The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos

July 9, 2010 · Posted in Bestselling Cooking Books 

Product Description
Nobody knows Tex-Mex like Houstonian Robb Walsh, who has spent much of his career researching the vibrant Mexican-American-and-Texan kitchen. Now he shares all the savory details in a comprehensive Tex-Mex bible, filled with outsize characters, fascinating stories, rare archival photographs, and of course great recipes for making an easy-to-elegant range of classic and nuevo dishes.

The Tex-Mex Cookbook takes readers from the Spanish missions of the eighteen… More >>

The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos

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5 Responses to “The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos”

  1. Michael K. Smith on July 9th, 2010 6:49 pm

    I grew up in San Antonio and spent nearly forty years in Dallas, and I’ve been a devotée of Tex-Mex food all that time. This amazing, engrossing, mouth-watering volume is far more than a “cookbook,” the modest title notwithstanding — it’s a history of why Texans eat the way they do, why most Mexicans south of the Sonoran desert are contemptuous of chips-and-salsa, and where chile con carne really began. There are decades of photos of the best chili joints and upscale restaurants in the state, many of which I’ve eaten at over the years. The frontispiece is of the gondola at Casa Rio, where my high school senior class held parties, and there’s even a picture (along with a bit of oral history) of Lucille Quiñones (whose family owned El Rancho restaurant), and whom I also knew in high school. (She went to Incarnate Word and many of the guys from my school dated girls there.) The chapter on the “chili queens” is fantastic and exceedingly well-written. The lengthy discussion of the “myth of authenticity” is spot-on, absolutely accurate, and will upset some self-righteous Texans, but who cares? The great food is the thing! And the recipes themselves, scattered among the history and the pictures, are excellent, including the classic method of making chili gravy at Molina’s in Houston, and the pre-yuppified cheese enchiladas at Larry’s down in Richmond, and the swooningly delicious version of chiles rellenos at Darios in Austin, and the justifiably famous puffy tacos at Henry’s in San Antonio (where they were invented and don’t let anyone tell you different). And if you want to know what Chicano rights protestors thought about the Frito Bandito commercials, or how David Pace got his salsa company started, or why the five Cuellar brothers let themselves be photographed in business suits and kitchen aprons, this is the place to come. In fact, Walsh, a noted food writer from Houston, has produced what is sometimes an almost scholarly work. I’m a pretty fair cook and I read a lot of cookbooks, but most of them come from the library and I buy very selectively. Five minutes of browsing through this one, though, and I had my credit card out, and now it’s on my bedside table, filled with bookmarks. If you love serranos and combination plates and “true” Texas chili the way I do, you must own this book! And I wish I could give it six stars.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. Terry the Cook on July 9th, 2010 9:35 pm

    I received my copy of your Tex-Mex cookbook in the mail today. My goodness it takes me back to my

    kidhood in San Antonio. To me this is real *real* comfort food. I adore that it’s

    full of history and pictures of great people. So interesting with great

    recipes that touch my heart. I could almost cry it’s so wonderful.

    I haven’t been in San Antonio since I was a kid, I’m 67 now, so there is a huge amount of nostalgia working here. When I first came to Washington, DC there was no Tex-Mex food at all. One little “mexican” restaurant near the White House. $1.25 got us a plate with two cheese enchiladas, rice, beans, a chulupa, and guava paste for dessert.

    It took years and years before you could even get a chili.

    Even though I can now get almost decent tex-mex food in a few restaurants and get the ingredients to make some of my favorite dishes at home any book that talks about the food and it’s history in a loving way tugs at my heartstrings.

    Thank you for a walk down memory lane and many wonderful recipes to awaken the child in me.

    I am happy to say that I got a lovely response from Mr. Walsh only a few hours after I sent him this letter.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. B. Marold on July 9th, 2010 11:00 pm

    `The Tex-Mex Cookbook’ by Robb Walsh, the Southwest’s answer to Maine’s John Thorne, is a truly remarkable book, in that it presents the history from the beginning, in pictures, narrative, and recipes, of a complete cuisine. The credit for this accomplishment cannot be given to Walsh alone, as part of the ability to write such a history is based on the fact that the `Tex-Mex’ cuisine is so young, with many of its defining events happening within living memory. And, no events in this history predate the colonization of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona by the Spanish in the 1500’s.

    One critical `defining moment’ in `Tex-Mex’ cuisine occurred just thirty years ago, according to the author, when Diana Kennedy, the renowned interpreter of Mexican cuisines identified the style of cooking north of the Mexican border in `The Cuisines of Mexico’ as something distinctly not part of Mexican culinary heritage. Having been cut loose from Mexican cuisine by such a distinguished authority left this style of food to establish its own identity.

    While other writers may not take the `Tex’ part of the term literally, Robb Walsh wishes to define the extent of `Tex-Mex’ cuisine as truly that which is done or which originated within the boundaries of Texas, or some location very close by. This rules out several popular gringo dishes such as fish tacos so prominent in San Diego. Ground Zero for Tex-Mex cuisine appears to be San Antonio, in the shadow of the Alamo. Only fitting that the defining venue for Tex-Mex eating is the most memorable location in the battle for Texas independence from Mexico. The word `Tex-Mex’ was not invented for the cuisine and may not have been applied to the cuisine until Diana Kennedy banished it from Mexican food styles. It began, however, as early as 1581, when the first European livestock arrived in El Paso, enabling the connection between Old World beef and New World corn and tomatoes. This means that `Tex-Mex’ cooking style has some direct connection to Spanish influences. It did not emerge purely from Mexican styles of cooking; however, it is obvious that Tex-Mex owes most of its character to staples and basic preparations that were born in Mexico. The fact which makes the book so vibrant and alive is that many of the most interesting events in Tex-Mex cuisine history happened between 1894 and World War II, which means that so many oral and photographic sources are available for the telling.

    The heart of Tex-Mex cooking is probably the chile, and the soul is probably the dish, chili con carne, or, literally translated `chile with meat’. The story of the differences in spelling for these closely related things is an important part of the groundwork Walsh lays for recounting the history of Tex-Mex. He presents a simple but very useful survey of chiles which includes a careful distinction of fresh from smoked forms and red from green forms, with a clarification that the famous Hatch chile is actually a cultivar of the Anaheim variety and not a truly distinct species. He is also careful to note that the Habanero is just another name for the Scotch Bonnet, an identity ignored by some other writers who should know better.

    Needless to say, the book also contains many, many chili con carne recipes, most of which follow true Texas tradition and leave out the beans. There are at least two interesting discoveries regarding chili basics. The first is the fact that early chili con carne recipes included pork and the meats were stewed, as one may do in a French daube and not browned. The second tidbit is the fact that there is a special chili die for grinding meat in a hand meat grinder. Never saw that one on Martha Stewart!

    The book is filled with a mix of recipes, stories, and pictures, all of which lead to an extremely pleasant culinary / literary experience. It makes one with that John Thorne, Jim Villas, and Calvin Trillin would be a little more creative with using pictures to liven up their essays. Kudos to the book designers at Broadway Books, too, for their effective assembly of all the material. It is rare to find a culinary work that gives so much for its modest $18 list price.

    The single most important value to the book, of course, is in the recipes that never find their way into important Mexican cookbooks by Kennedy and the equally well decorated Rick Bayless. This is not to say Bayless does not endorse this work. The back cover can barely hold his praise for it. I loved the recipes for their obvious authenticity and I was truly happy to have a good source for a Tex-Mex party menu. However, the author’s obvious attention to every sort of detail in telling the story of Tex-Mex food is what sells me on this book.

    As long as you do not grind your own flour and make your own tortillas, almost all of the recipes in this book are relatively simple. You even get the simple recipes for such basics as chile powder and the original Pace salsa. But, even if you want to jump into this cuisine with both feet, the good news is that almost all the special equipment is both simple and cheap, as long as you know the proper techniques. And, this book has them all.

    Highly recommended for the reader, dabbler, and the zealot. Few books make a culture and cuisine come alive quite so well.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. Billy Goat Ranch on July 10th, 2010 12:10 am

    Time to toss out every other Tex-Mex cookbook. This one is the real deal. Having lived and cooked in Texas all my life, and south texas most of it, and a constant search for the true flavors of tex-mex, a reading tells me the recipes are authentic, the stories alone worth the price of admission.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. A. Smith on July 10th, 2010 2:25 am

    I just got this book for my birthday from my big brother and I am here to tell you FIVE STARS AIN’T ENOUGH. I grew up in TEXAS in the 50’s and have been to most of the places described that were still around then and the Author hits the nail on the head. Between the history, the photographs and the original recipes this is THE treasure trove of Mexican cooking. Iwould say more but I think I’ve said it all. MUY BUENO!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
    Rating: 5 / 5

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