Full of flavor, packed with soul, and rich in heritage, Mexican food is one of the world’s most-loved cuisines. But where did it all begin? And, how did it get to where it is today? Below, we explore the history and influences of Mexican food and discover how some of our favorite dishes came to be.
Like most authentic food, Mexican food goes way, way back, and is deeply rooted and shaped by the country’s past. It’s thought that Mexican food was first derived from the Mayan Indians, who were traditionally nomadic hunters and gatherers. In fact, corn tortillas with bean paste were a staple within their diets. During the 1300s, Mayan foods were still very popular amongst the locals, with chili peppers, honey, and salt slowly making their way into traditional cooking.
The next pivotal influence in Mexican cuisine came when Spain invaded Mexico in 1521. The Spanish introduced new livestock, bringing with them dairy products, garlic, herbs, wheat, and a variety of beautiful spices. And, for the first time, Mexico was exposed to the international foods and cooking methods of the Caribbean, South American, France, West African, and Portugal.
How Some Of Our Favourite Mexican Foods Came To Be
While the exact origin of these Mexican culinary traditions and foods are not 100% clear, they can be traced back to various times and places, which we unpack below:
Tortilla: The word Tortilla means “little cake” in Spanish. In Mexico, Central America, as well as in English, it refers to a flatbread made from corn or wheat originally made by Mesoamerican people.
Tacos: Tacos can be traced to the mid-19th century, where, during this period, Mexico was in its early industrialization phase. Women who migrated to Mexico City would sell street food (in the form of Tacos) to workers in order to make a living for themselves.
Torta: Not much is known about the origin of these Tortas, but some believe the inspiration behind them came during the French colonization when the French introduced the tradition of baking bread to the people of Mexico, who then created their own modified varieties.
Tostada: Tostada literally means “toasted” and refers to a flat or bowl-shaped tortilla that is traditionally toasted or deep-fried. The Tostada was initially created to avoid waste when tortillas went stale, and they were no longer fresh enough to be rolled into tacos, but still good enough to eat.
Fajitas: It is thought that Fajitas came from Mexican cowboys working on ranches in the southern and western parts of Texas in the late 1930s. The cowboys were given the least desirable parts of the cattle to eat as a part of their payment. They soon learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak. In Spanish, Fajita is a form of the word “faja” which translates to “belt” or “girdle” in English.
Nachos: The first plate of Nachos was introduced in a restaurant on the border of Mexico and Texas. Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, a worker at that restaurant, was asked to prepare snacks for the wives of some American Army officers. The cook was out, and, in a panic, Anaya grabbed some fried tortillas, sprinkled them with cheese, added jalapenos, and heated them up. Did you know, Nachos took Texas by storm when they were sold at the State Fair in Dallas in 1964? And, we’re sure glad they did!
So there you go, a little bit of trivia to think about when you next enjoy your favorite, flavorful Mexican dishes. In the mood to experience some Mexican culinary traditions? We’ve been proudly serving our loyal customers since 1981 with the likes of breakfast dishes, pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, queso flameado, and margaritas. Come and visit us today!