Ahh Texas, the vast land of rolling hills and wild cowboys. Think cattle, oil, and lots of ranchers wearing pointy cowboy boots. Lassos perhaps… Oh and don’t forget the food…..the BBQ, Tex-Mex, overstuffed burritos…. Yes, Texas, everything is bigger here.
But west Texas is almost not Texas. Ask anyone from central or east Texas and they will swear El Paso is either in Mexico…or New Mexico,that is if they have ever even heard of it.
My dear El Paso, (or as I like to refer to it, the nice little bubble I grew up in) is a charming city that got its first Chipotle not very long ago. It is scattered with fast food joints and oversized chineese buffets. But this is just the culinary first impression to a passerby. Being a native, I can tell you that the Mexican food found here is as authentic as it gets. It may even rival the food found just south of the border, in Cd. juarex, Mx.
When I still lived in El Paso, I lived in perpetual ignorance of anything that happened beyond its city limits. Many people here live this way, oblivious to anything that does not pertain to their daily sun city way of life. Sadly, when it comes to food, the ignorance increases fivefold or maybe even more. 23 years of observation and personal experience have taught me that while we value our deep Mexican roots, we simultaneously try to incorporate the American lifestyle into our culture. The interwining of these two can result in limitless positive results, however, we pick and choose which aspects of American culture we want to adopt. We certainly enjoy Coca Cola, as do we enjoy buffets of all shapes, sizes, and cuisines. We have a food economy comprised of chain supermarket stores where most people buy their groceries. Never did I hear of a local movement to promote a sustainable food economy or even a local Farmer’s Market. Furthermore, we began to replace our traditional Mexican cuisine of legumes, seeds, nuts, lean meats, and lots of vibrant veggies for cheesy, gooey nachos and other Tex-Mex concoctions. We all seemed to be ok with this, but it is not healthy. El paso has an alarmingly high number of people suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other lifestyle diseases, but we all seem to be ok with that too…
I just arrived at the El Paso Int’l airport. I have not been here in 2 years. Yet, as I get off the plane, I walk with a hopefull stride wishing that things have changed. Maybe El Pasoans are demanding fresh and natural ingredients from their local eateries now. I hope to see more local restaurants and less of the big chains that have plagued our food landscape for so long. I am actually very excited because I have researched several restaurants in the area that have popped up in the past couple of years. These are restaurants that are run by Chefs who are passionate about food and want to share this with the people of El Paso.
As I step out of the secure confines of the airport and into the golden beams of sunlight that shine upon the sun city, my stomach growls violently, urging me to make my first stop in this culinary adventure of El Paso. Im so ready to try The flavors of west Texas.