Mexican Food History: A Melding of Cultures

No doubt, about it, Mexican food is one of the most popular foods in the United States. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and quesadillas are just some of the fare that grace many an American table. Mexican recipes are spicy, colorful, and full of flavor. However, what may seem to be quintessential Mexican is not always the case. A little Mexican food history will reveal that things are not always, as they seem.

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.

Although Cortez brought new foods to Mexico, Mexico also showed him a thing or two. He encountered a few new food items as well. He was introduced to peanuts, chocolate, vanilla, beans, avocados, coconuts, corn, squash, and tomatoes. It was a great effort of give and take and these foods have all worked together over then centuries to produce wonderful Mexican dishes.

According to Mexican food history, many of the traditional Mexican foods have roots in other cultures as well as the Mexican culture. For instance, quesadillas, a mainstay in Mexico and considered to be authentic Mexican food actually not only have roots in Mexican traditions, but in Spanish as well. The corn tortilla, thought to be quintessential Mexican, is actually native American.

The cheese, pork, beef, and lettuce that grace so many of our favorite Mexican dishes, including the quesadilla, are Spanish. The hot sauce that is made from chili pepper, though, is indigenous to Mexico. However, it is a little known Mexican food history fact that many of the spices thought to be Mexican are actually Spanish in origin. Black pepper, cinnamon, coriander and oregano are several spices that are often used in Mexican cooking but are not native to the country.

The French are yet another chapter in Mexican food history. Under a brief French occupation in the 1860's, Mexico was introduced to other new foods and cooking methods. This resulted in popular dishes like stuffed chilies in a walnut sauce, known as chiles en nogado. These dishes, French inspired with a strong Mexican flair, have made their way through the various cultures to meld together and create dishes that the world can enjoy.

Perhaps one of the best known influences on Mexican food comes from the Southwest United States, Texas to be exact, called "Tex-Mex." This part of Mexican food history has had a huge impact on not only how Mexican food is prepared and served in the United States, but also how it is perceived. Tex-Mex is a delightful cultural combination of northern Mexico and Southwestern Texas. In fact, it is actually Tex-Mex that is served in many Mexican restaurants today as opposed to authentic Mexican food.

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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