Tex-Mex, or a blend of Texan and Mexican food, has been a staple in the United States for years -- every delicious fast casual restaurant that serves Mexican food will incorporate these flavors. While we all enjoy it, we know little regarding its origins. Here are some facts you may not have known about our favorite cross-cultural blend with Mexican food.
What is it?
Tex-Mex is a cultural diffusion of Texan and Mexican food. It often consists of Mexican dishes with an Anglo-American twist, such as including ingredients like ground beef and wheat in enchiladas. While these ingredients seem common to us and we can't imagine some of our favorite fast casual restaurant without it, these ingredients weren't common in Mexico and weren't included in their authentic Mexican dishes.
When and how did it start?
Tex-Mex is fairly recent concept -- it was conceived in the 1940s -- but the fusion of the two has been around for generations. Once more and more Americans settled in Texas, the proximity of Mexico introduced settlers to popular foods in the area. Once more Mexican immigrants began to settle in Texas, authentic Mexican restaurant owners began to incorporate American flavors into their dishes.
The phrase "Tex-Mex" really took off in the 1970s when food writers began to include recipes in cookbooks and articles.
Where to draw the line
What separates Tex-Mex from real authentic food is the ingredients. Mexico doesn't grow many of the products that Americans are used to eating, simply due to availability and climate. Once Mexican food grew in popularity in the United States, new products were introduced to the classic dishes including beef, wheat flour, black beans, cumin, and yellow cheeses like cheddar.
Popular Tex-Mex dishes
You expect to see certain "Mexican" foods at your favorite fast casual restaurant: burritos, nachos, fajitas. Let's face it: if you didn't grow up with authentic Mexican dishes, you won't know that these are actually Tex-Mex. Here's a list of common foods that are -- surprisingly -- Tex-Mex.
- Chili con carne
- Basically, anything else made with beef or wheat
Tex-Mex is a delicious option at many Mexican restaurants today. However, if you notice your Mexican cuisine contains ground beef, it's safe to say you're enjoying a beautiful cultural diffusion of tastes.