When I was 12 my family moved from Corpus Christi, TX to Charlotte, NC. I think it's safe to say that I went kicking and screaming. I'll never forget the Mexican food withdrawal that my family and I went through that first year in Charlotte, where the best we could find was literally at Taco Bell. Or the first time we tried North Carolina style barbecue (vinegary shredded pork) and my mom proclaimed, "This tastes like throw up!" We made my grandma pack her suitcases full of yellow corn tortillas, tamales and even cans of ranch style beans when she'd visit us from San Antonio.
16 years later I finally made it back to Texas, and I have no plans on leaving any time soon. I was made to live in Texas -- even my middle name is Austin (kind of fitting, isn't it?).
Ok, but what if I did leave? Here's what I would make friends pack in their suitcases for me:
- Mexican food - This one's obvious. I've got to have a source for homemade corn tortillas (from Angie's Restaurant) and refried beans (Juan in a Million), succulent al pastor (Polvo's) and cochinita pibil tacos (El Chilito).
- Barbecue - Another obvious one. I'm not a huge carnivore but I love pork ribs and tender, juicy brisket (both preferably from from Smitty's or Louie Mueller).
- Shiner beer - I know you can find this outside of Texas (usually in the import section, ha!) but you can't get all the great flavors that they make here. Like their 100 Anniversary Commemorator Ale.
- Amy's ice cream - A local chain which makes the best ice cream I've ever tasted. They change out their flavors daily, but I always seem to get their Belgian Chocolate. I'd have to figure out how to export this one carefully.
- Texas peaches - when they're good, they're SO GOOD.
- Shipley's chocolate filled doughnuts - I'm regressing to my childhood here. When I was a kid, this was the ultimate treat. My sister comes to visit now from NC and this is always at the top of her list (along with Mexican food). I can only eat half of one now, and only once a year at most, but when I do it's divine.
- Breakfast Tacos - This should fall under Mexican food, but it's a whole separate category for Texans. What do you non-Texans eat on the go? I'm partial to the ones at El Chilito because they're one of the few places that offer the option of corn tortillas, while my husband lusts after the brisket tacos at Tamale House every Saturday morning.
P.S. You may think from reading this list that I'm a 500 lb junk food addict, but I swear I'm not. These are all treats that I like the option to have, even if most of the time I eat tofu, spinach salads and roasted vegetables. You know, when you can't have it, you crave it? (Side note: when I lived in Paris I craved nachos, Lucky Charms and peanut butter.)