Tex-Mex is really “Coahuiltecan” Cuisine
During my school days at the CIA we had an all too brief discussion about what is Tex-Mex cuisine. My view is to start with the peoples who were first settlers in the region that is generally recognized as the font of Tex-Mex cuisine: central, southwestern and southern Texas. The first settlers arrived in Texas, according to David La Vere, 12,000 years ago. Over time the geographic region around San Antonio, Texas and about 150 miles south of the Rio Grande River became the Coahuilteca region: a communicative place where variouis peoples traded, married, communicated, harvested food and developed a relatively homogenous cuisine. That cuisine is the origin of what we now call Tex-Mex. Some of the elements in this cuisine are pecans, mesquite beans, cactus paddles, prickly pears, river fish, some wild game, beans and corn.
Over time the characteristics of this regional Coahuiltecan cuisine came to be ascribed incorrectly to Texas and Mexico: Tex-Mex. Although it is true that the Coahuiltecan region includes southern Texas and Mexico (northeastern Coahuila, and much of Nuevo LeÃ³n and Tamaulipas), it’s orgins pre-date both Texas and Mexico. Yes, before there was Texas, before there was Mexico, there was this region of Coahuiltecan peoples.
Looking at the cuisine in this way gives us a more authentic tracing of the flavors, a more appreciative use of the charring and roasting techniques and a better use of local products. This because ours is a native and cohesive cuisine, not a hyphenated one. So I ask my Tex-Mex chef friends, “what do you think?”