Q: My husband is a native Texan and I am a native of Arizona, where we met and got married a little over five years ago. We moved back to his home state in 2016 and over the past two years I have come to learn that he has some very strong preferences for foods, drinks, and other goods with a Texas connection. He will go so far as to turn his nose up at comparable products that make their way into our home that don’t have that connection. I never had such strong feelings for Arizona-made products. I’m wondering if this sort of behavior is unique to my husband or if it is a “Texas thing”?
Sarah Thompson, Plano
A: Texans are an industrious and inventive people who are equipped with minds as fertile and fruitful as the lands they inhabit. As such, there have been a great many stuffs born here, some of which the Texanist will get to in a moment. Texans are also a fiercely faithful people. For proof, one need look no further than the ever-patient residents of Dallas Cowboys Nation. The combination of this wide array of appealing homegrown consumables and a devoted consumer base has resulted in the Texas version of the phenomenon that experts refer to as brand loyalty. And this is why your new(ish) pantry is filled with items that you’ve never heard of but that make your husband an even happier man than the one you met and fell in love with back in Arizona.
But you didn’t come here for a lecture in Marketing 101 or a marriage counseling session. You came here for an answer to a question—a question, by the way, so simple that any Texan could easily provide an answer.
And what any Texan would tell you is, “Yes, all Texans do indeed have an ardent devotion to iconic Texas brands. Your husband isn’t unique. Or crazy.” The random Texans you could have asked would likely have explained it thusly: It’s not because Texans are particularly finicky or suffer from any type of xenophobia. The reason Texans are so loyal to their Texas brands is that most all Texans, like their Texan parents before them, were raised on these products. And so were all the Texans they know. And, you know, they’re some damn good goods.
This is why the Texanist’s own home, like yours, is, despite his doctor’s pleas, filled with Fritos, Ranch Style Beans, Mrs. Baird’s Bread, Crazy Water mineral water, Dr Pepper, Big Red, Chick-O-Sticks, Whataburger Fancy Ketchup, Jimmy Dean Sausage, State Fair corny dogs, Fruitcakes from the Collin Street Bakery, bags upon bags of tortilla chips from various purveyors, Rico’s Cheese Sauces and pickled jalapeños, Ro-Tel canned tomatoes and chile peppers (the second most important queso ingredient), Night Hawk frozen dinners (one reason the Texanist is so big and strong today is the large number of Night Hawk Top Chop’t Classics, Steak ‘N Taters, and Taste of Texas TV dinners he consumed as a child), Imperial Pure Cane Sugar, Travis Club cigars from the Fink Cigar Company, numerous beers, wines, and spirits, Gulf shrimp and oysters, barbecue, steaks, Texas sweet onions, ruby red grapefruits, sundry salsas and hot sauces, oil, gas, Haggar pants, Stetsons, numerous boots, and Igloo Coolers, among a number of products from other better-known, lesser-known, and little-known brands to which Texans are fiercely loyal.
The Texanist can’t believe that there are no Arizona-made products for which you carry a torch. What about Blimpie? Or a particular maker of Sonoran hot dogs? Or some sort of favorite cactus jelly, or thirst quencher, or skin moisturizer, or lip balm? No favorite brand of popsicle? Hey, what about the Arizona line of canned iced teas? It was founded in Brooklyn, but it carries the Arizona name. Nothing? The Texanist is a little sad for you.
To recap, here in Texas, due to the ratcheted-up fidelity factor and the variety of fine products produced within our borders, our version of brand loyalty is akin to brand loyalty on loco weed. If you don’t believe the Texanist, just try telling a Texan, like, say, your husband, that Pibb Xtra (né Mr. Pibb) is superior to Dr Pepper. Or that New York’s Domino sugar is sweeter than Sugar Land’s Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. Or that Bush’s Chili Beans are more “appetite pleasin’” than Ranch Style Beans. (FYI—and this will be important for you, as a newly minted Texan, to know—there’s no such thing as “chili beans.”) In fact, the Texanist double dog dares you. Wait—on second thought, no he doesn’t. The possibility of things turning ugly is real and the Texanist would hate to precipitate a historically epic marital spat just so he could prove a point. You’ll just have to trust the Texanist.
To recap that recap, your husband’s devotion to things “hecho” in Texas, as the random Texan on the street would tell you, is not unique to him. Because all Texans have a thing for things Texan, it is absolutely, as you put it, a Texas thing. And the good news is, you don’t have to be born to it. Even adopted Texans such as yourself can learn to feel a powerful loyalty toward Texas and its things. The Texanist knows of one person who, upon his very first bite of Texas barbecue, at the ripe age of 32, knew then and there that there was no going back to the pallid and oversauced ribs of his northeastern youth. And so it may be for you.
Soon enough, as the powerful forces of Texan-ness seep into your soul, you’ll understand more clearly. Just wait until you’ve enjoyed the charbroiled pleasure that is the Top’t Chop Classic followed up with a great big bowl of sweet Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. You’ll get it. And the Texanist, standing alongside your husband, will be here to say, “See, we told you so.”
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.
A version of this is published in the October 2018 issue.