That Loveable Ugly Duckling


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Once considered the ugly stepchild of Mexican cuisine, Tex-Mex food in recent years has finally garnered some respect and adulation. Robb Walsh, the Houston Press's restaurant critic and author of Legends Of Texas Barbecue Cookbook and co-author of A Cowboy In The Kitchen and Nuevo Tex Mex, finally sheds some light on a widely undefined and misunderstood cuisine. It's not Mexican, it's not American, it's from Texas–and it's much more than just cheese enchiladas.

Robb Walsh covers the Mexican Pioneers of the sixteenth century, who first brought cattle to Texas, and the Spaniards who brought cumin and garlic. He talks about the Chile Queens of San Antonio. Combination Plates, tacos, margaritas and flan, and I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Time to get busy with at least one of the 100 recipes included in this book.



This book has very special importance to me. As a Tejano (that would be a Texan of Mexican decent) it's wonderful to read the history of the foods I grew up eating and loving. It's also a pleasure to see how Robb Walsh has taken these larger-than-life characters, recipes and historical events and weaved them into a great book that is sure to become a favorite of mine.

If you're a food history buff or a Tex-mex lover then this is a read for you. It's not fussy, it's not pretentious, but it's a thoroughly delicious look into one of America's first regional cuisines. It's soul food to the highest degree.


8 Responses to “That Loveable Ugly Duckling”

  1. Anonymous bea at La Tartine Gourmande 

    Sounds very interesting. I always love to get a glimpse of regional cooking and do not know anything about Texan food at all! I look forward you cooking some and presenting it to us, yes???

  2. Anonymous Barbara 

    I get irritable with people who look down on Tex Mex and tell me, "It's not authentic."

    I always say, "Authentic -what-?"

    "Authentic Mexican," is usually the answer. (Mind you this is usually pronounced by a gringo. A -yankee- gringo, at that, whilst looking down the nose.

    "That's why its called 'Tex-Mex," is my answer. It being an obvious answer.

    "Well, but it isn't really Mexican, you see, because it is -tainted- by American tastes."

    That's where I have to reign in my tongue.

    Because some of my favorite food is the food of the border areas between Mexico and the US--you know, those once hotly debated and contested lands like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California. I find those regions to be filled with a very fertile mixture of Native American, Native Meso-American, Spanish, German and whole bunches of other culinary cultures. That is what makes it wonderful, creative, fantastic and very, very tasty, all at once.

    So the folks who look down their noses and say dumb stuff like, "It isn't authentic," work my last nerve, because they just don't get it. So, I usually give them a little culinary anthropology and history lesson, until their eyes glaze over and they have to give up. By that time, I wouldn't have even run short of breath, but sometimes, I am just wicked enough to use my culinary knowledge as a bludgeon.

    It is kinda fun to do that.

    About the book--I need to get a copy of it. It is on my list of books to get copies of, but I haven't gotten around to it quite yet. I am very fond of the way Walsh writes.

  3. Anonymous Darrell 

    I, too, think that this food that is so widely consumed and enjoyed does not get the respect it deserves. It shouldn't be compared to its various origins when it stands so prominently on its own. If food never evolved beyond "authentic," then we would still be eating fire roasted catch-of-the-day or boiled roots.

    Besides that, it incorporates lots of CHEESE.

  4. Anonymous melissa 

    i dub thee saint matthew, patron saint of gastronomy.

    if you hadn't won my heart before, you would have with this posting. i've lived in texas my entire life - 35 years, and i swear it on all that is holy, i could eat tex-mex every meal of every day and never tire of it.
    never.

    i'm a gringa - as a matter of fact, i'm an italian. but the staples in my pantry are tortillas, salsa, jalapenos, nopalitos... at any time of the day or night i could whip up something tex-mex to suit any taste.

    thank you matt for acknowledging our blessed religion of spicy food.

  5. Anonymous Beth 

    Matt, love the photos and love your blog! So beautifully designed & shot. That drip of soup over the side of the bowl - delicious! I'm inspired. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous Kim 

    You are making me hungrrryy.
    My mom makes little corn tortilla quesadilla for lunch filled with beans and topped with her homemade salsa, and the smell of those corn tortillas warming up is more than I can take. My mom ask me everyday what we want for dinner, and every day I say, "something Mexican" so now I guess I need to say "Something Texan" - which is where I was born ;)

  7. Anonymous kel @ Green Olive Tree 

    Mmmmm.... que rico!!

  8. Anonymous ilikeredbean 

    matt, i LOVE your website! i just stumbled upon it and 1) love your passion for eating, thinking about eating, and making things to eat and 2) love your hilarious writing style. anyway, i'm now def. a regular reader from now on!

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About me

  • I'm Matt Armendariz
  • From Los Angeles, California
  • A man with a passion for good food and a wonderful life with a dash of irreverence. Read at your own risk. Advertising director by day, wino by night. All photos on this site by Matt Armendariz.
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