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Comida Tejana

Fifty-dos, Chile con Carne. . .

"Fifty-dos, Fifty-dos!" I knew right away the woman was calling my order number over the loudspeaker. I was number Fifty-two, or Cinquentados. But in most parts of Texas any combination of Spanish and English will do.

Chile PeppersMy regular taco stand has become very popular; the outdoor seating is now an air-conditioned covered patio. The menu includes Tex-Mex favorites, fajita asada tacos and corn tortilla chips with chipotle salsa, and pan tres leches, sopapillas or Czech kalaches for desert. This is the popular food all over Texas.

Alligator Tacos on the menu is the result of the states' geographic location, mixing the cultures of Louisiana and Mexico.

The most Texican of all foods is chilies with meat, or Chili. Chile con Carne is the early Spanish version and the official entree of Texas is at least as old as the first hint of the Republic of Texas, when powerful cattle centers like Chihuahua, Socorro, Amarillo and Kingsville attracted hungry beef-eating vaqueros. The cattle were hearded through Spanish mission settlements and even older Indian villages along established trails, where locals profited by working the camp cookouts. Most everything in the state, including its name, Tejas, was then named in Spanish, or mapped with Spanish translations of Indian place names.

Corn was an ancient staple of the regional Indian diet, and the ground-up cornmeal mixed into stewed beef made a thick chili, usually served with peppers. The first serving of chili is not recorded, but it very well may have included venison or buffalo long before the arrival of the Spanish and domestic cattle.

The great "Chile War" still rages on in New Mexico as locals there prefer the old Spanish version to the newer Texican spelling, "Chili." Las Cruces, on the historic El Camino Real north of El Paso, hosts the annual Chile War and Wine Tasting Festival each Memorial Day in defiant competition against the braggadocios Texans. The spelling of the word has even been contested in court.

Either way, a hot bowl of chili or chiles caliente will be served with dinner at the next stop.


Get more information from: The Chile Pepper Institute

See these related sites: King's Road, Polka Time and Musica Tejana

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