Taqueria Arandas, an easy walk from my house, provides me with a beacon of authenticity for real Mexican food from somewhere in the interior. Tonight I'm starting with a small bowl of tortilla soup before a plate of alambres, an assortment of meat, cheese, rice, and beans meant to be wrapped up in the accompanying tortillas. That sounds close to Tex-Mex, which it is, but it lacks that chip crunchiness and that greasy obsession with cheap meat and melted cheese. There is cheese, but it does not dominate.
The pozole here is great, and so is the menudo, but they have neither tonight. There are people who won't touch menudo because of its visceral components, but I traveled around the world by tongue as much as by foot, and I've trampled down my aversions. Besides, the chick peas and chunks of pork in pozole might seem less upsetting, but in the days of pozole's Aztec origins, that pork was long.
I don't want to be too hard on Tex-Mex. For one thing it is a kissing cousin to la cocina norteña, served just across the border. And back in the day when there were only five Mexican restaurants instead of five hundred, Tex-Mex was all you could get. It was Mexicans cooking for white people in a way that challenged them without offending their fragile insecurities. In those days Mexican Americans were a little too downtrodden to go out to eat. Nowadays if you find a restaurant frequented by Hispanics, chances are you've found a good authentic place to eat.