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The Influence of Mexican Heritage on Modern Food

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

Mexican food is a staple in the United States, and for good reason. It’s delicious and filling, and it encompasses a wide variety of flavors and dishes. Mexican cuisine has something for everyone, from tacos and burritos to tamales and enchiladas. Besides how good the food is, there are other reasons why Mexican food has become ingrained in American culture.

How did Mexican food get to the United States?

One of the reasons why Mexican food is so popular in the United States is because it is easily accessible. There are countless Mexican restaurants throughout the country, ranging from family-style Tex-Mex establishments to food trucks that serve up authentic dishes. This accessibility has allowed Mexican cuisine to become ingrained in American culture and has made it a go-to option for many people.

But the popularity of Mexican food in the United States is not just because of its accessibility, but also because of its rich history and cultural significance. Mexican cuisine is a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican ingredients and cooking techniques with Spanish influences brought over during colonization. This blend of flavors and cooking styles has evolved over centuries, resulting in the diverse and delicious food that we know today.

A brief history

The most ancient of Mexican foods include tamales, corn tortillas, salsa, posole, atole, and more. The history of Mexican food is somewhat up for debate, though. There is a basic historical timeline that can be used to determine the origins of the ingredients used in dishes throughout history.

  • The Olmecs: In 1500 BC, this ancient people group formed the first large Mesoamerican civilization in southern Mexico. They cultivated crops that are still used in Mexican food today including corn, beans, and chile peppers.
  • The Mayans: in 250 AD, the Mayans in the Yucatan had a large influence over all of Mesoamerica, including the diets of the indigenous peoples at that time.
  • The Toltecs: When the Mayan civilization began to experience decline, the Toltec people moved in to seize power. They introduced foods like squash, avocados, and tomatoes.
  • The Aztecs: Known for their vast empire, the Aztecs were a nomadic tribe that migrated from the north in search of a new home. They eventually settled in Mexico City and established the capital city called Tenochtitlan. This large civilization also had a significant impact on Mexican cuisine by introducing foods such as avocados, chipotle, tomatoes, and chocolate.
  • The Spanish conquest: In 1519, Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico and conquered the Aztecs. This marked a significant turning point in Mexican culinary history as it brought new ingredients and cooking techniques to the region.
  • The fusion of cultures: With the arrival of the Spanish came a blending of cuisines and ingredients from both cultures. Traditional Mesoamerican dishes were combined with European ingredients like pork, beef, and cheese. This resulted in the creation of dishes such as mole sauce, a complex mix of spices and chocolate served over meat.

The evolution of Mexican food in the U.S.

As Mexican cuisine continued to evolve in Mexico, it also made its way into the United States through various means. In the late 19th century, Mexican immigrants began to settle in the southwestern parts of the US, bringing their unique flavors and dishes with them. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that Mexican food became more widely available throughout the country.

In the 1920s, Mexican restaurants began to pop up in major cities like Los Angeles and San Antonio. Initially catering to immigrants and working-class individuals, these restaurants quickly gained popularity and began to attract customers from all backgrounds.

In the 1950s, Tex-Mex cuisine emerged as a fusion of traditional Mexican dishes with American ingredients and cooking styles. This further popularized Mexican food in the United States, leading to the establishment of chains like Taco Bell and Del Taco. Tex-Mex favorites enjoyed throughout the U.S. include taquitos, enchiladas, chile con carne, nachos, and fajitas.

International fusions

Today, Mexican food is not only popular in the United States, but it has also become a global phenomenon. Its rich history and diverse flavors continue to be celebrated and enjoyed by people of all cultures. That’s why you’ll find fusions between Asian cuisine and Mexican food like sushi tacos and Mexican pizzas.

Looking to enjoy some delicious food?

Looking for a spot for a tasty Tex-Mex meal? Look no further than The Plaza Restaurant! We’ve got a great selection of delicious options that are sure to satisfy your cravings. Swing by any of our Locations or check out our Menu to see all the mouthwatering choices we have available!