Filed under: Food Week 2010, Menu Planning & Cooking
Tex-Mex is the product of both Spanish and Mexican recipes coming together with American foods.
Tex-Mex is the name given to food that is heavily influenced by Mexico and the cooking of Mexican-Americans, and blends available foods in the United States with traditional Mexican food. Tex-Mex has its roots in Texas—hence, the name.
The phrase Tex-Mex first appeared in print in 1945, but food historians will relate that this cuisine is hundreds of years old, and that the term first entered the English language in 1875 when the Texas-Mexican Railway was nicknamed Tex-Mex. The term refers to the railroad and describes Mexicans that were born in Texas.
Others claim it got its name by the Tejanos, Texans of Mexican descent. It has also been claimed that Tex-Mex is a combination of Mexican peasant food and Texas farm and cowboy cooking.
In the twentieth century, cheese was added because it was readily available and inexpensive in the United States.
Some credit noted food authority Diane Kennedy for drawing the line between authentic Mexican food and Tex-Mex. At any rate, Tex-Mex can be considered America’s oldest original food!
Tex-Mex food dishes commonly use the ingredients of garlic, sour cream, cilantro, beans, avocado, cheese, and chorizo, a spicy Mexican sausage that originated from Spain.
Chiles are also important in Tex-Mex food dishes. Ranging from sweet and mild to mouth-on-fire hot, they are added to a variety of dishes. Chiles that are used in Tex-Mex food include ancho, jalapeno, and the hottest of them all, the habanero pepper.
Tex-Mex foods include chili con carne, crispy chalupas, chili con queso, and fajitas. (Chili was unheard of in Mexico until Tex-Mex came along.)
Serving tortilla chips and salsa was not traditional in Mexican restaurants—it’s actually a Tex-Mex custom.
And of course there’s refried beans, a mistranslation of the Mexican “frijoles refritos”, which means well-fried beans. I always wondered why they needed to be refried.
The food is contemporary with many recipes simple and easy to prepare. Other dishes such as casseroles, black bean soup, and bunuelos (fried bread eaten with sugar and cinnamon that’s sprinkled on top) require more detail.
Tex-Mex food contains large amounts of beef, chicken, pork, spices, and beans. Texas-style chili, crispy chalupas, and fajitas are all Tex-Mex food originals. A serving of tortillas with hot sauce or salsa is another Texas invention. Other tasty creations include seven-layer dip, and tamale pie.
One dish that shouts Texas, is chili. It is a combination of meat and spices, with no beans added. Sauce is the main ingredient of the chili.
Chili started with the Chili Queens of San Antonio. They made the chili to sell at stands for cowboys who came to the town.
On your next RVing trip to Texas, try the unique foods of the region. You will be able to taste Mexican classics with a Texas twist.
Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.
—last words of Kit Carson (1809-1868)
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