A Brief Account of Mexican Food History

Mexican food has enjoyed great popularity in America for years. From burritos to enchiladas, Mexican recipes are the pride of many an American cook and the colorful, spicy, delicious dishes grace many a table. Nevertheless, what is the story behind the cuisine? A little Mexican food history can spice up your kitchen and shed some light on the roots of many or our favorite dishes.

Case in point: when the Spanish invaded Mexico in 1521, they brought with them many new varieties of livestock including pigs, cows and sheep, the likes of which Mexico had never seen. The Spanish explorer Cortez introduced Mexico to these and other foods such as dairy products, garlic and other spices as well as dairy products like cheese. Mexican food also has strong roots in the ancient Mayan culture.

While Cortez introduced many new foods to Mexico, he was also, in turn, introduced to some new foods. Peanuts, chocolate, vanilla, beans, avocados, coconuts, tomatoes, corn, and squash were among the "new" foods that Cortez encountered. It was a well-balanced trade of regional delicacies and palate pleasing foods.

Mexican food history is an interesting mixture of cultures. Many of the Mexican foods that are so-called "traditional" are actually rooted in other cultures in addition to the Mexican culture. Take quesadillas as an example. This mainstay of Mexican families is often considered to be quintessential Mexican, but in actuality, it takes its components from other cultures. The corn tortilla, the foundation for the quesadilla, is actually a Native American creation.

Other staples in Mexican food, lettuce, beef, cheese and pork, are actually Spanish in origin. One standard in every Mexican restaurant and most Mexican dishes, though, the hot sauce made from chili peppers, is indeed Mexican. One interesting Mexican food history fact, though, is that many spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, oregano and coriander, which are generally thought to be Mexican are actually Spanish. While these spices are quite often used in many Mexican dishes, they are not native to Mexico.

In addition to the Mayans, Native Americans and Spanish influencing Mexican food, the French also left their mark. When Mexico was briefly under French occupation in the 1860's, popular dishes such as chiles en nogado, a dish of stuffed chilies in walnut sauce, was a result. These dishes sport a distinct French flair, but have become a standard part of Mexican culture.

One of the most popular adaptations of Mexican food and an integral part of Mexican food history is the influence from the Southwest United States, namely southern Texas. This style of Mexican food, dubbed "Tex-Mex" has become a favorite of people all over the world. North meets south in this cultural combination of northern Mexico and Southwestern Texas. In many restaurants today, it is more Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican food that is being served.

Mexican food history has enjoyed many different cultural influences, making it varied and rich. This variety of cultural adaptations makes Mexico a veritable melting pot of culinary experiences. This has worked in its favor, though, with delicious dishes and are popular and fun - to eat and to create.

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