One of the things we were a little worried about before we got to our Winter Texas spot was the proximity of groceries. We had asked about it before coming, of course, but you know how you just need to see for yourself. Since we would be depending on the bikes, we needed to be sure we could get the goods.
When we got here, we were assured that there was Walmart, Costco, HEB and other stores nearby, like within 8 miles or so which is definitely do-able. Somebody also mentioned the “Mexican” grocery store, which is the closest, and that sounded good to us but other people said, “We never shop there.” We needed to check it out. Once we got the bus parked, we didn’t want to be taking it out to get groceries. We needed to use the bikes.
The most excellent “Mexican” grocery store is just five miles away by bike. It’s called Junior’s and it has a whole lot of goodness packed into a small space. This place is unbelievable, a dream come true.
The produce and meat departments go on forever and would put our grocery in Kansas to total shame. The meat department extends for miles. They have all the usual stuff, except thick steaks KC style, plus all kinds of goodies like marinated chicken, fajita skirt steak, arrachera, chorizo, ribs, crawfish, frog legs, pig feet and even pig heads. Last time I went they also had cow heads, complete with teeth. Only $1.39 a pound. The pig heads are only 99 cents a pound! I must say I have never seen pig (or cow) heads in the grocery before. When you see them in peoples’ carts, they usually have an entire cart full. What on earth do they make with them? I bet it’s good. When I see somebody’s grocery cart loaded up with pig heads, all manner of peppers, spices, beans, onions and tortillas I just want to go home with them and see what they cook up.
They are heavy on the Hispanic stuff which is fine with us because we can’t get enough. The spices are packaged in environmentally friendly bags, not hard plastic throwaway containers. Some of the types of peppers I had never heard of, but we are busy trying them all. We make pico de gallo and guacamole a couple times a week, the avocados are cheap, large and delicious. There are scores of types of tortillas but not much bread except the spongy white stuff. The tilapia fillets are perfect for fish tacos and the selections of beans and peppers are amazing. There must be a hundred kinds of peppers, both fresh and dried to choose from.
We have been eating lots of fish, arrachera, avocado salad with olives, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and salsa. Yum.
It is also interesting to observe grocery store behavior. Coming down the narrow aisle with your cart? Those large Mexican ladies are not going to stop their conversation and scoot our of your way. You just go with the flow. We are in the minority, after all. It works.
The meat department guys are so courteous and helpful and always offer to answer questions in their very good English. Then they turn to their fellow butcher and discuss the situation in rapid-fire Spanish. Everybody who works in the store, or lives around here for that matter, is fluent in both Spanish and English. I am so envious!
Aside: I know lots of people in this country are in the “English only!” and “Close the border” camp but I gotta tell ya’ that it ain’t gonna happen. Look at it this way; Mexicans (and other immigrants) speak two languages adeptly and switch back and forth easily so why can’t we? And why on earth wouldn’t we want to? As far as I know, most Americans didn’t learn the language of this land’s natives when they settled here. Note to self: Speak more Spanish!
Texas is good at packing a lot into a small space. Our grocery store in Kansas was huge. I loved it for many years, but about six months before we moved, they undertook a major renovation which made it into a trendy, wasteful, kiosk oriented, sushi bar, homemade potato chip and salad bar, overpriced wanna-be Whole Foods without quite making it. The meat department had been very good, but they totally degraded it and made it into very expensive small packages of not nearly as good a selection as they had before. It seems like if you renovate, it should get better, not worse. At some point, I became so frustrated with them that I was actually happy we were moving and didn’t have to shop there anymore. It was an over-the-top attempt to make everything oh-so-trendy while removing convenience and quality. Very American, I guess. I prefer the way they do it down here.
Another thing I have found since we started traveling is that the groceries are priced at what the market will bear. When we were in south Memphis for a week or so, we were near a Kroger and the prices were so low, I couldn’t believe it! We stock up whenever we can. Same in Philadelphia and other cities. We had been overpaying in Johnson County for years. They can’t charge more than what people can pay. We were getting thick cut pork chops and similar meats at a fraction of the price that the good old Johnson County Price Chopper charged. Like $1.29 a pound. We fill the freezer every chance we get.
One good thing about going to the grocery on the bikes is that we can carry a lot, but usually not more than we can fit into the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Self-limiting. Edinburg has a very extensive system of bike lanes, so even when we need to go to the “American” store, HEB, or the hardware store, we can get there easily. We have been very fortunate while we are here and several folks have offered us rides to the store. We take them up on it when we need something heavy, like Coke or tuna. Every time we bike to town, somebody from the park mentions that they saw us riding and offers us a ride next time or even offers to lend us their car.
We got the best of all worlds here. We’re enjoying it and we are eating really well. We love Junior’s. Plus it is right across from the tamale place. We have lunch, shop and get to ride bikes.
Win win win.