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1 Cuisine and Recipes of the Camino Real de Los Tejas Wanted

1 Cuisine and Recipes of the Camino Real de Los Tejas Wanted

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Published by lcveducator
Article 1 in a series about historic foodways by Richard G. Santos, an international research historian, linguist and educator based in San Antonio, Texas. If you have family recipes to share, please send these recipes and memories of home cooked meals to richardgsantos@yahoo.com.
Article 1 in a series about historic foodways by Richard G. Santos, an international research historian, linguist and educator based in San Antonio, Texas. If you have family recipes to share, please send these recipes and memories of home cooked meals to richardgsantos@yahoo.com.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: lcveducator on Mar 26, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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CUISINE AND RECIPES OF THE CAMINO REAL DE LOS TEJAS WANTEDByRichard G. SantosI used to tell my students at Our Lady of the Lake University, Trinity University, Schoolof Aero Space Medicine and Southwest Community College that “Mexicans do not know how tomake Mexican food”. That is, that once a U. S. citizen goes beyond the border area, the touristwill discover that the dishes called “Mexican food” in the U.S. are not prepared or served inMexico. Yes, they do serve and prepare dishes that have the same name but they are not thesame. Moreover, it is practically impossible to find flour tortillas once you travel south of Saltillo, Coahuila. Why? Simple. What is called “Mexican Food” in the U. S. is actually thecuisine of the
(New Mexico and Colorado) and
(Arizona). There isno denying Mexican, German, Polish, and Anglo influence in the preparation of selected dishes.But, the basic and traditional cuisine dates from the Spanish Colonial Period. For south Texasthat means the cuisine of Northeast Mexico (Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Tamaulipas) blendedwith the cuisine of the region’s Native American cultures.I also joke about the fact that we can take a Spanish Sephardic Jewish flour tortilla, wrapit around a Polish sausage and call it “Mexican Food” even though it is not. The same applies to pinto beans with pieces of pork also called “Mexican Food” .Yet in Spain today the dish is called
 frijoles judios
”. This requires an understanding of the Spanish, Portuguese and BasqueSephardic Jews who colonized what is now Coahuila (1575), Nuevo Leon (1580) and SouthTexas (1680’s). The earliest European colonists were (1) practicing Jews, (2) Crypto (secret)Jews, (3)
(called new Christians) and (4) Old Christians influenced by the Sephardimwho were the ruling class. Those who upheld the prohibition of pork and did not eat it werereported to the Inquisition. To avoid being detected, reported, tortured, exiled or burned at thestake, the Crypto Jews and New Christians ate pork. Hence beans with pork in Spain (pinto,green, black, etc.) were, and still are, called
 frijoles judios
(Jewish beans).The Sephardic based European culture of Northeast Mexico and South Texas coexistedand intermarried, as well as borrowed and adapted selected dishes and ingredients from the Native American cultures of the area. However, not everything in the Native American cuisinewas adopted. For instance, the Spaniards observed that the natives ate an animal completelywithout wasting anything. It was noted they ate an animal
de barba a cola
(from beard to tail)and that gave birth to the dish called
. The most common form today is
barbacoa decabeza
(cow or goat head) that includes cheeks, eyes, brain and tongue. The Spanish colonialsettlers of South Texas preferred
barbacoa de espinazo
(cow shoulder blade of vertebrae). Untilthe 1980’s there were three retailers in San Antonio known to this writer where both types of 
could be purchased. Needless to say, the
barbacoa de espinazo
was the mostexpensive.Another dish which differs from the European cuisine and Native American is
(kid/milk fed baby goat). Nuevo Leon founder Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva brought
(goats, sheep and lamb) in 1581-82 when he and his men entered Nuevo Leon. In 1623,Alonso de Leon brought a flock of 
 ganado menor 
to Monterrey from Huichapan, presentMexican state of Hidalgo. The Native Americans who guarded and took care of the goats soonmade it a part of their cuisine. But there was a difference which still exists today. That is, that theSephardim prepared and still prepare
cabrito al pastor 
(roasted). The Native American version is
cabrito en sangre/fritada
(stewed in its own blood). It is against Jewish Dietary Laws to eat an
animal in its own blood and this dish, as well as
(blood sausage)
(freshcow/goat blood stew with spices) are two more examples of Sephardic taboos that are acceptable Native American dishes.It is important to note that Don Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva in his autobiography,written while a prisoner of the Inquisition, noted it was difficult to transport Nuevo Leon grownwheat to the markets at the Port of Tampico and cities of Zacatecas and Mexico City. The reasongiven was traversing the Sierra Madre and hostile Indians who frequently attacked the ox drivencaravans. His nephew, Luis Rodriguez de Matos (aka Luis de Carvajal, the younger) wrote in hisMemoirs that once in Nuevo Leon he got hungry and made
tortillas de flor de trigo
. The earliestmention of flour tortillas in Northeast Mexico can thus be dated to circa 1581-1582. Bothdocuments are on file at the
 Ramo de la Inquisicion
at the
 Archivo General de la Nacion deMexico
. The descendants of the founding families of the 1580 Nuevo Reyno de Leon carriedtheir cuisine (including flour tortillas) into Coahuila, Tamaulipas and South Texas.The Tejano of the Spanish Colonial Period and Camino Real (1680’s to 1824) were acattle, and mobile horseback culture. Although they had home gardens and small farms in thecommunal
(small planting grounds assigned to city residents), they did not develop anagricultural industry. This was due primarily to marauding Native Americans who frequentlyraided the
taking whatever they needed for their own survival. Swiss botanist Jean LouisBerlandier did not understand this during his visit to Texas and Northeast Mexico in 1828through 1834. Therefore he erroneously and most insultingly described the residents of SanAntonio and Laredo as lazy and non-productive for not developing an agricultural industry.Being a mobile, horseback culture, the
Tejanos carried a small supply of important ingredients in their saddle backs and relied on the plentiful food to be found then andnow in South Texas.
Carne seca
(jerky) could be eaten as such or mixed with eggs of a greatvariety of fowl found in the area. This is now called
machaca (ground jerky)
also called
chile del monte
was and is still used in spicing any dish. The Tejanos alsohad native squash, melons, pumpkins uncultivated wild corn and mesquite which is edible byhumans and cattle. The Native Americans ate the mesquite off the tree or ground it into a gruelfor a soup like stew and also made a dough called
used in making tamales andtortillas.A small amount of flour in the saddle bags could also be used for making flour tortillas or 
 pan de campo
(cowboy or ranch bread). It is interesting to note that the Sephardic Jews of thearea did not use yeast in baking bread or flour tortillas. Therefore, there was no word in theSpanish dialect of Texas to identify baking powder when introduced by Anglo immigrants toTexas. The new and unknown baking power was adopted by the Tejanos and its name borrowedas
(“it’s powder”).Another well known Spanish Colonial and vaquero Tejano dish are
(skirt steak).Until the late 1960’s fajitas were either throw away or an inexpensive cut of meat. The skirt steak strips served as a plate or taco was commercialized in the 1980’s and thus became an expensivedelicacy in both restaurants and fast food businesses. I can attest to the fact that in the 1990’s Icould not find
in a grocery store or restaurant in central Indiana. That is no longer true asthey followed the fast food route of 
chile con carne
and pinto bean
(an alternateform of tacos) into mainstream U.S. cuisine.There are dozens of Sephardic and Native American dishes from the Spanish ColonialPeriod still being prepared and served at home and to a lesser degree commercially. Thisincludes the commercialized
nopalitos, migas, chilaquiles, enchiladas
(layered flat or rolled),
tamales, tortillas, capirotada, albondigas, buñuelo
pan de semita.
Also includes are
empanadas, empanaditas
(also called
) and innards such as
menudo, sesos, tripas,
liver,and mountain oysters (bull genitals). In the dessert category are the sweets such as

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