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Dictionaries and food history sources confirm the first print evidence of the term "Tex Mex" occured in the 1940s.
Linguists remind us words are often used for several years before they appear in print. "Tex-Mex food might be described as native foreign food, contradictory through that term may seem, It is native, for it does not exist elsewhere; it was born on this soil.
Tex Mex restaurants first surfaced ouside the southwest region in cities with large Mexican populations. Diana Kennedy, noted Mexican culinary expert, is credited for elevating this common food to trendy fare. But it is foreign in that its inspiration came from an alien cuisine; that it has never merged into the mainstream of American cooking and remains alive almost solely in the region where it originated..." ---Eating in America, Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont [William Morrow: New York] 1976 (p. A combination of the words "Texan" and "Mexican," first printed in 1945, that refers to an adaptation of Mexican dishes by Texas cooks.
It is difficult to be precise as to what distinguishes Tex-Mex from true Mexican food, except to say that the variety of the latter is wider and more regional, whereas throughout the state and, now, throughout the entire United States." ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. 325) [1950s] "Mexican restaurants, whos popularity coincided with the arrival of large numbers of Mexican immigrants after 1950, have for the most part followed the from and style of what is called "Tex-Mex" food, and amalgam of Northern Mexican peasant food with Texas farm and cowboy fare.
The combination platter of enchiladas, tacos, and tortillas became the unvarying standards of the Tex-Mex menu, while new dishes like chimichangas (supposedly invented in the the 1950s at El Charro restaurant in Tucson, Arizona) and nachos (supposedly first served at a consession at Dallas's State Fair of Texas in 1964...) were concocted to please the American palate....
One Tex-Mex item that may someday rival the pizza as an extraordinarily successful ethnic dish is the fajita...introduced at Ninfa's in Houston on July 13, 1973, as tacos al carbon.
If one is out on an all-night binge--a juerga, as it is called--it is the custom to end the evening by eating Churros and hot chocolate at the churreria, or churro store, which opens by dawn." ---The Foods and Wines of Spain, Penelope Casas [New York: Knopf] 1982 (p. Make a depression in the middle of each and fill with chichiarrones. ed.) iii.81 Burritos in the northern part of Mexico and in the southwestern part of the United States are quite different.
Smith [Mexican American Food] Pre-Hispanic Cooking, Ana M. fritters were known to many cultures and cuisines; each evolving according to local tastes and customs.
These foods were introduced to Mexico by Spanish settlers.
For the rest of the world, "Tex-Mex" had an exciting ring.
It evoked images of cantinas, cowboys and the Wild West.
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Texas-Mexican restaurant owners considered it an insult.