WHAT IS TEX MEX? How is it different than Mexican food? It's basically Mexican food with Texas ingredients. Simple as that! Well, not really. We are discussing all the favorites associated with Tex Mex. We found a good recipe for homemade tortillas if anyone wants to try them at home - https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/homemade-tortillas/
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Episode Transcript below.
Tex Mex. What makes it different than just Mexican fare? If you're from Mexico or Texas, you likely know many differences. But we thought we discussed that at the table today. So meet you there and prepare to get hungry.
I'm Lainie and I'm Laura Beth. And we are Steel Magnolias, the strength of steel. with the grace of a magnolia. We are here to have uplifting conversations about life in the south.
And we've got plenty of room at our table. So pull up a chair
Hey, y'all, and Hey, sis.
Hey there. Hey, we want to start off this episode with a very big thank you to our sponsor. For this episode. Tennessee Woodworks. Okay, don't fast forward. Don't fast forward. Don't fast forward, you're definitely going to want to hear this amazing story. I bet you guys didn't know that the owner and master craftsman at Tennessee Woodworks is legally blind.
Yeah, I mean, blind. Wow, blind. In the fall of 2016. Eddie's Zingleman, was forced to leave his career in the healthcare industry, due to a degenerative eye disease that had rendered him legally blind. So over time, since he was a young boy-ish, I think it kind of started showing itself in middle school in high school. It started getting worse and worse. And so shortly after resigning, Eddie set out to build a basic farm table for the home that he and his wife Katie had just purchased. The farm table that he built turned out to be the beginning of a new and exciting career path. So Eddie quickly set out to learn as much as he could about the art of woodworking and just the fundamentals of traditional furniture making and craftsmanship. And little by little things started coming together one piece at a time. So Eddie and Katie's home garage started looking more like a wood shop. And then after two years, Eddie’s handcrafted tables were now in multiple retail outlets. That's incredible. Increasing demand necessitated a move into a dedicated wood shop. And today they are Tennessee Woodworks. I love this so much incredible, incredible story and amazing determination. I cannot wrap my head around what it takes for him to construct and build these amazing pieces of furniture. We talked about the butcher block cutting boards that they make, and I just Yeah, so you have to really go look for look at these for yourself. Go to Tennessee woodworks.com. Check out what they can make. And they produce stuff for every home of your room, every room of your home. And again, just thankful for them to partner with us and sponsor this episode.
Have you ever heard that when you lose a sense that the other senses get stronger? Yes. Maybe that's why his hands make such beautiful handiwork.
That's very true. That's very true. Yeah, because I think I have exceptional hearing hearing, but my eyesight is not that great. And I feel like there's a real imbalance there. So yeah, couldn't be true.
Hey, I also want to thank all of the amazing companies that supplied products for our most recent swag bags that we sent out to our VIP patrons that would be Overland Candle Company. Savor the Flavor South Carolina, Take Them a Meal and Southern Lady Magazine. So thank you, some of our VIPs are just getting boxes, even this week, or in coming months. With those goodies in them. Yeah, if you want to find out more on how you can get a swag bag, you can check us out at patreon.com/steelmagnolias that'll show you all the different levels of support.
Okay, so before we jump into today's topic, in looking to the future at our content, we've got this one topic that's feeling a little daunting to the two of us. That feels like an underestimate, but yes, daunting. We have been wanting to discuss favorite cookbooks, meaning southern cookbooks. But there's so many directions you can go the classics, the new up and comers, et cetera, when it's so personal grilling, smoking, the baking the just cooking. So we need y’alls help.
Yeah, we're doing an all call for nominations for your favorite southern cookbook and we will be featuring probably around the top five or so on an upcoming episode. So we might not even be familiar ourselves with some of the ones that get the most votes, but we want to hear from y'all because we want a good representation of those of you that love Southern culture and may have been using a cookbook that you've loved for a long time. Tell us about it. So you can email us SteelMagnoliasPodcast@gmail.com. Or you can message us through Facebook or Instagram. Or if you don't even want to type it out and you're on your smartphone, we even have on our website, or just on the website on the desktop or your laptop. If you go to Steel Magnolias podcast.com. You'll see in the bottom right corner, there's a little microphone. And if you will just touch or click on that microphone, it prompts you to just leave us a voicemail like leaves us a message and then we get a recording of you just telling us what your favorite southern cookbook was, is. So there's a lot of ways to enter to get in contact with us. But we wanted to make it as easy as possible because we want to hear from you.
We want to know your go to.
Okay, I have a fun way to kick this off. Okay, we made a trip to Texas as you can tell from our content as of late,
And we had a wonderful experience of Tex Mex fare that caused me to make a funny little list …three signs you're coming in to an authentic Tex Mex restaurant. Okay, these literally happened. So these were fun
real time examples.
The street lining up to the restaurant is lined with quinceanera shops. Now if you don't know what a quinceanera shop is, the 15th birthday is a huge celebration in Mexican culture. Yes, bigger than what I think of as a sweet 16. And yes, in the States.
So yeah, the these the dresses, I mean, this is a probably a bigger spend or time put into a than a prom dress like this is this dress is huge. You like literally circumference. It's got nothing on the or they're given a run for their money on the azalea trail maids so that we look similar to them. Yeah, they're, they're bright and decorative. For sure. So okay, so you see the streets lined with those shops, you may be getting into a good location. Number two, when you get out of the car to walk inside, everyone is speaking Spanish, including the street preacher on the megaphone on the corner.
True story. Like I've never actually seen a Spanish street evangelist on a megaphone.
We saw it in Texas. And number three, you come in the door. And the sign celebrity photos of patrons of the restaurant include Shakira,
hey, hips don't lie. She's been there. And she signed her picture. So yeah, we got some good TexMex authentic.
So there's three signs for you. Well, I want to talk specifically later about that restaurant in Yeah. And what we ordered and all the things that we did there, but yeah, so we I mean, how is Mexican and Tex Mex? How are they different? Well, Mexican food, or Tex Mex is Mexican food with Texas ingredients. Basically. That’s a great way to say it.
it reminded me and doing research of this this sweet woman at our church that was from Egypt one time she had made some sweets for this gathering. And she said I did the best I could with the ingredients I could get here. And I thought, oh, yeah, that would be so hard, right? To make what you're used to making and not have the exact ingredients. You're used to having your homeland. Right. So that's how things get better.
Exactly. Exactly. So I mean, some examples, I'll just give examples right off the bat. fajitas these are just basic Tex Mex, Tex Mex. So he does nachos. Any dish that uses belief.
I didn't know that. I didn't know that x max. Okay, black beans, canned vegetables, wheat flour, or yellow cheese. Okay, so all of those ingredients are not popular South of the Mexican border.
Maybe a little bit more North. You can FIND Them,
Okay, but they're just not popular. It's not. It's not that's not regular Mexican food. So those that's why those are considered Tex Mex. And then of course, beef is the primary choice. Because of all if you've ever been sticks. You heard our cowboy culture episode last week. There is cattle coming out their ears. So Texan ranchers obviously would be using what's on their hands and that's beef.
Yeah, well, you've pretty much covered it already.
So that’s the Episode. I'm just kidding. totally kidding.
So this cuisine It grew out of what I read the Rio Grande Valley Rio Grande Valley, but came into its own. I read in San Antonio, did you read it? Did you see that? That doesn't okay. So I read that in the 1870s Chili queens in San Antonio. That's what they call them chili queens in San Antonio. They started becoming nationally and internationally famous. That's when Tex Mex started getting on the map. So while Tex Mex food has its roots in Mexico and southern Texas, it didn't really grow into like a food group, like where people might have even had a name for it. Until a group of Hispanic women known as the chili Queens began their reign in 1870s. That's a long time ago. 1870s They had a little shop in a plaza of San Antonio. So it started as like a little pop up. And they served chili con carne with tamales, enchiladas, and chili con verde. So the word starts spreading. They start bringing in, you know, starting to attract tourists now, not just locals. And they called it they were spreading the gospel of chili. Oh, that's hysterical. Which was the first popular Mexican meal to enter America because that's hearty. And so yeah, so I read that the chili queens of Willow around San Antonio in the 1870s are kind of the ones that made this unknown thing. Well, I
do know chili con carne is very much a Tex Mex thing. That's pretty much just what we call chili. Right? Well, yeah. So
I started even in my research, I was like, so what's the difference between Chili and Chili con carne? I think simply put, chili meat chili can be made just chicken turkey. You could even have sweets, you know, vegetarian, sweet potato. Yeah,
you know, corn beans. They are truly, you know, endless possibilities. In fact, we've had Chili Cook offs at our church before and I'm like, I had no idea that this menu Chili's could either be all different, right, but chili con carne is coming on incarnate means with me. So it has to contain meat. Okay, technically, okay. Not necessarily beef, but meat. Yeah, but we know in Tex Mex, as we've already started stated that it's most likely going to be B.
Okay. Yeah. Very interesting. Well, I do know in Mexican, you pretty much always are going to have corn tortillas that Yes. Thats how they do it. Yes. But in North Mexico, in Texas. Yeah. You see the flower
now? We're getting some gluten. Yeah, some wheat. Wheat flour. Yeah. So so you'll see both. That's a yeah,
that is a distinction for sure. And like you already said most Mexican food you're gonna see white cheese like, than koji does. Is it? Maybe queso fresca fresco? Well, yeah, yeah. But when you start seeing yellow cheeses, yeah.Tex Mex
yeah, kind of like people would just call a nacho cheese, but it's different, but it's the color of a nacho cheese. Yeah.
Cheddar. Yes. Which is what we have a lot of here.
And We love our cheddar.
And I know Tex Mex uses Cumin a lot. You don't really see that much in Mexican food. Okay, that's another distinction. Yeah.
I love adding cumin in my guacamole. Yeah, you make good guacamole.
Well to Tejano culture is Texans of Mexican heritage. Okay. So that's a lot of what our read was talking about. It's Tohono culture. That guy, you know, they were trying to make their food, right. They were used to making and just using what they had. Easy to get. Yes,
yes. Did you read about what might be the oldest Tex Mex restaurant in operation today? No. So I think according to what I read, it's el Fenix in Dallas. Oh, El FENIX.
I feel like I saw that in a book I was looking at when we were making our trip. Yeah, so we
didn't get to try that in Dallas, but it's still apparently in operation today.
Let me talk a little a little more specifically about some of the we talked about chili con carne and fajitas and fajitas. fajitas are an iconic dish, but a relatively late newcomer entering the mainstream mainstream Tex Mex scene. It came in like the 1960s is what I read. So the outs it would that could be steak too, but you oftentimes see chicken now on menus is a fajita option. But it was considered a lower class food for many years, really, but he does. Yeah. The fajitas revolution came in 1969 when a Laredo restaurant called Round Up served the dish on a sizzling platter. Oh yeah. Do you remember when you worked at a Mexican restaurant and I remembered how Yeah, how much your clothing smelled when you would come home?
Well, I have a funny story of the sizzling skillet, as well.
So I was sorry. I know this story
17..Working at this restaurant, and, you know, as a waitress Well, first of all, I'm in the hole off the shoulder dress.
okay, with my big button on that was like, whatever special Margarita for the week or whatever. Oh my gosh. So, Slayer. I had my flare. Just one though. And so anyhow, you would you know, sir, when you're carrying all the food out to the table, you have that large tray with each person's plate on? Yes. Well, when you do the sizzling fajitas scale it it's supposed to have a like, like a pot holder. Or it's like a it was like a thick straw. Kind of I don't know how to explain it thing that went under it.
Yeah. Not a trivet. But but that is their version of it. Yeah.
And so I'm 17 you know, putting all my I'm in a hurry and I put all that and I just stick that scale it right on that tray. And I get all the way out to the dining room before the heat has come through. Correct. I did not drop it. I just like got it down to the table you know without I don't even think I screamed but the heat was making its way
like so that was in my mind you draw
on it. But no, I didn't drop it. But like Gosh, that's the everybody should have to wait tables once in their life. But that's a whole nother that at least once in your life. Because it's so good to see how I have so many funny stories.
Well, you certainly learn a lot about customer service. Yeah, and empathy for those that are in the service industry in general. It's
not the waitress or waiters fault. If something's delayed, it's the kitchen. There's so many different things anyway, didn't mean to get on that rant.
Tomorrow tamales that's a popular Tex Mex street food. And we've, we've talked a little bit about about delta delta tamales, but enchiladas. So
that's a very Tex Mex. I didn't know that until recently.
I mean, this is considered like a comfort food to many people. It's a little different for me to consider that a comfort food, but
I laugh thinking yeah, I mean, after you ate it, don't you just want to take
a deep no and take a nap? Yeah. Yeah. And then we talked about fajitas.
Well, I read that it was an English food writer, Diana Kennedy, in the 1970s, who actually brought new life to the word TexMex. She was really trying to quantify the differences. Okay. I don't know if that's accurate. But she was trying to kind of argue the differences between Texan food and distinct from Mexican food. But, you know, we've already covered a lot of the differences. Another I had noted was sweet corn being used in Mexican food is very much an American thing. Yeah, that's not something you would see in Mexico. And canned beans. Yeah. Or another American inventions. Yeah. Mexicans generally use fresh Yes. Versus canned.
Yeah. Yeah. And I would say even canned, lots of things. canned tomatoes, canned, write like olives. Like there's, there's nothing that I've seen in Tex Mex that are all canned vegetables like that in that same family.
And then I read burritos were Tex Mex. I don't know
who's gonna argue that there we are. If they're in a wheat flour. Let's tortilla. Yeah,
and corn winds are often so small. You didn't have the flour. Windsor couldn't be large. Yeah, corns usually makes for an easier burrito. Anyway,
we do need to talk about the tortillas because a fresh tortilla kind of is the one of the key ingredients in a Tex Mex meal. They take a lot of pride in
making them home. Yes, yes. Corn and flour. True. Yeah.
I did find a good recipe for a homemade tortilla. If anybody wants to be ambitious and try it. I'll link to it in our show notes. I've never tried it but it's from taste of home and they usually they have good do really do you got
that right. I have even just not made I've never made them homemade. But I do think if you just spray your skillet with just a little of the oil and then just quickly kinda brown it a little bit for sure. Does make it kind of so much fresher. It does and that doesn't take very long. Yeah, do that fairly quickly.
We spread a little butter on ours and okay, and then do that scale it or we'll like cook the I mean the ground beef is already cooked, but to even warm it up or something, put it on there folded over. Okay, yeah, just kind of gives it a crispiness get your cheese milk. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Well, what next? Well,
we have a restaurant called chewy that we're familiar with. So I wanted to talk about the original cheese that started in 1982 in Austin, Texas. Okay. But I wanted to mention it, especially because the first CHEWIES outside of Texas is right here in our backyard. And Franklin, we got the second. I mean, we did I didn't know that I did. CHEWIES is interesting, because well, they have a real eccentric decor in the restaurant, which is fun, but they have 10 signature sauces. Well, it's incredible.
If you're a sauce. Sauce is my jam. That's your
favorite. Is that different than the white sauce? They bring you in? Because it would if we heard that called crack sauce or some white crack, like
bring me some of that white crack
and it's what they serve a lot of times thin it's sandwich
or something. I don't know.
A lot of people just like to dip their chips in it. Yeah,
it reminds me of a ranch but it's thinner. It's not real thick. I love it too. But that boom boom sauce. I don't know what's in it, but its glory.
Yeah. And so a lot of people do if you are around a two ways you might think that is the only Tex Mex but there are a lot of other texts. makrut Tex Mex restaurants. We have one here in Nashville that's been around for ages that I've always loved called the San Antonio taco company. Oh,
yeah. And they are right down by Vanderbilt University. And
now that I have read that San Antonio was such a hub full of Corbridge like their cheese dip. It's more than nice dip is so good. It's so good. Yeah. So I'm sure everybody listening is probably going oh, my favorite Tex Mex restaurant is such and such. We got to visit a good one in Dallas when we were flying back. Well,
I want to mention one more chain before we go to that. And that is papa sceetos. Right there out of Texas as well. Yeah, that's a big chain of Tex Mex that you may have in your city. Yeah, papa, papa coos, and Papa sceetos. Started by a Greek family. Again, we keep hearing about the Greek immigrants that start restaurants. I'm assuming it was Pappas. Er.
Yes, Papa Viejo? Yeah,
from there last night. Yeah,
that's so cool. The place we went to in Dallas was called El Ranchito. They've got a location right there in Dallas and in Arlington, which is just outside of Dallas. And that is where we were sitting when you came up with your list. Because we were surrounded by families having such a good time. I mean, long tables of families that were there. So
like took a couple pictures. We might have to share that or something. I was thinking this
is a good place because the whole family is here but I had well first of all, we started with chili con queso. Yep. And just as an appetizer,
wonderful salsa, homemade salsa. Do you remember we were like, we could just package this and take it home? It would be wonderful, so good.
I chose the INMO Ladas, I think is how you would say it which was to chicken enchiladas topped and served with Malay sauce. Which made me think what is moly sauce? Very
complicated. Yeah, with tons of ingredients. I looked it up before. Yeah, never made it myself. But so usually
it's chilly place at least two different types. The sour taste is probably going to come from a tomato the sweet is going to come from dried fruits or sugars. They're spices, there's thickeners like different nuts and spreads and things that they I mean it is very complex in so you get like a paste formed and then you mix it with a water or broth and then it's simmered until it's thick. So it was like just a dark. It's very dark color that was over the two enchiladas. Which was really tasty. So that was what I had. And then what did you get?
I got there like beef, chicken and cheese enchilada like one. Oh yeah, yeah. And it was delicious. But what is it about just a plain cheese enchilada can be so good. I know what it has a good red sauce on it. Yes, it is so good. So funny enough it was my favorite of the three was the cheese blue cheese. That is if I were to go back I might just get cheese enchilada
because you are a meat lover in my opinion. So I think that's funny that you pick well. I know your
cheese delivered to her though and so that's what makes it come out. You need a shirt that says that on the flavor. Oh, yeah, yeah. So anyway, that's what I had but such a great experience. And then I asked the waiter if we could see them make the tortillas, which he was like, Sure, just tell me when you're ready, and I'll take you over there. We will I'm meant to. I thought we were going to the kitchen kitchen. Yeah. But it was a pretty large restaurant. He takes us over to where everybody can say like, it's like this lady. She's making them right there in front of everybody on like, an oversized grid or at all. Yeah, and but you could see the dough. I mean, every step. Yeah. Process. She thought that was
so funny. We're like running video. She's just saying in Spanish. It's way too hot up here to be making tortillas.
I know. She looked cute. She even had lipstick on. Is that possible when you've been flipping tortillas all day? Well, that was a fun experience. And
but yeah, the fresh tortilla it's important. Well, and
the only other couple of little differences I saw were Tex Mex tacos. You know how sometimes you will see like a shell? That that's Tex Mex. If it's in a shell. Okay, not just a soft Okay, hard shells. I'm sorry. Yes, that is that's TexMex okay. And then with Mexican acid burritos or Tex Mex. Let me clarify something else I read said there are Mexican burritos. But they're mostly meat. Like it's not filled with rice and veggies and you don't
run it down the salad bar like it knows when you're just adding to
your burrito. Oh, that's another Chipotle would be another. That's yeah. Tex Mex. I think okay. Yeah. Mexican. Anyway, so there's just a couple more.
Okay. Yeah, I hadn't thought about the hardshell if that makes sense.
Well, are you hungry? Yeah. For some cheese dip. And I'm always
hungry for cheese dip. I am either white or give yellow. Yes. Are you Team White? or yellow? I
like both. I like both. And I love like, kind of going back and forth between salsa. Yeah. Cheese. And then I need salsa. Yeah, like, yeah, it's different if you mix it like that's not what I'm talking about. I need just tomato II. Yes, the Chi.
I can get overly full and not even need an entree on either. Like I've just eaten the whole,
right. If I will have chips. Yeah, if you sit down hungry. It's kind of problematic. Because they're right there really quickly. No, yeah. And then now you're packing up your entree. Or that's what I do end up doing sometimes. I overload on the sell side. It's
true. Well, y'all let us know about your cookbook nominations. As you're thinking through that we've given you all the ways to enter that. We'll link to it in the show notes. I hope you'll have a good week. Hope it's not too cheesy.
And with that, I'll say Y Que La Paz sea contigo, Laura Beth
Y tambien con todos ustedes