I regret to inform you that the sun is back at it again.
This is how it works, of course. A Texas summer is always of the Bananarama variety, never of the Beach Boys’ surfin’ world. It is hot. It is not as hot as some places, but it is nevertheless hot. Cruelly hot, despite all our best efforts as a state to collectively magical-think our way into a less oppressive circumstance. Maybe if you make enough jokes on Twitter, you will find yourself in Maine. Cable-knit is a flattering look on you.
And yet, here we are: As was apparent from early in the morning, last Monday was expected to be a scorcher, even among a streak of triple-digit temperatures, the American-Statesman reported. Sure enough, it became the hottest July day ever recorded in Austin at 110 degrees, as of this writing.
The threat of heat-related illness is real and serious. Officials urged caution all week.
And y’all were cranky, too.
It’s been so hot in Texas lately …
… that we tried to get some sweet relief in the style of MacGyver. Texans everywhere tried their hand at cooking things like hot dogs and s’mores in their cars. Here at the Statesman, we baked some honest-to-goodness delicious vegan cookies in a Ford Fiesta.
… that even looking for a swimming hole has been a hot mess. "We were gonna go swim," said 9-year-old Luis Luna, when our photographer, Amanda Voisard, asked him what he and his brother were doing hiking the Barton Creek greenbelt on a hot day recently. Were. Operative word. As Luis and brother Johnny, 7, of Fort Worth explained to Voisard, the first swimming hole they tried was dry. So by the time we caught up with them, they were hot and they were tired, and Johnny was ready to say what any Austinite who’s found summer disappointment has thought: "Can we please go back?"
… that the Austin Chronicle sought to definitively answer the question, "Is it hot as hell?" The verdict: Yes, but only if you were talking about Hell, Michigan; the Hell in the Cayman Islands; or Hell, Norway.
… that some folks’ relationship with the Lone Star State has changed to "It’s Complicated." One person posted an image of Denton’s triple-digit-filled forecast on Reddit’s Texas subreddit, r/Texas, with the headline "I still love you, Texas. Even when you hurt me."
… that buying in bulk has become more than a personal finance move. Another r/Texas denizen said the best place to beat the heat was the dairy cooler at Sam’s Club.
… that even our tortilla chips are on fire. More on that below. It’s worth the wait.
… that some of us have snapped, as one Twitter user seemed to reach their limit and posted a picture of a gun pointed at the eye-searing sun.
Keep an eye on that forecast, Texans. It’ll keep you safe. And apparently, the rising mercury loosens up the funny bone.
How to make extra spicy nachos
It was a uniquely Texan mishap. Two weeks ago, several cases of tortilla chips "spontaneously combusted" outside an Austin tortilla chip factory, the Austin Fire Department said.
The American-Statesman’s Mary Huber reported that cardboard boxes containing discarded chips ignited July 12 and 15. At the time, the fire department said on its Facebook page that the "factory in question was trying out a new way to handle the waste from the chips that, suffice it to say, didn’t work out so well."
Of course, a nacho rarely bursts into flames in your hand when you dunk on some guacamole, which begs the question: How on earth did these fires happen?
Texas Monthly got the answer from Fire Department spokeswoman Michelle Tanzola, who said that "the factory’s disposal method was to grind the chips down into a fine powder, pack the powder into boxes, and then store them outside the factory." Tanzola told the magazine that the combination of powdered chips and their oil, the cardboard and the extreme heat that’s hammered down on Central Texas in recent weeks led to the spontaneous combustion.
In other words, the bag of El Milagro on your kitchen counter is not likely to set off any smoke alarms.
If you’ve lived in Texas long enough, you’ve seen a squirrel lie flat on its belly somewhere. In fact, the r/Texas subreddit has been all over the phenomenon recently. Squirrels splayed out on benches, squirrels prone under railings, squirrels spread eagle in the shade of a pillar. Collect ’em all.
If you’ve wondered what exactly is going on with those lethargic-looking critters, bet you could make the right guess. According to the Humane Society, a squirrel channeling its inner pancake is just trying to beat the heat. This behavior can serve a few purposes for a squirrel, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports, like staying inconspicuous to avoid predators; staying warm in winter by exposing themselves to the sun; and staying cool in the summer by spreading their bellies on a colder surface.
Put a little water out for your bushy-tailed neighbor while you’re gawking.
You might not be surprised to hear which new Austin restaurant was included on Eater’s list of the best in the country. A buzz here, a whisper there. Austin’s Suerte continues to make waves.
And Eater’s national restaurant critic Bill Addison has taken notice. Addison included East Austin’s new Mexican hot spot among 18 restaurants that opened between May 2017 and May 2018 and are the best the country has to offer.
The American-Statesman’s restaurant critic Matthew Odam has similarly called Suerte one of the city’s best new restaurants, noting its homemade masa, black magic oil and masterful blend of Texas and authentic Mexican flavors.
The only other Texas restaurants featured on the list are Theodore Rex in Houston and Carnitas Lonja in San Antonio. Theodore Rex is a locally sourced, modern bistro featuring small plates like tomato toast and Gulf snapper. Carnitas Lonja is a taco stand featuring an assortment of Mexican street foods.
Of the restaurants that Addison, who has "hundreds and hundreds of meals" under his belt in the past year, wrote, "In this fractious time in our history, their ability to find meaning in their work helps me trust in a hopeful future."
Last year’s list, which only featured 12 restaurants, included Austin’s Kemuri Tatsu-ya.
— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman staff
Buns? What buns?
What things can you expect to find in a concha? Maybe a pearl. Maybe a hamburger patty.
El Paso’s minor league baseball team, the Chihuahaus, took to Twitter recently to share news of their newest burger creation: the concha burger. The burger features the Mexican sweet bread instead of a bun. The team added the special burger to its "Es Divertido Night" menu. It uses pan dulce from the city’s El Prado Bakery.
The idea isn’t entirely novel, however. Two brothers from McAllen made it all the way to a national competition, the James Beard Foundation and the Culinary Institute of America’s "Blended Burger Project," with a similar concha burger in 2016, KRGV reports.
The average amount of time it takes to drive to El Paso from Austin? Eight hours. So … sounds instead like a good DIY candidate for your next backyard barbecue.
— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman staff