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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.

Tex Mex
Pssst. If you want to try Tex Mex, we have a suggestion for you: Baby A’s in Austin. Even the décor is Texas meets Mexico, with longhorn piñatas dangling from the ceiling. There are several locations.

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.


The Guy

Interesting, I never quite knew that history.

I’ll be near Houston (Humble) next month so will have a chance to top up on some Tex-Mex.
The Guy recently posted..Why Do We Ski?My Profile


Interesting. Especially because I just met an Egyptian guy while I was in Brussels and we started talking. He’s visited America a few times and LOVES Taco Bell. Any Mexican food, in fact. So while we were in Brussels, we passed by a ChiChi’s Mexican restaurant and he couldn’t wait to go. I sent him off by himself; I wasn’t going to miss out on all the fantastic food in Belgium for a taste of what I could have had at home.
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The Duo

I find food history fascinating. Many cultures share the same ingredients and present them in a different way. I’m looking into other food routes/histories to include on the blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Ruth (Tanama Tales)

Really interesting piece. A lot of Latin people are not aware of the many things we inherit from Arabs. They lived in Southern Spain for 700 hundred years. Most of the people which colonized America were from Southern Spain so they pass on a lot of traditions. There are a lot of words in Spanish that come from Arabic. I have found a lot of Arabic influenced food in places like Mexico and Honduras.
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The Duo

The Arab world is the cradle of civilization, so it’s not surprising how much the rest of the world benefitted from them. Thanks for the comments.

The Duo

Thanks for stopping by!

Debbie @ European Travelista

I am always amazed by the different cultures that make up Texas! I new about the German influence but have never heard of this one. Great story. I’m a Tex-Mex and Mexican food lover from way back (prior to 1976)! Can’t get enough of the stuff.
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The Duo

Texas is a true melting pot. :)

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