A specter haunts Texas—The specter of the ruination of real Texas food. Ominous forces are conspiring to lay our precious state cookery low: Eastern food intelligentsia and New Southwester cuisinoids, outside agitators and native false prophets, mesquite abusers and cilantro junkies. They threaten the very thing by which we truly know and identify ourselves as Texans, for our food is what defines our culture and separates us from the rest of humankind.
The hour is late. We must wake up to the titanic food struggle now facing Texas. We must understand what great Texas cooking really is and protect it against its despoilers. Should we fail, we will have sacrificed not only our souls but also something far more important—our sacred Texas right to eat well.
It wasn’t until the Williamsburg economic summit meeting last May that I realized we were in big trouble. Lately I tend to date things according to Williamsburg; it looms in my mind as a culinary watershed, for it was then that my feelings of unease about this New American Cuisine business crystallized. New American Cuisine had been okay by me as long as it was a bunch of New Yorkers roasting muskrat or Californians fooling with arcane varieties of lettuce. Closer to home, if preparing and presenting our regional dishes with more finesse produced a nice bread pudding soufflé at Brennan’s, then I was for it. It was all a bit precious, perhaps, and certainly self-important, but hardly what you’d call sinister.
Then came Williamsburg, when chief American food guru Craig Claiborne summoned some big-deal regional cooks to do their stuff for President Reagan and the assembled heads of state. Sounded harmless: a chance to show off for the honchos, celebrate American cooking, pat ourselves on our 207-year-old back. But wait—the woman chosen to provide the Mexican portion of the menu announced she’d be serving fish tamales. To make matters worse, the barbecuing chores were