Chefs Lunch Culinary Showcase

May 20, 11:30 am
Memory / Identity

  • Carne Guisada Brownsville Style, Flour Tortillas, Refried Beans, Arroz Casero
    Chef Sylvia Casares, Houston, Texas

  • Mollejas Asadas with Salsa Verde and Salsa Casera, Tortillas de Maíz
    Chef Joseph Gomez, Austin, Texas

  • Cabrito en Salsa, Con Piquín
    Chef Luis Olvera, Dallas, Texas

Comentario on the Culinary Showcase by Dr. Mario Montaño

“Early Spanish Expeditions into Texas: Food Exchanges and Comida Casera”
by Dr. Mario Montaño

Spanish Expeditions into Texas since the early 1500s to the late 1700s served to highlight the important Native American contributions to Texas Mexican foodways: Comida Casera.

Starting in 1519, Alonso de Pineda arrives at the mouth of the Río Grande, followed by two other expeditions, Diego de Camargo, 1520, and Governor Francisco Garay, 1523. In the main, the documents exoticize the natives, looking at them from afar, as savages and creatures. They do not describe any involvement with the natives in regards to food and cooking.

In 1535, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca describes Native Americans living along the gulf coast, providing the first written accounts of the foodways of people living in south Texas and northeastern Mexico. Pecans, nopalitos, mesquite and tunas figure prominently in his account of foods.

In 1689 and 1690, Alonso De León leads two expeditions from 35 miles below Eagle Pass to beyond the Brazos River. He arrives with food products like wheat and beef, and these become part of the indigenous foodways as exhibited in the lunch menu showcase that features carne guisada, mollejas asadas, cabrito en salsa, and flour tortillas. Each of these dishes reveals that newly-arrived products are interpreted through native techniques and an indigenous palate.

Later, from 1747 through 1750, José de Escandón settled the towns of Camargo, Reynosa, Guerrero, Mier, Dolores, and Laredo. As a result, Native Americans were exposed to cows, pigs, goats and sheep as well as cheese. Native culinarians, mainly women and two-spirit people, integrated and transformed these products, creating the flavors and characteristics of today’s comida casera.

Spanish expeditions raise the question: What were the cultural and political consequences of these food exchanges? The flavors of the lunch showcase demonstrate the cultural confluence of two different foodways: those of Texas indigenous peoples with those of Mexican peoples who were both indigenous and Spanish.