From time to time, a foreigner (someone from the East or West Coast) will step onto Texas soil and then pretend not to understand why we’re so obsessed with H-E-B. I have found that the easiest way to get a newcomer to knock it off is to introduce them to the supermarket chain’s innumerable in-house products. Many a Yank can be indoctrinated into the H-E-B fandom with a warm jalapeño-cheddar kolache or just one bite of perfect pimento cheese (two types of cheddar, not too much mayo, light on the pimento, just a splash of dill). With more than eleven in-house brands for everything from H-E-Buddy milk to cast-iron Cocinaware, the iconic grocery store chain gives its obsessed shoppers plenty to choose from.
Every H-E-B superfan has his or her favorite in-house items, and we all love to debate them. I, for one, will not shut up about Made in Texas peanut butter. One of my colleagues loudly laments the dissolution of H-E-B’s salsa partnership with Eva Longoria.
I’d like to start that discussion here. Yes, we could rank H-E-B’s house-brand items with obvious metrics such as “flavor” or “cost,” but I want to try something a little more ambitious: the alignment chart.
For the uninitiated, the alignment chart originated with role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. In that game, when a player creates a new character, he must identify where the character falls on two spectra: moral compass (good, neutral, or evil) and law-abiding nature (lawful, neutral, or chaotic). The nine-square chart became an internet meme, and these days just about every element of culture is grist for an alignment chart, from the cast of The Office to how one holds one’s place while reading a book. (In case you’re wondering, a paper bookmark is true neutral, and a dog-eared page is chaotic evil.)
It’s a profoundly silly conceit, which means we should definitely apply it to H-E-B’s in-house snacks. This is a store that makes a line of dessert hummus, so there is clearly a moral nuance to its product selection. If you don’t agree with what we’ve placed here, you have our permission to spend the rest of the day, night, or week debating it.
Lawful Good: Tortillas
One of modern society’s most important rules is “If you can incorporate a tortilla into something, you absolutely should,” so there’s no question that beloved tortillas are lawful. I have categorized them as good, both because they are delicious and because the simple act of giving folks access to fresh, delicious tortillas seven days a week is one of the noblest causes I can imagine.
Neutral Good: That Green Sauce
Tasty salsa, provided to the masses at a mere $4 a jar, is inherently moral. This salsa is neutral because it’s not very spicy, so it won’t assault your face or dismantle the laws of your digestive system.
Chaotic Good: Carolina Reaper Pepper Cheese Puffs
Cheese puffs are morally righteous in all forms, but the Carolina Reaper pepper has a Scoville rating of more than three times that of a habanero. As the Scoville rating rises, so does the chaos in your tummy.
Lawful Neutral: Texas-Shaped Tortilla Chips
These chips embody two objective facts: one, every grocery store must have a proprietary chip, and two, if you can pull it off, you might as well make it Texas-shaped. Thus, they are lawful. But they can’t be morally good, only neutral, because they are some of the driest tortilla chips H-E-B sells, and many of them look like Texas only if you squint your eyes while drunk.
This snack pack is our clear neutral: the most inoffensive, diplomatic combination of snack options imaginable. Wheat thins, spinach dip, pimento cheese, and carrots—enough mayo-based spreads to make it feel like a treat, and then some vegetables to allow you to pretend you’re taking care of your body by eating this instead of a doughnut. If the middle of the road were a snack pack, it would be this.
Chaotic Neutral: Red, White, and Blue Popping Candy Cookies
Unfortunately, H-E-B’s in-house version of the Oreo cannot be morally good because it distracts from The Oreo, which is righteous and true. However, these Fourth of July vanilla Twisters are pretty harmless because they’re pretty bland. The addition of pop rock–style candy breaks all laws of nature and thus is chaotic.
Lawful Evil: Rodeo-Themed Dish Soaps
These are not a snack, but they are snack-scented, and one really can’t start an H-E-B in-house products conversation without addressing the store’s absolutely bonkers seasonal dish soaps. These particular soaps are inspired by rodeo season: Snowcone, Funnel Cake, and simply Rodeo, which I think means it’s supposed to smell like saddle leather. These are lawful because everyone is supposed to wash their dishes but evil because these scents are unhinged. If people were willing to eat Tide Pods, they’re likely to guzzle down funnel cake soap, and that is dangerous for society as a whole.
Neutral Evil: Cucumber-Lime Sparkling Water With Caffeine
This beverage is a conundrum: morally neutral because it’s water, yet evil because caffeine is dehydrating. One minute you’re reaching for a cold refreshment, and the next you’re biting your nails to the quick and texting all your friends, “Are you mad at me?”
Chaotic Evil: Cake-Batter Hummus
H-E-B has a number of dessert hummuses, and while all are chaotic and display complete disregard for the rules of the garbanzo bean, you could at least convince me that the chocolate one is good. Cake batter, though, is malevolent. Cake batter must be stopped.