Blogs » Digital Babble » Food for thought: Fajitas


I am going to start something here that I had begun on my old blog, talking about the food that is associated with my heritage. Oh, I'm Mexican, remember?

Now I'll have to admit I'm not a fan of all Mexican food. I don't like menudo and can't stand tripas or cabrito. So I'm going to talk about the food that I like.

So that brings us to today's special: Fajitas

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Ok, this is one meal even I am pretty good at making. I remember as a kid sitting outside watching my dad cook them on our bbq pit, letting the intoxicating aroma of mesquite, marinade and grilled onions waft around me.

Even today the smell of the 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 parents to get me that Cabbage Patch doll.

Here is some info I found on the web about fajitas:

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 "faja", 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.

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.

I remember when I went to visit family in North Carolina, I had promised them I would make fajitas for them. This is the Cuban part of my family, they had eaten fajitas when they had visited us in Texas, and had been craving them since. However, there was an obstacle there in NC, I could not find beef skirt anywhere! Maybe it was the stores I went to, maybe it was the fact that we were shopping for beef skirt at 11 p.m., but it was nowhere to be found. We eventually found a cut of meat that resembled skirt steak, but don't ask me what it was, because it wasn't the same.

It's funny, when we went to North Carolina this summer, I had the same problem finding fajita meat. I won't even tell you how much I paid once I found it.

Oh and when eating fajitas, don't forget the guacamole!

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