A quick fun “fact” about Boerne Berges Fest. Did you know that the Fajita taco has a tale that links its origin to Boerne Berges Fest?
The fajita taco has origins linked directly to Berges Fest: fajita is a TexMex word that means “little belt”, or “sash”, and references the shape of skirt steak, which is long and thin. The Fajita story began in the middle 1950’s where many “vaqueros” or Mexican cowboy ranch-hands worked along the Texas-Mexico border. To keep costs down, the vaqueros were paid $5 per day, room and board, and were fed the most inexpensive food. One day, the head vaquero on the Chapparosa Ranch outside Del Rio, Texas noticed that the butcher would cut the strap muscle, or skirt steak, off the cow and either throw it in with the scraps to be sold to dog food companies or sell it to customers for dog food.
Because of the toughness and the large amount of tendon in the skirt steak, the butcher would not use it for ground meat. One day, the head vaquero asked the butcher if he could buy the skirt steak for his men, and the butcher began to save the skirt steak for the head vaquero each week. The vaqueros experimented with various ways of cooking and preparing the skirt steak and discovered the best way to tenderize and cook the skirt steak was to: marinate it in either lime juice or tequila to tenderize it, grill sear it over a mesquite wood fire so the tendon would draw up and slice it across the grain to further decrease its toughness. Over the next few years, skirt steak became the main source for beef for the vaqueros on the ranch. In 1969 the cook for the vaqueros began to visit county fairs and festivals and prepare a dish he called “Tacos al Carbon”.
When he applied to the Boerne Berges Fest committee in Boerne, Texas for a food booth in their annual festival, the Mexican social group in Boerne was already selling tacos. Unfortunately, the cook was denied because the Berges Fest committee had a rule that no one could sell an item already sold by other members. However, the next year the cook returned and applied for a booth and stated he was selling “Fajitas” – a name referenced the appearance of the skirt steak he used as a “little belt”, or “sash”. No one with the Mexican social group knew what “Fajitas” were and stated they did not sell them – and that was the public unveiling of the “Fajita”. Fajitas subsequently began to sell out every other food item at the Berges Fest, and after two years a local business man who owned an old vacant Dairy Queen in San Antonio made the cook an offer. The cook would use the old Dairy Queen and sell Fajitas and beer to local students at Trinity University.
Today, fajita tacos are everywhere but few are actually the authentic Fajita. Shrimp and chicken fajitas are delicious but only that cut of beef, the “little strap” marinated in lime or tequila or both and seared over mesquite is the real deal. If you find yourself in Boerne on Father’s Day weekend, stroll on over to Berges Fest and find yourself a good taco and little piece of history.