Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More

There’s much more to Texas cuisine than just juicy, succulent steaks.

Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rich heritage of Mexican, German, and Czech influences have provided for a plethora of decadent Texas dishes that fill the bellies and warm the hearts of all who try them.

Taste the famous Texas BBQ, Tex-Mex, and European-influenced dishes for yourself.

In Texas, food is more than a meal. It’s their culture and way of life. Across the state you’ll find award-winning BBQ, the original Tex-Mex, truly astounding seafood and the best chili to ever grace a bowl.

From five-star restaurants and renowned chefs to undiscovered food joints manned by tomorrow’s culinary superstars, there is a flavor for every palate. So grab a fork and your taste for adventure and “come ‘n get it.”

BBQ

Yes sir! Yes ma’am! They do up some mighty fine BBQ in Texas. Texas barbecue means beef, and usually brisket. It means smoked brisket, and usually for a long time over low heat.

They slow cook some of the sauciest, savoriest barbeque the world has ever dreamed of.

Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Taste a Texas Tradition: BBQ, Tex-Mex & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barbecue can be traced to Texas’ German immigrants, who brought their smoking and butchering culture with them when they arrived in the middle of the 19th century. And what did they butcher? Cattle, of which Texas already had millions. And how did they cook it? Over coals from native wood like oak, which was also plentiful. This is why Texas barbecue is so different from the pork-and-sauce style common elsewhere in the U.S.

The first barbecue joints were meat markets where the beef was smoked in the back and sold over the counter.

It’s like Texas is its own little country when it comes to barbecue. Beef is still king, and it’s the pride Texans take in their barbecue. Which anyone can see whenever they walk into a place like Smitty’s Market, Black’s Barbecue, and Kreuz Market in Lockhart—or any of the other hundreds of places in Texas that make up the Republic of Barbecue.

Even if you don’t remember the Alamo, you will surely remember licking your fingers clean in Texas.

Tex-Mex

All over the world, people enjoy Tex-Mex, but in the Lone Star State, this cuisine is king. Texans with Mexican roots created the delicious hybrid, so it’s no surprise that the most memorable—and authentic—plates hit tables close to the border. From tasty tacos to grilled steaks and cheese-filled tamales, Texas Tex-Mex will leave you feeling full and happy.

When you’re in the Kemah/Seabrook area south of Houston and have a craving for excellent Tex-Mex food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
When you’re in the Kemah/Seabrook area south of Houston and have a craving for excellent Tex-Mex food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although you often see them on Tex-Mex menus, tamales are not modern Tejano creations. In fact, tamales may have been consumed as early as 7000 B.C. Because they can be made in advance and stored for long stretches of time, tamales became essential for early Latin American communities—particularly those on the move or immersed in war.

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.

If you haven’t tried the unique combination of Tex-Mex, you’re missing out, amigo! It’s the absolute best of Mexican cuisine with some Texas flair. When it comes to spice, you can get it a little bit country or a little bit rock n’ roll. Just ask your waiters for guidance. And more salsa, please!

Vineyards

You might not have guessed that Texas has developed into one of the biggest and best wine-producing states around. Their unique climate provides ideal growing conditions for a variety of wines, and they’ve been cultivating vines for centuries.

More than 275 wineries and 4,400 acres of grapes call Texas home, with many of the state’s best wines coming out of the Texas Hill Country. (Image courtesy Texas Department of Agriculture)
More than 275 wineries and 4,400 acres of grapes call Texas home, with many of the state’s best wines coming out of the Texas Hill Country. (Image courtesy Texas Department of Agriculture)

More than 275 wineries and 4,400 acres of grapes call Texas home, with many of the state’s best wines coming out of the Texas Hill Country, the second largest AVA in the United States. Surprising considering how under-the-radar these Mediterranean-styles wines have flown, despite the top-notch varietals coming from the region. Be sure to try Texas’ Viognier, Marsanne, and Albarino if you’re a white drinker; red lovers will revel in Texas’ Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Tannat.

Check out dozens of scenic, and seriously palatable, wine rails, tours, and tastings. Wine trails are an excellent way to experience multiple Texas wineries in one trip.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

You don’t need no teeth to eat my beef.

—from Legends of Texas BBQ

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The History of Winter Texans

Thousands of snow-weary northerners flock to Texas for the winter.

Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission.
Camping at Bentsen Palm Village RV Park south of Mission. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Texas—a state famous for adding its unique flair—migrating snowbirds have been affectionately dubbed Winter Texans.

Most congregate in one of two areas: Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley.

The majority of Winter Texans flock to “The Valley”, an area near the Mexican border that stretches from Brownsville and Harlingen in the east to Mission in the west—a distance of about 65 miles. Starting in the east and heading west, there’s Brownsville, Los Fresco, Rio Honda, San Benito, Harlingen, La Feria, Mercedes, Weslaco, Donna, Alamo, San Juan, Pharr, Edinburg, McAllen, and Mission.

Technically not part of The Valley, nearby Rio Hondo, Port Isabel, and South Padre Island are also favorite roosts for Winter Texans. The South Padre Island beaches are never crowded, except during Spring Break, when no Winter Texan in their right mind would venture there.

The Valley lies at nearly the same latitude as Miami, Florida. Winters tend to be mild and a bit breezy; however, the weather can be unpredictable. The Valley enjoys a year ’round sub-tropical climate with an average temperature of 74°F. The average rainfall is 23.2 inches.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. Watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds in the Rio Grande Valley. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Valley is arguably the best bargain in the U.S. for wintering in a warm climate. While the area offers everything you’ll find in other snowbird roosts, living costs are less expensive, with the added advantage of being right next door to Mexico.

Dining comes in all shapes and sizes in The Valley, beginning with Texas slow-cooked barbecues, where the pork, chicken, and beef fall off the bone, to Tex-Mex specialties, Mexican cuisine that’s as good as you’ll find in Mexico, fast foods, and buffets. Eating out here does not break the bank, and senior specials are available daily.

It has been said of The Valley that there are two kinds of ground cover: Perfect rows of irrigated citrus groves and winter vegetables; and semi-organized rows of recreational vehicles.

Local attractions, restaurants, and retailers go all out to lure these winter visitors. Newspaper headlines and signs welcome Winter Texans back home to The Valley.

World's Largest Killer Bee
Hidalgo is the “Killer Bee Capital of the World” and proud of it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In trying to define what makes the Winter Texans different from their Snowbird cousins in Florida, Arizona, and Southern California, it seems to do with their roots and why they spend their winters here. Winter Texans come primarily from a Mid-West, small-town or rural roots—not that much unlike those that winter in Yuma, Arizona.

Bird-watchers from around the world converge on The Valley to see rare and unique birds.

Mostly frost-free, the valley contains the northern-most extension of the Mexican subtropical biota ecosystem, attracting a variety of neotropical birds more commonly found in Mexico.

Much of the valley now supports extensive urban/agricultural activities, but numerous natural areas along the Rio Grande have been protected and provide oases for more than 500 bird species that reside in or migrate through this region.

Many of the subtropical species are south Texas specialties, meaning it’s the only location in the United States where these birds can be found.

There are probably thousands of stories to explain how the term Winter Texan first originated.  But few pre-date the one from Barbara Pybus who published a personal account on the Texas State Historical Association Web site concerning the winter immigration of her grandparents starting back in 1925.

According to the story, it was Edward Horace Tate and Lucinda Amanda Tate who may have been the first Winter Texans. Grand-daughter Barbara reports in 1925 the Tates joined a real estate excursion train at Roosevelt, Oklahoma, traveling to McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. Convinced of the health benefits of the region and after being impressed by the tour of the Valley, the Tates decided they liked it enough to purchase a parcel of property to be used a place to escape the Oklahoma winters.

Tens of Thousands of Snowbirds come to Texas for the winter where they transform from snowbirds to Winter Texans.

The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas anddense woods in the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas anddense woods in the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We have wintered in Winter Texan Friendly RV parks in Harlingen, La Feria, Alamo, and Mission.

Approximately 15 percent of Winter Texans eventually make the Valley their permanent residence.

Come to Texas for the Winter, You’ll be glad you did! You may even become a Converted Texan.

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

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Still More Reasons to Love Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

1. City Market

Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the great joys of RVing is visiting new places and making interesting discoveries. Another is just the opposite—revisiting those places that demand a closer look. Sometimes that second chance leads to a third—and a fourth.

City Market in Luling, is such a place. The meat-market-turned-barbecue-restaurant started in 1958, and over the years has become a barbecue icon. This is the arguably the best barbeque in all of Texas which helps explain why Luling is perennially included on our Texas itinerary.

2. Lockhart: Barbecue Capital of Texas

A short hop, skip, a jump from Luling is Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.

Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty's—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty’s Market in Lockhart—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several tons of barbecued beef, pork, chicken, and smoked sausage are served each day. It is estimated that over 5,000 people visit these establishments on a weekly basis—that’s roughly 250,000 people a year who eat BBQ in Lockhart. Lockhart’s pit masters smolder native post oak logs, seasoned at least eight months, to provide the fragrant smoke and indirect heat that slowly roasts and flavors the meat. After that, secret recipes, cooking methods, and condiments separate the establishments.

It’s amazing that four barbecue establishments can stay packed all the time—and in a small town, too. Incidentally, my favorite is Smitty’s Market. The brisket and links as well as the unique experience make me a repeat customer.

3. Big Texan Steak Ranch

Not one of the businesses to put out a welcome mat for Oprah when she appeared in an Amarillo court against the beef producers, The Big Texan is best known for its 72 ounce steak. No matter how you cut it, 72 ounces is 4½ pounds and that’s a lot of meat. And it’s free if you can eat the steak and the accompanying salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and bread in one hour while everyone else in the restaurant watches.

The atmosphere is awesome. There are elk heads all over the wall, about six Texas flags outside, along with a huge cow statue and other Texan artifacts.

4. Shiner Bock

If Blue Bell Ice Cream is a food group, then why not beer—but not just any beer; it must be a Texas original from “the little brewery in Shiner”. Reflecting the tradition of genuine Bavarian beers, Shiner Bock has been brewed since 1913, almost as long as the Spoetzl Brewery has been in business.

However, it wasn’t until 1973 that Bock went into production year-round. Bock was considered a lent beer, and therefore was only made around that season. Today over 80% of the beer made at the Spoetzl Brewery is Bock.

5. Las Vegas Cafe

For excellent home cooked Tex-Mex food, Las Vegas Café in Harlingen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley doesn’t disappoint.

The key to the eatery’s continued success is its consistency with good food, good service, and reasonable prices.

The name has spicy origins and so do the recipes. The building was a go-go club in the early 1960s that went by the name of Las Vegas Lounge.

Las Vegas owners Julio Charles and his wife, Eloina, started the café in 1964. Today, their two daughters, Lori and Julie, primarily run the café.

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The popular café began its operation with only three tables and eight stools and now has a seating capacity for 140 people.

This is a great place for lunch, but it’s always very busy. You will never go wrong with the specials posted on the wall. Or if you prefer, ask for a menu. The cheese enchiladas, fajitas, and nachos are fantastic. Also, the sweet tea alone is worth the price of the meal. Great value!

Note: This is the third in an ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Part 1: What’s to Love about Texas Food

Part 2: 6 Reasons to Love Texas Food

Worth Pondering…
You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

You need Corpus, you need Abilene, Odessa and Laredo,
Bastrop and Lufkin, Port Lavaca and Salado.
Dallas, Waco, Harlingen and places big and small,
No, Texas ain’t Texas…unless you got ’em all.

You can’t have the cotton-eyed without the Joe,
And springtime ain’t sprung until the bluebonnets grow.
You couldn’t have a front porch without the rocking chair,
And if it wasn’t for the corn dogs you couldn’t have the Fair.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

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50 Things We Love About Texas

1. Texas Hospitality

2. Paso Del Rio, or River Walk, the Jewel of the City (San Antonio)

3. Fresh from the Gulf shrimp and oysters

When in the Clear Lake/Galveston area we head for Rose’s in Seabrook for a supply of shrimp. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Exploring the pine and hardwood forests of the Piney Woods of East Texas

5. Saying howdy

6. The Alamo

7. Texas’ wide open spaces

8. Hiking Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, north of Fredericksburg

9. Tex-Mex, especially in far South Texas

10. The way small-town drivers wave to everyone they pass

11. The timeless beauty of Presidio La Bahía near Goliad, and its rural setting

12. Stopping for lunch at almost any small-town BBQ joint and sitting elbow-to-elbow with folks you have little in common with except that you all love good ‘cue

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Blue Bell Ice Cream. Wow!

14. The wind-swept, dynamic rippling sandscapes in Monahans Sandhills State Park is one-of-a-kind

15. Stopping for kolaches at a small-town bakery

16. Driving the winding road to Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park

17. Feeling at home everywhere we go in the state

18. Bird watching in the numerous state parks and national wildlife refuges of the Rio Grande Valley

19. Chunky salsa with plenty of heat!

20. San Jacinto Battleground Monument and Battleship Texas state historic sites

21. Texas music with Willie, Waylon, and the boys…

22. Millions of gallons of crystal-clear, cold water bubbling up from the San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas

23. Tex-Mex Enchiladas

24. Exploring the pretty towns, rolling hills, wineries, dude ranches, beautiful lakes, historic attractions, and cool caves of the Hill Country

25. The wildflowers

26. Friendly Texans—who smile and never hesitate to give out directions when you’re lost

27. Touring Galveston, the “Island of Endless History”

28. Margaritas—frozen, on-the-rocks, or martini-style (with salt!)

29. Summer weather in the middle of winter

Entrance to Galveston’s Strand Historic District, the city’s primary commercial area during the second half of the 19th century, when its star was bright and full of great promise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

30. Touring the Bluebell factory in Brenham. Especially in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.

31. Nine-unit World Birding Center which stretches across 127 miles of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, South Padre Island northwest to Roma

32. Breakfast tacos

33. The sign in Hondo that says “This is God’s Country, Please Don’t Drive Through it Like Hell.”

34. Photogenic Guadalupe Mountains and namesake national park area earns a thumbs-up

35. Pecan pralines

36. Being amazed by the subtle colors—red, white, yellow, gray, and lavender—that arise from the claystone, sandstone, gypsum, and mudstone of the panhandle plains at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the “Grand Canyon of Texas”

37. Shopping H-E-B (Here Everything’s Better)

38. Sense of wit that shines through in town names like Paris, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, and Earth, as well as Uncertain, Utopia, Happy, Friendship, Veribest, and Needmore. Let’s not forget Cut and Shoot. Oh, there’s so many more!

39. Pecans and all the goodies made from them

40. Small towns decked out for Christmas

41. HEB salsa/picante sauce with the round HEB corn chips.

42. Saying Howdy and Ya’ll

43. Picturesque Rockport-Fulton and Corpus Christi on the Texas Riviera

Rockport-Fulton is an increasingly popular snowbird roost for Winter Texans. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

44. Bluebell Pecan Praline ice cream

45. Kemah Boardwalk and its Christmas Boat Parade

46. Texas ruby red grapefruit

47. A 26,800-acre cypress swamp with Spanish moss dripping from ancient cypress trees limbs, Caddo Lake may be Texas’ most magical and mysterious place

48. Touring and taste-sampling at the “Little Brewery in Shiner

49. Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World” and one of the prettiest areas in the Hill Country

50. Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Wasn’t Born in Texas, But Got Here as Fast as I Could

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6 Reasons to Love Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

ocated in a well-worn, roughhewn, two-story establishment, Stingaree stands next to the Intracoastal Canal. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
ocated in a well-worn, roughhewn, two-story establishment, Stingaree stands next to the Intracoastal Canal. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

1. Texas Oysters

Texas may be best known for beef, but its bay oysters rank second to none. Texas oysters are impeccably fresh—whether served on the half shell with a kiss of salt air and Texas hot sauce or shucked for a sauté or creamy stew.

We love Oysters Jubilee from Stingaree Restaurant at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula, just a short ferry ride from Historic Galveston. As its name suggests, Oyster Jubilee is a celebration of everything oyster. It’s a colossal dish of over 30 oysters prepared in every conceivable way.

2. Tex-Mex

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.

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!

3. Fried pies

For the best fried pies anywhere, head to Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery in the Big Bend town of Marathon© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
For the best fried pies anywhere, head to Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery in the Big Bend town of Marathon© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A favorite treat from the Rio Grande to the Red River, this delightful, portable dessert has been popular in the Lone Star State since cowboys first worked trails and ranches, and it can be found in every vintage Texas cookbook. The gold standard, then as now, is apricot, thanks to a tartness that plays well against the mellow pastry.

For the best anywhere, you’ll head to Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery in the Big Bend town of Marathon, where former ranch cook Shirley Rooney has folks lined up at the crack of dawn for her precious fried pies.

4. Sarah’s Cafe

When our route takes us through Fort Stockton, we stop for a plate of some of the best Mexican food in West Texas. In business since 1929, this friendly little joint is run by the descendants of Sarah Ramirez Nuñoz, who serve up sturdy, cheese-loaded enchiladas, tacos, chalupas and nachos, day and night, in her tradition.

5. Tamales

The tradition of making tamales at Christmas began long ago in South Texas.

Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, children, and neighbors would gather for days on end to produce a hundred dozen or so tamales for friends and family to eat at holiday gatherings. Cooking and assembly teams would be broken into particular duties for masa and filling preparation, separating and cleaning the corn husks, and finally rolling, tying, and steaming the luscious bundles.

6. La Brisa Mexican Bar & Grill

When you’re in the Kemah/Seabrook area south of Houston and have a craving for excellent authentic Mexican food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. It’s a short drive just down Highway 146 south from Kemah, towards Bacliff.

The happy hour margaritas are only $2.00. You won’t find better food in the entire Clearlake area. It’s one of the best places to get the real thing. Great prices and prompt service! The food comes in huge portions.

The only drawback is the shortage of parking. Well, there’s actually a lot of parking, but there’s a lot of cars there all the time.

For excellent authentic Mexican food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I love their red salsa as well as the green, guacamole salsa that they serve with warm chips at your table. I ordered their shrimp enchiladas, which was outstanding.

Note: This is the second in an ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Part 1: What’s to Love about Texas Food

Worth Pondering…

You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

Now Houston ain’t the same without its Channel to the Bay.
And Mayo ain’t the same without the Cinco holiday.
You can’t have Aggieland without the whoop!
And you can’t have tubin’ without the Guadalupe.

You can’t play Hold ‘Em unless you add the Texas,
And you can’t spell Bexar County ‘less you know just where the X is.
You can’t have the handle without the Pan.
And Padre ain’t Padre without a lotta sand.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

—Written and sung by Jack Ingram

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Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex is the product of both Spanish and Mexican recipes coming together with American foods.

When you’re in the Kemah/Seabrook area south of Houston and have a craving for excellent Tex-Mex food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Ingredients

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.

Foods

In Texas you're never far from Tex-Mex food. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…
Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.

—last words of Kit Carson (1809-1868)

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