Culture, Food, Texas

Spotlight on Food: Fajitas

This is one meal even I am pretty good at making. When I was a kid I remember sitting outside watching my dad make fajitas on the barbecue pit, the intoxicating aroma of mesquite, meat marinade and grilled onions wafting about.

The smell of fajitas on the grill today brings back memories of when all was right in the world, where my only worries were which cartoons to watch on Saturday morning and how to convince my parents to get me that Cabbage Patch doll I so desperately needed in my life. fajitas

Photo credit: Flickr user, joshbousel

Now a staple on restaurant menus and in our homes, the fajita had humble beginnings. Hispanic ranch workers originated fajitas in south Texas in the late 1930s.

Fajita comes from the Spanish word “fajita,” meaning belt or girdle. The skirt is the heavily used diaphragm muscle from beef. Often beef skirts, and other less desirable cuts, were given to ranch workers as partial payment for their services in trading or slaughtering cattle. The workers tenderized the meat by pounding it and marinating it in lime juice. The meat was then cooked over an open fire using wood from the mesquite tree, a hardwood which grows readily in the Texas open range. After grilling, the meat slices were wrapped in Mexican bread (tortillas) and called tacos de fajitas. – Source: Iowa Beef Industry Council

The word “fajita” did not appear in print until 1975.

In 1984 Homero Recio, a lecturer on animal science at Texas A & M University, obtained a fellowship to study the origins of the item, coming to the conclusion two years later that, ironically, it was his grandfather, a butcher from Premont, Texas, who may have been the first to use the term “fajita” to describe the pieces of skirt steak cooked directly on mesqutie coals for family dinners as far back as the 1930s. Recio also hypothesized that the first restaurant to serve fajitas–though under the name “botanzas” (appetizers)–was the Roundup in McAllen, Texas. But Sonny “Fajita King” Falcon claimed to have opened the first “fajita stand” in Kyle, Texas, and in 1978 a “Fajita King” stand in Austin. – Source: FoodTimeLine.org

And of course, you must not forget the guacamole, an essential part of the fajita experience.


Guacamole: Required eating

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