|WASHINGTON If you're a gringo
like me especially a northern U.S. gringo you may not
have discovered the wonderful tastes and aromas of Mexican cuisine.
In fact, it's still
not that farfetched to hear from friends like one in a small Northeastern
city who boasted in a letter of that town's first Mexican restaurant
a franchise fast-food place.
Well, as they say in Manhattan, that ain't Mexican, honey. Not even
Many service members get a taste of something closer to real south-of-the-border
cooking during assignments just north of the Mexico-U.S. border at
major military training centers like San Diego and San Antonio. The
former gives them a taste of the "California" or "Southwestern"
styles of Mexican cooking, heavy on the burritos and guacamole. The
latter introduces them to the variety of cooking called Tex-Mex
fajitas, gorditas, puffy tacos
and, of course, chili.
I've experienced both styles, as well as the highly popular
and spicy New Mexican cuisine featured in upscale restaurants
everywhere. Because the basis of my Mexican cooking and eating experience
is centered on South Texas, however, I tend to create mostly Tex-Mex
dishes with Southwestern accents.
The Mexican culture is rich and colorful in one of the United States'
largest "Hispanic" cities, centuries-old San Antonio, Texas.
Food-centered festivals take place nearly every weekend somewhere
in or near San Antonio, often winding along the sidewalks and over
the arched footbridges of the Paseo del Rio San Antonio's famous
In the spring, the city celebrates its rich heritage in La Villita,
the heart of Old San Antonio, footsteps from the Alamo. Here is the
birthplace of fajitas the rich, smoky aroma of char-grilled
beef and warm flour tortillas blend with the piquancy of chopped onions,
tomatoes and fresh cilantro, and waft through the still night air
beneath the brooding live oak trees. As a Texan friend of mine likes
to say, "Them's good eatin'."
You don't need a Hispanic surname or heritage to prepare delectable
dishes that will tantalize the taste buds of family and friends. There
are hundreds of good cookbooks and many online resources that will
Below are some simple recipes to get you started. Each is based on
service for four. These are my variations of other folks' recipes
that I've developed in my kitchen over the years. I invite you to
try them and use them as a base from which to develop your own brand
of Mexican cuisine. Adjust quantities to meet your needs.