15 Signs You Grew Up Eating Tex-Mex Food
A magnificent double order at Chico's Taco in El Paso
I know, I know: where the hell does a born-and-bred Mexican from California get off telling the rest of the world about the glories of Tex-Mex cuisine? But hear me out, world: I am Tex-Mex's most arduous non-Texan defender. I've crisscrossed most of the state doing research for my Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Going there dozens of times over the past years on business and pleasure has endeared me to the state's food even more, from Chico's Tacos in El Paso to Torchy's in Austin, the Trompi-Burger at La Macro in Houston to some bomb-ass baby goat at a backyard in Brownsville. One of my mentors and pals is Robb Walsh, the James Beard Award-winning author and dean of Tex-Mex history who--believe it or not--once lived in Orange County, attending Sunkist Elementary in Anacrime just like yours truly.
In short, I know my Tex-Mex and what gets Texans salivating when it comes to their Mexican. So as you read this list, know I ain't speaking out of my Cali culo. And, as my final appeal to authority, I had this list approved by two proud Tejanos: our own Gabriel San Román (whose family has roots in El Paso going back to the late 1800s) and Associated Press New Mexico reporter Russell Contreras, who keeps threatening to sic La Santa Muerte on me because I didn't praise Tex-Mex food enough in my book--never mind that I devoted AN ENTIRE CHAPTER to it. May this be penance to get La Muerte off my ass, may the rest of the country finally realizing they're missing out on Tex-Mex's charms, and viva Tex-Mex!
15. You Know that Tex-Mex Food is Born in the Rio Grande Valley, Becomes Popular in San Antonio, and Gets Ripped Off in Austin
Torchy's Tacos in Austin: Delicious, but breakfast tacos are from the Valley
It happened with fajitas, it happened with canned chile, it happened with breakfast tacos, and it'll happen again and again as it has for the past century. Austinites insist all their food developments are organic; San Antonians seeth at such usurping; the Valley just shrugs its shoulders. Meanwhile, the rest of the country can't tell Pflugerville apart from New Braunfels apart from Harlingen, or care about why Texans would care.
14. Salpicón is the Best Salad EVER
Photo by Gabriel San Blogman
Those of us who live in Southern California mostly know salpicón as a ground beef salad served at Salvadoran restaurants. In Texas, though, salpicón turns into a salad fit for a Texan: meat, meat, and meat, with some vegetables thrown in. Most Mexican restaurants in Texas serve salpicón, while I've never heard of a Mexican restaurant in Southern California serve it. America's loss, as the meat is spicy, juicy and GANGSTA; far better than huevos rancheros, which have traveled everywhere at this point.
13. Flour Tortillas are Perfectly Fine for Tacos
Taco de fideo at Taqueria Laredo in Houston
In California, we're used to our flour tortillas being big, the better to make burritos and quesadillas out of them. And when it comes to tacos, corn tortillas are the answer. In Texas, on the other hand, they make flour tortillas that are not only edible, but appear in different sizes. As a result, most taquerias have the option of flour or corn tortillas for their tacos, leading to hilarious expectations of Californians who think flour tortilla tacos are just burritos that exploded then get disappointed when they're not. HA!
12. It's Not "Chili"; It's "Chile con Carne"
I won't get into the touchy argument of whether chili should have beans or not, but it's always great to visit Texas and see the American staple referred to by its original name: chile con carne. Even in the most gabacho Tex-Mex places, the chile con carne name reigns. And the Baylessistas claim Texas waters down Mexican food...
11. There's Nothing Wrong with Beans, Rice and Fajitas on Thanksgiving
This one I've yet to try, but Russell swears by it. Those crazy Texans! And speaking of fajitas...