Chickens Don’t Have Fajitas
Originally Aired November 4, 2011 on KDRP 103.1 FM
J.R. Gonzales and Evelina Solis interview Sonny Falcon, The Fajita King, to discover the origin and myths of the popular and savory dish known as Fajitas. Listen in to this show to find out why there is no such thing as a Chicken Fajita much less a Shrimp or Grilled Vegetable Fajita.
Did You Know That:
The word fajita is not known to have appeared in print until 1971, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The exact time in which the dish was named fajita is unclear. In Spanish, fajita is the diminutive form of the word faja which translates to “belt”, “sash” or “girdle” in English. In Spanish when you add “ita” to the end of some words it means little. Therefore, Fajita translates into little belt or little sash’.
The origin of what we today call fajitas, goes back to the 1930s to the Texas ranch lands of the Rio Grande Valley. During cattle roundups, beef were often butchered to feed the hands. Throwaway items such as the hide, the head, the entrails, and meat trimmings such as skirt were given to the Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) as part of their pay.
A fajita is a strip of meat about 18 inches long and one inch thick, that is found in the beef carcass beneath the heart and lungs, fajita (little belt) is a particularly apt nickname. There are only four skirts per beef carcass, yielding about 8 lbs. of meat. The two outside skirts are the diaphragm muscle from the forequarter and the two inside skirts are the secondary flank muscle from the hindquarter.
Fajitas appear to have made their way from campfire and backyard grills to commercial sales in 1969. Sonny Falcon, an Austin meat market manager at Guajardo’s Cash Grocery, is believed to have operated the first commercial fajita taco concession stand September of 1969 at a Dies Y Seis celebration in Kyle, Texas. Sonny also went to rodeos, fairs, and outdoor festivals selling his fajita tacos. An Austin reporter christened Falcon as “The Fajita King”
The fajita is truly a Tex-Mex food (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak.
More Fun Facts:
Did You Know that General George Washington and his American Revolution soldiers more than likely ate Fajitas from Texas cattle? How did this Tejano connection occur?
There are some people who believe that it was the Anglo’s that began the cattle industry in Texas and that the first cattle drives out of Texas were over the famous Chisholm and Goodnight Trails; however nothing could be further from the truth , those were not the first cattle drives. The first cattle drives out of Texas were over El Camino Real that headed east and not north. In 1779 the Governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, whom Galveston is named after, receives a dispatch from General George Washington requesting aid and assistance. The Tejano Community would respond by raising hundreds of Spanish Pesos and by driving over ten thousand head of cattle east to feed the armies of George Washington.
As a young man Galvez had been in Texas and he knew where there was an abundance of cattle and horses; on Tejano ranches in South Texas. In order to feed the troops Galvez sends an emissary, Francisco Garcia with a letter to the governor of Texas, Domingo Cabello requesting and formally authorizing the first official cattle drive out of Texas.
Instrumental in obtaining these large number of cattle was Fray Pedro Ramirez de Arellano president of all the Texas Missions. Ten to fifteen thousand Longhorns were rounded up and driven to Louisiana and further north in groups of one thousand or so. Many of these drovers were Spanish Soldiers, Tejano Rancheros, Tejano Vaqueros and Mission Indians. Records show that many of these drovers remained to fight in the army of Galvez.
Galvez, in essence would open a third front defeating the British along the Mississippi River and along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida during the American Revolution. Under the command of Galvez were troops and ships from Mexico, one of his top officers was Major General Geronimo Giron, a direct descendant of Monctdezuma.