Texas Heat

It’s hot. The yard needs mowing—the grass is so tall I have to wear rubber boots in the morning dew. And three lugs of tomatoes, getting riper by the minute in the heat, await canning.

But if Texas seems to have a few drawbacks this time of year, food is not one of them. After sporting Texas license plates for two years, perhaps I

can take a few minutes to contemplate the appeal of Tex-Mex cuisine, popular not only here, but in every corner of the United States, from the bustling blocks of New York City to the misty streets of small Northwest college towns. Despite the recent rap by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which reported that Mexican restaurants do Americans no favor in the fat and salt departments, I think this spicy cuisine will continue to satisfy a need for inexpensive yet interesting and filling food.

Living in the north most of my life, I thought the "Number 1 Combination Plate"—enchiladas, burritos, tacos—was something northern restaurants made up to imitate the spicy, fill-up-the-gut food of colorful countries south of the United States. So it has been very fun to see and taste and learn how these very authentic dishes came into being in Texas over the past 200 years.

Actually Tex-Mex has roots older than either Texas or Mexico. Long before Europeans arrived in the New World, ancient peoples settled both American continents, developing agricultural specialties quite different from those in the Old World. Four staples evolved—corn, beans, squash, and chili peppers—changing costume as contact with different conquerors and peoples occurred. The Spanish, for instance, brought pigs, cows, sheep, goats, wheat, and vegetables such as onions to Mexico, transforming local eating habits.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1994
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