From chili and nachos to fajitas and enchiladas, Tex-Mex could be called the ultimate comfort food. Despite its enormous popularity all over the United States, it’s an understatement to say that Tex-Mex has struggled to get respect as a regional cuisine in its own right, rather than a lower-quality, corrupted version of traditional Mexican food. But with deep roots in both Spanish and Native American culture, the history of Tex-Mex cuisine—and the stories behind some of its most famous dishes—is worth another look.
Native Americans lived in the area that is now Texas for thousands of years before the first European settlers arrived in the early 1500s. For more than 300 years after that, Texas (like Mexico) was part of the Spanish colony known as New Spain, and Texas and Mexico remained linked after 1821, when the latter separated itself from Spain. Texas, of course, won its own independence 15 years later, and became part of the United States in 1845. Throughout this complicated history, and in the years since, a number of cultures—and culinary traditions—have been inextricably combined to produce what is known as Tex-Mex cuisine today. Continue reading