Are Nachos Really Mexican Food?

We ate nachos this week for our Tuesday Spanish conversation dinner. The language during the meal was to be the main focus of this post. Then, I began to wonder if it was a double Spanish dinner. Do nachos originate in Texas or Mexico? I wanted to tell readers  with culinary confidence. For many years I’ve believed this cheesy delight was Tex Mex food, a fusion of food and cultures that also created chili con carne. I hoped but didn’t expect to find a true answer to the question. Fortunately, Adriana P. Orr of the Oxford English Dictionary completed the research even before I even inquired, and I thank her.

Yes, nachos are decidedly Mexican, although a recent invention from 1943. That year, a waiter at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico, named Ignacio Anaya served a dish to a group of women from Eagle Pass. In Spanish, the nickname for Ignacio is Nacho. Legend has it that it was the end of the day, he went to the kitchen, threw together the ingredients that remained and cooked them in the oven. He presented the tortilla chips, jalapeños and melted cheese with a flourish as Especialidad de Nacho, Nacho’s Specialty. The ladies thought it was so delicious, they added it to their church recipe book, that written evidence helped Ms. Orr’s research quite a bit.

My husband Evan and I went to Piedras Negras in 1999. We drove down from Austin to Eagle Pass, and from there crossed the border into Mexico. I remember one restaurant where we ate, the waiter kept saying this is where nachos were invented. I humored him, but thought he was making it up. After he and another waiter repeated the history twice, I asked the name of the man who created the dish. They chuckled, and said, “Ignacio.” Suddenly, the humor of the nickname hit me. I said, “Nacho!” and the three of us cracked up.

Here in Madison, we invented our own version of the classic:

Vegetarian nachos

  • 1 bag cassava chips (Siete Brand) or 1 bag organic corn chips
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 grated zucchini
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 package, goat’s milk Monterrey Jack (grated)Spread the chips out on the baking sheet, add beans, sprinkle zucchini and carrot, top with cheese, bake at 400 F/200 C for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve hot with the salsa of your choice.

Additions You Might Like

  • olives
  • green onion
  • diced tomatoes
  • sliced chiles
  • cooked ground pork or ground beef

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. Olé!  -Rebecca

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