GUEST COLUMN: The pollution of our food
Sunday, 06 January 2013 by Mark Magnan
Now before you think this is a tree hugging article about all the chemicals that are in and on our food, let me state that it has nothing to do with that. This is about the dilution of Texas foods and how we seem to be changing our standard foods here in the state. I think we are lucky that we live here and we probably see less chemicals and fresher foods because Texas has a lot of areas for fruits and of course we raise a lot of cattle.
And beef is precisely what I am talking about. This is not the time of year that most people think of BBQ but recently I was sharing a meal with someone that was not a native Texan and we were discussing the foods from different areas of the country.
Texas has always had its own versions of food. I was lucky enough to be raised with what is now commonly referred to as Tex-Mex. This was what I knew as Mexican food, and it seemed like that was the most common type of Mexican food in restaurants. Now we do have a good selection of authentic Mexican food that is served south of the border. It is good to see the variety and understand the differences from the various regions in Mexico. I still prefer Tex-Mex and have my favorite places for that.
Just a few short years ago when you went into a BBQ place you had a choice of brisket, chicken, or sausage. Texas BBQ was all about beef. The fact that the sausage was probably made with pork was a sort of unspoken truth, it was just not discussed. Chicken on the menu was for a change of pace or for those that for some unknown reason didn't like beef.
Texas has always been proud of our beef and it has always been center stage when it comes to any meal. Of course most Texans enjoy bacon and at times wrap a steak in it, so there was a bit of an exception for bacon. Besides bacon doesn't really seem like pork, it is a food all of its own.
A few years back I had a few friends from the southeast come for a trip through Texas. We visited what looked like an interesting BBQ joint a bit west of here. My friends ordered "pulled pork" and "sweet tea". The waitress tilted her head like a confused dog and had a glassy look come over her eyes. I have no idea what she was thinking. I quickly had to interpret their strange order into language that the waitress could understand. I ordered them brisket and explained that tea in Texas came out plain and you could sweeten it with Texas' own cane sugar available on the table. At this point my friends were looking at me like I had just placed an order for raw octopus or something bizarre. Once I explained that ordering pork in an establishment such as this would be grounds for being removed from the premises by a big burly cook, they settled in and actually enjoyed their meal of traditional Texas food.
These days many restaurants have given in and started offering other forms of meat on their menu, and now make special sweet tea for guests that have ventured here from areas of the country that cherish their drinks extra sugary. Of course the good side of these changes is that ribs are now available in some places. They aren't specifically labeled as pork, so it is easy to enjoy them without the guilty feelings of betraying your heritage.
For me, I will continue to enjoy my Tex-Mex and brisket. My tea should be cold but not sweet at all. It might have a lot to do with the food I was raised on, but I think we as Texans owe it to our state to honor the long traditions of our state foods. Remember we are the state known for suing a talk show host when they made negative remarks about our beef. That is a line I don't want to cross.