The Secret History of Mexican Cuisine
The saying goes, “to understand a culture, you must understand its food.” The reverse is true, too! To understand a culture’s food, you need to know where it comes from. That’s one of the reasons our fresh, made-from-scratch Mexican cuisine is so beyond tasty. We’re all about understanding where the unique, mouthwatering flavors come from, and respecting that history with every dish we make from scratch.
Long before the Spanish arrived in Mexico, the Aztecs had it all under control. They were creating delicious, nutritious meals with extraordinary flavor. They used natural, local ingredients that were the staples of every meal for generations: corn, beans, chili peppers and flavorful spices.
The Aztecs invented some of Mexican cuisine’s most generous and glorious contributions, including the corn tortilla, both soft and crispy. They were responsible for the earliest versions of tamales. And we want to shake their hands for their embrace of the humble avocado, which is indigenous to North America. Thanks to the Aztec culture, we get to devour buckets of hand-scooped, made-fresh guacamole every day.
The Spanish Show Up
When the Spanish dropped by, they found a thriving, sophisticated culture full of rich history and food traditions. But they also brought with them rice. We’re pretty glad the Spanish brought rice. They were also responsible for the introduction of cooking techniques like frying, and showed up with some extra little bonus ingredients that may surprise you: olive oil, onions, garlic, oregano, coriander, cinnamon (without which we would not have the glory of horchata), and cloves.
The Great Merger
The Spanish were no stranger to cooking influences from other countries—Spanish cooking had been exposed to about 8 centuries of Arabic influence, in fact, with a little bit of French and German thrown in for good measure. So it was no surprise that when Spanish and Aztec cooking met, a beautiful blend would be the result.
It started off with the Spaniard’s attempt to recreate their home cuisine, but no food is made in a vacuum. Part of the catalyst was also that too many ingredients were unavailable, or expensive to get their hands on. Saffron became rare, while cheese ascended to a position of great importance. New world tomatillos, easy to get your hands on, became an essential staple, as you can tell when your crunchy tortilla chip scoops up a heaping pile of salsa fresca.
Modern Mexican Cuisine Magic
Modern Mexican cuisine has developed into a thing of beauty. Despite the Spanish showing up with their fancy ideas about food, it has steadfastly remained loyal to its foundation: corn, beans and chili peppers, without which we would not have most of our favorite dishes. The introduction of American cuisine influence since the 20th century? It’s just made things even better.
The American southwest has long been a bastion of old-timey authentic Mexican cooking, with a little bit of a twist. Just like those Spaniards did, Mexican-Americans began incorporating local ingredients into their traditional recipes with great results.
Beef in all its mouthwatering forms became a staple of Mexican restaurants, thanks to the Texas cattle industry. New combinations of classic flavors began to appear, such as nachos and chimichangas, fajitas and tortas, reflecting the American use of flour in cooking.
Mexican Takes a Foothold
The authentic, traditional flavors of Mexican food could not be contained in the southwest. Its flavors and spices carry on across the country, bringing history along with it, from Mexico City and the Yucatan to the wild west. The heart of Mexican food will always be its emphasis on traditional methods and ingredients. In 2010, in fact, UNESCO recognized Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and you better believe we’re proud to keep serving up a part of that history every day.