Culture

The Brief And Surprising History Of Tex-Mex Food That You’ve Never Heard

Handfuls of shredded yellow cheese. Flour tortillas. Corn chips dripping with melted queso.

While many Americans think of these dishes as examples of authentic Mexican cuisine, they are completely wrong. 

Indeed tacos salads and sizzling fajita platters are delicious, but they are properly considered Tex-Mex food. That label wasn’t used to describe the unique border region style food until the 1960s, but the origin of Tex-Mex goes back more than a hundred years to a time when Texas was still a part of Mexico. Over the ensuing decades, different ingredients and cooking styles combined along the border to become what we today call Tex-Mex. 

Tex-Mex was first used to describe a railroad.

bostonandmainedigger / YouTube

The term “Tex-Mex” didn’t originate with the invention of quesadilla triangles. The origin of the term can be traced back as an abbreviation for the Texas-Mexican Railway. First chartered in 1875, the 52-mile line was created to deliver sheep from Texas ranches to customers along the Gulf of Mexico.

An English gastronomer popularized the name of the cuisine.

nothingfancyfilms / Instagram

Eventually, the moniker would be applied to the Texas-take on Mexican food.  The first usage has been traced to a 1963 article in the The New York Times Magazine, but the term didn’t really take off until the publication of the 1972 book “The Cuisines of Mexico” by food author Diana Kennedy.

Kennedy used the term to draw an important distinction between authentic Mexican cuisine and the Americanized version that was popular in Texas. Mexican restaurant owners took offense to the term at first but most eventually embraced the new descriptor.

Diana Kennedy received the Order of the Aztec Eagle.

Alexeinikolayevichromanov / Wikipedia

In case you are wondering why an Englishwoman would be such an expert on what constitutes real Mexican cuisine, Kennedy wrote several books on the subject based on her more than fifty years of travels in Mexico. She has been called the “grand dame of Mexican cooking” and was decorated with The Order of The Aztec Eagle in 1981. That is the highest honor the Mexican government can bestow upon a foreigner. 

Tex-Mex has its roots in Spanish Missions.

XavierHSChoir / Twitter

The establishment of Spanish missions in Mexico, and what would later become the southwestern United States, brought together Aztec staples like beans, with European ingredients such as rice. The Spanish also brought with them many flavors that are essential to Tex-Mex cuisine including olive oil, rice, onions, garlic, oregano, and cilantro.

Tejanos blended Mexican and American cooking styles.

MrGartlandsClass / YouTube

Tex-Mex cuisine really started to separate itself from traditional Mexican dishes in the home kitchens of Tejanos living north of the Rio Grande. Tejanos were descendants of the original Spanish-speaking settlers of Tejas. After Texas became an independent state and later part of the United States, Tejanos maintained their identity and overtime combined their traditional family recipes with the influx of new flavors that arrived in the area as Americans migrated to the state.

Railroads introduced new ingredients north of the Border.

BillFGWilliams / Twitter

The advent of the railroad changed America in many ways, one of which was the ability to send food products and livestock across regions.  Flour, lard, bacon, and molasses made their way to Texas ranches, along with cast-iron skillets and Dutch ovens. Mexican ranch cooks learned to incorporate these ingredients and tools to gain favor with Anglo palates.

Spanish immigrants brought the cumin.

mpparimal / Twitter

Cumin isn’t often used in Central Mexican recipes, but it’s a Tex-Mex favorite. New Spanish immigrants to Texas brought a taste for the spice with them by way of the Canary Islands.

Tex-Mex moved from the ranch to the streets.

gracegarcia0818 / Twitter

From the ranches and home kitchens, Tex-Mex foods such as tamales and enchiladas became street food staples in Texas cities starting in the 1880s. Towards the beginning of the 1900s, health safety laws put many vendors out of business. This is the time when you start to see the first indoor restaurants serving Tex-Mex food.

Chili con carne gave many Americans their first taste of Tex-Mex.

BeyondRiverwalk / Twitter

A stew of ground beef and chilis (and sometimes beans), chili con carne became a popular dish in San Antonio during the 1880s with parlors popping up on every corner. Famous “chili queens” served up the concoction by the bowl-full to hungry locals and travelers. The essential Tex-Mex dish found an even bigger audience at the 1893 Word’s Fair in Chicago, thanks to the appearance of the San Antonio Chili Stand.

Burritos were born on the border.

BlissFoster / Twitter

Another quintessential Tex-Mex meal is the burrito, a flour tortilla stuffed with various ingredients. Meaning “little donkey” in Spanish, it is believed that the portable meal got its name in Ciudad Juárez during the Mexican Revolution from a street vendor who served them from the back of his donkey.

Nachos are named after a Mexican chef named Ignacio.

northsidemonroe / Twitter

While the tale of the burrito is likely a folk legend, the origin of the term nachos is much more likely to be true.  Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya is credited with creating the dish of fried tortillas to serve a group of hungry American women taking a tour of Piedra Negra in the 1940s. The world was never the same again.

Refried beans aren’t fried twice.

KrogerCouponing / Twitter

The term refried beans is actually a mistranslation of the Spanish term frijole refritos. Rather than the prefix “re” meaning to do again, it is actually an intensifier. A more accurate translation would have been “well-fried beans.” 

Otis Farnsworth is the father of the combo plate.

Cafe_Garcia / Twitter

What goes great with refried beans? Rice of course. Chicago native Otis Farnsworth is credited with being the first to pair the two together. Farnsworth opened one of the first Tex-Mex restaurants in 1900 in San Antonio. His restaurant was called the Original Mexican Restaurant. 

The origins of the chimichanga is a matter of dispute.

MeanEyedCatNCL / Twitter

The chimichanga is another Tex-Mex dish that was first created north of the border. Two restaurants, both in Arizona, lay claim to creating the first chimichanga. El Charro Cafe in Tucson claims that the original owner accidentally dropped a burrito in the fryer, and spoke the name as she avoided saying a similar sounding Mexican curse word. Macayo’s Mexican Restaurant in Phoenix claims to have invented the chimichanga after deep-frying unsold burritos so they’d keep longer. The owner, Woody Johnson, named them chimichangas, which is supposed to mean “toasted monkeys.”

Taco Bell made Tex-Mex an American staple.

UberFacts / Twitter

A milestone in Tex-Mex history happened in 1962: Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell in Downey, Calif. Bell started out in business with a hot dog stand in San Bernardino. After seeing long lines at a Tex-Mex restaurant across the street that served hard shell tacos, Bell decided to change his business model. Eventually, Taco Bell would expand to 7,000 locations, bringing Tex-Mex to the masses.

The first international Tex-Mex restaurant in Paris opened in 1983.

Jean Francois D. / Yelp

According to the Houston Press, the first restaurant to bill itself as “Tex-Mex” didn’t open in the United States, but in France. Claude Benayoun tasted Tex-Mex food in Texas while a college student in California, and returned to Paris with the idea for a new exciting concept. The restaurant closed its doors for good just a few a years ago.

The 1986 movie “Betty Blue” made Tex-Mex even more popular in Paris.

liigii / Twitter

Benayoun’s restaurant was not an instant success, but the 1986 movie “Betty Blue” would go on to change all that. The movie features a scene of heavy tequila drinking, and (SPOILER ALERT) the movie ends with the main character forlornly eating chili con carne after mercy-killing his lover. The movie led to an explosion of Tex-Mex restaurants in the city, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Chuy’s in Austin, TX claims to be the first self-proclaimed Tex-Mex restaurant in the United States.

gdinges / Twitter

Mexican restaurants in America were slower to embrace the term Tex-Mex. Now a major chain, the first Chuy’s opened on Barton Springs Blvd. in Austin, Texas in the early 1980s. Its owners, Mike Young and John Zapp, added the words “Tex-Mex Deluxe” to their menu in 1986.

The longest operating Tex-Mex spot is in Dallas

NTxCommission / Twitter

Restaurants throughout Texas were serving up Tex-Mex food long before anyone started calling it by that name. El Fenix in Dallas is considered the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant in operation today. It was founded in 1918 by Mexican immigrant Miguel Martinez. Martinez is also credited with inventing the first tortilla-making machine.

Tex-Mex can be found all over the world.

smileugokatlin / Twitter

Tex-Mex is a global phenomenon. You can find Tex-Mex restaurants everywhere from Switzerland to Thailand.

Some Mexican restaurants in the U.S. call themselves “Mex-Mex”

SoCalHeathen / Twitter

Lots of restaurants that took offense to the label “Tex-Mex” took to calling themselves Mex-Mex, either in protest or to signify that they have more authentic dishes.

READ: Latin America Truly Is A Food Oasis And Here Are Some Of The Best Dishes

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

Culture

Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

mitocaya / Instagram

Undocumented communities are being left out of Covid relief plans. Chef Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya in Chicago is working to help undocumented restaurant worker in the time of Covid. Abuse of undocumented workers is rampant in certain industries and Chef Dávila hopes to offer some kind of help.

Mi Tocaya is a Mexican restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square that wants to help the community.

Covid-19 has devastated the hospitality industry with restaurants being hit exceptionally hard. Restaurants have been forced to close their doors for good as the virus dragged on with no decent relief plan from the federal government. As several countries financially support citizens to avoid economic disaster, the U.S. government has given citizens $1,800 total to cover 10 months of isolating and business closures.

Namely, Mi Tocaya is working to help the undocumented community.

Mi Tocaya, a family-run restaurant, is teaming up with Chicago’s Top Chefs and local non-profits Dishroulette Kitchen and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. The goal is to highlight the issues facing the undocumented community during the pandemic.

The initiative called Todos Ponen, is all about uplifting members of our community in a time of severe need. The restaurant is creating healthy Mexican family meals for those in need.

”We asked ourselves; How can we keep our doors open, provide a true service to the community, maintain and create jobs, and keep the supply chain intact by supporting local farmers and vendors. This is the answer,” Chef Dávila said in a statement. “I confidently believe The TODOS PONEN Logan Square Project addresses all of the above and can very well be easily implemented in any community. Our goal is to bring awareness to the lack of resources available to the undocumented workforce- the backbone of our industry.”

The initiative starts in February.

Mi Tocaya is offering 1000 free meals for local farmers and undocumented restaurant workers. The meals are available for pickup Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647. to make this happen, Mi Tocaya also needs your help.

The restaurant has teamed up with two nonprofits to make sure that they can scale their operation to fulfill their commitment. They are also asking for donations to make sure they can do what they can to help undocumented restaurant workers.

According to Eater LA, 8 million restaurant workers have been laid off since the pandemic started. Some restaurants have had to lay off up to 91 percent of their staff because of Covid, about 10 percent of those are undocumented. In the cities, that number is as high as 40 percent of the laid-off restaurant staff are undocumented.

“People don’t want to talk about the undocumented workforce, but they’re part of our daily routine in most restaurants,” Jackson Flores, who manages the operations of Mi Tocaya, said in a statement. “They are in the toughest position in the whole economy because they’re an invisible part of it. Restaurant worker advocacy groups have added the creation of relief funds to their agendas, but there have yet to be long-term changes in protections for undocumented workers. Without access to unemployment benefits and other government resources, this group is especially vulnerable.”

READ: Hands-Free Cholula Dispensers Have Become a Thing In Restaurants Because of COVID-19

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

From TV-less Weekdays To Cereal Bowls, People Are Sharing The Strangest House Rules

Culture

From TV-less Weekdays To Cereal Bowls, People Are Sharing The Strangest House Rules

James Leynse / Getty

If you’ve ever spent the night at someone else’s home, you know that there are people in the world who have house rules that can be very different from your own. From rules about drinking all of your milk cereal to not raising the volume of the television to a hearable level, different households have them all. Now, some of these crazy house rules are being shared in the comments section of an AskReddit. Not only are some of the stories and rules shared wild, some are also even a little sickening.

Check them out below!

“I had a friend who instead of washing the dishes after a meal just put them straight back in the cupboard. I thought his parents would freak out but it turns out it was just something they did in their house. Whenever I went over I always made sure to eat beforehand.” Reddit User

“Family who babysat me when I was young had a rule of “no drinking during meals” and I don’t just mean soda, juice or milk, no water until your meal is done. This was insane to me because we would be called in to supper/lunch after playing outside in the summer and weren’t allowed to drink anything until we sat down and finished our plates. Also, this rule didn’t apply to the father of the family who would often drink beer during meals.

My great-aunt had a parlor room in which all the furniture was covered in plastic and never used, it also had a plastic walkway going through the middle (just a strip of plastic cover) which was the only path you could walk on (she would flip out if you touched carpet).” –Random_White_Guy

“I wasn’t allowed to put extra salt on my food, had to be in bed by 8pm (all the way through middle school), and had to ride my bike to school everyday even though my best friends parents offered to take me.” –willwhit87

“No fighting over the heel of the bread. The father once off hand told his oldest children that the heel of a loaf of bread was the best and made them want it instead of the regular pieces. By the time there were 4 kids sometimes fist fights would break out over the heels. Loaves had been opened on both sides, or loaves were a mess because someone reached through the sack and pulled the back heel out. For a while there was a turn system where the heels were promised to a child for each loaf, but that fell apart when one went to summer camp and lost their turn. One time my friend wasted an afternoon waiting for his mother to come home with a fresh loaf of bread instead of going out and playing. I witnessed fist fights over the bread most people throw away.” –DarrenEdwards

“In college I had a friend that lived with his grandparents when he went to school. Before they’d let him leave the house his grandmother would say ‘nothing good happens after midnight’ and he would have to repeat it. If I was there, I would also have to repeat the phrase.” –iownalaptop

“I slept over a friends house in grade school one time. He prepared us a bowl of cereal the next morning for breakfast. Not thinking ANYTHING of my behavior, I didn’t finish the milk. I just never used to. I don’t know.

He was like “You uh…gonna finish that?”

“Uhhh oh…I uh…I don’t think so? Does that matter?”

He panicked. Absolutely panicked. I think he put it down the toilet before his parents came back into the room.

I don’t know what the rule was, exactly, but FINISH YOUR MILK OR DIE would be my guess based on his reaction. I still feel bad about it. I was like 8 and didn’t think.” –soomuchcoffee

“When I was a kid. I spent the night at one of my friends house. And you were allowed to drink a soda like sprite before bed. But you had to stir it till all the carbonation was gone.. Don’t ask me why…” –newvictim

“I had a friend in middle school, and his dad worked for Pepsi. No one was allowed to bring any Coke products into the house. The first time I went there his mom told me I could not come in the house because I had a Dr. Pepper. I thought she was joking and tried to walk in, but stopped me and said that if I don’t throw that in the garbage outside that I would have to leave. They were fucking serious about that shit.” – SlowRunner

“During college years, I used to visit my friend during summer months at his parents’ house, where he lived at that time. They had two odd “house rules” I’ll never forget:

  1. We couldn’t open any window in the house (even the bathroom window) – ever! Even if it was far cooler outside than inside during the summer.
  2. We weren’t allowed to close our bedroom doors at night, so that his parents’ cat could have free access to all rooms at all times. (This made it difficult to sleep, without a breath of air from the windows, and the cat walking over us in bed while trying to sleep.)” –Back2Bach

“I knew this family that would share the same bathwater as a means to cut down on their water bill. So when one person took a bath, they ALL took a bath that day. The waiting list was about 4-5 people deep. From what I understand, a lot of families do this, however, I just couldn’t see myself washing off in someone else’s soapy leftovers =( If that were the case, I got first dibs on getting in the bathtub first lol”- __femme_fatale__

“My ex’s family would throw all their left over food over their balconey instead of putting in the trash can. I asked them why they did that, they replied it keeps bugs away……..and didnt think rotted food right outside their door would bring bugs.” –PimemtoCheese

“I had a friend whose mom required her to sit on the floor. Never a chair, couch, bed, or other piece of furniture. I went to her house once and sat down on her bed and she flipped out, made me get off it and spent several minutes smoothing the sheets to make it look flat again. I think her mom thought “kids are dirty” but the rule was in place even after bathing and wearing clean.” –knitasha

“Went over to a school-mates’s house for dinner when I was in elementary school…his mom cut everyone’s good into little tiny bites before giving you the plate and only let us eat with a spoon… Her oldest daughter apparently choked on something once when she was a teenager and it became a rule…even on hamburger and hotdog night.” –GRZMNKY

“I was doing a project with a classmate at her house and on our way to her house we stopped at a store and picked up some snacks. We did our schoolwork and then just kind of played and messed around while eating those snacks. Then her mom came home and lost her absolute shit about the snacks. It wasn’t so much that we had eaten them, it was because the snacks had crumbs that had contaminated their otherwise purified home.

My friend had to stop everything and vacuum the entire house to get every crumb of snack, then take the nearly empty vacuum bag, the empty snack bags, and the half-empty but “contaminated” bag of kitchen trash outside and ask one of the neighbors if she could put it in their garbage bin because not a crumb of that kind of food was allowed on the property in any form after sunset. My mom picked me up and as I was leaving they were doing some additional purification ritual and my friend was praying for forgiveness for having potentially defiled their home.

Turns out they were 7th Day Adventist and it was against their code or whatever to have leavened foods in their house/property during a certain period of time? I don’t remember the exact details, but I remember it was a pretty big thing about how every crumb had to be removed from the property ASAP.” – alexa-488

“My neighborhood friend and I would hang out almost every day of the summer. We would go out exploring in the woods with a bunch of our friends and would usually come back all muddy and tired. My friend was very nice and would offer me water and food. His parents would take those away from me if they saw me with them saying they were only for their children. He was always allowed to eat at our house yet I’d have to walk back if they started having any type of meal. The worst though was his next door neighbor who had a daughter our age and when we were hanging out we all got muddy (we were 10) the girls mom proceeded to take her daughter and my friend into her house to clean them up and told me I wasn’t allowed to enter and that I could use the hose. Some people just know how to ruin a kid’s self esteem.” –boomsloth

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com