Thursday, June 6, 2013

Half-way to Hades no longer

I live on the fringes of the Austin SMSA in Bastrop County. When I first chose to live in the town of Elgin, it was because I could get a lot of house for the money and some land to go with it. I had family in Elgin and it seemed like a good place to put down roots, finish some academic goals and become part of a community. It's worked out pretty well, mainly because I followed two important rules: Don't shit where you eat. And always import your love.

Like most small Texas towns, Elgin has a story. Formerly known as Hogeye (hence,
The Hogeye Festival), Elgin had a reputation as somewhat of a "wild" town in the wild, wild west, boasting the best of the modern day vices in frequent, copious and blatantly obvious supply. By 1890, Elgin had a population of 1,100 and there were seven saloons, along with various businesses and several churches.  But the saloons (and the private enterprises that sprang up with them) apparently made an impression. When the train came through, the conductor would announce “Hell-gin, half way to Hades, next stop!”

Boasting thriving brick companies, cotton gins, two doctors, a dentist and its own newspaper, by the turn of the century, Elgin had become a thriving depot town, benefitting from two major railways and eight passenger trains daily.  Elgin also became known for its sausage and has
earned a place on the map for one of the places to stop along the Texas barbeque trail.  For more about Elgin, its history and attractions, click here.
Photo credit: Unknown
Making a choice to live 45 minutes outside the city of Austin has been a good one: I scored a great house with almost an acre of land in a wooded community, my drive to the office is short and sweet with few traffic lights, I often see wildlife in the course of my day (including the man on the horse trotting alongside me down Highway 95), and there is no better treat in the spring than when the highway medians and shoulders are blanketed with bluebonnets, firewheels, paintbrushes and winecups, which immeasureably brighten my daily commutes.

I also enjoy meteor showers, living among plenty of trees and the family of owls that nests each year in my back yard. But living on the fringes of the SMSA also means that I often miss out on Austin's cultural events, food blogger events, great restaurants, movies, and convenient shopping. It also means that I am often unable to get ingredients such as Chiogga beets, Papillon roquefort, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and kumquats unless I make a regular trek into the Big City.

I know I sound like a whiner, but procuring good food is important to me. It has been painful at times to shop in my community grocery store because of its limitations, and because, at times, simply trying to find common items like fresh asparagus, artisan breads or wild salmon have been extremely difficult.  But we're finally experiencing some changes.

Recently, my local HEB underwent a major expansion and facelift. We got an expanded produce department and a huge deli, bakery and tortilleria department. We got a real fish counter (but sadly, not a butcher counter). And we got sushi, which I love and purchase quite frequently.

Rumor has it that the changes took place because we are expecting the construction of a major chain retailer known as W@$%&*!   I won't get up on my soapbox about bloodsucking corporations who exploit the people who work for them; I just tipped you off about my politics.  Nevertheless, I'm finding shopping at my local HEB a lot less painful. It's been totally revamped into a bright, clean, decently-stocked grocery store. I'm hopeful that we'll continue to see new items and enjoy an ever-widening selection of foods.
My HEB is halfway to Hades no longer.

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