Some Texans have decided that it’s time for a changing of the guard in which food represents its state.
As of this publication, the recognized state dish is chili con carne. (If you’re wondering, the jalapeño is the state pepper, the state cobbler is peach, and the state fruit is the Texas red grapefruit.) Many both in and out of Texas would argue for the merits of barbeque as an immediately recognizable state culinary touchstone as well (to be more specific: barbecue of the beef brisket and smoked sausage variety). Now, according to the Houston Chronicle, a growing number of residents are pushing to have the taco officially recognized as a pillar of state culture.
Writer Mando Rayo, whose YouTube series Tacos Of Texas examines the intersections of Texas’ bountiful taquerias with the state’s diverse cultural heritage, has penned a “Taco Manifesto” arguing for the overall value of the taco becoming a formally recognized state cuisine:
They help small business owners put their kids through school and strengthen our economy. They start many people’s days with a full stomach, nourished, ready to face the day and help make Texas the best place to live in the world.
In addition to Rayo’s burgeoning petition, the matter has also been taken up by Texas State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, whose House Committee Resolution #57 would legally cement the taco as an equal of chili in the hallowed halls of Texan dining. In the motion, Hinojosa argues for the taco as an intrinsic part of the state’s identity:
While the exact origins of the taco are uncertain, this staple of Mexican cuisine is thought to have been around at least as long as the Lone Star State, and it has been wholeheartedly adopted as a mainstay of Texas dining.
Others, however, would argue that no singular dish can fully capture the Texan dining experience in full. Texas Monthly BBQ editor Daniel Vaughn, in speaking with The Takeout, weighed in on the diversity of tastes that characterize Texas food: “I do think that when you have these specific foods that are supposedly representing the state—and of course [people] have argued that it should be barbeque, or maybe even smoked brisket specifically—it does seem silly that we think we need to choose one,” Vaughn told us. “It seems, certainly, between tacos and barbeque and chili, they’re all clearly important to the state’s dining identity.”
Texas is a big state, and when it comes to food, big-tent. Houston is fast being discovered as one of America’s great dining cities. Austin is an unexpected hub for great Japanese food. Daniel Vaughn, quoted above, is the freakin’ barbecue editor! (The Texas Monthly vertical he runs is an auto-bookmark.) And Whataburger ketchup! Is it even possible to come to a consensus of one defining Texas dish? Texan Takeout commentariat: We’re all ears.