What Makes Texans “Texan”?

by Charlotte Kovalchuk and Ann Marie Kennon


Texas’ culinary legacy has various cultural influences, including “traditional foods of the Cajuns (crawfish, gumbo, and catfish), Germans and Czechs (kolaches, schnitezels, and smoked sausage), African Americans (fried chicken and stewed greens), and, perhaps most intrinsically, Mexicans,” according to How to be a Texan by Andrea Valdez. Today, what makes Texan food unique is its Tex-Mex cuisine—a combination of Texan and Mexican cuisines that feature menu items like queso, fajitas, and nachos—and barbecue.

First, it is important to know not all food on a grill is “barbecue,” and just pouring a red, tangy sauce on it doesn’t make it so. Confuse the two and you risk losing your Texas membership card. 

For barbecue, one piles coals or wood to the side or in the center, spreads the meat around the grill top, and closes the lid. Cooking meat in this way is a slow process, used for large cuts, and can take a half-day or longer. Conversely, when you grill, you put the meat right over the fire (direct heat) for a quicker cooking time. This is appropriate for smaller cuts—burgers, steaks, and hot dogs.

And it’s not just about the food—it’s the package. Barbecue is family, a welcoming place, and positive energy…it’s Texas on a plate. John Brotherton, the owner of Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue in Pflugerville and Liberty Barbecue in Round Rock, is a quintessential Texan when it comes to his love of barbecue culture—“Barbecue is a food that brings people together. It’s something you enjoy with family and friends. Growing up, we had backyard grills and families that gathered around them. It is about nostalgia, which takes us back to our parents, grandparents, and good memories. And really, no one ‘gets together’ for a salad.”


Take a photo in a bluebonnet field. Visit bluebonnet meccas like Burnet, Ennis, and Willow City Loop in late March and April. Your best photo times are 8-10am, and an hour before sunsets. Check for no trespassing signs.

  • Buy cowboy boots. Whether visiting a festival or dance hall, these are a staple of Texas attire.
  • Celebrate homecoming. Every year, high school and college alumni “come home” to greet long-lost friends and beloved teachers as they join in the fall celebration of school spirit. It grew from an alumni reunion into a full week of school spirit festivities, including the most extravagant, Texas-sized tradition—mums. Mums have transformed into massive floral creations covered with ribbons, bells, glitter, lights, football trinkets, and stuffed animals.
  • Celebrate Juneteenth. Traditionally recognizes the end of slavery in the United States. In 1980, Texas was the first to declare Juneteenth a state holiday. In 2021, in an ever-evolving celebration of common bonds of freedom, June 19 was named a federal holiday.
  • Survive cedar fever. Central Texas is one of the allergy capitals of America, with allergy sufferers seeking shelter from the outdoors every time cedar season rolls around from December to February.


Brush up on your Lone Star lingo with these terms, sayings, and correct pronunciations:

  • Y’all • Contraction of you and all
  • Howdy • Friendly ‘hello’
  • Fixin’ta • Getting ready to do something
  • Ov’ yonder • Over there
  • I reckon • I think
  • This ain’t my first rodeo • This isn’t the first time I have done this.
  • I don’t cotton to that • I don’t like that.
  • Who stuck the burr under your saddle? • Why are you so irritated?
  • Don’t mess with Texas • Before it became a slogan about Texas’ toughness, it was an anti-littering campaign by TxDOT. 
  • Bexar •  Pronounced like bear
  • Boerne • Bur-nee
  • Buda • Byoo-duh
  • Manor • May-ner
  • Nacogdoches • Na-kuh-dow-chuhs
  • Pedernales • Per-den-al-es
  • Waxahachie • Wahks-uh-hatch-ee


  • Dance at Gruene Hall Grab your boots and plan your next night out at Texas’ oldest dance hall. Built in 1878 in the German farming community of Gruene, now part of New Braunfels, Gruene Hall is a tourist destination and music venue for established and up-and-coming artists, as well as a proving ground for former new talents like George Strait, Hal Ketchum and Lyle Lovett.
  • Stargaze. The stars shine brightly over Texas state parks. Get away from city lights and take in the best night sky views around at parks with very dark skies, including Big Bend Ranch State Park and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
  • Visit the Alamo. “Remember the Alamo”—the battle cry during Texas’ war for independence from Mexico that made the historic site in San Antonio one of the most famous places in Texas.
  • Float the river. One of the best ways to cool off during 100-degree summer days. Some popular tubing spots include the Comal, San Marcos, and Guadalupe rivers.
  • Tour the Texas Capitol building. Located in downtown Austin, this historic landmark is home to the Texas Legislature and governor offices.