Jan 16, 2011

The Science of Tex-Mex, Part 1

The History

It's amazing how a blog post about nothing, just because you are dying to write, can lead to a whole new blog post about one of the most important conversations in Texas: Tex-Mex.

Or as Texas Monthly calls it, Mex-Tex.

First, Tex-Mex v Mex-Tex. According to Texas Monthly, which as best I can tell coined "Mex-Tex" the difference is in emphasis. Many moons ago, the food was more Americanized...or Tex-ized if you will. Recently though, the Mexican influence has come on strong and it's more authentic. I suppose with all the buzz I hear about "Interior Mexican food" I can see this. But for the purposes of this blog, and really, somewhat out of principal, we're going to stick to Tex-Mex as our venacular.

Rules of Tex-Mex, as proven by much research
  1. If you are north of say Dallas, or maybe we can be as liberal as to say Wichita Falls, it isn't Tex-Mex. On the same note, if you are in Australia, it is also not Tex-Mex. It is a well-intentioned impersonation. No grudges against those places or anything, just don't think that because you went to someplace called "Maria's" in Cambridge that you know what Tex-Mex is. (Conversely, going to Red Lobster in Austin does not mean I know two things about Maine lobster or New England clam chowder.)
  2. Chips and salsa should always be free with your meal. If someone tries to cheat you out of this, leave immediately. Complain to the BBB. It is simply unacceptable to call an establishment Tex-Mex (or Mex-Tex for that matter) and not provide free chips and salsa. In fact, two forms of salsa, rojo and verde, are preferred.
  3. "Queso" is not, I repeat NOT, melted Velveeta. At the very minimum it should be blended with pico de gallo and at it's best will include either beef (carne) or chicken (pollo, pronounced po-yo not polo). It's principal purpose is for chips but it is acceptable to add it to any element of your meal.
  4. In any good Tex-Mex place, the English is spotty but that should be fine because as a seasoned Tex-Mex eater you know all the Spanish you need, even if you're foreign language in high school was Mandarin.
  5. The best Tex-Mex places are mildly sketchy looking, hideously decorated, cheap cheap CHEAP and individually-owned holes in the wall. Example: there was this taco/burrito place next to the laundromat back home in Seabrook, and while I never would have gone in there alone as a petite white high school girl, give me a linebacker from the football team as my escort and I could have eaten those tacos all day and still gotten change back from my $5.
I firmly believe in Rule Number Five. Too many experiences have proven this accurate as heck for me to not believe it. However, the whole premise for this post is a questioning of Rule Number Five and our upcoming experiment.

The Question

From AustinEater.com
 In the December 2010 edition of Texas Monthly, which is possibly the best magazine on the planet, the feature story is the 50 Best Tex-Mex (er, Mex-Tex) Restaurants in Texas. I've read other Texas Monthly "best of" features and have yet to be steered in the wrong direction. I may be a lady of little faith but I have faith in Texas Monthly.

The feature included Fonda San Miguel, an Austin locale, as one of the best, in fact as one of the five best in the state. I've heard from several Tex-Mex conissuers (ie native Texans) that this place is caliente and they feel great amor toward the eatery.

But it's also expensive, kinda trendy and in fact, gourmet.

This directly conflicts with Rule Number Five! (Though it is still locally-owned.) So can it be true? Can a pricey gourmet Mexican restaurant really stand up to the many hole in the wall locales I've spent the past quarter of a century lusting after?

The Procedure

Admittedly we're skeptical but very curious. That's why when I got this wonderful new gig, I decided Fonda San Miguel was going to be my celebration location. When I get my first paycheck at the end of this month, we're going to drop a chunk of it on what better be the best Tex-Mex to ever cross the threshold of my mouth.

Though I have not fully determined the variables to be considered during the procedure, here's what I'm considering thus far
  • Salsa
  • Margarita
  • Queso
  • Tortillas
  • Caliente-ness
It's my own little science experiment and I have to say, I'm much more excited about it than I ever was about any of the science experiments I displayed on red tri-fold cardbord in elementary school.

1 comment:

Jess said...

I'm excited for you! And wish I could join :) Enjoy!