Fronteras: ‘It’s the cuisine of the Americas’ — A conversation about the history and importance of Tex-Mex food
From queso made with bright orange Velveeta cheese to gravy-smothered enchiladas, Tex-Mex food has become a staple for families across San Antonio and Texas.
But how did Tex-Mex originate? And why do so many people look down on it?
Texas Public Radio took a deep dive into Tex-Mex cuisine during a Great SA panel discussion on April 20, 2023 at TPR’s Carlos and Malú Alvarez Theater.
Fronteras’ Norma Martinez moderated the four-person panel of experts.
José Ralat, taco editor with Texas Monthly, James Beard Award winner and author of American Tacos: A History and Guide, was one of the panelists.
He says the unique cuisine originated from hardships going back to the Mexican Revolution and the struggle for Mexican American civil rights.
“Tex-Mex is one chapter within the narrative of Mexican food,” he said. “What we know as Tex-Mex spun out of a couple of wars and the … cutting off of markets, so we had to improvise.”
Gustavo Arellano, L.A. Times columnist and author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America and ¡Ask a Mexican!, is a Californian who calls himself a fierce advocate for Tex-Mex food.
He said people have perpetuated a false narrative around Tex-Mex food.
“This is as Mexican as the food of Mexico,” he said. “It’s not just the river. It’s not just La Frontera over where we’re at. Mexico goes wherever Mexicans are, where the idea of Mexican food is.”
Other panelists included food historian, cookbook author, and James Beard Award nominee Melissa Guerra, and Steven Pizzini, owner of Lala’s Gorditas in San Antonio.
Listen to the second part of the conversation on Tex-Mex food on May 5.
View video of the event below: