... I hear them in my sleep, LOL!

    • Daddy Paul profile image

      Daddy Paul 5 years ago from Michigan

      As a bell ringer for the Salvation Army it is not our intention to intimidate people but to allow people to donate to a good cause. I am glad you like Texas. I enjoy your observations.