Home with the Armadillo
As I have previously stated, everything here is subtly different in a way that serves to slightly unnerve the foreigner. What isn't at all subtle is a Texas summer. Whose idea was it to colonize this place to start with? Who had the original desire to make their home a place that would so overtly try to kill them? The Chuck Norris of settlers, obviously. That's to say nothing of the wildlife. With an intense fear of snakes, I probably picked a bad place to move to. Nevertheless, as my column hopefully illustrates, I am a man who embraces new experiences rather than does the sensible thing. My favourite reviews have been ones in which I am totally outside of my comfort zone, be it through heat, misunderstandings or intense overeating of a sort that would be banned in Europe. America is certainly a new experience, to say nothing of Texas, and I like it here. I reckon all y'all are darn tootin'. Am I doing it right?
Read the full story: An Englishman in BBQ Sauce: an Ex-Pat Learns to Love Texas
Never before has the excited child in my brain stopped going "THIS IS LITERALLY THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED" while at a Texas barbecue restaurant. I am a changed man.
I am not used to heat. It's warm in Texas. It is decidedly not warm in Britain. Here's a fact: I had never seen an air conditioning unit before moving to Texas. As soon as Britain hits 80, the entire population runs to beaches, which are often just a collection of large stones (not sand) near some ice-cold water. These are obvious and boring statements to make. Nevertheless, I feel as though this is something that anyone completely not used to heat, planning on spending several hours outside, standing up, in the middle of summer in Dallas, should probably take note of. I do not.
I relentlessly try to man up against the Texas heat. I completely refuse to submit to taking any of the necessary precautions. Water? For sissies! Shade? Who needs it! Irritability? Inevitable! Once you slap on a bit of sun cream, what's the worst that could happen? I always, without fail, spend the evening in the dark, groaning and drinking some garishly coloured sports drink. It's like a hangover, but without the fun part of the actual drinking before it to make it worthwhile.
I can't express how long I've waited for the day when salad is simply done away with. Everyone was pretending they liked salad, and some hero stood up and said "No. No we do not like salad. It is for rabbits and dainty women. Take it away, and bring me three times as much meat as I had before." There should be a statue of this man somewhere in Texas. See the Review of Hard Eight on City of Ate
Basically, America, your bacon sucks. Well ... it doesn't suck. It's just not the optimum bacon. European bacon ... is a much better cut. It makes for a better sandwich. I think, what it is, is that American bacon serves a different function. It needs to be kind of sweet, and often an accompaniment for waffles and pancakes and maple syrup ... British bacon is, essentially, American bacon with more meat and less fat. You can't get mad about that. Right? Read also: THE OLYMPICS OF BRITISH FOOD: A USER'S GUIDE FROM A BRITISH GUY JULY 24
Broken car air con in Texas really is no joke, is it? I mean, in some countries, they'd pay you for a mobile sauna, but no one wants to be in a sauna during every trip. It gets monotonous.
Last week my dad emailed me. "As a parent the sheer amount of food you are eating in your food journalism quest is truly frightening. The way that your wife feeds you is slightly reminiscent of foie gras production, but it's not your liver that's growing." He might have a point. I'm starting to feel the same way. I am yet to be anything close to disappointed by Texan portion sizes. I think overwhelmed is a better word. By this point, I mainly miss Britain because I was much thinner in Britain. See also: An Englishman Reviews the BBQ of Off the Bone
[Dallas] appears to be some sort of tropical concrete structure full of people who drive huge cars and live only to kill me.
The latter part of that still confuses me, as I have never seen so little consideration for one's fellow man as my morning commute down Interstate 35. It may as well be Mario Kart's Rainbow Road for all the car safety others are practicing, although this time there will be no little creature on a cloud to pick the mangled remains of my vehicle up and replace them on the freeway. SMOKE, AUGUST 15
Imagine, if you will, moving 5,000 miles away, from a country where Papa John's pizza was a new arrival that was considered really quite an exotic pizza choice, to a place like Dallas where neon food advertising coats the sides of the road, and there is no freeway exit without something that will only serve to knock valuable years off your life. All these places would seem infinitely more appealing to you. They'd have an air of mystery, that irresistible "Americana" the world is so desperate to capture. Deep down, you'd know that they were places serving reheated frozen food via surly staff members in demeaning clothing, but that wouldn't stop you. You'd have to try them all. And so I have.
Really, everything I hoped about America is true. I am free to combine savoury with sweet, as long as the savoury is bacon and the sweet will kill me.
While I'm on in-car experiences (a sentence I never saw myself typing), drive-through banking? What the fuck happened there? I can't even reach the ATM from my car window, and there's no ATM inside for me to calmly use. Instead I must flail at a screen I can't see while a series of angry cars releasing fumes into the atmosphere wonder how I can possibly be taking so long. It's a nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions. I have ended up parking alongside the flippin' thing, getting out of the car and using it like a normal sodding ATM.
A taco made out of one massive Dorito? What sort of waking horror have I stumbled into?
Obviously I would prefer Dallas had much more public transport, but I've grown to accept that the current state of affairs is simply the nature of the beast, live with what we've got and count my lucky stars it's not Arlington.
When I do depart this sunbaked land, I will have campfire tales about my time in Texas that I can pass down through generations of baffled Europeans who will all strive to attain this mysterious "brisket."
For those of you who haven't ventured up into the frozen northern reaches of the metro area (it's like how I imagine life is north of The Wall in Game of Thrones, only with fewer zombies), the residents, in between snow flurries and attacks by hulking wild animals, inform me that there is the odd decent barbecue place to check out.
Let me write a note here for British people who might be confused. The State Fair of Texas is an annual event dedicated to celebrating Texas. That much may seem obvious. How Texans have chosen to celebrate Texas, though, is something more of a leap in logic. While the expected hats, boots, trucks and cowboys abound, much of the State Fair has been dedicated to the glory of deep-fried everything. You can't even begin to imagine the extent of things they've deep-fried. They've taken foods you've never heard of to start with and deep-fried them just for the sake of novelty. How placing battered food into boiling hot oil connects to the heart of Texas' self-identity isn't entirely clear to me.
A seemingly popular drink in Texas, Big Red is much like synthetic bubblegum coloured, for some reason, bright red, and then carbonated. It was horrific, like a car crash of sugar and things that shouldn't be liquified.
The EU banned the sale of Lucky Charms and Mountain Dew when I was a child, leaving a hole in my childhood, albeit distinctly healthier teeth. Now that I live in Texas, not only is nothing off the table, I am free to eat the unhealthiest thing I can possibly imagine.
The Frito pie I am not sure about. I have no idea what was going on. It was like eating a ball of heavily flavoured earth, so I'm guessing by the texture it involved ground beef, only someone had decided to make it taste like crisps. Who had that idea first? Did someone retire off the back of that wheeze?
My vision was slightly blurred, I was having the odd tingly pain and I no longer believed in the Democrats' ability to run this country.
Praise Big Tex, may he live at your right hand forever, and praise the deep-fryer, without which Texas would have nothing to do once every fall. Most of all, thank you Texas, for all the freedom I now have to aggressively kill myself. I kind of like it here. I shall stay as long as either the U.S. government lets me, or as long as my heart keeps beating, which I suspect is not hugely long on either count.
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