Old El Paso

Old El Paso

The title, Old El Paso is part of an inside joke — while I am totally unaware of whether this brand with its iconic yellow labels exists outside of of my environs, I’ve been assured it is a national — or international — brand. But naming a brand of canned food after Old El Paso is a stroke of genius. Born and raised in Texas, the brand has been persistently present my entire life. Nothing new. The yellow label, always sitting in a pantry or on the shelf at the grocery store.

At least locally, the brand carries real Hatch Chili, or so they claim on some cans, cf., Capricorn for more Hatch Chili News.

The real secret to Old El Paso?
Fusion Cuisine.

Old El Paso

When I started making El Paso a regular stop, I was coming in from a trailer park in South Austin, or, even further back, an old East Austin cold-water bed–sit. Rough neighborhood. I was used to the old Baby A’s on Riverside, Chuy’s on Barton Springs, and handful of no–name, English–optional, eastside tacquerias — all in old Austin.

Where Austin’s current airport is? I recall sitting in an East Side taco joint listening to a German air force pilot and crew, presumably, talking in German, then they ordered in flawless, textbook Spanish, and went back to German. Had something to do with the old Air Force Base, now the current aiport. East Side bona fides.

The first couple of trips, I didn’t get it. But by the time I employed local help in finding the good places to eat in El Paso? That’s when I started to understand.

Cross the line from El Paso into New Mexico and the food changes with its spice pallet and tone. Go east a hunded miles, and the savory essence changes again. Like a microcosm unto itself, the El Paso food is different. Sure there’s the car wash, and the steak houses, but it’s the little, local, places that make the difference.

There’s the now–famous Chico’s Tacos, but that’s just tiny contributer to the essence. There’s a whole sub–culture around the food of that specific area.

The New Mexico question is always, “Red or Green,” less of a question in El Paso. I’m sure that the local colors derive some of their influence from New Mexico and its “Red or Green” culture, but some of it appears — to me — be more indigineious, more native.

The comparison I used to make was that the little, mean taco joints in El Paso were way better than Austin, but never tell anyone in Austin that. Allow them their illusions. Coffee and Vegan? Austin. BBQ, coffee, vegan? Austin.

TexMex? El Paso is in its own, special category, far supierior to anything else.

What makes it special, though, is that this is a more fusion cuisine. TexMex meets New Mexico meets Mexican, with a layer of who knows what influence leavened on top.

Old El Paso

In myth and image.

Times and location? See the schedule —


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