Taste o’ Texas

Texas has long served up a hearty menu of off-beat town names, and tiny municipalities like HappyTelephone, Muleshoe, Dime Box, Notrees, Cut ‘n’ Shoot, and Nameless are known beyond the Lone Star State’s borders. Edibles are on the menu as well, and skimming the following foodstuff-based town names may leave you hongry (Cowboy for hungry).

  • Oatmeal (Burnet County) Is this minuscule Hill Country farming community’s name a corruption of Otneil, the surname of the first gristmill owner in the area? No one knows for sure, but fewer than 20 townfolk are left to wonder.
  • Bacon (Wichita) That MapQuest Online has a dot for Bacon on I-44 north of Wichita Falls validates our inclusion of this extinct town. And whether the settlement was named for fatty slices of pork or a person with the last name of Bacon is long forgotten.
  • Noodle (Jones) This town was named for a creek, not pasta. Local lore says “noodle” meant “nothing,” suggesting a dry creek bed. Today the town itself has dwindled to almost nothing now that fewer than 40 people call it home.
  • Turkey (Hall) In the early 1900s, thriving little Turkey (named for the area’s abundance of wild turkeys) had a newspaper called The Gobbler. The population peaked at about 1,000, but today it amounts to half that at best.
  • Quail (Collingsworth) This Texas Panhadle hamlet near the Oklahoma border has more quail on the outskirts than residents within its city limits – and that was so even in 1930, when the population topped out  at 300.
  • Muenster (Cooke) This German Catholic community was founded in 1890 and has nothing to do with cheese; the town, currently with around 1,500 residents, was named for the capital of Westphalia.
  • Orange (Orange) Orange groves gave this town on the Louisiana border its name. In the 1850s Orange became a stopover for outlaws who crossed the Sabine River into Texas, but it later became known for shipbuilding and petrochemical production.
  • Raisin (Victoria) The South Central Texas town of Lucy changed its name in 1892 to honor a local rancher who grew grapes. When the railroad left in 1930 the population began to decline, and today only a handful of folks hang on.
  • Ding Dong (Bell) You could almost bet that whoever dubbed this BELL County spot-in-the-road Ding Dong thought the name a no-brainer. But that doesn’t mean the moniker doesn’t conjure up thoughts of the Hostess-brand chocolate treat.
  • Sugar Land (Fort Bend) The country’s first raw sugar mill opened in this South Texas town in 1843, and today Imperial Sugar is headquartered here. Decades ago the town was swallowed by Houston and now has a population close to 100,000.
  • Salty (Milam)  First settled around 1860, Salty was named for Salty Creek. Other than its small knot of residents, about the only things left in this Central Texas farm town are a church, a community hall, and a cemetery.
  • Sweetwater (Nolan) A drink to wash everything down – and yet another town named for a creek. The 10,000-plus population of this West Texas cotton, oil, and cattle center dwarfs that of most of the other towns in this list.

Texas has 254 counties, and it stands to reason that at least a couple could be seen as having a gastronomic origin – and CokeRusk, and Lamb fit the bill of fare. (In truth, these counties were named for Texans who made their mark in the 1800s: a governor, a U.S. senator, and one of the Battle of San Jacinto’s fallen heroes.)

The state map is crammed with so many town names you could weave them into a made-up account of a meal. Below is my first attempt, with each of the towns boldfaced. (Populations of these whistle-stops range from 10 to around 400.)

“At the Ace Diner I sat on a Banquette with menu in hand, Uncertain whether to keep it Thrifty or do a Henry the Eighth and dine like Royalty. Waitresses Flo and Maud were full of Pep, as was cashier Fred. (Never had to ask anyone to Scurry to fill my Glass.) I ordered Black Angus stew on Rice, and after a super supper brushed a Krum (sic!) off the table. Low Cost made my meal a real deal, so I paid Cash, bid Flo and Maud Goodnight, and left thinking ‘What a Lively and Cool little joint!’”

2 Responses to Taste o’ Texas

  • Claudia Hitchcock says:

    Too funny! I HAVE to give this website address to my tex friends…they will LOVE this!

    • Fred says:

      Thanks, Claudia. Had lots of fun putting this together, and my only tool was the list of Texas town and county names in the index of a MapQuest road atlas.

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