On a trip overseas a few months ago, in a conversion with a co-worker traveling with me, we both agreed that we couldn’t wait to get home and have some American food. My co-worker said that he was going to go out and have Mexican food with his family. That made perfect sense to me. But then, wait, Mexican food is not American food, right?
Well, actually, it is. More specifically, Tex-Mex is American food. In the everyday lingo when Americans say they are going out to have Mexican food, what they really mean is Tex-Mex. And Tex-Mex is genuine American food. It has become just as American as burgers and fries. At least this is certainly true in Texas where I live.
A writer recently returned to Texas to explore the world of Tex-Mex food. In the New York Times he writes:
So recently I returned to the great state of Texas to get lost in my very own tamale triangle: San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. When I learned that the government of Mexico flew in the owners of 50 Mexican restaurants in the United States and Canada this summer to teach them what’s authentic and what’s not, the expedition picked up some gravity.
Among food snobs, the Mexican vs. Tex-Mex argument has been raging for decades. It is a wrongheaded debate, according to Robb Walsh, who wrote “The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Photos and Recipes” (Broadway, 2004).
“Tex-Mex isn’t Mexican food,” said Mr. Walsh. “It is an American regional cuisine. So why do we have to apologize to Mexico for it?”
Well, I’d say we give a hat tip to Mexico for inspiring Tex-Mex, and then we don’t worry too much about how authentically Mexican it is. And if some other country in the world wants to claim some variation of burgers and fries as their own food, I say more power to them.