Mexican vs. Tex-Mex: What is the Difference?

Mexican vs. Tex-Mex: What is the Difference?

 

Today we have a guest blog speaker who is a native Mexican who will speak to us on the Tastes of Mexico.  Our guest speaker is Norma and the owner of Splendid Recipes and More (SRandM) is interviewing her.

SRandM: So how are you Norma?

Norma: Fine thank you. I just want to say I am excited to be a guest on Splendid Recipes and More. You have a lot of great recipes posted here on your blog. I had seen a few Mexican dishes as well.

SRandM: Will thank you Norma and I am glad you could speak with us. So Norma were in Mexico are you from?

playas de RosaritoNorma: I was born in the Mexican state of Baja California North, in a small beach town called Palayas de  Rosirito.

SRandM: Exactly where is Rosarito?

Norma: Across the border from San Diego, California. When you cross the border you come into Tijuana first, and Rosarito is about 20 minutes from Tijuana going south.

SRandM: So you told me you immigrated to the U.S. in 1992 and have been an American citizen since 2004?

Norma: Yes that is correct.

SRandM: What do you think about the Mexican food that is made here in the States?

Norma: For the most part it is authentic. But many Americans for their love of the Mexican food have made their own recipes using the ingredients we use in Mexico, and call it a Mexican dish. Such as New Mexico, they make enchiladas as we do in Mexico, but they use flour tortillas, and the Mexicans use corn tortillas. Some people have even made enchiladas, casserole style calling it an Enchilada pie, which is not authentic Mexican.

SRandM: Yes I understand. What do you think about the variations in Texas? Is Mexican food and Tex-Mex the same?

Before Norma answers our question, have you ever wondered what the difference is between authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex food? If you look around online, you’ll find plenty of debate over which style of theorizing cooking is better. Some “traditionalists” even question if Tex-Mex is a legitimate form of American cuisine.

No matter where the debate leads, Tex-Mex has earned its place on the American table. Still, that doesn’t answer how Tex-Mex differs from authentic Mexican food.  So let’s allow Norma to answer that.

Norma: Will here’s a little history. The roots of Tex-Mex cuisine trace back to the Spanish. The Spanish missionaries brought their recipes to Texas, and when they left the area in the 1700s, the natives of the region had already assimilated portions of their cooking culture into their own.

chili con carneAlong with this influence, early colonization of Texas also included other cultures. For example, individuals from the Canary Islands brought a different flavor palate with them, which included cumin, garlic, and chili powder. These flavors now form the foundation for the Tex-Mex favorite, chili con carne.

SRandM: So chili con carne is not an authentic Mexican dish?

Norma: No, chili or ground meat with beans and the use of spicy peppers are a Western frontier dish.

This blending of outside cultures with Mexican farm food and Texas ranch food is evident in many other modern Tex-Mex dishes.

One example that comes to mind is the use of beef. You will find a lot more beef in Tex-Mex recipes than in traditional Mexican dishes. Even though beef cattle could be found in Mexico, grasslands were overgrazed and herds were scarce.

SRandM: What types of meat are most popular then, in authentic Mexican cooking?

Norma: Pork, turkeys, wild fowl, chicken, and seafood were more available to the average Mexican household, and as a result, these ingredients were used and are used today in Mexican dishes, with the exception of turkey. You won’t find that at all in any Mexican dish.

SRandM: I guess since beef cattle have long been a staple in Texas, it would make sense that beef plays a more pre-dominate role in Tex-Mex recipes.

Norma: That is correct.

SRandMore: What other foods are used in authentic Mexican dishes?

Norma: Will before trade and commerce exploded in Mexico, beans, corn, and rice formed the basis for many meals. As Mexican people moved north, these foods found their way onto the plates of many households in Texas.

In return, Texans introduced Mexican cooks to more plentiful milk and cheese, in addition to beef. This blending of cultures and cuisine created excitement, especially during the 1940s and 1950s as the borders between the two countries became more open.

 Los Pesos Tex MexSRandM: So could it be correct to say it was around that time when the term ‘Tex-Mex’ was coined?

Norma: Yes, and was proudly used to describe Mexican dishes adapted by Texan cooks. But I will say as the years passed, the recipes lost much of their heritage.

SRandM: How so?

Norma: Will by the 1970s, many Tex-Mex dishes were almost completely revamped into unrecognizable concoctions that are not authentic Mexican dishes.

SRandMore: Such as?

Norma: Will, like Chimichangas, cheese nachos, just to name a few is Tex-Mex cuisine inventions.

Much of what we know as Tex-Mex today can be traced in part to the fast food franchise explosion which introduced “Mexican” food to most Americans.

The menus you typically see featured in these restaurants have pre-made taco shells which house a variety of ingredients buried under piles of cheese and sauces.  Though these restaurants will give a general nod to a “south of the border” flavor, their menus really have little in common with authentic Mexican food.

Another fact I find funny, is restaurants that have popped up all over America make the claim to serve only “authentic” Mexican food, when they are actually making a stab at Tex-Mex.

SRandM: So do you feel Tex-Mex has stolen the spot light from the real thing?

Norma: Will when it comes down to deciding which is best – authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine – I really can’t find a right or wrong answer to your question.

All you can do is compare and decide for yourself which you prefer. There are many cookbooks available for both Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisines to see what appeals to you. You can also visit authentic local restaurants to try for yourself.


NachosSRandM:
Will that is all the time we have today Norma. Tell our readers what recipes you will be presenting in the next post?

Norma: I thought I would prepare some authentic Guacamole and Real Mexican salsa, a couple of great condiments that pair well with lots of Mexican dishes.

SRandM: We look for to that Norma. So to our readers, return here to Splendid Recipes and More for some authentic recipes that will be prepared by Norma, which is: Homemade Guacamole and Fresh Mexican Salsa.

Link to: Homemade Guacamole and Fresh Mexican Salsa

Image credits:

Chili con carne    

Palayas de Rosarito

Los Pesos Tex-Mex

Clip art of Nachos and Taco

What Others are Saying About Mexican and Tex-Mex food:

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9 thoughts on “Mexican vs. Tex-Mex: What is the Difference?

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