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Texas Eats


Food is delectably complicated in Texas, the only place one is likely to find dramatically different barbecue styles in the spread of a single state, or get into an argument over the origins of chili. This is, of course, a direct result of the state’s salty heritage, a history shaped in part by cowboys and oilmen, Comanche raiders, European colonists and Mexicans. Regardless which side of the culinary line you decide to toe though, rest assured that a food trip state border to border is sure to be a treat for the taste buds, from tortilla chips and fresh salsa to chicken fried steak.

There are a few useful things to know before beginning an adventure in Texan edibles. First, come to terms with Texas barbecue by region. Best known are the styles from Central Texas, where you’ll get your meat sliced, with sauce as a side dip, and East Texas, where it’s common to lunch on chopped beef or pork, slow cooked over hickory wood, served up on a bun with plenty of sweet tomato-based sauce. Venture into West Texas and the menu might include mutton, goat or beef, cooked hot over mesquite, while in Southeast Texas think pork ribs. In South Texas, influenced by culture south of the border, it’s barbacoa de cabeza, featuring a whole cow’s head. Brisket abounds of course, but also look for savory Elgin sausages, Tyler’s Greenburg turkeys and a whole host of other meets to grace the smoking grill of choice. Meat lovers, rejoice; and prepare for battle should you ever even hint that Kansas City has something over Texas-style barbecue.

When it comes to chili, San Antonio is the state’s unofficial capital, dishing out long-simmered variations on a theme of beef, pork, onions, chile peppers and assorted seasonings, rice and beans on the side. But chili wears more than one hat, making appearances as a dip, aka chili con queso, and even a gravy, served over dishes like cheese enchiladas, which, along with chili, are counted part of the state’s Tex-Mex culinary culture.

Wait, Tex-Mex you say? Born of Mexican influence and Texan traditions, this popular cooking style has given to modern man the likes of nachos, fajitas, combination plates, chili con carne and enchiladas - and maybe even margaritas, though history remains out on that one.

Having thus mastered the intricacies of major Texan cooking movements, there remains another notable hero: chicken fried steak. Which is, of course, actually a fried beef cutlet similar to German Wiener Schnitzel, reputedly appropriated and Americanized in either Lamesa or Bandera, depending on who you ask.

Finally, should this short introduction to Texan comestibles leave y’all more confused than when y’all started out, there’s an easy solution: large amounts of sweet tea followed by even more ice cold craft beer, like Rahr Red or Saint Arnold Texas Wheat. Check your diet at the door.

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