Mouthwatering ‘Truly Texas Mexican’ Documentary Debuts Today

ASK HOUSTON CHEF, writer, filmmaker and activist Adán Medrano about the spiritual aspect of preparing a home-cooked meal, especially using the centuries-old recipes he enjoyed growing up in San Antonio and northern Mexico, and time seems to stop. "'There are voices in the wind. We've forgotten to listen to them,'" says Medrano quietly, sourcing a quote from the new documentary Truly Texas Mexican, which premieres March 1 on Amazon, Apple TV, Google TV and PBS stations across the country, and is inspired by his award-winning cookbook Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage. "When you cook, you are dealing with a landscape," he explains. "Once you realize your connectiveness to the land and to each other, that is spirituality."


Directed by Aníbal Capoano, with cinematography by Gabriel Bendahan, Truly Texas Mexican slowly reveals the deep connection between the cuisine of indigenous tribes living thousands of years ago in what is now called Texas, and present-day Mexican-American comida casera — or "home cooking." In the public discourse, and in the state's education system, the indigenous roots of Texas culture and civilization is virtually non-existent or, at best, grossly misrepresented. Truly Texas Mexican is an effort by Medrano and his team to remedy this, and the film has surprised both Mexicans and Anglos who have viewed it.

"It brings onscreen the layers of indigenous identities in Texas," says Medrano. "Each of the people in the film approach their rootedness in very different ways. That's the complexity of identities at this time, and I think it's very beautiful."

Truly Texas Mexican begins with Medrano visiting Canino's, Houston's oldest and largest farmers' market, before journeying into the kitchens of women who, as chefs, caterers and restaurant owners, can trace their lineage to the "Chili Queens" of 19th-century San Antonio —indigenous women whose business acumen and culinary skills are celebrated in the film. Though Medrano had not planned to appear in the film as its narrator, he is a natural in front of the camera, and only occasionally lets loose with some unfiltered exasperation. ("Enough with the cheese!" he cries when describing the distinction between "Tex-Mex" and "Texas Mexican" cuisine.)

And what about the food? Well, if you're expecting crispy tacos and lots of gooey processed cheese, your mind will be blown. Truly Texas Mexican captures the preparation of some truly mouth-watering recipes, from roasted meatballs (albóndigas) flavored with chile ancho, Mexican oregano and tomatoes, to Jericalla, a luscious dessert, not unlike a crème brûlée.

And then there's Cabeza De Pozo, a thoroughly seasoned cow's head wrapped in burlap and cooked overnight in an authentic hole-in-the-ground earth oven, just like it was done more than 4,000 years ago. "If you're a Houstonian, if you walk 100 yards in any direction, you probably stepped on an earth oven," says Medrano, who explains the cow became part of the diet of Texas Native Americans after being cut off by the Spaniards from the plants, deer and buffalo they cooked. "The reason we had to eat a cow's head is because that's all we had."

Fast forward to today, and Medrano names Houston's Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen and Doña Maria on Navigation boulevard as two restaurants committed to serving authentic and tasty comida casera. And Medrano's cookbook and blog are excellent sources for budding chefs inspired by the food and history documented in Truly Texas Mexican.

"This film invites the way food invites us," says Medrano. "Take your time, savor it, enjoy it. There might be a hot chile here or there. But mostly, we want people to be comfortable with their rootedness on this land."

Art + Entertainment
Thrive + Inspire: Former Texans President Rootes Says ‘Commit to Pushing Back’

AN INTERVIEW WITH Jamey Rootes, former President of the Houston Texans

When did you know that something big was going to impact Houston? It was 7:30am on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, and I was participating in one of the first-ever meetings of the Greater Houston Partnership Executive Committee to be conducted via Zoom. The normal public policy and economic development focused agenda was hijacked by a discussion regarding the potentially devastating impact of a new and highly contagious virus. It was hypothesized that this virus, the novel coronavirus, could absolutely overrun the capacity of our local health system. I was skeptical. I thought, "We have the largest medical center in the world. It would take something of biblical proportions to exhaust our medical capacity." As I learned, Covid-19 was pounding Europe, especially Italy, but we had yet to have a documented case of community spread in Houston. That was all about to change.

Keep Reading Show less
People + Places

CALL IT NAKED ambition. This holiday, Houston's top jewelers tout baubles beautiful enough to pair with the season's most festive fashions — or with nothing but a luxurious fragrance from centuries-old Parisian perfumer House of Creed, which just opened a Galleria boutique.

Keep Reading Show less
Style

The crowd partied with Galantis at the grand opening of Sekai Night and Day in EaDo.

HOUSTON IS WIDELY known for many things. Space exploration, medical research, energy production, even dining and shopping. But, much to the chagrin of some party-hearty Houstonians, the city hasn't been in the national spotlight for its nightlife.

Keep Reading Show less
Art + Entertainment