10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Mexican Food

By:Justin Chan

The Wall Street Journal recently paid tribute to the power of Mexican food in America by running an article that lists several fun facts that you might find interesting (you can find them below). The piece was published in concurrence with Taco Bell's 50th anniversary last month.  While Taco Bell cannot be classified as traditional Mexican food, it is undoubtedly a fast food version that Americans, particularly the hungry and on-a-budget college students, seem to like.

Taco Bell, in fact, is one of many chain restaurants that helped put Mexican cuisine on the map. Chipotle Mexican Grill is also gaining prominence, as more and more Americans try to satiate their growing desire for the Central American cookery. Although such chains have made Mexican cuisine trendy, the roots of Mexican food in the United States can be traced as far back as the 1800s. Tex-Mex food, for instance, originated during that period, and the term "Tex-Mex" was first coined in 1875, when the Texas Mexican Railway was chartered. Since its creation, Tex-Mex food has incorporated influences from Spain, Mexico and South Texas and has spread across the country. Although it is generally described as a regional American cuisine, it was created by Mexican Americans who borrowed largely from the Mexican food culture.

Here are some other facts you probably didn't know:

1. Taco Bell may have popularized tacos, but the history of tacos dates back to the Mexican Revolution, when refugees brought the food to the United States.

2. Tortillas were once canned. During the 1980s, many Americans could only find canned tortillas, a creation that can be attributed to El Paso's George N. Ashley. Ashley first sold the product in 1938 and had some success, but his creation can no longer be found on supermarket shelves today.

3. Fajitas were made famous by Ninfa's, a restaurant managed by Rio Grande Valley native Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo. In fact, the dish was so appealing that chains like El Torito and Chi-Chi's sent spies to steal the recipe.

4. The invention of the nacho can be credited to Ignacio Anaya, a chef in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Anaya initially made the snack for military housewives who went shopping on the holidays. The concept, however, gained popularity in the late 1970s, when Frank Liberto, a concessionaire in San Antonio, decided to sell nachos at Arlington Stadium.

5. Disneyland played a role in the invention of Doritos. In the early 1960s, Mexican workers at the theme park's restaurant fried leftover tortillas and added flavoring to help create the now-popular brand.

6. America's first Mexican-food celebrity was not Mexican. A man by the name of Buffalo Bill Cody earned the unique recognition after he started a Mexican restaurant outside of Madison Square Garden in 1886.

7. The first official American fans of Mexican food were members of the military. In 1879, the War Department agreed to allow San Antonio canners to feed its soldiers chile con carne.

8. The earliest margaritas were made in a rigged soft-serve ice-cream machine. In 1971, Mariano Martinez used the machine to blend a prefabricated mix stored in a Spackle bucket and create the beverage.

9. In 1966, two New York housewives operated an early version of the taco truck. Although the truck did not have a full kitchen, it was available for catering.

10. Some accredit the popularity of Mexican cuisine to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. During the fair, tamaleros from San Francisco would roam the area and promote their food.

What's your favorite Mexican dish?

Photo: rdpeyton 

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