Mexican Food: Origins

Mexican Food: Origins

Many Americans believe they are familiar with Mexican cuisine. Most people’s schooling is limited to a ride to Taco Bell, Chipotle, or Baja Fresh every now and then. Why do you move any further? What’s there to tell about nachos drizzled with cheese and jalapenos, tacos slathered in beef and sour cream, and burritos the size of little children, filled with pork and deep-fried? Unfortunately, naming this Mexican cuisine is more than a stretch. From top to bottom, it’s more about the embellishment. Do you truly believe that the majority of Mexicans consume the same cuisine that Americans do?

Most of the Mexican-American and Tex-Mex cuisine that refers to American inhabitants has origins in authentic Mexican cuisine. However, there are many distinctions between what is authentic and what is familiar. Here’s a quick overview on some of the history to Mexico’s world-famous cuisine.

The Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples invented many of the recipes that make up Mexican cuisine. Corn tortillas, tomatoes, and beans were staples of this culinary tradition. These three things, black beans, peppers, and maize, are both native to the Modern World and authentically Mexican. Before the advent of the Europeans, typical Mexican cuisine consisted of dishes heavy on these ingredients served over an open fire in Aztec open-air markets. Tomatillos were also essential ingredients that, like tomatoes, frightened many Europeans at first because of their similarity and lineage to a common poison plant known as Nightshade.

However, after the Europeans arrived in power, much of the original Mexican cultures’ indigenous traditions and foods started to be introduced into the Spanish and European cuisine brought from the Old World. In addition to cheese, Spaniards carried cows and pigs with them. This is the beginning of the Mexican food that most Americans are familiar with.

The livestock brought in by the Spaniards was quickly assimilated into Mexican cuisine. Indeed, the development of Mexican cuisine can be seen as one of adaptations and evolutions. Cooks in Mexico have been able to change their culinary methods to accommodate fresh ingredients. The invention of meals like the taco, quesadilla, and fajita, which are mostly filled with meat and cheese, resulted from an unexpected surplus of meat.

Although most authentic Mexican cuisine is much more restrained in terms of serving size and ingredient list than Mexican-American cuisine, the origins of Mexican cuisine are rooted in responding to modern tastes in new ways. Take, for example, Tex-Mex cooking. This style of cuisine, which is still relatively recent, is a fusion inspired by the migration of American and British immigrants in Texas, an area dominated by Mexican people and food. Even the ubiquitous Mexican-American cuisine seen in corner diners, fast food chains, and fine dining restaurants is an evolution of Mexican cuisine that combines conventional elements with modern flavours from faraway lands.