Mexican cuisine or Tex-Mex. What is the difference between the two? Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about this question, and I don’t quite know where the line is between the two.
I started thinking about the topic earlier this week when I heard the news about El Chico closing its doors on its Sherman location earlier this week. As local diners weighed in, I heard the restaurant’s fare described as both Mexican and Tex-Mex.
Until recently, I’ve almost universally heard the term Tex-Mex used as a pejorative. The term was reserved for Mexican food that wasn’t authentic enough or didn’t meet the standards of whoever was using it. In short, Tex-Mex almost felt like a mark of shame.
As I did research, I found that the term itself may have pre-dated the food. The term “Tex-Mex” first came into use in the late 19th century with the advent of the Texas-Mexican Railway.
However, there is more to the term than that. The difference is more about what each one isn’t rather than what it is. And in that, it comes down to the ingredients.
At its heart, Tex-Mex is a fusion cuisine in which the flavors of Mexico were adapted to the tastes of Texan and Western ranchers. New ingredients that were not originally a part of the normal recipes were brought in to make something new.
Nachos? You can thank the west for that yellow cheese. Beef was also a rarity, with the exception of the northern reaches of Mexico. Cumin? An import. Fluffy flour tortillas? Wheat flour was a rarity in Mexico.
I see the two types of cuisine as more like cousins than rivals in the food world. Each is distinct enough to be their own creation rather than a copy of the other.
Happy birthday Sunday to Bobby Carlisle and Laurel Turner, both of Sherman; and Charlotte McLain of Howe.
Happy anniversary Sunday to Steve and Doris Mygrant of Sherman, 39 years.
Happy birthday Sunday to Scarlett Annelise Carson of Denison; Bob Graves, Sherwood Johnson, Tommy Bateman, Payton Maphis, and Richard Surface, all of Sherman; Kenny Thomas of Savoy; and Bob Jarvis.