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Culinary Central

Despite the Fight, TexMex Ensued

October 2, 2009 Le Cordon Bleu Austin 0 Comments

The State of Texas has a long, battled history with Mexico. Once an equal member of Spain’s New America, later as part of Mexico, and then finally as part of the United States, the people of Texas have long fought to for their identity—an independent yet unique mix of cultures.

The term “TexMex” connotes several things including the Texas-Mexican Railroad, people of Mexican descent born in Texas, and of course, food. TexMex food is a combination of Spanish/Mexican cuisine and American flavors that together create a third cuisine that first took hold in the late 1940s.

TexMex Evolved
From the start, it’s been common to see a lot of beef, beans, and spicy flavors in TexMex dishes. Chili is especially popular in TexMex, as are nachos, crispy tacos, and fajitas.

As time went on, TexMex evolved as most cuisines do. Reflecting its broadening influence, many TexMex recipes came to include cheddar cheese (i.e., chili con queso), which is an American trend. Other spices such as cumin and garlic have always been part of the recipes, but now appear to be more common and used more liberally. Truly Mexican food contains many hot spices and chilies, which some Americans have come to love, but others still avoid as the heat is too much to bear.

Historians say that TexMex really took hold in the 1970s when popular restaurants found success with serving the cuisine. During this time, it became evident it was not just rural workers who enjoyed feasting on rice, beans, chili, and beef.

The state’s proximity to Mexico has enabled a fascinating cultural exchange, which has resulted in hybrid foods that are quite distinct from other types of Mexican food such as California Mexican. Additionally, experimentation with seafood drawn from the Gulf of Mexico and locally produced beef and chicken has helped to develop cooking trends in Texas regional cooking as well.

A Burgeoning Cultural scene
Some people might have an image of Texas chefs as lonely men and women pulling cookout duty on the wagon train, but those stereotypes were thrown out decades ago thanks to the multi-faceted nature of the state’s food industry.

Although more known for its music than its cooking, Austin has grown into a cultural Mecca of sorts by attracting thousands of tourists thanks to its spectacular music festivals and other art events. With this influx of visitors have come the requisite hotels and restaurants that have sprung up to serve them.

Aside from Austin, there are, of course, the other main business centers of Texas, such as the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, Houston, and the coastal regions around Galveston. Each of these urban areas is home to millions of people and also thousands of business travelers, all of whom support a strong restaurant scene.


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