Tex Mex Is From Egypt
Before you hit the back arrow button on your laptop, hear me out. In the 1730s, fifteen families, originally from the Canary Islands, settled in Bexar County, near San Antonio. They were of Gaunche descent (a native tribe) and had come to the islands by way of Morocco. This made them a branch of the Berber people, who originated along the Nile in Egypt. Need a map to follow that food route?
Why is all of this important? As the Gaunche people traveled, they brought along essential spices for cooking: saffron, cumin, coriander, ginger and cinnamon – the hallmark of Tex Mex cooking.
Let that marinate for 140 years. The descendants of these first fifteen families accumulated mega-ranches, which straddled Texas and Mexico. Food from both sides of the border blended together. Some of the dishes that evolved included cabrito (goat), barbacoa (cow’s head) and carne seca (dried beef). Meat was a key ingredient on ranches – especially beef. Old-style Tex Mex meals kicked off with homemade chips and salsa and combination platters were popular.
The word Tex Mex wasn’t coined until the 1870s. It began as an abbreviation of the Texas-Mexican Railway. The train schedule in area newspapers referred to the railway as Tex Mex.
When the Hispanic populations spread out from the Southwest in the 1940s, they took their cuisine with them. However, Anglos didn’t embrace the foods until after 1976. It was in this year that Eating in America: A History was published, exposing the nation to many different cuisines. Tex Mex hit the mainstream.
Dig into one of the combo platters, which will leave you stuffed. The food wasn’t as spicy as we anticipated and the red sauce was addictive. The tacos were made from the freshest ingredients and even the sides were good: the beans had a slight bacon flavor.
Although this cuisine began in the Southwest, many of the country’s so-called Mexican restaurants actually serve Tex Mex.
Where can you find authentic Mexican without traveling south of the border?
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.