Tex-Mex Vs Mexican

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Repeat after me: “Tex-Mex is not Mexican food and that’s okay”. There are common misconceptions that the two are meant to be interchangeable and worse, that one is far superior than the other. Tex-Mex is often criticized as being the “lesser” American, interpretation of Mexican food when in reality it does not claim to be “authentic” Mexican food. In fact, it is actually its own breed of food originating in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. However, Tex-Mex cuisine’s popularity stems from the creation of “chili” in San Antonio. A group of women from San Antonio, known as the “Chili queens”, are attributed with the widespread success of this dish. When they set up shop in the San Antonio plazas, their chili con carne quickly became a hit in the community and is now a staple of the cuisine. Nachos, another Tex-Mex staple, was invented by Ignacio Anaya in the 1950s. He was forced to “think on his feet”, when a group of military wives visited his restaurant and the chef was unavailable. Anaya frantically put together some tortilla chips,cheese, and jalapeño peppers in order to feed his hungry guests. Tex-Mex has a long and complex history and still faces much adaptation just like Mexican food. With that being said there are a few things to look out for when attempting to decipher whether a restaurant serves Mexican or Tex-Mex food. First off, do most items feature sour cream and cheese? Flour tortillas? If so, you are probably dealing with a Tex-Mex place which is NOT a bad thing! It is just simply different. Traditional Mexican food consists of corn tortillas and takes a sort of minimalist approach when it comes to food garnishes. For example, a typical Mexican taco would be sprinkled with white onions and cilantro, served with a side of lime; whereas a Tex-mex taco would be topped with cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, etc. Honestly, I used to be a Tex-mex hater, but now I’ve come to respect and even embrace it, especially after reading Gustavo Arellano’s Taco USA, where he delves into the history of the cuisine and explains its significance. Take a look at my newly discovered (self proclaimed) “Tex-Mex Flex” on my instagram page! Because no matter how you “Mex” always remember to “flex” it for the ‘gram! (Aka post pictures of your food on instagram so we can all drool)

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