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Food Timeline FAQs: Mexican & Tex Mex foods.....Have questions? Ask!

  • chiles rellenos
  • chili con carne
  • chimichangas
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Day of the Dead
  • enchiladas
  • fajitas
  • flan
  • maize/masa
  • Mexican casserole
  • Mexican wedding cakes
  • mole poblano
  • nachos
  • quesadillas
  • refried beans
  • salsa
  • 7 layer taco dip
  • sopaipillas & fry bread
  • sour cream?
  • taco salad
  • taco soup
  • tacos
  • tamales
  • tequila & pulque
  • tortilla soup
  • tortillas
  • Elena Zelayeta
  • What is Tex-Mex cuisine?
    Food historians tell us TexMex cuisine originated hundreds of years ago when Spanish/Mexican recipes combined with Anglo fare. TexMex, as we Americans know it today, is a twentieth century phenomenon. Dictionaries and food history sources confirm the first print evidence of the term "Tex Mex" occured in the 1940s. Linguists remind us words are often used for several years before they appear in print. TexMex restaurants first surfaced ouside the southwest region in cities with large Mexican populations. The gourmet Tex Mex "fad" began in the 1970s. Diana Kennedy, noted Mexican culinary expert, is credited for elevating this common food to trendy fare. These foods appealed to the younger generation.

    What is Tex-Mex?
    "Tex-Mex food might be described as native foreign food, contradictory through that term may seem, It is native, for it does not exist elsewhere; it was born on this soil. But it is foreign in that its inspiration came from an alien cuisine; that it has never merged into the mainstream of American cooking and remains alive almost solely in the region where it originated..."
    ---Eating in America, Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont [William Morrow:New York] 1976 (p. 281)

    [1940s] "Tex-Mex. A combination of the words "Texan" and "Mexican," first printed in 1945, that refers to an adaptation of Mexican dishes by Texas cooks. It is difficult to be precise as to what distinguishes Tex-Mex from true Mexican food, except to say that the variety of the latter is wider and more regional, whereas throughout the state and, now, throughout the entire United States."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 325)

    [1950s] "Mexican restaurants, whos popularity coincided with the arrival of large numbers of Mexican immigrants after 1950, have for the most part followed the from and style of what is called "Tex-Mex" food, and amalgam of Northern Mexican peasant food with Texas farm and cowboy fare. Chili, which some condsider Texas's state dish, was unknown in Mexico and derived from the ample use of beef in Texan cooking. "Refried beans" are a mistranslation of the Mexican dish frijoles refritos, which actually means well-fried beans...The combination platter of enchiladas, tacos, and tortillas became the unvarying standards of the Tex-Mex menu, while new dishes like chimichangas (supposedly invented in the the 1950s at El Charro restaurant in Tucson, Arizona) and nachos (supposedly first served at a consession at Dallas's State Fair of Texas in 1964...) were concocted to please the American palate....One Tex-Mex item that may someday rival the pizza as an extraordinarily successful ethnic dish is the fajita...introduced at Ninfa's in Houston on July 13, 1973, as tacos al carbon. No one knows when or where it acquired the name fajita, which means girdle' or'strip' in Spanish and refers to the skirt steak originally used in the preparation...Only in the last decade has refined, regional Mexican food taken a foot-hold in American cities, reflecting not only the tenets of Tex-Mex cookery by the cuisines of Mexico City, the Yucatan, and other regions with long-standing culinary traditions."
    ---America Eats Out, John Mariani [William Morrow:New York] 1991 (p. 80-1)

    [1970s]
    "In the good old days, Texans went to "Mexican restaurants" and ate "Mexican food." Then in 1972, The Cuisines of Mexico, an influential cookbook by food authority Diana Kennedy, drew the line between authentic interior Mexican food and the "mixed plates" we ate at "so-called Mexican restaurants" in the United States. Kennedy and her friends in the food community began referring to Americanized Mexican food as "Tex-Mex," a term previously used to describe anything that was half-Texan and half-Mexican. Texas-Mexican restaurant owners considered it an insult. By a strange twist of fate, the insult launched a success. For the rest of the world, "Tex-Mex" had an exciting ring. It evoked images of cantinas, cowboys and the Wild West. Dozens of Tex-Mex restaurants sprang up in Paris, and the trend spread across Europe and on to Bangkok, Buenos Aires and Abu Dhabi. Tortilla chips, margaritas and chili con carne are now well-known around the world." ---
    Houston Post, 6 part series, all online:

    Los Angeles Times Cookbook: Old Time California, Mexican and Spanish Recipes [1905]

    History & evolution:

    Recommended books:

    America's First Cuisines, Sophie D. Coe
    American Food: The Gastronomic Story, Evan Jones [chapter III "Padres and Conquistadores"]
    Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy
    Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [separate entries for specific foods--fajita, tamale, chalupa...]
    Food Culture in Mexico, Long-Solis& Vargas
    The History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, "The History of Cereals, Maize in the West" (pages 164-176)
    New Mexico Cooking: Southwestern Flavors of the Past and Present, Clyde Casey
    Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Mexico]
    Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew J. Smith [Mexican American Food]
    Pre-Hispanic Cooking, Ana M. Benitez
    Que Vivan Los Tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity/Jeffrey M. Pilcher
    The Story of Corn, Betty Fussell
    You Eat What You Are, Thelma-Barer-Stein ("Mexico")


    Bunuelos & churros
    The history of bunuelos and churros can be traced to ancient peoples.
    fritters were known to many cultures and cuisines; each evolving according to local tastes and customs. These foods were introduced to Mexico by Spanish settlers. There are several foods closely related to bunuelos and churros: sopaipillas & fry bread. In other countries, simliar recipes evolved as doughnuts, funnel cake, and waffles.

    About bunuelos

    "Most countries have their version of bunuelos, or fritters, either sweet or savory, and they are certainly great favorites throughout Spain and Latin America. In many parts of Mexico bunuelos are made of a stiffer dough, which is rolled out thin anywhere up to 12 inches in diameter and then fried crisp and staked up ready for use. In Uruapan...they are broken into small pieces and heated\ quickly in a thick syrup of piloncillo, the raw sugar of Mexico. These of Veracruz are very much like the churros of Spain, but flavored with aniseeds, and served with a syrup."
    ---The Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy [Harper Row:New York] 1972 (p. 329-330)

    About churros

    "At every Spanish festival or carnival, one is sure to find a huge cauldron of bubbling oil where Churros are quickly fried, shaped into loops, and threaded into reeds that are then knotted for easy carrying. They are meant to be purchased immediately after frying, usually by the dozens, and are munched on by visitors as they wander about taking tin the sights. Churros are nothing more than fried batter of flour and water, but they are essential to a Spanish breakfast, dipped either in sugar or in a cup of coffee or thick hot chocolate...If one is out on an all-night binge--a juerga, as it is called--it is the custom to end the evening by eating Churros and hot chocolate at the churreria, or churro store, which opens by dawn."
    ---The Foods and Wines of Spain, Penelope Casas [New York:Knopf] 1982 (p. 342)
    [NOTE: this book has a recipe for churros, we can send you a copy if you like]

    RECOMMENDED READING:
    The Foods and Wines of Spain/Penelope Casas
    ---recipes for several different kinds of bunuelos; pages introducing desserts (p. 340-1) sum up the ingredients used and holiday connections.


    Burritos
    Burritos, as we Americans know them today, pair ancient culinary traditions with contemporary expectations. What makes burritos different from most other Mexican-American foods is the metamorhpasis of this dish. We tracked down the earliest print references for "burritos" cited by food history in American/English reference books. They are nothing like the burritos we are served today. "What" modern burritos are is easily defined. "When" & "where" did the change happen? Early 1960s, Southern California. "Who" & "why" remain a mystery. Our survey of historic newspapers suggest food trucks played a roll. Burritos are efficient, economical, easy & delicious.

    "Burrito. A tortilla rolled and cooked on a griddle, then filled with a variety of condiments. Burritos are a Mexican-American staple. The word, from Spanish for "little donkey," first saw print in America in 1934. If fried, the burrito becomes a chimichanga."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 48)

    "Burrito...A Mexican dish consisting of a maize-flour tortilla rolled round a savoury filling (of beef, chicken, refried beans, etc.) 1934: E. Ferguson. Mexican Cookbook. 33. Burritos (Little Burros). Mix tortillas...but mold them thicker than usual. Make a depression in the middle of each and fill with chichiarrones. 1962 Mulvey & Alvares Good Food from Mexico (rev. ed.) iii.81 Burritos in the northern part of Mexico and in the southwestern part of the United States are quite different. Now a popular dish in many restaurants and taco stands in California and Texas are northern burritos, which are made by folding a flour tortilla around a mound of re-fried beans, seasoned to taste with chili."
    ---Oxford English Dictionary, 22nd edition

    Burros?
    Our regional cookbooks confirm "burros" are indeed a larger version of "burritos" in Arizona and surrounding areas. The "ito" suffix denotes a smaller version of the original item.

    "...in the Sonora and southeastern Arizona, some people make tortillas out of wheat, as well as, corn. Not just tortillas, but huge regional tortillas, often well over twenty inches in diameter. Wrapped around some sort of filling, they are called burros or burritos, depending upon the size. Burros can be filled with anything...If you deep-fry a burro it becomes a chimichanga--a truly local dish from Another Arizona or northern Sonora."
    ---Tucson's Mexican Restaurants, Suzanne Myal [Fiesta Publishing:Tucson AZ] 1997 (p. 14)

    [1934]
    "Burritos (Little Burros)

    Mix tortillas according to recipe on page 85, but mold them thicker than usual. Make a depression in the middle of each and fill with chicharrones, made according to recipe on page 30, and chopped. Bake in a moderate oven." (p. 33)

    "Tortillas (1) (With Corn Meal),br> 2 cups corn meal or masa
    1 teaspoon salt
    warm water
    Mix corn meal or masa and salt. If dry meal is used, add enough water to make a stiff dough, aven the masa may require a little moisture. Adding 1 cup white flour to this receipt will make the dough easier to handle. Set dougn aside for 20 minutes, we hands in water, mold balls of dougn th size of hens' eggs, pat into thin cakes, and bake on soapstone or lightly greased griddle, turning until brown on both sides." (p. 85)

    Chicharrones (Cracklings)
    This is the fat cut from under the skin of the hog. The best comes from the part where the bacon is cut. To prepare, cut into small pieces and cook slowly in the oven, stirring often, until all lard is rendered out and the chicharrones are a delicate brown. Then strain." (p. 30) ---Mexican Cookbook Erna Fergusson [Rudal Press:Santa Fe NM] 1934

    [1950]
    "Burritos (Little Burros)

    2 cups nixtamalina (packaged or canned, or 2 cups white corn meal
    1 teaspoon salt
    Warm water
    Chicharrones (page 237)
    Mix nictamalina or white corn meal and salt. Add enough water to make a stiff dough and set aside for twenty minutes. Wet hands in water and mold balls of dough the size of a walnut. Pat into one-quarter-inch cakes, Make a depression in the center of each and fill with chiccahrones. Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) ten to fifteen minutes. Yield: three dozen.' (p. 91)

    "Chicharrones Fingidos (Mock Cracklings)
    4 egg whites
    3 cups sifted flour
    1/4 cake or package of yeast
    3 cups shortening
    6 egg yolks
    1 cup brandy
    Beat egg whites with one tablespoon flour until stiff. Add the yeast which has been dissolved in two tablespoons water. Cream one cup shortening, Add egg yolks, egg white mixture, flour and brandy, and mix well to a soft dough. Bake in a greased loaf pan in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) thirty to forty minutes until done. Cool and cut into one-eighth inch slices. Deep-fry in remaining hot shortening (350 degrees F.) until golden brown. Yield: four dozen." (p. 237)
    ---Good Food From Mexico, Ruth Watt Mulvey & Luisa Maria Alverez [M. Barrows:New York] 1950

    [1962]
    "(Burritos
    in the northern part of Mexico and in the southwesteren part of the United States are quite different. Now a popular dish in many restaurants and taco stands in California and Texas are nothern burritos, which are made by folding a flour tortilla around a mound of refried beans, seasoned to taste with chili.)"
    ---Good Food From Mexico, Ruth Watt Mulvey and Luisa Maria Alvarez [Collier Books:London] revised edition, 1962 (p. 81)
    [NOTE: The recipe for Burritos in this book is exactly the same as the 1950 edition.]

    [1964]
    "Dear SOS: What are the chances of getting a recipe for burritos--particularly the pork variety?...We are told that burritos, known only in the northern part of Mexico and along the border in the States, are beginning to be popular in our taco stands. They are usually made with large flour tortillas and served hot, but not fried. Fillings are often fried beans or chopped meats in a spicy sauce or a combination of the two.
    Burritos (Little Burros)
    Flour tortillas may be purchased, but they're easy to make.
    Flour Tortillas (Tortillas de Harina)
    2 cups flour
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 cup shortening
    1/2 cup lukewarm water
    Sift flour and salt into mixing bowl. Cut in shortening until like coars meal. Mix in enough water to make soft dough. Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough into 6 equal portions Shape each into a ball and roll into 8-in. round tortillas. Cook on moderately hot ungreased griddle until lightly browned in spots, turning once. Spoon filling from top to bottom on left half of hot tortilla. Fold up bottom edge and roll with filling tucked inside.
    Pork and Chili Filling
    1 1/2 lb. lean pork
    3/4 cup water
    1 clove garlic
    Salt, pepper
    1 onion, chopped
    1 cup tomatoes, fresh or canned
    1 tsp. coriander seeds
    1 peeled green chili
    Cook pork with water, garlic, salt and pepper over moderate heat, with pan covered, until water cooks away. Uncover, discard garlic and let meat cook in own fat until browned, turning frequently. Add onion; cook few minutes then add cut up tomatoes. Crush coriander seeds and soak in 1 tbsp. hot water 2 min. Strain off water into meat mixture. Cut chili into small strips or chop finely,=. Add to meat. (Discard chili seeds for milder seasoning.) Cook, covered, until meat is tender and sauce thickened. Makes enough filling for 8 large burritos."
    ---"Burritos Gaining a Foothold in U.S.," Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1964 (p. D2)

    [1967]
    "Burritos:
    In California, 'little burros' are becoming very popular. Flour tortillas are used for these, with a spoonful of chili-flavored cooked meat, sometimes mixed with beans, placed in the center. The two opposite sides of the tortilla are folded over to cover the edges of filling, then the other sides are folded over to make little packages. These are fried until crisp, and eaten hot."
    ---Elena's Favorite Foods California Style, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall Inc.:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1967 (p. 174)


    Related foods?
    Portable pies & wraps.
    Chile peppers
    Chile peppers are "New World" foods, so it stands to reason Native Americans (from South/Central America/American Southwest) ate them before the European Explorers discovered these lands. Hot chile peppers were sometimes combined with tomatoes to form an early version of salsa. It is important to note that there are many different kinds of peppers: sweet, bell, Holland. Some of these were introduced later by scientists. Hungarian famous
    paprika is derived from this commodity. Wilbur Scoville invented the famous chile "heat" scale bearing his name.

    Chili peppers: quick & general.

    Origins
    "The fruits of Capsicum species seem to have a magnetic attraction for confusing colloquila nomes. It began with Columbus discovering them on his first voyage and calling them peppers of the Indies, initiating a mix-up which has lasted to this day... This fruit with many names brows on plants of the genus Capsicum, members of the Solanacae family like the tomatoes and potatoes... There were three species, or species groups, of cultivated chiles in ancient America...The white-flowered and white seeded Capsicum annum, chinense, Capsicum annum was in Mexico to be found, wild, in cultural deposits in the Tehuacan valley dating from 7200 to 5200 B.C..."
    ---America's First Cuisines, Sophie D. Coe [University of Texas Press:Austin TX] 1994 (p. 60-61)

    "Wild chillies were being gathered and eaten in Mexico c.7000BC, and were cultivated there before 3500 BC."
    ---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2nd edition, 2007 (p. 171)

    CHILE PEPPER MIGRATION

    "Interestingly...it was not the Spanish who were responsible for the early diffusion of New World food plants. Rather, it was the Portuguese, aided by local traders following long-used trade routes, who spread American plants though the Old World with almost unbelievable rapidity...Unfortunately, documentation for the routes that chilli peppers followed from the Americas is not as plentiful as that for other New World economic plants... it is highly probable that capsicums accompanied the better-documented Mesoamerican food complex of corn, beans, and squash, as peppers have been closely associated with these plants throughout history...The fiery new spice was readily accepted by the natives of Africa and India...From India, chilli peppers traveled...not only along the Portuguese route back around Africa to Europe but also over ancient trade routes that led either to Europe via the Middle East or to monsoon Asia...In the latter cakes, if the Portuguese had not carried chilli peppers to Southeast Asia and Japan, the new spice would have been spread by Arabic, Gujurati, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Javanese traders...In the Szechuan and Hunan provinces in China, where many New World foods were established within the lifetime of the Spanish conquistadors, there were no read leading from the coast. Nonetheless, American foods were known there by the middle of the sixteenth century, having reached these regions via caravan routes from the Ganges River through Burma and across western China..."
    ---Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple & Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge], Volume One, 2000 (p. 282)

    ABOUT PEPPERS IN EUROPE

    "Despite a European 'discovery' of the Americas, chilli peppers diffused throughout Europe in circuitous fashion. Following the fall of Granada in 1492, the Spaniards established dominance over the western Mediterranean while the Ottoman Turks succeeded power in northern Africa...the Mediterranean became...two separate seas divided by Italy, Malta, Sicily, with little or no trade or contact between the eastern and western sections. Venice was the center of the spice and Oriental trade of central Europe, and Venice depended on the Ottoman Turks...From central Europe the trade went to Antwerp and the rest of Europe, although Antwerp also received Far Eastern goods from the Portuguese via India, Africa, and Lisbon. It was along these avenues that chili peppers traveled into much of Europe. They were in Italy by 1535...Germany by 1542...England before 1538...the Balkans before 1569...and Moravia by 1585...But except in the Balkans and Turkey, Europeans did not make much use of chilli peppers until the Napoleonic blockade cut off their supply of spices and they turned to Balkan paprika as a substitute. Prior to that, Europeans had mainly grown capsicums in containers as ornamentals."
    ---Cambridge World History of Food (p. 282)

    "We know that Columbus was the first European to see Native Americans consuming capsicum peppers, and our word for them reveals that he was really searching for black pepper and called these 'pimiento' with as much enthusiasm as he called the natives 'Indians.' But the very fact that they could also be found far away as China within a few years has led some scholars to suggest that they may have reached Asia even before they did Europe. It is certain though that the Portuguese brought peppers to their colonies in Asia. Peppers were first described in Europe in the German herbal of Leonard Fuchs in 1542, but he thought they came from India. Like several other New World imports though, it appears that poor people were the only ones willing to eat them; they are not even mentioned in cookbooks which naturally catered to a literate and elite audience."
    ---Food in Early Modern Europe, Ken Albala [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2003 (p. 32)

    "Chile is historically associated with the voyage of Columbus (Heiser 1976). Columbus is given credit for introducing chile to Europe, and subsequently to Africa and to Asia. On his first voyage, he encountered a plant whose fruit mimicked the pungency of the black pepper, Piper nigrum L. Columbus called it red pepper because the pods were red. The plant was not the black pepper, but a heretofore unknown plant that was later classified as Capsicum. Capsicum is not related to the Piper genus. In 1493, Peter Martyr (Anghiera 1493) wrote that Columbus brought home "pepper more pungent than that from the Caucasus." Chile spread rapidly across Europe into India, China, and Japan. The new spice, unlike most of the solanums from the Western Hemisphere, was incorporated into the cuisines instantaneously. Probably for the first time, pepper was no longer a luxury spice only the rich could afford. Since its discovery by Columbus, chile has been incorporated into most of the world's cuisines. It has been commercially grown in the United States since at least 1600, when Spanish colonists planted seeds and grew chile using irrigation from the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico (DeWitt and Gerlach 1990)."--- SOURCE

    ABOUT PEPPERS IN BRITAIN

    "A few new spices reached Britain after the end of the Middle Ages. The Spaniards brought back from Central America several members of the capsicum family, which were naturalized in southern Europe. The larger fruits were imported thence into England under the name of Guinea pepper. The smallest, reddest and hottest of the American capsicums, when dried and powdered, produced cayenne pepper, the 'chyan' of English eighteenth century recipe books."
    ---Food & Drink in Britain From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991 (p. 293)

    "The use of the term pepper for fruits of the capsicum family dates from the eighteenth century, an allusion to the similar pungency of taste. In particular it refers to the Capsicum annuum, a native of tropical America, which is generally called more fully the sweet pepper (an alternative name in American English is bell pepper)."
    ---An A to Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 251)

    "The word "cayenne" seems to come from kian, the name of the pepper among the Tupi Indians of northeastern South America. The pod type probably originated in what is now French Guiana and was named after either the Cayenne River of the capital of the country, cayenne. It owes its spread to Portugal, whose traders carried it to Europe, Africa, India, and Asia. Although it probably was introduced into Spain before 1500, its circuitous route caused it to be transferred to Britain from India in 1548...In 1597, the botanist John Gerard referred to cayenne as "ginnie or Indian pepper" in his herbal, and in his influential herbal of 1652, Nicholas Culpepper wrote that cayenne was "this violent fruit" that was of considerable service to "help digestion, provoke urine, relieve toothache, preserve the teeth from rottenness, comfort a cold stomach, expel the stone from the kidney, and take away dimness of sight." Cayenne appeared in Miller's The Gardener's and Botanist's Dictionary in 1768, proving it was being cultivated in England--at least in home gardens."
    ---The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, Dave DeWitt [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 68-69)

    "The melegueta pepper enjoyed great popularity during the Elizabethan Age in England, primarily through trade with Portugal."
    ---ibid (p. 23)

    Gerard's Herbal 1633:
    "Peppers - pages 364-366. "Capsicum. Ginnie or Indian Pepper. ...Ginnie pepper hath the taste of pepper, but not the power or vertue, notwithstanding in Spaine and sundrie parts of the Indies they do vse to dresse their meate therewith, as we doe with Calecute pepper: but (saith my Authour) it hath in it a malicious qualitie, whereby it is an enemy to the liuer and other of the entrails... It is said to die or colour like Saffron; and being receiued in such sort as Saffron is usually taken, it warmeth the stomacke, and helpeth greatly the digestion of meates."

    CHILE PEPPERS IN COLONIAL AMERICA
    This passage best sums up the introduction of chile peppers to the United States:

    "Peppers of the annuum species were transferred into what is now the American Southwest--first by birds and then by humankind. Botanists believe that the wild annum variety known as chiltepins spread northward from Mexico through dissemination by birds long before Native Americans domesticated peppers and made them part of their trade goods. These chiltepins still grow wild today in Arizona and in South Texas, where they are known as chilipiquins. According to most accounts, chile peppers were introduced the second time into what is now known the United States by Calitan General Juan de Onate, who founded Sante Fe in 1609. However, they may have been introduced to the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico by the Antonio Espejo expedition of 1582-83. According to one of the members of the expedition..."They have no chile, but the native were given some seed to plant." But by 1601, chiles were not on the list of Indian crops, according to colonist Francisco de Valverde..But soon chiles were being grown by Spanish and Indians alike.. We do know that soon after the Spanish arrived, the cultivation of peppers in New Mexico spread rapidly and the pods were grow both in Spanish settlements and native pueblos...During the 1700s, peppers were popping up in other parts of the country. In 1768, according to legend, Minorcan settlers in St. Augustine, Florida, introduced the datil pepper, a land race of the Chinese species...Other introductions were also occuring during the eighteenth century. In 1785, George Washington planted two rows of "bird peppers" and one row of cayenne at Mount Vernon, but it is not known how he acquired the seed. Another influential American, Thomas Jefferson, was also growing peppers from seed imported from Mexico. By the early 1800s, commercial seed varieties became available to the American public. In 1806 a botanist named McMahon listed four varieties for sale, and in 1826, another botanist named Thornburn listed "Long' (cayenne), "Tomato-Shaped' (squash), 'Bell' (oxheart), 'Cherry' and 'Bird' (West Indian) peppers as available for gardeners. Two years later, squash peppers were cultivated in North American gardens and that same year (1828), the 'California Wonder Bell' pepper was first named and grown commercially."
    ---The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, Dave DeWitt [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 13-4)
    [NOTE: This book contains far more information than can be paraphrased here. Your librarian will be happy to help you obtain a copy.]

    Food historian Karen Hess observed:
    "Bell pepper is a large, flesh mild green pepper, turning into red or gold when fully ripe. Sturtevant cites Lionel Wafer in 1699, who mentions Bell-pepper and Bird-pepper as growing in the Ithsmus of America, and Edward Long in 1774, who lists nine varieties of Capsicum as being under cultivation in Jamaica; of these, "the Bell is esteemed most proper for pickling," Sturtevant repeats. Among numerous references to Capsicum by Jefferson, one unmistakably refers to bell pepper, seeds of which were sent from Mexico in 1824: 'Large Pepper, a good salad the seeds being removed." Plantings of Piperoni in 1774 and Capsicum Major in 1812, among others, would seem to refer to bell pepper as well. Cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutenscens L. var. longum Bailey) was planted by Jefferson as early as 1767. The presence of hot peppers in the West Indies had been chronicled since 1494, according to Sturtevant. Long pepper was a popular name for the elongated cayenne, but it had been appropriated from the eastern Piper longum, the fruit spikelet of which had fallen into disuse by the time of the voyages of discovery. The use of capsicum peppers seems to have come to Virginia by way of the West Indies (see Pepper Pot an Gumbo, for instance). The choice of pepper for Pepper Vinegar is not altogether clear. I opt for cayenne because of the implied heat in comparing the flavor to that of black pepper; also Jefferson correspondence in 1813 (Garden Book) refers to vinegar in which cayenne is steeped brine used as seasoning. (This must have been the basis for later southern barbecue mixtures.) However, some argue for the use of mild pepper in this recipe, but I think that Mrs. Randolph would have so specified. In any event, the use of hot peppers in traditional Virginia cookery was highly skilled and discreet, just enough to brighten the taste, not to set it afire."
    ---The Virginia Housewife, Mary Randolph, with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess, facsimile 1824 edition [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1984 (p. 282-3)
    [NOTE: This book contains several additional notes and selected recipes for Capsicum, Bell and Cayenne peppers.]


    Chile rellenos
    People have been stuffing vegetables with a variety of minced mixtures for thousands of years. Ancient Greek dolma (stuffed vine leaves) is one of the most famous "Old World" examples. Aztec and Maya cooks stuffed tamales with all sorts of fillings. Chiles Rellenos (stuffed chilies) descend from this delicious tradition. About
    chile peppers.

    Stuffed pepper recipes published in early USA sources reflect the dichotomy between Old and New world interpretations. Recipes titled Chiles Rellenos are sometimes noted as "Mexican" or "Foreign." The farther the distance from Mexico and California, the more Anglicized the recipe. Think: pickled peppers.

    [Pre-Hispanic Central America]
    "Chilis...are stuffed with different mixtures...

    Capon Green Chilis. Choose big, green chilis, toast them and peel them. Make a cut in the chilis below the stalks, being careful not to split them. Devein the chilis. Crumble some fresh cheese, chop some chenopodium leaves and mix with the cheese, chopping up the mixture thoroughly. Stuff the chilis with the mixture and fry them in lard. When they are well-cooked, remove from the fat and drain them. Dip very thin tortillas in boiling hot salted butter or lard and then wrap each chili in a tortilla and place on a serving dish."
    ---Cocina Prehispanica: Pre-Hispanic Cooking, Ana M. de Benitez [Ediciones Euroamericanas Klaus Thiele:Mexico] 1974 (p. 75-77)

    [19th century California]
    "Chiles rellenos (stuffed chiles)

    Prepare the egg for the chiles: separate the whites from the yolks. Meat the whites with a fork or a wicker spoon, but by no means with a beater. When the whites are beaten to snowy peaks, add three tablespoons of flour and fold in the eggs to incorporate the flour. The yolks are not added to the whites until the moment the chiles are fried. Take this precaution. The other way makes the batter very think and the chiles don't fry well, because they have to be coated well with the egg to come out right. For fifteen chiles you should use 10 eggs. Don't beat the yolks until they are ready to be added to the whites at the moment you fry the chiles. When the yolks are added to the whites, give them half a turn, pouring them on the chiles, turning them in the batter, then putting them in the already hot lard."
    ---Encarnacion's Kitchen: Mexican Recipes form Nineteenth-Century California, Encarnacion Pinedo, edited and translated by Dan Strehl [University of California Press:Berkeley CA] 2003 (p. 121)
    [NOTES: (1) Encarnacion Pinedo lived was born 1848. Her book, El cocinero espanol, was published in 1898. (2) This book also offers a version stuffed with scrambled eggs and cooked artichoke bottoms, picadillo (minced meats & spices), shrimp, salt cod, cheese, canned French sardines & white cabbage. Also, Stuffed verdes rellenos (stuffed green chiles)]

    [1880: Boston]
    "Stuffed Peppers.

    Get large bell peppers. Cut around the stem, remove it, and take out all the seeds. For the stuffing use two quarts of chopped cabbage, a cupful of white mustard seed, three table-spoonfuls of celery seed, two table-spoonfuls of salt, half a cupful of grated horse-radish. Fill each pepper with a part of this mixture, and into each one put a small onion and a little cucumber. Tie the stem on again and put the peppers in a jar, and cover with cold vinegar."
    ---Miss Parloa's New Cook Book, Maria Parloa [Estes and Luariat:Boston] 1880, 1886 (p. 344)

    [1896: Boston]
    "Stuffed Peppers I

    6 green peppers
    3/4 cup hot steamed rice
    1/2 cup cold cooked meat cut in small dice
    1/3 cup tomatoes stewed and strained
    1 tablespoon melted butter
    Few drips onion juice
    Salt and pepper.
    Cut off pieces from stem ends of peppers. Remove seeds and partitions; parboil eight minutes. Fill with rice, meat, tomatoes, and butter, well mixed, and seasoned with onion juice, salt, and pepper. Place in a pan, add one and one-half cups water or stock, and bake forty-five minutes in a moderate oven.

    "Stuffed Peppers II Prepare peppers as for Stuffed Peppers I. Fill with equal parts of finely chopped cold cooked chicken or veal, and softened bread crumbs, seasoned with onion juice, salt and pepper."
    ---Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Fannie Merritt Farmer, facsimile 1896 edition [Weathervane Books:New York] 1973 (p. 267-268)

    [1905: Los Angeles]
    "NO. 55. CHILES RELLENOS.
    Mrs. C. Y. Yglesias, 1037 Albany street, Los Angeles.--Take one dozen green chiles, roast on a pan over the fire without lard; when skin becomes puffy they are done. When cold peel off the skin, cut off stem and remove seeds. For filling put in chopping bowl any cold meat, one onion, a clove or two of garlic, two tomatoes, stoned olives and raisins, half a cup if desired. When this is chopped fine add half a small cup of vinegar and fry on a pan with hot lard. Cool and fill one by one the chiles. When all are filled beat three eggs, whites and yolks separately, add a tablespoon flour and a spoonful of milk, season with salt and pepper. Now drop one by one the stuffed chiles in this batter and fry brown in hot lard. Serve hot. ANOTHER WAY.--Prepare the chiles in the same way as before, and for this filling use grated cheese instead of meat.
    NO. 56. CHILES RELLENOS. Mrs. A. A. Bradshaw, 1920 Front street, San Diego, Cal.--Skin several green peppers by frying slightly in hot lard; slit at side, removing seeds; stuff with preparation of chopped boiled beef, onion, thyme, few drops vinegar if liked, some bread crumbs, a little gravy or good broth, salt and pepper. Dip in beaten egg, then flour and fry or saute in oil, butter or lard. When done serve with sauce made by cooking together a spoonful of lard or butter, a little flour, then add water, sliced pears, apples and seeded raisins, cooking until tender.
    ---Los Angeles Times Cook Book.

    [1925: San Francisco]
    "Stuffed Peppers.

    Two cans Del Monte Pimientos (8 or 0), 1/2 pound of California cheese, 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let peppers drain, then sift a little flour over them, cut cheese in thick squares and insert into peppers. Separate eggs and beat whites very stiff, then add salt and yolks, then flour which makes a fluffy batter. Put pepper into batter and fry in hot oil or lard until light brown on both sides. Sauce: Take remaining fat and cut on onion, large clove of garlic and fry till brown; add little flour and let brown; add 2 cans Del Monte sauce, salt, parsley, little sugar and when cooked put peppers into sauce and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve on lettuce. Mrs. H. B."
    ---Corona Club Book Book, Corona Club, San Francisco [John Kitchen:San Francisco] 1925 (p. 109-110)

    [1944: California]
    "Chiles Rellenos (Stuffed Peppers)

    Cut Monterey cream cheese into oblongs about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Around each piece of cheese wrap a strip of peeled green chile, either canned or fresh. Have ready a batter made as follows: Allow 1 egg to each 2 whole peppers (chiles), and 1 tablespoon flour to each egg. Separate eggs; beat whites until stiff, then lightly fold in beaten yolks and flour. Drop the cheese-stuffed peppers into the mixture one at a time. Pick up with a spoon and place in a frying pan with plenty of moderately hot oil, about 1 1/2 inches deep, and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper and let stand. Shortly before serving time, make a thin sauce as follows: Mince half an onion and 1 clove garlic fine, and fry in a little oil. Strain 2 cups of solid pack tomatoes into the mixture, forcing the puree through the sieve; then add 2 cups of any kind of stock, preferably chicken. When boiling, season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon oregano, which is rubbed between the palms of the hands into the sauce. When ready to serve, put the peppers into the boiling sauce just long enough to heat them through--about 5 minutes. They puff up when heated this way. Peppers may be fixed several hours or even a day ahead of time, and heated in the sauce just before serving... "Chiles Rellenos is a typical Mexican recipe, yet it can be used by the average family in any part of the country by following the suggestions listed below. If green peeled chiles are not available, or if you do not desire to have a hot dish, used canned pimientos or fresh bell peppers, skinned...The batter used in this recipe may also be used for coating of zucchini. If Monterey cheese is not available, American cheese may be used."
    ---Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta [Dettners Printing House:San Francisco] 1944 (p. 90-91)
    [NOTE: This book also offers recipes for Chiles Verdes Rellenos Con Sardina (green chilies stuffed with sardines) and Arroz Con Chiles Rellenos (Mexican rice with stuffed chiles), Berenjenas Rellenas (stuffed eggplant), Pimientos Morrones Rellenos (stuffed pimientos), Pimientos Rellenos Con Arroz (stuffed peppers with rice)]

    [1958: California]
    "Chiles Rellenos Con Queso
    (Chiles Stuffed with Cheese)
    This is an all-time favorite with Mexicans and Americans alike. Although chiles rellenos means stuffed chiles, it is usually assumed that they are cheese-stuffed. However, to be sure, order chiles rellenos con queso, when in a restaurant. This version, which is mine, lighter and fluffier than the Mexican kind, but I find it's preferred by Americans. The stuffed chiles are reheated in a sauce, but I find that some of my friend prefer them plain, so suit yourself. This recipe makes 8 chiles rellenos. 1/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese
    1 can peeled green chiles
    Flour
    2 eggs
    2 tablespoons flour
    fat for frying
    Cut cheese in rectangles about 1/2 inch thick and 1 inch long. Wrap a strip of chile around each piece of cheese (medium-sized chile makes two strips). Roll in flour. Make a batter by beating the whites of eggs until stiff and beating the yolks lightly. Fold yolks into whites, then fold in flour. Drop the stuffed and floured chiles into the batter one at a time. Pick up each with a spoon and transfer to a saucer; then slide from saucer into about 1 1/2 inches of moderately hot oil in your frying pan. This keeps the chiles neater and holds more of the batter. Baste with hot oil or they may turn turtle. Fry until golden brown on each side, but quickly! Darin then well on absorbent paper and let stand. Don't worry if the nice puffy coating deflates. It will puff up again when heated in this thin sauce before serving.
    Sauce:
    1/2 medium-sized onion, chopped
    1 small clove garlic
    1 tablespoon oil
    1 cup canned tomatoes
    2 cups chicken broth
    Salt, pepper, oregano
    Cook onion and garlic until wilted, in oil. Add tomatoes and press through a strainer. Put in a pot with the stock and bring to a boil, then season to taste with salt, pepper and oregano rubbed between the palms of the hand. At serving time, heat the chiles in the boiling sauce for about 5 minutes. If frozen, cover and put in the oven for a few minutes (about 10 minutes) before putting in sauce. Chiles may also be stuffed with any meat, chicken or fish, or with picadillo (see page 82)."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958 (p. 182-184)

    [1967: California]
    "I use a tomato sauce with these Chilies Rellenos with Picadillo. If you wish to vary the recipe, follow the method below, but fill with Monterey Jack cheese instead of Picadillo.
    "Chilies Rellenos With Picadillo
    1 dozen fresh long green chilies
    Picadillo
    6 eggs, separated
    6 tablespoons flour
    Salt to taste
    Oil for frying
    Sauce
    Place chilies under broiler and turn frequently until they are well blistered on all sides. Place in a paper bag and close tightly so peppers will steam. Let stand 15 minutes. {Peel off skins and remove seeds, being careful not to break chilies. Fill with the Picadillo mixture. Eat egg whites until stiff. Beat egg yolks; fold into egg whites, then fold in flour and salt. Drip stuffed chilies into batter one at a time. Lift out chili with a spoonful of batter and drop in oil about 1 1/2 inches deep, heated to 375 degrees F. Turn to brown second side. Lift out with a slotted spoon onto paper towels. The puffy coating will deflate, but it will puff up again when you reheat the chiles in the sauce. makes 6 servings.
    Sauce: Saute lightly 1 medium-size onion, minced, in a tablespoon of oil. Add 8-oz. can tomato sauce, 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or a 10 1/2 oz. can chicken consomme), a dash of powdered cloves and a stick of cinnamon, Salsa Jalapena to taste (or chopped canned green chili), a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Add Chilies Rellenos, and simmer until they are puffy and hot. Or if you prefer, reheat the chilies in the oven and serve the sauce separately, thickened slightly."---(p. 170-171)) ?

    "Picadillo is a really early California dish. It was probably invented by some of the Mexicans who came here in early days. It can be used in many ways. I particularly like it to stuff onions or Chiles Rellenos.
    "Picadillo
    1 lb ground lean beef or pork
    1 onion, chopped
    2 tablespoons oil (omit with pork)
    3 tomatoes, or 1 cup canned tomatoes
    2 tablespoons vinegar
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    Pinch ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1/4 cup hot broth or water
    Chopped canned green chilies or chili powder to taste
    1/2 cup slivered, blanched almonds
    Brown meat and onion in oil. Add all remaining ingredients except almonds. Heat to boiling, turn heat low and simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Stir in almonds. Makes about 3 cups." ---(p. 169)
    ---Elena's Favorite Foods California Style, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1967


    Chili con carne
    Chili, a new world recipe, originally meant beans served in a spicy tomato sauce. This nutritionally balanced combination was known to ancient Aztec and Mayan cooks. Food historians generally agree chili con carne is an American recipe with Mexican roots. "Con carne" means with meat (Carne is the Spanish word for meat). Our survey of historic newspapers suggests the
    original recipe was just chili (powder) and meat.

    Today in the United States, chile con carne is usually a combination of beans, sauce and ground beef. It can be made at home, selected from restaurant menus or purchased (ready-made or in kits) from food stores. Dedicated southwestern chili afficionados concentrate on spices, not the meat. Unless? Of course, they live in Texas.

    "Chili con carne sounds authentically Spanish, which it could hardly be, for the Spaniards had never seen a chili before they reached America; it was an element of Indian, not of Spanish, cooking. The Spanish name could have been explained by a Mexican origin, but the only persons who deny that provenance more vehemently than the Texans, who claim credit for it, are the Mexicans, who deny paternity with something like indignation...This dish is believed to have been invented in the city of San Antonio some time after the Civil War; it grew in favor after the developement of chili powder in New Braunfels in 1902."
    ---Eating in America: A History, Waverly Root and Richard De Rochemont [William Morrow:New York] 1976 (p. 277-8)

    "Instinctively, one knows that chili originated in the Southwest, was of Mexican inspiration, and that it moved eastward to the southern states in the early part of the century. Although American Indians used for one dish or another such chilies as could be found in various parts of America, chili con carne was not an Indian invention. Carolyn Niethammer, in her book American Indian Food and Lore, states that the tiny round chili called chillipiquin was known in New Mexico and Arizona, but the Indians did not know the large, domesticated chilies such as those used in chili con carne "until the Spaniards brought them [here] after passing through Mexico." The late Frank X. Tolbert, perhaps the nation's leading historian on the subject of chili, indicates in his book, A Bowl of Red, his assurance that chili originated in San Antonio, Texas."
    ---Craig Claiborne's The New York Times Food Encyclopedia, compiled by Joan Whitman [Times Books:New York] 1985 (p. 88)

    "Chili con carne is a stew that consists of meat, hot chile peppers, a liquid such as water or broth, and spices. It may or may not contain such ingredients as onions, tomatoes, or beans. Everything about chili con carne generates some sort of controversy- the spelling of the name, the origin of the dish, the proper ingredients for a great recipe...Although archaeological evidence indicates that chile peppers evolved in Mexico and South America, most writers on the subject state flatly that chili did not orginate in Mexico. Even Mexico disclaims chili; one Mexican dictionary defines it as: "A detestable dish sold from Texas to New York City and errouneously described as Mexican." Despite such protestations, the combiantion of meat and chile peppers in stew-like concoctions is not uncommon in Mexican cooking...Mexican caldillos (thick soups or stews), moles (meaning "mixture"), and adobos (thick sauces) often resemble chili con carne in both appearance and taste because they all sometimes use similar ingredients: various types of chiles combined with meat (usually beef), onions, garlic, cumin, and occasionally tomatoes. But chili con carne fanatics tell strange tales about the possible origin of chili. The story of the "lady in blue" tells of Sister Mary of Agreda, a Spanish nun in the early 1600s who never left her convent in Spain but nonetheless had out-of-body experiences during which her spirit would be transported across the Atlantic to preach Christianity to the Indians. After one of the return trips, her spirit wrote down the first recipe for chili con carne, which the Indians gage her: chile peppers, venison, onions, and tomatoes. An only slightly less fanciful account suggests that Canary Islanders, transplanted to San Antonio as early as 1723, used local peppers nad wild onions combined with various meats to create early chili combinations. E. De Grolyer...believed that Texas chili con carne had its origins as the "pemmican of the Southwest" in the late 1840s...The most likely explanation for the origin of chili con carne in Texas comes from the heritage of Mexican food combined with the rigors of life on the Texas frontier. Most historians agree that the earliest written description of chili came from J.C. Clopper, who lived near Houston. Hew worte of visiting San Antonio in 1828: "When they [poor fmailies of San Antonio] have to lay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for the family; it is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat--this is all stewed together." Except for this one quote, which does not mention the dish by name, historians of heat can find no documented evidence of chili in Texas before 1880. Around that time in San Antonio, a municipal market--El Mercado--was operating in Military Plaza. Historian Charles Ramsdell noted that "the first rickety chili stands" were set up in this marketplace, with bols o'red sold by women who were called "chili queens."...A bowl o'red cost visitors like O. Henry and William Jennings Bryan a mere dime and was served with bread and a glass of water...The fame of chili con carne began to spread and the dish soon became a major tourist attraction...At the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, a bowl o'red was availabe at the "San Antonio Chili Stand."
    ---The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, Dave DeWitt [William Morrow:New York] 1999(p. 76-8)

    [1857]
    "A new book...written by Dr. S. Compton Smith...'is the first which pretends to give actual personal and anecdotal incidents of the Mexican War campaigns. It is called Chile Con Carne, or the Camp and Field.'"
    ---"A New Book," Janesville Morning Gazette [WI] August 18, 1857 (p. 6)
    [NOTES: (1) Smith's book is
    online. Smith defines Chili Con Carne thusly: “Chile con came — a popular Mexican dish — literally red pepper and meat.” (p. 99)]

    [1880]
    "Twice a week they can afford a stew of chili con carne (our old friend hash, made fiery hot with red pepper)."
    ---"The City of the Pueblo," The Journal [Muskogee, Indian Territory, OK], March 25, 1880 (p. 3)

    [1882]
    "The secretary of war ordered the inspector general of the army to place on the supply list for the use of the army the Americanized Mexican food, 'chili con carne.' It has been recommended by officers of the army as a most valuable diet, and for its anti-scorubic properties."
    ---"Brief New Items," Albert Lea Freeborn County Standard [Albert Lea, MN], January 19, 1882 (p 2)

    "A chili con carne factory is among the contemplated enterprises of our city."
    ---"Local Dots," Daily Light [San Antonio TX] April 14, 1882 (p. 1)

    "If you want a nice dish, take two tablespoonsful Tobin's Chili Con Carne to four eggs, beat up well together, and make into omelette."
    ---"City Items," Daily Light [San Antonio TX] May 16, 1882 (p. 4)

    "Chili Con Carne. An Article of Commerce--Adopted by the Army and Navy--And Sold in your Leading Houses...In this section of the country, where it is claimed the food called Chili-Con-Carne originated, it sounds strange to hear it said that a dish of really nourishing and palatable Chili-Con-Carne is quite a rarity; this long felt want has finally been supplied by Tobins' canned Chili Con Carne. It is put up by Tobey & Booth, of Chicago, after the recipe and under the directions of our fellow-townsmen, Capt. W.C. Tobin, and is proving itself worthy of the large and increasing sale that it is now enjoying; it is without a doubt the finest canned meat put up; being anti-scorubic and very nourishing, it has been adopted by both arm and nave, and may be found at the head of the list of stores of these departments. It is handsomely and attractively put up in full 2 lb. cans bearing an elegant three colored label. Like all canned goods that we sell, we guarantee it to keep, and will make good any can that may be spoiled. Those our friends who have not yet tried these goods we would suggest their ordering a sample case; we are sure your customers will like it, and that you can build up a large and profitable trade for the same. Price, $3.75 per doz."
    ---Chili-Con-Carne," The Evening Light [San Antonio TX], May 27, 1882 (p. 1)
    [NOTE: Product testimonials occupy 2/5 of the first page of this newspaper. The piece is referred to as the "Chili Con Carne Manifesto" on p. 4 of the paper.]

    [1885]
    "From the other side of the Rio Grande we want consignments of chili con carne, tamales and frijoles, the genuine stuff, none of your American imitations."
    ---"At the Old Stand," Galveston Daily News [TX] September 26, 1885 (p. 8)

    [1887]
    "Chili Con Carne. On one of the plazas, or public squares, [in San Antonio, TX] will be found each evening, a large number of Mexicans with what are called Chili Con Carne stands. They are something after the style of the refreshment stands at the county fairs in Iowa. They remain there until 8 o'clock the next morning, and strange to say there are patrons around them more or less all hours of the night and even when it rains...The prepare Mexican dishes, the chief of which is Chili Con Carne, which means pepper and meat, and the pepper they use is Cayenne. A 'tenderfoot' who dares to take a seat and a dish of this hot and ready lunch will never forget it."
    ---"A Trip to the South," Evening Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA] March 24, 1887 (p. 2)

    [1889]
    "...the supper of frijoles and chili con carne couldn't have been better."
    ---"Long-Range Jack," Webster City Tribune [IA] September 13, 1889 (p. 3)

    [1890] "A novel feature of the Alamo and military plazas by lamp light is the numerous tables stationed about them and lit up by huge lanterns, at which whole Mexican families preside, particularly the senoritas vending the peculiar dishes of hotly peppered chilli seasoning, for which they are notoriously famed. I am told they depend upon this trade for their sustenance. The tables are always brought out and spread at sundown, a kettle of coals is set in the background or a fire built upon the hearth, where everything is kept hot and from dusk until daylight, the transient passerby can stop and order tamales, chili con carne, hot coffee and other dishes, which are wonderfully appetising with the stimulating condiments."
    ---"From the Mountains to the Gulf: Trade, Travels and Trials in Texas," Sandusky Daily Register [OH], February 10, 1890 (p. 2)

    [1899]
    "Chile Con Carne

    Cut or chop into small slices two pounds of beef, add a little chopped tallow and salt; place the above in a covered pot, in which you have previously heated 2 or 3 tablespoons of lard, and steam till about half done; now add two quarts of hot water, and one or two tablespoonfuls of Gebhardt's Eagle Chili Powder, according to strength desired; stir well, then boil slowly until meat is tender."

    "Chile Con Carne No. 2.
    Use cold beef roast or soup meat; chop fine, add a little salt, 1 level tablespoonful of flour, 1 tablespoonful of lard, and 1 tablespoonful of Gebhardt's Eagle Chili Powder. Then add a cup of warm water, and cook several minutes. Serve with frijoles."
    ---The Capitol Cookbook, facsimile Austin 1899 edition [State House Press:Austin TX] 1995 (p. 29)

    [1934]
    Chile Con Carne
    (Meat with Chile)
    2 pound mutton or beef
    1 pound fresh pork
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 tablespoons lard or dripping
    3 bay leaves
    1 onion, chopped
    1 quart ripe tomatoes or 1 large can tomatoes
    1 cup chile pulp or 6 tablespoons chile powder
    1 tablespoon oregano
    1 tablespoon salt
    1 pint ripe olives
    Cut the meat into small cubes. Brown onion and garlic, in fat, add meat. Cover and steam thoroughly. Rub tomatoes through colander, add to meat, stir int chile pulp, and cook for 20 minutes. Add seasoning and cook slowly for 2 hours. Cut olives from pits, add and cook for another 1/2 hour. Serve with frijoles. If chile powder is used, mix with 1 tablespoon flour, stir into fat in which onion and garlic were browned, stir until smooth. Then add meat and proceed as above."
    ---Mexican Cookbook, Erna Fergusson [Rydal Press:Santa Fe NM] 1934 (p. 39)

    [1958]
    "Carne en Salsa de Chile Colorado
    (Meat in Red Chile Sauce)
    This dish is known as chle con carne in Texas. Add some beans and they call it chile con carne con frijoles. It is a famous Mexican dish that has been taken and made famous by the Lone Star State. This dish is versatile: It can be varied by adding a can of kidney beans or a can of hominy. It may also be simplified by using chile powder or Mexican red chile sauce instead of the red chiles called for here.
    2 pounds beef or pork, cut in cubes
    2 cups water
    8 cups colorado (red chiles)
    2 cloves garlic
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1 cup broth or bouuillon
    1/2 cup water in which chiles were soaked
    2 tablespoons flour
    2 tablespoons oil
    Pinch of dried cumin
    Salt
    Cook meat in salted water for half and hour and save the broth. While it cooks, remove seeds and stems form chiles, partch in a heavy ungreased skillet for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn, and soak in warm water to cover until soft; 20 minutes or longer. Grind chiles, garlic, and oregano to consistency of paste (do this in a mortar, or molcajete, as the Mexicans call it, in the food grinder, or, and this is the easy way, in the blender. If the latter method is used, add broth at this time). Add the broth and strain. Brown flour in oil, then gradually add the chile mixture, cumin, and salt. Combine with meat and simmer, covered, until tender, about one hour. Serves 4 to 6."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958

    [1965]
    LBJ's Pedernales River Chili

    [1969]
    "Alice's Famous Chili

    In half an inch of oil or bacon fat, saute until soft: 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped green peppers, and 3 large cloves of finely chopped garlic. In another pan brown 1 or 2 pounds of chopped beef. Drain the fat from the beef and add the beef to the onions and peppers (or add the onions and peppers to the beef). Now add 1 or 2 cans of tomatoes, 1 can of tomato paste, and 2 to 8 tablespoons of chili powder. (You can always add more chili powder later, so start off easy). Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, a sprinkling of salt, pepper and paprika, 2 bay leaves, a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of basil and a pinch of oregano or some hot chili sauce. Simmer all this for at least half and hour until it is good and thick. Then add 1 or 2 ans of kidney beans. Serve this on rice and top it with some chopped raw onions. (Makes 6 to 8 servings.)"
    ---Alice's Restaurant Cookbook, Alice May Brock [Random House:New York] 1969 (p. 63)


    Chimichangas
    The popular theory behind the "invention" of the chimichangas (as we know them today) is that a cook either accidentally or purposely dropped a burrito into a deep fat fryer. Most stories place the invention of this food in Arizona (the Tucson area) just after World War II. Is this fact? Or fiction?

    Two keys points regarding the history chimichangas: Filled tortillas/fried grain products are thousands of years old and Tex-Mex food went mainstream in America in the 1950s. It is interesting to note that toasted ravioli (popularly attributed to St. Louis, 1947) has a very similar story. After World War II, American tastes expanded and ethnic restauranteurs willing to adapt traditional dishes to accomodate pervading American expectations (fried foods, meats, & sweets) flourished. So did deep fat fryers.

    This is what a respected American food historian has to say about chimichangas...
    "A deep-fried wheat tortilla stuffed with minced beef, potatoes, and seasonings. The term was long considrerd a nonsense word-a Mexican version of "whatchamacallit" or "thingamajig"--reputedly coined in the 1950s in Tucson, Arizona, although Diana Kennedy, in her Cuisines of Mexico (1972) reports that fried burritos in Mexico are called by the similar name chimichangas. But in The Food Lovers Handbook to the Southwest, Dave DeWitt and Mary Jane Wilan noted that Tucson writer Janet Mitchell found that chang'a means female monkey in Spanish and a chimney of the hearth. When put together this becomes, according to Jim Griffith of the Arizona Southwest Folklore Center, a polite version of "unmentionable Mexican expletive that mentions a monkey." According to DeWitt and Wilan , Investigator Mitchell heard tales about the first chimichanga being created when a burro was accidentally knocked into a deep-fat fryer, and the cook exclaimed "Chimichanga!" She had also heard that a baked burro cooked in a bar in Nogales [Arizona] in the 1940s had been called a toasted monkey. The logical conclusion, then, was that the idiom chimichanga means toasted monkey and is an allusion to the golden-brown color of a deep-fried burro'."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 78)

    It is interesting to note that El Charro resturant, Tucson, AZ, (one of several places that is credited for inventing the chimichanga) doesn't take credit for inventing the item in their history of the restaurant.

    If you need more information, ask your librarian to help you find these articles:


    Cinco de Mayo fiesta foods
    Cinco De Mayo celebrates a battle victory against the French in Puebla on May 5, 1862. Mexican Independence Day (September 16th) is celebrated similarly with outdoor fiestas featuring portable foods (think: tacos, gorditas, quesadillas), dancing and music. Cinco de Mayo celebrations first surface in southern California in the early 20th century. By the 1970s, this festive holiday was celebrated in many cities throughout the USA.

    What to serve?
    Cinco de Mayo celebrates street foods of the common people. There is no specific symbolic dish connected with this holiday. Local fiestas hosted by people of Mexican descent often serve authentic Mexican cuisine. Restaurants and food industry sponsored events generally offer Americanized Mexican cuisine (think:
    Tex-Mex).

    "Cinco de Mayo almost always means a huge fiesta, with the attendant food, music and dancing to attract a multicultural audience, savoring such Mexican culinary delights as gorditas (thick corn tortillas sliced like pita and stuffed with lettuce, tomato, beef, chicken, or cheese) and bueuelos (deep-fried pastries topped with cinnamon and sugar)."
    ---The Latino Holiday Book, Valerie Menard [Marlow & Co.:New York] 2004 (p. 29-30)

    [1929: local community celebration]
    "Mexican independence will be celebrated at Lincoln Park tomorrow with a Cinco de May celebration, featuring Spanish music, dances and games."
    ---"Mexican Plan Independence Fete Tomorrow," Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1929 (p. A9)

    [1938: chamber of commerce sponsorship]
    "Cinco de Mayo, one of Mexico's greatest holidays...will be celebrated by Los Angeles' 185,000 Mexicans, it was disclosed yesterday. Major observances will be at the third annual Mexican exposition, sponsored by the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, to open Wednesday afternoon for five days of festivities under canvas at 4800 Brooklyn avenue...Samples of Mexican foods will be distributed."
    ---"Mexican Plan May 5 Fete," Los Angeles Times, May 2, 1938 (p. 10)
    [NOTE: This article does not describe which kinds of foods were served at this event.]

    [1964: food company backing]
    "'Feliz Cinco de Mayo!'...Which means, simply: Happy Fifth of May as the Mexicans would say it. We hope it's a happy day for all of you. But we particularly want to extend our greeting to those of our people of Mexican ancestry and our friends out of the border. According to the folks at Rosarita Mexican Foods, the Fifth of May is a legal national holiday in Mexico...much like our Fourth of July. It celebrates to Battle of Puebla which took place against the French forces that had invaded Mexico in order to impose Austrian Archduke Maximillian and Carlotta as emperor and empress of Mexico. A gallant band of Mexican troops under General Zaragosa defended the city successfully. To the Mexican people, that decisive victory years ago has stood for one hundred and two years as a symbol of the will of our neighbor nation to resist European efforts to dominate Mexico. In a broader sense, that battle signified Mexico's resistance to any foreign intervention...Cinco de Mayo is a day for the inevitable round of speeches...and a day for fun and food...fiesta time. It's a great day for those who love liberty. So, let's get out those sombreros, serapes and maracas and join the fun. Even if you don't want to go dancing in the streets...you can treat your family to a real Mexican feast--United States...style. It's the food that interest us. Just thinking about a table laden with tempting tacos, tasty tamales, enchiladas, crisp tortillas, refried beans, and empanadas makes me want to celebrate...You can whip up a Mexican dinner in no time...since almost all of these delicacies are available at the frozen food cases or among the canned specialty foods at your nearby store. Rosarita, for example, packs a full line of them, modified to our palates...Even though meals of Mexican origin are common in the Southwest, particularly California, Arizona and Texas, about eighty per cent of our people have never tried them. They're growing like Topsy in popularity, though. For example, Rosarita now turns out more than one hundred and fifty thousand tortillas each day."
    ---"Mexican Dishes for Cinco de Mayo," Chicago Daily Defender, April 30, 1964 (p. 21) [NOTE: This article offers recipe for Enchiladas Con Chile Con Carne, Almendrado, Almendrado Custard Sauce, Tacos ad Ensalada Guacamole, presumably featuring Rosarita products.]

    [1971: sharing cultures & cuisines]
    "'What's this, do you know? I'd love to learn how to make it. Doesn't taste like the food in Mexican restaurants, does it?'...'If they're out of nopales and azado at that table, they're probably all gone. Last year the nopales didn't even last this long.' There was little doubt in anyone's mind about the stellar attraction at the Cinco de Mayo celebration. It was the home-cooked Mexican food, pungent and spicy and, as the lady said, is not like anything in a Mexican restaurant. This was Cinco de Mayo, north-of-the-border style, a second-year repeat project of the mothers with children in Westminster School District's Title 1 compensatory education program. American potluck, augmented by such gringo mainstays as macaroni salad and Boston baked beans. Rather fittingly, it took place at Sigler Park, third oldest public park in Orange County. Westminster also has one of the oldest Mexican-American communities in the county--most Chicano families have lived in the area four or five generations...Mississippi-born and an expert on 'way down South' cookery, Mrs. Easley had been intrigued with Mexican cooking and tried Mexican foods ever since she came west. 'When I came to California I thought cactus plants were weeds and I couldn't understand why so many Mexican-American families cultivated them--right along with the roses--in their gardens. 'Now I know--they're used to make nopales--a very delicious and traditional vegetable dish. You take a few of the smaller leaves and strip off the stickers with a sharp knife, then fry them with garlic and onion.'"
    ---"Fiesta Serves Culture on a Platter," Marjie Driscoll, Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1971 (p. E1)

    [1972: industry promotion]
    "Friday will be the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, and the way to celebrate is with a taco, says the National Taco Council. The council is an affiliate of the Mexican Food Institute, which is headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., and dispenses taco lore in connection with National Taco Week, held each year at this time...The taco is the most important use of the tortilla...The best known version of the taco is the crispy taco, a tortilla folded in half, fried and stuffed with meat or other filling. This taco is usually garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheese, or a combination of these. Another version is the soft taco. The tortilla is not fried but simply folded around a filling or mixture that includes gravy or sauce...The National Taco Council was established in 1964 by Roberto L. Gomez. It goals include creating in Mexican-Americans a greater pride in their own cuisines and enhancing the reputation of Mexican food and culture everywhere."
    ---"Everything You Wanted to Know About Tacos," Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1972 (p. K9)

    [1974: American home party menu 1]
    "Turn Sunday dinner this weekend into a fiesta in honor of Mexico's colorful holiday, Cinco de Mayo...An extravagant Cinco de Mayo dinner might feature mole poblano, a luxury dish of turkey in a sauce that includes a little chocolate...But mole is complicated...As an alternative, we recommend an informal party built around a buffet of simpler foods. The main dish will be tacos which the guests make themselves. These are not the typical tacos of the franchise stands around Los Angeles, but tacos more like those at stands in Mexico...They are made with tortillas heated until soft, then folded around meat and a choice of other ingredients. There's no deep-frying involved and no need for commercial taco shells so crisp they crack apart and spill their contents. In Mexico, a soft taco often includes nothing more than a little seasoned meat. A stand at the beach in Veracruz dispenses some of the best tacos in Mexico. They contain only slivers of barbecued pork and chopped onion mixed with a little chopped cilantro. Hot sauce is added only upon request. The meat for our Cinco de Mayo tacos is shredded pork, not the ground beef of American tacos. The condiments, set out in separate bowls, include chopped tomato, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and salsa, either bottled or homemade. Chopped green onions can be combined with cilantro in one bowl or the cilantro served separately for those not accustomed to its distinctive flavor. The party starts with margaritas accompanied by Nachos, and appetizer of tortilla chips topped with cheese and sliced chile and heated until the cheese melts. We suggest ceviche or a shrimp cocktail, but in either case the sauce should be seasoned generously with lime juice. If preferred, a green salad could be substituted for this course. Along with the tacos there are refried beans, but flavored in a different way. The beans are mashed and mixed with bacon and onion and spiced with chili powder. It takes something cooling, like Sangria, t refresh palates form this meal. And something even cooler, Helado de Aguacate, or avocado ice cream, is the dessert. Far out? Not if you've spent any time in Mexico where the store sell ice creams made not only with avocado but with corn, cheese and chiles and such fruits as guanabana and mamey."
    ---"A Cinco de Mayo Menu for Your Very Own Fiesta," Barbara Hansen, Los Angeles Times May 2, 1974 (p. F1)
    [Note: This article offers recipes for Nachos, Make-Your-Own Soft Tacos, Spice Frijoles, Sangria and Helado De Aguacate.]

    [1978: American home party menu 2]
    "Parties are in order throughout the weekend to celebrate Mexico's colorful holiday, Cinco de Mayo...Here is a dinner menu tailored for the holiday. The main course is Mole Poblano, the dish invented in Puebla where the battle commemorated by Cinco de may took place. Mole Ponblano is ordinarily made with a variety of dried chiles that must be soaked and ground. This recipe simplifies the procedures by substituting chili powder and canned enchilada sauce. The the other ingredients--tomato, onion, raisins, nuts, sesame seeds,, spices and chocolate--are much they same as they would be in Puebla. Accompaniments include rice dotted with vegetables, a bright avocado-tomato salad and, for dessert, an almond-flavored flan."
    ---"Border Line: A Dinner Tailored to Cinco de Mayo," Barbara Hansen, Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1978 (p. J30)
    [NOTES: (1) This article includes recipes for Mole Poblano, Arroz A L Jardinera, Avocado and Tomato Salad and Flan De Almendra (Almond Flan). (2) What is Mole poblano?]


    Enchiladas
    "Enchilada...A Tortilla stuffed with various filling of meat, cheese, chili sauce, chiorzo sausage, and other ingredients. It is a Spanish-American term meaning "filled with chili" and was first printed in America in 1885. An article in American Speech [magazine] in 1949 asserted that anenchilada was "a Mexican dish prepared more for turista [tourists] than for local consumption." The dish has become a staple of Mexican-American restaurants."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 123)
    [Your librarian can help you track down the original article if you would like to pursue it.]

    "Those foods which derived directly from Mexican traditions were...enchiladas...Enchiladas were identified as "corn fritters allowed to simmer for a moment in chili sauce, and then served hot with a sprinkling of grated cheese and onion."[31] In 1921 Louise Lloyd Lowber described the first process for making enchiladas: first a tortilla was placed in the center of a plate, "then a flood of rich, red chilee sauce from a near-by kettle, a layer of grated cheese, another tortilla, more chile and more cheese, sprinkled between in layer-cake fashion, and the whole topped with a high crown of chopped onions in which nestles an egg, which has been broken a minute into the hot lard. An artistic and cooling garnish of lettuce and behold an enchilada."[32]"
    ---Andrew F. Smith
    http://food.oregonstate.edu/ref/culture/mexico_smith.html


    Fajitas
    Our research confirms 1971 as first print date for "fajitas," as we know them today. Below please find the Oxford English Dictionary and full text of the original source, courtesy of Barry Popick. We did not find earlier dates in ProQuest Newspapers, Newspaper Archives, or Diana Kennedy's books. Elena Zeyelata is referenced below. This angle might be worth pursuing. According to current food historians, Ninfa's menu item was titled Tacos al Carbon (1973). This was also the title of a popular movie in 1972. Coincidence?

    "Fajita. A Tex-Mex dish made from marinated, grilled skirt steak...served in a wheat tortilla. The word derives from the Spanish faja, for "girdle" or "strip" and describes the cut of meat itself. There has been much conjecture as to the fajita's origins, though none has been documented. Grilling skirt steak over mesquite coals would be characteristic of Texas cooking since the days when beef became a dominant meat in the American diet. But the word "fajita" did not appear in print until 1975. In 1984 Homero Recio, a lecturer on animal science at Texas A & M University, obtained a fellowship to study the origins of the item, coming to the conclusion two years later that, ironically, it was his grandfather, a butcher from Premont, Texas, who may have been the first to use the term "fajita" to describe the pieces of skirt steak cooked directly on mesquite coals for family dinners as far back as the 1930s. Recio also hypothesized that the first restaurant to serve fajitas--though under the name "botanzas" (appetizers)--was the Roundup in McAllen, Texas. But Sonny "Fajita King" Falcon claimed to have opened the first "fajita stand" in Kyle, Texas, and in 1978 a "Fajita King" stand in Austin...The popularity of the dish certainly grew after Ninfa Laurenza introduced it on her menu at Ninfa's Restaurant in Houson Texas, on July 13, 1973, but that was under the name "tacos al carbon," and increased still further as a "fajita" after the item was featured at the Austin Hyatt Regency Hotel, which by 1982 was selling thirteen thousand orders per month."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 125)

    Fajita timeline

    [1970]
    The Wide World of Texas Cooking/Morton G. Clark, makes no references to fajitas, skirt steaks, or any barbecued recipe approximating the modern fajita.

    [1971]
    The Oxford English Dictionary (online) cites this 1971 cookbook for the first print mention of the word "fajita" in the modern culinary sense: "A grilled strip of marinated steak. Usu. in pl.: a dish originating in Mexico or the southern United States, consisting of strips of such meat served with a variety of garnishes or sauces in a soft flour tortilla. Later also more generally: any dish (esp. of chicken) served in this manner. 1971 S. Huddleston Tex-Mex Cookbk. 29 After fajitas have been marinated they may be grilled. If barbecued, heat should be low so meat doesn't dry out."

    Barry Popik shares the excerpt referenced above: Tex-Mex Cookbook by Sam Huddleston, part owner of Texas (self-published),1971 Pg. 29:
    Until you visit Leonardo’s Fiesta Restaurant in Brownsville you have led a cloistered life. This likeable caballero’s humor will lay you on the floor. Texas literary dudes like Dick Hitt, Frank Tolbert, Leon Hale and Richard West have yodeled praises about Leonardo’s colorful place. Noriega*, a bon vivant, gourmet and traveler, recommends this restaurant as a good place to ward off malnutrition. Leonardo’s fajitas are succulent enough to get one spastic with jubilation. Fajitas are the solid lean meat from beef skirts. If you can’t get beef skirts, use a similar type of lean beef. They should be cut into small strips and marinated overnight. Leonardo suggests any good commercial marinate, but warns that one shouldn’t use more than one-fourth of the amount called for in most instructions. After fajitas have been marinated they may be grilled. If barbecued, heat should be low so meat doesn’t dry out. (p. 30)
    Tacos al Carbon
    This is a do-it-yourself procedure. When fajitas are cooked cut into small slices. Hold a fresh tortilla in hand and fill with meat and Alice Taylor’s Pica de Gallo. Perfect compliments for this divine composition are frijoles and Spanish rice. This inexpensive dish won’t paralyze your food budget."---
    SOURCE.

    [1982]
    "[Skirt steaks]were stacked a foot deep in a six-foot wide display. But they don't call them skirt steaks in San Antonio--they call the fajitas. From what I was able to learn, it seems fajitas are something of a Southern Texas--or Tex-Mex-phenomenon. They have become popular only in the past few years, but they have become very popular. According to one meat buyer I talked to, "When I put fajitas in the ad, I'll go through between 100,000 and a quarter of a million pounds in a week...They even have fajita cooking contests in Southern Texas. I learned that the champion for the past five years was Red Gomez, a butcher from Brownsville, Texas. I called him to see if he would be willing to share his award-winning recipe with me. He was not."
    ---"The Butcher: The Skirt Steak is Still in Style," Merle Ellis, Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1982 (p. M23)[NOTE: article includes recipe.]

    [1984]
    "The original fajitas were created out of necessity, not a desire to have something new. Ranchers, who usually butchered their own meat, kept the steaks and roasts for themselves and gave their hands what they considered the less desirable cuts, including the so-called skirt steak, which is a section of the diaphragm. The long, narrow, beltlike strip would be marinated overnight in lime juice to tenderize it. The next day it was grilled over mesquite, a cheap, plentiful wood that itself has become a cooking fad. The meat was then cut into thin strips, each diner filling a flour tortilla with it and with pico de gallo, a spicy relish of onions, green chilies, tomatoes and cilantro. Those familiar with Mexican dishes may notice the striking similarity between fajitas and tacos al carbon and carne asada. But tacos al carbon, a fad that preceded fajitas, are made with a better cut of meat that does not need to be marinated and they reach the table already rolled in tortillas. As for carne asada, it is grilled meat and vegetables. The view around here is that fajitas made their way north from the border to Austin about five years ago and began arriving in Dallas two years ago."
    ---"De Gustibus: Fajitas-In Texas They Love Them," Marian Burros, New York Times, August 4, 1984 (p. 8)

    [1985]
    "The hottest dish in town, in more ways than none, is a Texas export called fajitas. For the uninitiated, fajitas...are strips of grilled skirt steak served with flour tortillas, guacamole and salsa and eaten wrapped in the tortillas, taco style. If they don't come to the table sizzling from the grill, they are not fit to be called fajitas. In a trend sense, they are even hotter. The Houston Restaurant Assn. celebrated Cinco de Mayo by staging its First Annual Fajita Meet Sunday. In Pasadena, a restaurant called Manana Mexican Food and Drink of Arroyo parkway has erected a large sign inquiring 'Have you had your fajitas today?'..'They used to be dirt cheap. They used to almost throw them away, like junk,' said Bud Smith, a Texan who grew up in Pharr, near the Mexican border...In Los Angeles, the fajitas trend is so new that the name is virtually unknown outside of restaurants...According to Texan sources, fajitas originated in San Antonio. However, others day the idea came directly from Mexico. Under a different name, arrechera, skirt steak has a venerable history in California. The late Elena Zelayeta, who popularized Mexican cooking in California, included a recipe for Arrechera Adobada in her first cookbook, 'Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes,' published in 1944. 'I find skirt steak to be one of the best flavored, less expensive cuts of meat,' she wrote. In the early version of fajitas, Zelayeta marinated the meat with vinegar, oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, then added tomato sauce and broiled it. By 1958, when 'Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking' was published she dropped the tomato sauce and cooked the meat over the coals instead of under the broiler...Fajitas have crossed the ocean to Paris, where they are served in Tex-Mex restaurants along with flour tortillas shipped from Amsterdam. They are also popular in New York and San Francisco...Beer is a popular accompaniment to fajitas...Welche commented on the meteoric popularity of skirt steak. 'Five or six years ago, you couldn't find skirt steak in the market. They ground it into hamburger."
    ---"Fajitas," Barbara Hansen, Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1985, (p. K1)


    Who was Elena Zelayeta? [1897-1974]
    Gifted cook, inspirational leader, respected teacher, social motivator, mom. Elena was born to innkeeping parents living in a small Mexico mining town. Food played an important role in Elena's early life. When she was young, the family relocated to San Francisco. Details of these early years unfold like an interesting menu. Elena married and had children. Her eyesight was compromised early on; soon after her second son was born Elena was totally blind. She re-learned her kitchen and took life one day at a time. When Elena's husband passed away unexpectedly, she found strength in her culinary experience and used it to support her young sons. Elena opened a restaurant, taught cooking classes, wrote books, started her own business, partnered with major USA food companies, and hosted a
    TV cooking show. Characterized by contemporaries as charismatic and fun-loving, Elena's legacy touches every one of us on a deeper human level. Food is the fuel of physical sustenance. Zest for life enables us to savour the meal.

    [1944]
    "Guided by her fingertips, Elena Zelayeta moves with assurance through a world of complete darkness. Besides keeping house for her family of four, she teaches cooking, gives lectures and writes on cooking. Baking a cake requires precise knowledge of the exact location of everything in the kitchen. The recipe is memorized and special measuring cups are used, one for one third cup, another for one-fourth cup, another for one-half cup. Eggs are broken into her hand and then the white drains through her spread fingers into the bowl while the yolk remains in the palm of her hand. After ingredients are mixed, the cake is popped into the oven. After two 15-minute radio programs the cakes is done. Her daily routine includes cleaning her own house, darning, cooking and washing. Her delicate sense of touch tells her where there is dirt or dust. Stockings are darned over a china egg, her spools of colored thread being marked in Braille. She know foods by their odors, and spices by taste. In one year., Elena Zelayeta canned 225 quarts of fruits and tomatoes. That year, also, she made her own Christmas presents--50 pounds of Mexican pressed quince paste, cut and wrapped in cellophane. Mrs. Zelayeta believes that it is fear that prevents many accomplishmebnts, and that a handicapped person is slowed down by never defeated."
    ---"Blind Woman's Courage Makes Her Culinary Artist," Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1944 (p. C5)

    [1945]
    "Elena Zelayeta, expert in Mexican cuisine, author and teacher of the blind, returns for a 'comman performance' at the Times College of Wartime Cookery...Since her first appearance here in October, Elena has obtained a guide dog, and Chulita will appear at The Times with her new mistress...Elena, although blind for 10 years, conducts a cooking school in San Francisco in addition to caring for her home and family. She is a charming, vivacious woman who has become popular as a lecturer because of her vivid personality and gayety. Watching her grace and sureness as she goes about preparing delightful Mexican and Spanish food in The Times stage kitchen, it is difficult to believe that she is guided only by her amazing sense of touch...She has a talent for teaching others how to duplicate her masterpieces, and at The Times class wil show how to mix and cook such favorites as tamales, chili rellenos, tacos de gallina, enchiladas and ante. Ante is a delectable custard, cake and fruit dessert concoction."
    ---"Food Class Again Books Blind Expert," Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1945 (p. B10)

    [1968]
    "Elena Zelayeta, well-known for her cookbooks on Mexican food, lrelated of few of her recipes for happy living during a recent luncheon in the Costa Mesa County Club. The 71-year-old blind authoress and food consultant delighted about 100 members of the Friends of the Costa Mesa Library by revealing an ability to be light-hearted about tragedies she has experienced. 'There is little we can do about our problmes,' she explained, 'but I have learned there is a great deal we can do about ourselves.' Mrs. Zelayeta lost her sight when her youngest son was 1 year old. After experiencing a normal amount of self-pity she decided to start serving her family. She discharged a housekeeper and cooked her first meal since the loss of her sight. 'I looked for a scouring pad just before sering the meal and coulnt' find it, she said. 'I put the ladle in the soup and up it came full of scouring pad. I won't tell you what I did next but we're all still alive.' She relearned cooking techniques...She makes sure tortillas don't burn by turning them until they 'smell' done. Mrs. Zelayeta began tacing cooking to other blind adults at the San Francisco Center for the Blind. 'I learned that serving others is living,' she said. 'When we stop doing things for other people we stop existing.' Ten years later her husband was killed in an automobile accident and 'I took inventory of what I could do. It was cooking so I wrote my first cookbook with the intention of buying a seeing eye dog with the profits.' Mrs. Zelayeta was born in Mexico of Spanish descent and all her cookbooks deal with the Mexican food with which she is so familiar...Soon she was asked by the U.S. Government to teach a course in 'practical living' at a Lion's Club camp in Montana. 'I was certain I couldn't do it. I never had a course in psychology.' The she read some and decided. 'Why not? Each of the ones I read disagreed with the others and I thought no one would be able to tell if (what I taught) was right wrong anyway.' But, she was afraid. 'How do you deal with fear?' the woman--who stands about 4 feet 6 inches--asked the group. 'It's done by trusting that your needs will be met if you take the human footsteps to find the hapiness you're seeking.' The happiest person, she said, it the one who entertains the most interesting thoughts...Mrs. Zelayeta is consultant for a large food- seasoning concern and has served as food adviser for a New York restaurant."
    ---"Blind Cook Tells Happiness Recipes," Anne La Riviere, Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1968 (p. H5)

    [1974]
    "Elena Zelayeta was blind, but she opened many eyes to the delights for her native Mexican cookery. More than that, she inspired others to overcome a handicap which once had plunged her into months of despair. And she won the affection of countless admirers, to whom she is known simply as Elena. Mrs. Zelayeta died in San Francisco March 31 at the age of 76...Although Elena is gone, her recipes and happy philosophy will live on in her four cookbooks and other writings...Born in in Mexicto City, Elena was raised in the mining town of El Mineral del Oro, where her parents were innkeepers. Her mother and the employes at the inn taught her to cook. The family moved to San Francisco when Elena was a young girl. The came marriage and economic troubles caused by the Depression. When her husband, Lawrence, lost his job as an assistant superintendent in the power department of Bethlehem Steel, Elena sought a way to help. She began by serving lunch in her apartment. And the response was so great, she opened a restaurant in the King George Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Called Elena's Famous Mexican Restaurant, it was a great success bu kept Elena working 16 to 18 hours a day. She had been operated on for a cateract and had suffered a detached retina. And in 1934, shortly before the birth of her second son, Bill, she went blind. Despair, depression and helplessness followed until Elena realized that no one was about to cook and care for her family as she could. Without the aid of Braille implements, she learned how to measure ingredients, how to separate eggs...how to judge the temprature of hot oil by its smell and how to measure cooking time by 15-minute radio intervals. In six months, Elena was again ahppy and functioning. 'If you learn to be useful and keep busy, no handicap can hold you down,' she was once quoted as saying. Elena spoke to high school and college groups and to many organizations. She gave cooking demonstrations and she taught cooking at the San Francisco Center for the Blind...Elena was name California Mother of the Year in 1963...Twenty-three years ago, Elena wnt into the fozen food business. Her son, Lawrence, is now president of the business which is called Elena's Food Specialties Inc. The firm distributes frozen Mexican products to retail and institutional customers in Northern Calfiorina...Elena also served for about 10 years as a consultant to Lawry's Foods Inc. in the development of its Mexican products. Her last appearance in Los Angeles in this capacity was at a Cinco de Mayo party held at Lawry's California Center in 1972."
    ---"Border Line: Legacy of Elena Zelayeta," Barbara Hansen, Los Angeles Times June 6, 1974 (p. G26)

    Elena Zelayta's cookbook legacy
    "Her philosophy will live on in her four cookbooks and other writings. The first book, 'Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes,' was edited by a group of San Francisco home economists and published in 1944. At least half a million copies have been sold... Her second book, 'Elena's Fiesta Recipes,' was published by the Ward Ritchie Press in Los Angeles in 1952. 'Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking' appeared in 1958 with an introduction by the late Helen Evans Brown, an authority on Western cookery. Her last cookbook, 'Elena's favorite Foods California Style,' with an introduction by James Beard, came out in 1967. Elena also wrote an inspirational book, 'Elena's Lessons in Living,' following a stay at a camp for blinded war veterans at the request of the government."
    ---"Border Line: Legacy of Elena Zelayeta," Barbara Hansen, Los Angeles Times June 6, 1974 (p. G26)

    Helen Evans Brown on Elena Zelayeta
    "Elena (everybody calls her that) is the gayest, dearest bundle of energy I have ever known. She is interested in everything and everybody. Her eyes twinkle, as does her laugh. She moves quickly and surely in her kitchen, her tiny hands skillfully preparing the wonderful dishes for which she is so famous. To watch her work, to see her quick smile as she looks at you, to hear her merry chuckle, you'd swear she had not a trouble in the world. Yet Elena is blind...First she learned to conquer fear. The kitchen was full of terror--fire, sharp knives, hot fat, can openers. She had to learn all over again how to handle them."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta, introduction by Helen Evans Brown [Prentice Hall, Inc.:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958 (p. xv-xviii)

    James Beard's tribute
    "One is at a loss to describe that quality, except to say that Elena combines unusual warmth with a striking creative instinct. Few people who meet her fail to fall under her spell...Cuisine Zelayeta is distinctive as well as distinguished. It has imagination along with a fine alance of flavor and texture. In a sense, Elena is a traditionalist, but she can also pull an inspired new combination of foods out of the air--and make you feel it is the most authentic dish you ever ate...In shot, she has greatness." ---"Elena's Favorite Foods California Style," Elena Zelayeta, introduction by James Beard [Prentice-Hall, Inc.:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1967 (unpaged introduction)

    In Elena's own words
    "I hope that the readers of this book will be as happy in using it as I have been in writing it...I was aksed to do it because of the growing interest in Mexican and Spanish food in this country. I hope that I have, in my small way, furthered that interest and that this new book will multiply it. In it I want to accomplish three things: To those who know nothing of Mexican cuisine except what they have heard--that it's always searingly not, exotically and overly spiced, and heavy--I hope to convince that it just isn't so! And to those who know something, but not everything, about South-of-the-Border food, I hope to show that tamales and enchiladas, good as they are, are not the only dishes Mexican cooks know how to prepare. And I wish to convince everyone that Mexican dishes may be served harmoniously with American ones, and that even one Mexican dish can do much to add interest to what might otherwise be a very dull meal...The dishes of Mexico, as well as the methods or preparing them and the names by which they are known, vary from state to state, from region to region. And to make it even more confusing, some Mexican dishes common in the Southwestern part of the United States, are little known in Mexico, and others, though known, bear different names. Thus you may not always find the recipe you want under the name by which you know it...I have tried, wherever possible, to give both names, or at least an accurate enough description so that you will recognize it...As for me, I have been an American for many years...my mother was a wonderful cook, one who knew food well and had a genius for bringing out the best in every dish. It was from her that I learned Spanish cooking. The Mexican cooks who worked at the inn taught me how to prepare their dishes. We came to San Francisco when I was a young girl, and because I...loved to cook, I soon learned how to do it in the manner of my new countrymen...Because of m many years in this country, I have learned what Americans like to eat. These recipes have been adapted to suit the palates of my American friends and my American sons."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall, Inc.:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958 (preface p. vii-xi)

    "I love to cook. It's a way I can be creative withhout sight. I can't paint and have no talent for music, but give me a full refrigerator and my pots and pans, and I'm happy as an artist with a new canvas and palette. I raterh regret the great use of convenience foods these days--though I shouldn't, for I make a living selling frozen Mexican foods! But it's spoiled some of the most pleasant parts of homemaking for women. I hope the day never arrives when all food comes ready to pop into the oven."
    ---Elena's Favorite Foods California Style, Elena Zelayeta, introduction by James Beard [Prentice-Hall, Inc.:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1967 (unpaged author's preface)

    "Adios, Amigos. May your tables be filled with bounty, your days with sunshine, your hearts with joy. Elena."
    ---Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta [Dettners Printing House:San Francisco] October 1944 (p. 127)

    Segment from It's Fun to Eat with Elena, courtesy of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, c. 1953.

    "Elena's Favorte Dinner
    Elena's Favortie Salad--Crab and Hard-Cooked Egg Garnish
    Sesame Chicken Orange-Minted Peas
    Sliced Summer Squash, Sauteed in Butter
    Dutch Flat Potato Rolls
    Strawberry Shortcake, California Stule
    Tea." (p. 297)
    Elena's Very Favorite Salad
    It's always hard for met to choose my favorite dishes, because I love food--a food--and whatever I'm eating at the moment is the thing I like best. But the dinner salad I'd choose most times would be just crackling-crisp greens. Romaine is one of my favorites, though we have a choice of excellent varieties of lettuce, all good. I often combine two or more. The dressing I use most often is simply olive oil and wine vinegar, a touch of garlic and plenty of salt and pepper. But I like a few extras. Sometimes it's a sprinkling of crab, shrimp or lobster; another time it's slices of hard-cooked egg. Or some tomato or cucumber, or thin rounds of radish. Or a diced avocado. Or orange or grapefruit sections, or halves of crisp Todays. A topping of crisp pork cracklings is also interesting and delicious. So you see, my favorite salad is basic greens, but the costume jewelry gives it a different look from day to day." (p. 49)
    ---Elena's Favorite Foods California Style, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall, Inc.:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1967

    FoodTimeline library owns these Zelayeta cookbooks. Happy to share recipes. Let us know what you need.
    [1944] Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes (October)
    [1947] Elena's Lessons for Living
    [1958] Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking
    [1961] Elena's Fiesta Recipes (new & revised edition)
    [1967] Elena's Favorite Foods California Style


    Avocados, guacamole & mole
    Avocados

    Food historians generally agree this New World food originated in Central America. There is much debate regarding the exact origin and subsequent dispersion of this fruit. Notes here:

    "The avocado (Persia americana) apparently originated in Central America, where it was cultivated as many as 7,000 years ago. It was grown some 5,000 years ago in Mexico and, but the time of Christopher Columbus, had become a food as far south as Peru, where it is called palta. Legend has it that Hernando Cortes found avocados flourishing around what is now Mexico City in 1519. The English word "avocado" is derived from the Aztec ahuacatl, which the Spaniards passed along transliterated as aguacate."
    ---Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple & Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 2000, Volume Two (p. 1725)

    "The avocado tree, a member of the laurel family, is native to subtropical America, where it has been cultivated for over 7,000 years, as archaeological remains demonstrate. There are three original races of species. The Mexican type, which was called by the Aztecs ahuacatl...The Guatemalan type...and the West Indian type."
    ---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 43)

    "We are also told that the avocado is a native of Peru...this is an error...caused because it was in Peru that the Spaniards found it first. But Pizarro entered Peru only in 1527, while th avocado had already been described in 1519 in the Suma de geografia of Margin Fernandex de Encisco, who discovered it near what is now Santa Marta, Colombia. We are told too that avocados were first cultivated in Peru during what is called the 'Formative Period' of Peruvian agriculture, which runs from 650AD to the beginning of our era...however, Garcilaco di la Vega...wrote more plausible that it was brought from Ecuador into the warm valleys near Cuzco by the Inca Tupac Yupanqui, who reigned in the fifteenth century AD..."
    ---Food, Waverly Root, [Smithmark:New York] 1980 (p.17-18)

    Foods America Gave the World, (A Hyatt Verrill, page 168) concludes "We have the ancient pre-Incan races of Peru, the Mayas of Yucatan and Guatemala and the Aztecs of Mexico to thank for having given us this splendid fruit...Whether the pre-Incans, the Mayas or Aztecs were the first to see the possibilities in the development of the aguacate [avocado] will probably never be known, for the fruits are depicted on pottery and sculptures of all these immeasurably ancient races."

    "The small, nearly spherical seeds of wild avocados are found in archaeolgical sites in Oazaca and the Tehucan valley of Mexico at dates of 8000 to 7000 B.C. They are seeds of the cold and drought-toleratant upland avocado...tree...By 6000 to 5000 B.C. they were being cultivated in Tehuacan, as shown by the increasing size of the fruit and the change in seed shape from the round wild type to egg-shaped. The two other races are the Guatemalan...and the misnamed West Indian race, which was not found in the West Indies until after the arrival of the Europeans."
    ---America's First Cuisines, Sophie D. Coe [University of Texas Press:Austin] 1994 (p. 44-5)

    Notes regarding regional dispersion are chronicled here:

    "One of the first Europeans to taste the avocado was Fernando de Oviedo, who noticed its external resemblance to a dessert pear, so ate it with cheese; but other Spaniards preferred to add sugar, or salt and pepper...The same applies to the first mention in English, in 1672, by W. Hughes, a royal physician, after a visit to Jamaica...However, despite such favourable comments, the avocado was slow to spread from its native region. For Europeans, it remained for a long time no more than a tropical curiosity; and commercial cultivation in N. America only began in California in the 1870s and in Florida from about 1900."
    ---Oxford Companion to Food (p. 43)

    "The Spaniards ate avocados with sugar, salt, or both, and introduced them into other parts of the Americas as well as other tropical parts of the world. But until the end of World War II, avocados were virtually unknown in Europe."
    ---Cambridge World History of Food (p. 1725)

    "The avocado, which originated in Mexico, Guatemala, or South America...its cultivation spread slowly from the New World to the Old, but in recent times it has been grown in nearly all countries where the climate was suitable. Among these may be mentioned India, where it has been cultivated cince 1860, the South Sea Islands, and the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea."
    ---Food Products from Afar, E.H.S. Bailey and Herbert S. Bailey [The Century Co.:New York] 1922 (p. 213-4)

    There is also some controversy as to where (in the United States) avocados were first grown for commercial purposes. Waverly Root states "I have no reason for doubting the report that a horticulturist named Henry Perrine first planted avocados in Florida in 1833, but avocado culture did not get un way on a commercial scale in the United States until about 1900, when Florida fruit growers became interested in its possibilities."(Food, page 18). Eating in America: A History, (Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont, page 297) adds: The first person known to have taken it [avocado] seriously was a horticulturist named George B. Cellon, who, circa 1900, learned by experimentation that grafted trees could be induced to perpetuate superior strains of this fruit in Florida...The tree grew well on the slightly sandy soils of Florida, and an avocado industry was launched in that state, an example followed shortly afterwards by California."

    This claim is disputed by the California Avocado Commission, which dates their industry beginning in the 1870s. Davidson also cites this information, "Commercial cultivation on N. America only began in California in the 1870s and in Florida from about 1900." (Oxford, page 43). "This fruit was introduced into California at Santa Barbara in 1870, and since that time many orchards of from five to ten acres have been planted," confirms Food Products from Afar, Bailey & Bailey (p. 215).

    What is Guacamole?
    This
    avocado based salsa is a gift from Ancient Aztec culinary traditions.

    "There is good reason for the popularity of the avocado. The diet of pre-Columbian America was what we would consider low fat. The avocado is one of three fruits that contain large amounts of oil in their flesh...In addition to fat, avocados also contain two or three times as much protein as other fruits, and many vitamins as well. We know little about how avocados, or paltas, as they are called in Peru, were eaten in pre-Columbian America. The one recipe that we may be sure of is the Aztec ahuaca-hulli, or avocado sauce, familiar to all of us today as guacamole. This combination of mashed avocados, with or without a few chopped tomatoes and onions, because the Aztecs used New World onions, and with perhaps some coriander leaves to replace New World coriander...is the pre-Columbian dish most easily accessible to us...If few pre-Columbian recipes for the avocado survive, the European writers more than make up for the lack. The Europeans fell into three camps. There were those who ate their avocados with salt, those who ate them with sugar, and those who liked them both ways."
    ---America's First Cuisines, Sophie D. Coe [University of Texas Press:Austin] 1994 (p. 44-45)

    [1886]
    Avocado Pears, commonly called 'alligator' are delicious for breakfast or lunch. Quarter them, and remove the pulp with a silver knife; spread it on slices of bread, and season with salt and pepper to taste."
    ---"The Household," Albert Lea Freeborn County Standard [MN], February 17, 1886 (p. 15)

    [1905]
    "Alligator Pear Salad

    (Recipe from Mexico.) Mrs. S. Y. Yglesias, 7 Albany Street, Los Angeles.--Take two large alligator pears, peel and remove the stone; cut in one-half-inch cubes, sprinkle with salt, add two tablespoons or more of the best olive oil, with or without a very small piece of onion minced fine to flavor. Put in a salad dish already prepared with crisp lettuce leaves."
    ---Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2, 1905?

    [1911]
    "At the Mexican restaurants on Haymarket Square during the entire week, such delicacies as...enchiladas, tamales, chiles, reyones, chili con carne, guacamole and tortillas will be served."
    ---"Mexican Fiesta For Carnival," San Antonio Light, April 2, 1911 (p. 2)

    [1912]
    "Aguncate Salad

    "Cut three ripe avocado pears in halves, take out the stones, and scrape the pulp from the skin. Add three tomatoes, first removing the skin and hard pieces around the stem end, and half a green pepper pod, cut in fine shreds. Crush and pound the whole to a smooth mixture, then drain off the liquid. To the pulp add a teaspoonful or more of onion juice and a generous teaspoonful of lemon juice or vinegar. Mix thoroughly and serve at once."
    ---"Avocado Pear Recipes," New York Times, March 17, 1912 (p. X15)

    [1934]
    "Guacamole

    2 avocados
    1 pound seedless grapes
    1/2 can green chilis
    Peel avocados and mash. Wash the chili, then mash and add to the avocados. Season to taste with salt, oil and vinegar. Wash the grapes and add to the mixture. When procurable, use pomeghranate seeds instead of the grapes."
    ---"Delicacies from Mexico," Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1934 (p. B18)

    [1937]
    "Avocado spread

    Season mashed avocado with lemon, lime or grapefruit juice, and salt. Spread on toast rounds or crackers. Garnish with spring of parsley, or palce thin slice of toamt on toast and cover with spread."
    ---America's Cook Book, compiled by the Home Inastitute of the New York Herald Tribune [Charles Scribner's Sons:New Ork] 1937 (p. 166)

    [1949]
    "Guacamole.

    Guacamole is a Mexican favorite, for which there are as many recipe as there are advocates! It is delicious as an appetizer with corn or potato chips; as a sandwich filling; or served on lettuce as an accompaniment to enchiladas, tamales, or other Mexican dishes. It also makes a good dressing for sliced tomatoes.
    2 large avocados, mashed
    1 large ripe tomato, peeled, finely chopped, and drained
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    1 clove garlic, grated (optional)
    3 tablespoons mayonnaise
    1 tablespoon salad oil
    2 teaspoons (or more) chili powder
    2 teaspoons sugar
    Salt and pepper to taste.
    Blend all ingredients together well. Let you conscience (and your palate) be your guide when it comes to the chili powder."
    ---Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, edited by Emily Chase [Lane Publishing Co.:San Franciso CA] 1949 (p. 21)

    [1950]
    "Guacamole.

    Salad or sauce made basically of avocado, onion and chili. Frequenetly chiffarrones or tiny bits of crisp bacon and grated hard cheese are added as well as tomatoes, mashed or minced very fine. Guacamole is served on a bed of lettuce as a salad or with fried tortilla wedges as an appetizer, or simply as a sauce." (p. 278)

    "Guacamole (Avocado Sauce)
    3 large avocados, chopped
    1 medium-sized onion peeled, chopped
    1 medium-sized tomato, peeled, chopped
    2 small chilies, chopped
    1 tablepsoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon vinegar
    2 teaspoons salt
    Mix all the ingredeints until creamy. Yield: about six servings." (p. 66)
    ---Good Food from Mexico, Ruth Watt Mulvey & Luisa Maria Alvarez [M. Barrows:New York] 1950

    [1952]
    "Guacamole (Pronounced wah-kah-mole-ay)

    3 avocados
    2 tablespoons oil
    2 tablespoons vinegar (or lime juice)
    Salt and pepper
    1/2 pound grated Parmesan cheese
    1 medium-sized onion, finely minced
    1/2 greeen pepper, finely chopped
    2 tablespoons chile sauce (hot)
    2 sprigs fresh coriander, finely minced
    Peel the avocados and chop them finely. Mix in oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, cheese and onion. Add green chopped pepper, chile sauce, and coriander. (Leave the avocado pit in the sauce until ready to serve. This prevents the sauce from turning dark.)
    ---Trader Vic's Kitchen Kibitzer, Victor Bergeron [Doubleday & Company:Garden City NY] 1952(p. 188)

    [1958]
    "Guacamole (Avocado Dip)

    Guacamole, well known in the United States, is a versatile dish. It is wonderful as a cocktail dip with tortilla chips (tostaditas) or crackers, but it is also wonderful on lettuce, as an accompaniment for meat or fish, and for such Mexican snacks as tacos and tostadas. And do try filling miniature cream puffs or tart shells with it.
    2 very ripe medium-sized avocados
    2 medium-sized tomatoes
    1 medium-sized onion, or 1 bunch gren onions, chopped
    Salsa Jalapena or green peeled chiles, chopped
    Wine vinegar or lemon juice to taste
    Salt to taste
    Mash avocados with a fok, not too smmoth, and add the other ingredients. If you can't servie it at once, cover closely with Saran wrap or foil, as it darkens when exposed to air, but do not try to make it too far ahead of time. Add the salsa Jalapena or chiles to taste, and make sure you use plenty of salt. Vary this dish by adding pomegranate seeds, or fresh cilantro (coriander, or Chinese parsley), chopped peanuts, or bits of crisp bacon, or chicharones. Makes 3 cups of spread."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall Inc.:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958 (p. 2-3)

    Maize
    "It is usually accepted that maize was growing in Meosamerica by between 8000 and 5000 B.C. Reliable archaeolgical evidence of domesticated maize dates from as long ago as 3600 B.C. in what is now central Mexico, and it is thought that domestication of the crop first took place--doubtless at a much earlier date--in this general area. To the south, a separate domestication of maize may have been accomplished at about the same time by South American Indians in the central Andes, or the crop may simply have traveled to that area from its point of origin. To the north, however, there seems to be no doubt that domesticated maize arrived much later, with locally adapted varieties appearing in the Eastern Woodlands of North America around A.D. 200 and in the central portion of the continent by about A.D. 600. Indigenous American societies intensively cultivated maize, and it became a principal staple of the Aztecs, the Inca, the Maya, and many groups of North American Indians--especially those in what is now the southeastern United States--for several centuries before the arrival of Europeans. All parts of the plant were used for food and other purposes; the Inca even made maize "beers," known collectively as chica...Christopher Columbus carried maize to Spain, where by 1500 or so it was under cultivation. Before many years had passed, maize was being grown throughout the Iberian and Italian peninsula and had appeared as a garden vegetable in England and central Europe...By the seventeenth century, maize had become an important European field crop and staple food, especially in those areas that now comprise northern Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, and Bulgaria, in addition to Spain...As the new crop spread across Europe, its New World origins were largely forgotten, but in each locality people at least knew that it came from somewhere else..."Corn" was a generic word meaning simply "grain" in a number of European languages, so that its many aliases acutally identified maize as "foreign grain," and the American usage of "corn" for maize grows out of such terminology--in this case, "corn" is the shortened version of the English term "Indian corn," by which the colonists meant, of course, "Indian grain," or maize. During the sixteenth century, Portuguese traders carried the plant to East Africa and Asia, whereas Arab merchants were probably responsible for its introduction to North Africa...The crop spread rapidly throughout the African continent...In Asia, maize spread along trade routes from the Indian subcontinent, reaching points in China and Southeast Asia by the mid-sixteenth century, and during the eighteenth it was much expanded as a crop in China. From there, it spread to Korea and Japan."
    ---Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple & Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press: Cambridge] Volume Two, 2000 (p. 1805-6)

    Maya & maize
    "The Maya creation legend in the Popul Vuh, describes how man was made from corn. Corn is the most important ingredient in any of the agricultural offerings to the deities and plays a crucial part in the daily diet of the village Maya. The average adult consumes at least to kils of corn each day--more than four pounds. Every part of the plant is put to use. The husk is utilized as the wrappings for tamales and cigarettes. It also serves as a dish or pot scourer and is used to remove stains from laundry. Husks may serve a s afilling for stuffing pillows or other soft objects and even provide a medicinal tea. The stigmas from the maize plant serve as a diuretic. Bakal, the cob, is used as fuel for fires, bottle stoppers and toilet paper. Ground and mixed with honey dregs, the cob becomes forage for the animals. The leaves, green stalks and roots serve as fertilizer. A few Maya still remember how to use their maize kernels to divine the future. This method of foretelling the future is called xixte and means 'to separate the good from the bad.' Xixte was at one time a principal method used by the xmen to determine the outcome of an illness. To ascertain a prognosis, a portion of grains is singled out from a container and arranged in piles of four. A favourable outcome for the problem at hand can be predicted if the piles of four are even in number and the remaining pile of kernels is also even. If both of the piles are split, one even and one uneven, then the outcome of the event is difficult to ascertain. There is another method of using maize to predict the course of an illness. When corn kernels are dropped into a bowl of atole or Saka, floating kernels indicate a favorable prognosis. When corn sinks to the bottom of the bowl, the outcome of the situation appears grim. Ix K'anle'ox, the goddess of corn and mother of all the gods, is associated with the color yellow and the cardinal direction, South."
    ---Mayan Cooking: Reciepes from the Sun Kingdoms of Mexico, Cherry Hamman [Hippocrene Books:New York]1998 (p. 340-1)

    "Maize gods native to Central and South America were far more ancient than Christian saints...For these Maya descendents, the association of maize with blood is as old as the oldest Maya memory, as old as the first planted seed. As their culture evolved, ancient Maya feritlized seeds of corn with the sacrificed blood of their enemies and the blood of their own kings. For the Maya a single kernel of corn is symbolic of what Christians smubolize as the holy cross-the tragic and monstrous truth that the seed of life is death. Today, in the Maya ruins of Palenque in the Yucatan jungle, the Temple of the Foliated Cross reveals in its carvings what Christians call the Tree of Life. For the Maya, it is the World Tree in the shape of a cross, where the crosspiece or branches are formed by leaves and silk-topped ears of corn, each ear a human head. The corn sprouts from a trunk of blood rooted in the head of the Water-Lily Monster that floats on the primal waters of the Underworld. Here out of the monster's mouth a god is born--God K, the Young Lord, the Maize God...So subtle and complex is the ancient Maya language of corn, carved in stone, painted on walls and pottery and screen-folds made of beaten bark, that only in recent years have its mysteries begun to be decoded. We now see that the Maya maize God, like the medieval Christian God, stands at the center of a cluster of images and symbols that evolved slowly but took primary shape in the third to ninth centuries after Christ, a period rich in Christian saints and Maya maize gods. Rich also in Maya script which recorded the history and destiny of a people...Maya hieroglyphs, once we can read them, may help us learn what 'discovery,' 'growth' and 'begining' meant to a civilization built on the symbolic as well as the physical potency of maize...The life cycle of maize was the great metaphor of Maya life, the root of its language, its rituals and its calendar. We now see that the many configurations of the Maize God evolved from the seed of life embodied in the Kan sign. Kan is only one of the twenty named days of the Maya calendar, but wherever the kan sign appears in conjunction with a god, it refers to crops and the powers for good and evil that affect them. Kan is also the syllable wah, which denotes bread, tortilla, tamale. Bowls holding Kan sins may represent offerings of maize, and therefore blood offerings and other precious things..."
    ---The Story of Corn, Betty Fussell [North Point Press:New York] 1992 (p. 30-34)

    Recommended reading

    Related recipes? Corn breads.

    Mexican casserole
    The dishes we Americans enjoy today as "Mexican Casserole" (aka "Mexican Lasagne") are hybrid culinary creations featuring Old and New world traditions. Recipes are all over the map. Combinations of native Central American ingredients baked casserole style were documented in the 16th century. Contemporary USA interpretations resemble Italian lasagna: substituting tortillas for pasta, salsa for tomato sauce, beans/ground meat/chilies for protein/flavor/color. Dairy component varies from Spanish to German to TexMex to Southern California to processed American cheddar.

    16th century Spanish settlers tell us they witnessed wealthy Ancient Aztec diners consuming casseroles. Then, as today, ingredients varied. Father Bernadino Sahagan listed several casseroles consumed by Aztecs in Montezuma's court. When reading these early accounts, we must remember European chroniclers used words from their native language to describe "foreign" dishes. They also do not share how these dishes were crafted, method (time/temperature) or final presentation.

    "The lords also ate many kinds of casseroles;...one kind of casserole of fowl made in their fashion, with red chile and with tomatoes, and ground squash seeds, a dish which is now called pipian; they ate another casserole of fowl made with yellow chile. They ate many kinds of casseroles, and they ate roast birds...They also ate fish in casseroles: one of white fish made with yellow chile and tomatoes, and with ground squash seeds which is very good to eat. They eat another kind of casserole made of frogs and green chile; another kind of casserole of those fish which they call axolotl with yellow chile; they also ate another kind of tadpoles with chiltexpitl. They also ate another casserole of large-winged ants with chiltexpitl. Also another casserole of locusts, and it is very tasty food; they also ate maguey works, with chiltextpitl molli [sauce]; also another casserole of shrimps made with chiltecpitl and tomatoes, and some ground squash seeds. Also another casserole of the kind of fish which they call topotli, made with chiltecpitl as the above said. Another casserole they ate was of large fish, made as above...they ate another casserole made of unripe plums [Spondias spp.], with some little white fish, yellow chile, and tomatoes. (Sahagun 1982: 463-463)."
    ---America's First Cuisines, Sophie D. Coe [University of Texas Press:Austin] 1994 (p. 115-116)

    "Casseroles. There is an assortment of Mexican budines (puddings), sopas secas ('dry soups' or pastas), taquitos al horno (baked tacos), and chilaquiles, which have one thing in common--they are all cooked the same way. All are tortilla dishes--tortillas filled and rolled, cut into strips, fried, and baked in layers with sauces, cheese, and meat or vegetable fillings. They are all rather concentrated, some of them rather rich. Some could be served with just a salad, a meal in themselves, while others would make a good accompaniment to plainly cooked meats, poultry or fish."
    ---The Tortilla Book, Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row:New York] 1975 (p. 72) [NOTE: This book offers recipes for Tortilla Casserole (a 'dry soup' in tomato soup), Tortilla and Vegetable Casserole, Bakes Tacos Lagunera, Torta Moctezuma (aka Moctezuma pie, budin Aztexa, and torta Huateca), Sweet Red Pepper Casserole.]

    "The word chilaquiles comes from chil-a-quiltitl, meaning 'herbs or greens in chili broth'--colloquially, 'a broken-up old sombrero.' It is, in fact, one of the many recipes devised to use up stale tortillas. The purists say that the tortillas must be torn up into large pieces, but the dish is easier to serve and eat if smaller. Like so many other recipes in Mexico, every cook has her own way of preparing them."
    ---The Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row:New York] 1972 (p. 67)

    Our survey of USA sources confirms a wide variety of interpretations titled "Mexican Casserole." Dishes range from traditionally inspired to quickie Americanized creations featuring Mexican staples chilies and tortillas.

    [1925]
    "Mexican Casserole

    1 1/4 pounds lean pork
    6 large onions
    2 cups noodles
    1/3 cup grated American cheese
    1 cup tomato sauce
    4 tablespoons parsley
    4 tablespoons pimento
    1/4 cup bacon fat
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    1/2 cup green pepper
    Cut meat into cubes. Place bacon fat in frying pan and cook meat until golden brown. Mince vegetables. Add meat, noodles, and cheese and mix well. Place in a casserole, pour tomato sauce over it and bake 1 1/2 hour s in a moderate oven."
    ---"Pot Pie Proves Excellent Single Dish for Hot Day," San Antonio Light [TX], June 5, 1925 (p. 27)

    [1944] "Torta Azteca
    8 tortillas
    1/2 cup oil
    4 chorizos (Mexican sausages)
    Grated cheese
    1 pound Monterey cream cheese
    6 hard-cooked eggs
    Fry whole tortillas lightly in oil. As each is fried, set aside. Skin and crumble chorizos and fry; set aside. Cube Monterey cheese and slice hard-cooked eggs. When this is done, make sauce as follows:
    1 medium-sized onion, minced
    1/4 cup oil
    3 cups tomato puree
    3 green chilies (optional)
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1 bay leaf
    Salt and pepper
    Fry onion in oil.; add tomato puree (solid-pack canned tomatoes which have been well mashed). Season with oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper. If chiles are being used, chop and add at this time. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. When sauce is done, place 1 tortilla in casserole and on it spread chorizo, grated cheese, Monterey cheese, 2 or 3 tablespoons of the sauce and rings of hard-cooked eggs. Repeat this procedure until all tortillas have been put into casserole; sprinkle remaining chorizos and Monterey cheese over all, and pour on remaining sauce. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) 30 to 45 minutes. To serve, cut as you would a cake. Serve with refried beans."
    ---Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta [Dettners Printing House:San Francisco] 1944 (p. 38)

    [1958]
    "Chilaquiles de Jocoqui (Sour Cream and Tortilla Casserole)

    This is another versatile dish. I sometimes vary it by adding fried chorizo, another time, ripe olives. And once in awhile I make it with enchilada sauce instead of this one.
    12 tortillas, cut in eighths
    Oil for frying
    Sauce:
    2 tablespoons oil
    1 medium-sized onion, chopped
    1 (No. 2 1/2) can solid-pack tomatoes, chopped Salda Jalapena, or chile powder, to taste
    1 teaspoon oregano, rubbed between palms of hands
    Salt
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
    1/2 pound Monterey Jack or American cheese, cubed
    1 point sour cream
    Coarsely-grated American cheese
    Fry tortillas lightly and drain on absorbent paper. For the sauce, wilt onion in hot oil; add tomatoes, salsa Japalena, oregano, and salt. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside. Butter a 2-quart casserole and place alternately layers of tortillas, sauce, Parmesan or Romano cheese, Monterey cheese, and sour cream. Repeat until all ingredients have been used, ending with a layer of sour cream. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 30 to 40 minutes. During the last ten minutes of baking, sprinkle with grated American cheese. Serves 6 to 8."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958 (p. 142-143)

    [1966]
    "A Mexican Casserole Costs Little. 'This casserole is an American concept of a Mexican-type dish,' writes Marcia B. Stover. 'It's ideal for the budget-minded homemaker.'
    Marcia's Tortilla Casserole
    1 pt. cottage cheese
    1 pt. dairy sour cream
    2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
    2 7-oz cans whole green chiles
    12 corn tortillas
    1 lb. mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
    1 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
    Blend cottage cheese, sour cream and tomato sauce in a shallow dish. Cut chiles into 1/4-in. strips. Place tortillas on a cooky sheet and heat in 500-deg. oven just long enough so they will fold easily, about 3 to 5 min. Working quickly, dip hot tortillas into tomato mixture, place two strips of chiles on each, and fold as you would an enchilada. Place a layer of tortillas in 7 X 11-in. baking pan. Sprinkle generously with shredded Cheddar and mozzarella cheese and top with some of the tomato mixture. Repeat with tortillas, making two layers in pan, using remaining cheese and sauce for top. Cover pan and bake at 350 deg. 1 hour. Makes 4 to 6 servings."
    ---"My Best Recipe," Marcia B. Stover, Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1966 (p. F18)

    ABOUT MOLE
    Traditional mole is a complicated concoction composed with "New World" ingredients. It added flavor, texture, and color to several casserole-type dishes.

    "The sauce dishes or casseroles contained a wide sample of the animal kingdom, as well as some purely vegetarian mixtures. The lords also ate many kinds of casseroles;...one kind of casserole of fowl made in their fashion, with red chile and with tomatoes, and ground squash seeds, a dish which is now called pipian; they ate another casserole of fowl made with yellow chile...They ate many kinds of chile stews...one kind was made of yellow chile, another kind of chimolli (sauce with chile) was made of chiltecpitl (a kind of chile) and tomatoes; another kind of chilmolli was made of yellow chile and tomatoes'."
    ---America's First Cuisines, [University of Texas Press:Austin] 1994 (p. 115)
    [NOTE: this book has much more information than can be paraphrased. If you need additional details about early American foods ask your librarian to help you find a copy.]

    "Mole. The most famous Mexican sauce, takes its name from moli, a Nahuatl word meaning mixture or concoction; and it is indeed a mixture of many ingredients. The constant factor among the numerous different versions is the starring role played by chili peppers and the fact that the mixture is always cooked." ---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 511)

    Mole poblano
    Mole is a tasty component of many Central American dishes. While this food is ancient and traditional, some variations are not. Mole poblano de guajolote(turkey in mole poblano), combining chocolate with chili, is a classic example. Despite the rumors, this is not an ancient Aztec dish. The Aztecs used chocolate for religious ceremonies and medicinal purposes. They did not cook with it. Mole poblano is now traditionally associated with Mexican Christmas traditions, thanks to the Spanish.

    "The idea of using chocolate as a flavoring in cook food would have been horrifying to the Aztecs--just as Christians could not conceive of using communion wine to make, say, coq au vin. In all of the pages of Sahagun that deal with Aztec cuisine and with chocolate, there is not a hint that it ever entered into an Aztec dish. Yet today many food writers and gourmets consider one particular dish, the famous pavo or mole poblano, which contains chocolate , to represent the pinnacle of Mexican cooking tradition...[mole poblano] has no Aztec foundations...regardless of what food writers may say. Its true, creolized and Hispanicized nature is given away by...the list of ingredients from an authentic recipe...Ten of the 19 ingredients are Old World."
    ---True History of Chocolate, Sophie D. Coe & Michael D. Coe [Thames & Hudson:London] 2nd edition 2007 (p. 214-215)
    [NOTE: this book offers much more information than can be paraphrased here. Your librarian can help you obtain a copy.]

    "Mole poblano de guajolote...or Pabo in mole poblano...is a dish of some antiquity and has achieved some fame for the inclusion of bitter chocolate in the sauce, although the quantity is small and the effect not separably discernable. Some have thought that the dish was made, with chocolate already added, in pre-Columbian times, but the lack of evidence for pre-Columbian use of chocolate as an ingredient in any food dish tells against this conclusively; and indeed the attitude of the Aztecs to chocolate was such that they would have been no more likely to use it in cooking than Spaniards would have been to cook with communion wine. Quite apart from this particular question, it is doubtful whether mole poblano dates as far back as the 17th century, as has been generally believed."
    ---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 511)

    "The wild turkey or guajalote is indigenious to Mexico and the New World. For centuries before the Spaniards arrived, the nobility ate roasted turkey, quail, and casseroles of turkey prepared with chilies, tomatoes and ground pumpkin seeds. The turkey is still one of the most important foods in Yucatan....No special festival is compelte without mole poblano de guajolote. It is prepared with loving care, and even today, more often than not, it is the one dish that brinds out the metate: chilies, spices, nuts, seeds, and tortillas are all ground on it...It would be impossible to say just how many versions there are; every cook from the smallest hamlet to the grandest city home has her own specials touch--a vew more mulatos here, less anchos, or a touch of chipotle cooke with the turkey; some insist on onion, others won't tolerate it. Many cooks in Puebla itself insist on toasting the chilies, often mulatos only, over an open fire and grinding them dry...The world mole comes from the Nahuatl word molli, meaning "concoction." The majority of people respond, when mole is mentioned, with "Oh yes, I know-that chocolate sauce. I wouldn't like it." Well, it isn't a chocolate sauce. One little piece of chocolate (and in Mexico we used to grind toasted cacao beans for the mole) goes into a large casserole full of rich dark-brown and russett chiles... There are many stories attached to its beginnings but they all agree that the mole was born in one of the convents in the city of Puebla de los Angeles. The most repeated version...it that Sr Andrea, sister superior of the Santa Rosa Convent, wished to honor the Archbishop for having a convent especially constructed for her order; trying to blend the ingredients of the New World with those of the old, she created mole poblano. Yet another story goes that the Viceroy, Don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, was visiting Puebla. This time it was Fray Pascual who was preparing the banquet at the convent where he was going to eat. Turkeys were cooking in cazuelas on the fire; as Fray Pascual, scolding his assistants for their untidiness, gathered up all the spices they had been using, and putting them together onto a tray, a sudden gust of wind swept across the kitchen and they spilled over the cazauelas."
    ---The Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy, [Harper & Row:New York] 1972 (p. 199-200) [NOTE: this book contains recipes for other moles with history notes.]

    Recommended reading: Que vivan los tamales!/Jeffrey M. Pilcher...best source for tracing the role of Mole Poblano within the context Mexican (social/political/culinary) culture.


    Nachos
    Nachos, as we know them today, descend from traditional Central American culinary traditions.
    Tortillas, versatile and cheap, provided the base for daily meals in endless combinations. What makes Nachos different? It has an inventor: Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya and a specific creation story. In sum: The year? 1943. The place? Piedra Negra. For whom? ladies who lunch. We're not here to judge. Based on our survey of historic sources, we choose to celebrate the story and the honor the man. We're also asking for your help with obtaining the original recipe.

    The "original account" is generally adheres to contemporary legend, except: it provides an earlier date (1940), a different name for the restaurant (Victory Club), another job title for the inventor (executive chef) and an alternative spelling of the inventor's name (Amaya). Presumably, over time, the story was corrected.

    [1954: The original account]
    "One afternoon in 1940, four Eagle Pass ladies walked into the Victory Club dining room looking for something new in cocktail hour snacks. Always ready to help, and to try his hand at anything were seated at their table by smiling, friendly Ignacio (Nacho) Amaya. Their request went something like this: 'Nacho, we're tired of the usual type snacks with our drinks. Do you think you could whip up something new? Something different?' Always ready to help--and to try his hand at anything--'Nacho' Amaya smiled and told the ladies he would see what could be done. 'Honestly,' he admitted to us recently over a bottle of cold Bohemia, 'I didn't have the least idea what I was going to try. But I went into the kitchen, looked around and started groping for an idea. I saw a bowl of freshly fried pieces of tortilla; then I figured some grated cheese on them might be all right. Well, I got the cheese and began sprinkling the tortilla pieces with it. About this time, I got the idea to put some jalapeno strips atop the cheese. I got the japlapeno; l and as I finished putting the strips on the cheese, I decdied it would be a good idea to put the whole thing into the oven to melt the cheese.' 'Nacho' Amaya was a bit timorous when he set is concoction on the table before the ladies from Eagle Pass. He muttered something about hoping they liked it and swiftly sought and exit. Before he could hide, however, the ladies were clamoring for him. 'Make us some more of those wonderful snacks,' they demanded. Whenb 'Nacho brought out the second batch, one of the ladies asked: 'What do you call these snacks?' 'Well,' stammered Amaya, 'I guess we can just call them 'Nacho's Special.' He figured he never would hear of the concoction again. He was wrong. Next day, when he came to work, waiters at the Victor Club asked 'How in the heck do you make 'Nacho's Specials?' We had calls for them last night but didn't know what they were!' No sooner had he pased on the secret than Gaspar Slaazar, a club waiter, got a call for the 'nachos.' It's been that way all up and down the border now for 14 years. Fame of the delicious 'nachos' has spread from the bouth of the Rio Grande to Jurarez. The 'nacho's' fans have carried the reicpe up and down the Rio and into Mexico...Other spots along the gorder have claimed the 'Nacho's' as a native article, but Ignacio Amaya says, definately, he 'discovered' them here. The 'Nacho's' inventor is a native of Chihauhua; has lived in Piedras Negras 18 years. He lived in Texas several years, working for the San Antonio Standard-Times. In 1929-1930 he worked at Mrs. Crosby's famous restaurant in Acuna, across from Del Rio; then went to Cafe Apolo in Torreon. For the past 16 years, he's been with the Victory Club where. today, he is 'jefe de cocina'--a title we know as 'executive chef.' As 'Jefe de cocina,' however, 'Nacho' Amaya's duties today also include greeting and chatting with his hundreds of amigos from both sides of the Rio Grande; and to make sure they are comfortable, getting good service, and having a good time."
    ---"Nacho's? Natch!," Clarence J. LaRoche, San Antonio Express and San Antonio News, May 23, 1954 (p. 3H)

    [1969: updated story reveals additional details about the man behind the invention]
    "It's been almost 30 years since Ignacio (Nacho) Anaya whipped up his first 'Nachos Especials,' and he has yet to realize a single penny from his invention of the popular appetizer known from Texas to Saudi Arabia. 'The only man who's making money on Nachos (as they are popularly known) is the man who's selling cheese and jalepnos,' Anaya smiles and says. At 74, the diminutive Anaya could pass for a man little more than half his age, despite the fact he has been waiting tables since 1918. Born in 1895 in Chihauhua, Mexico, Anaya was raised by a foster mother after his parents died 'when I was real young.' It as in his younger days that Anaya began to get the idea for his Nachos. 'This woman who raised me used to feed me quesadilas,' Anaya said, then when time to explain that quesadilas are folded tortillas with melted cheese inside. With this in his mind, the stage is set for mid 1943 when Anaya was a waiter at the old Moderno Restaurant which has since been torn down and replaced with a swank, new Moderno. 'There four ladies were sitting at a table drinking chicos then relates how they asked for some fried tortillas after about four rounds of drinks. 'Well, since no one was in the kitchen for about an hour, I went in, sliced a tortilla in four pieces, put some cheese and a slice of jalapeno on top and stuck it in the oven for a few minutes,' Anaya said. After being served the new treat, the women commented on how tasty they were and asked 'What do you call them?' On the spur of the moment, Anaya replied, 'Just call them Nacho's Especial,' and one of the world's top appetizers was born. Since then, the apostrophe has long been dropped form the word 'Nacho's' on menus, depriving Anaya of even that bit of possessive fame. Today, many restaurants have the simple listing, 'nachos,' on their menu, although admittedly, there are several variations. Some cooks add a bit of lettuce and tomato salad, transferring Nachos into miniature taco-like creations, while others begin with a base of refried beans. But, a true Nacho today is as it as in the beginning...a tortilla quarter, Wisconsin cheese and a sliver of jalapeno pepper. Once, a lawyer friend offered to take Anaya to San Antonio to silent a patent on his creation, but Anaya refused. 'I didn't' go with him or want to do it,' Anaya explained, 'I thought it would be too much trouble, but of course then I didn't know how popular they were going to become.' Spread of the creation has been mostly by world-of-mouth, Anaya explains. After someone would eat a platter of Nachos in the old Moderno or old Victory Club, where Anaya worked until 1961, he would pass the simple recipe on in restaurants where he lived or traveled. 'Now," Anaya says, 'They've got them as far away as Chicago and Saudi Arabia. 'And,' he says,' It's been the biggest boost for the jalapeno business there ever was...at the Morderno they used to use maybe one gallon of jalpenos per week, now they use six or seven cases (six gallons per case) per week...Since Nov. 18, 1961, he has operated Nacho's Restaurant two miles from Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras International Bridge...And, while Anaya admits that it hasn't been particularly profitable, he says it beats waiting tables at the equivalent of about 70 cents per day plus tips which was the going rate when he began at the old Moderna...despite the hardships, Anaya and his wife (who died of cancer in 1964) raised nine children...and one son now works as a waiter at the new Moderna carrying on the Anaya tradition...Even though, as Anaya says, 'It's too late to make the millions...maybe not millions...but a lot of money...I might once have made,' he still smiles about it. 'If you'll just send me a bunch of customers, 'I'll be happy, he remarked as he set down a platter of sizzling 'Nachos Especial.'"
    ---"'Nacho' Inventor Hasn't Profited," Bill Salter, San Antonio Express and News [TX], June 15, 1969 (p. 97)
    [NOTE: This article was published in several regional USA newspapers.] ? ?

    [1995: family claims & media challenge]
    "Some rise to greatness. Some have greatness thrust upon them. For Ignacio Anaya, greatness came with cheese and jalapenos. For out of necessity and the desire to please, Anaya invented the nacho. In a border town restaurant in 1943. His son said so. So does the government tourism office in the Mexican state of Coahuilua. By formal decree, Saturday was International Day of the nacho and a bronze plaque was installed in Anaya's honor. Then, the First Annual Nacho Cook-Off was held in Piedras Negras' main plaza. Over the years, the singular combination of fried corn chips, cheese and jalapenos has blossomed into a culinary staple in the United States. it...But the details of how it all started have been shrouded in time. For some of us, anyway. 'My father invented the nacho in 1943,' said Ignacio Anaya Jr., a retired banker in the cross-border town of Eagle Pass...It was the senior Anaya, maitre d' at El Moderno, had welcomed a group of U.S. Army officers' wives from Eagle Pass at the restaurant, the younger Anaya said. They wanted some 'hotanas' or snacks. Anaya rummaged in the kitchen, grabbed some tostadas (fried corn chips), shredded some cheese and heated them in the oven, topping each chip with a slice jalapeno...they were...a hit...'By the time my father returned with a second platter, the ladies had named the dish 'Nacho's Special,' Anaya said. 'That is the Spanish nickname for Ignacio.'...'I am very proud of the recognition being paid my father...it was not something he did for fame, but simply to serve his guests.'...David Garcia, vice president of B. Martinez and Sons. in San Antonio doesn't want to rain on Anaya's parade. But he finds the concept of inventing the nacho a little hard to swallow. 'I've heard this story before, about the nacho being invented in Piedras Negras. But in my opinion, this is just a very old custom along the border, melting cheese on fried tortilla chils...It's like saying someone invented the fajita. It's just something people have been doing all their lives.' Garcia brings a certain historical perspective to his opinions. his firm has been making tortillas, tamales and other Mexican food products in San Antonio since 1895...Like the invention of the margarita, the convergence of the nacho as a cultural icon is typical of folkloric events, said Dr. Jay Ann Cozz, a writer and authority on food and folklore in Austin. 'The actual event of creation was an isolated event. The producer was just trying to please customers...but the cultural importance is attached later, usually by a consumer who is searching for cultural authenticity, the real thing.'...Bob Guildry recalls eating something similar to the nacho as a boy growing up in El Paso during World War II. Except it was a corn tortilla, fried whole, and covered with cheese and peppers. And it's called a quesadilla....Guidry...doesn't remember seeing the more bite-size nacho until he returned to El Paso in the 1950s...'Maybe this guy in Piendras Negras came up with the idea of cutting the chips into smaller pieces...That's pretty imaginative. But it doesn't really matter. Nachos are popular because they taste good. not because where they were invented.' In Piedras Negras, they might argue that point. Especially at Restaurant El Moderno, which sits where it has since 1936, just across from the central market, only a few bolcks from the International Bridge...[the] chief bartender and impromptu historian, confirms that this is the birthplace of the nacho.... Back in Eagle Pass, the inventor's son recalls how he and his brothers sought to patent the nacho in the early 1960s, but learned that the dish had already fallen into the public domain. 'It did not bother my father. He opened his own restaurant in Piendras Negras and worked there until he died in 1975 at age 81.'"
    ---"South of the border origins of Nachos debated," The Brownsville Herald [TX], October 24, 1995 (p. 2) ?

    [2006: contemporary reconciliation]
    "According to nacho lore, it all began in 1943, when several military wives at Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass, Texas, decided to go on a toot in Mexico. This did not require much pluck. Eagle Pass is just a short bridge over the Rio Grande from Piedras Negras in the state of Coahuila. In Piedras Negras (black stones, from the coal once mined there), they took shelter in the Victory Club, demanding food as well as drink. The only employee present, the maitre d', grabbed some fried corn tortilla chips from the bar, melted Wisconsin yellow cheese on top of them and then set a slice of canned jalapeno peppers on each snack. This Escoffier of la frontera was Ignacio Anaya, nicknamed Nacho. The Army brides gobbled his improvisation up and spread the word about the dish their leader Mamie had dubbed Nacho's especiales. Eventually people all over southern Texas were calling them nachos. The evidence for this tale is less solid than what we might demand to prove that, say, George Washington threw a silver dollar across the Potomac. The most convincing account comes from Ignacio Anaya Jr., not a disinterested party, in an interview in the San Antonio Express-News in 2002. Long before then, the Victory Club restaurant had closed and Nacho Sr. had moved to the Moderno."
    ---"Cooking & Dining -- Snack Food: The Search For the Perfect Nacho," Raymond Sokolov, Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2006 (p. 1)

    Additional notes & citings from The Oxford English Dictionary and Barry Popik. ?

    What was the original nacho recipe?
    Mr. Anaya's
    original 1954 account describes his ingredients and method. Some food historians mention the recipe first appeared a church cookbook published that year. Coincidence? Maybe.

    "...an article by Dotty Griffith, food editor of the Dallas Morning News...says a reader, Eleanor H. Magnuson, sent her a copy of St. Anne's Cookbook, published in 1954 by the Church of the Redeemer in Eagle Pass, just across the border from Piedras Negras. The book contains an advertisement for the Victory Club, which called itself the birthplace of 'Nacho Specials.'."
    ---The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997 (p. 41)

    We are convinced, based on Ms. Anderson's research, the cookbook exists. Unfortunately, none of "original" recipe(s) published on the Internet provide a page number or scanned copy of the page. Without that evidence, we are not satisfied they are the "real" thing. We are looking for a print copy of the original text. If you can help, please let us know!


    Quesadillas
    The origins of traditional foods such as quesadillas cannot usually be traced to a particular year or person. They are foods that evolved because the ingredients and technology needed to cook them were readily available. The history of quesadillas begins with the story of corn and the cooking of tortillas:

    "Tortilla...a round, thin unleavened bread made from ground maize, a basic food of Mesoamerica. It is not known how many millennia this has been a staple; but when the conquistadores arrived in the New World in the late 15th century, they discovered that the inhabitants made flat corn breads. The native Nahuatl name for these was tlaxcalli and the Spanish gave them the name tortilla...The art of tortilla-making was highly developed by the native Mesoamericans; 17th century Spanish observed, Francisco Hernandez, remarked on the fine, almost transparent tortillas prepared for important people....Fresh tortillas are eaten as bread, used as plate and spoon, or filled to make composite dishes such as tacos and enchiladas....A quesadilla is a 'turnover' made by folding a fresh tortilla in half around a simple filling such as cheese, epazote (a pungent herb), and pepper, or potatoes and chorizo, and deep frying it..."
    ---The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson (p. 803)

    "Queso...the Spanish word for 'cheese', forms part of some names of cheese of Spain and Latin America."
    ---The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson (p. 644)

    "Quesadillas are one of the Mexicans' favorite simple snacks. They are, in fact, uncooked tortillas stuffed with one of various fillings and folded over to make a "turnover." They are then toasted on a hot griddle or fried until golden. In many parts of Mexico they are filled with strips of Chihuahua cheese, which melts and "strings" nicely--a Mexican requirement...the farther south one goes the more complicated they become. For instance, in central Mexico the simplest ones are filled with some of the braided Oaxaca cheese, a few fresh leaves of epazote and strips of peeled chile poblano. Potato and chorizo filling--that used for tacos...--is also a favorite version, while the most highly esteemed of all are those of sauteed squash blossoms (flor de calabaza) or the ambrosial fungus that grows on the corn blossoms (huitlachoche), both of which are at their best during the rainy months of summer and early fall."
    --The Tortilla Book, Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row:New York] 1975 -(p. 106)

    As such, quesadillas are a blend of Old World tradition and New World foods. Recipes for turnover-type foods (aka portable filled pastries, both sweet and savory) were popular fare in Medieval Spain. About portable pies. Chicken (chicken quesadillas) is also an Old World food, introduced to Mexico by the Spanish settlers in the 16th century. New World fowl included turkey, strikingly similar in flavor and composition. The turkey, however, was not used for simple snacks. It was saved for special holidays. Cheese (queso/quesa) is also an Old World food.

    [1944]
    "Quesadilla (Tortilla Stuffed with Cheese)

    Take fresh tortillas (bought in a Mexican store), place generous piece of Monterey cream cheese (or American cheese) in the center, and fold it over as you would a turnover. Pin top with toothpicks to hold. Place in hot, ungreased skillet and cook lightly, turing often until cheese is melted. Delicious with refried beans."
    ---Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta [Dettners Printing House:San Francisco] October 1944 (p. 35)


    Refried beans
    Although food historians generally agree that new world beans played an important culinary role dating back to ancient times, the history behind refried beans seems to be a modern matter of semantic confusion.

    "Refried beans. A Mexican-American dish of mashed cooked pinto beans, usually served as a side dish or as a filling for various preparations. The term "refried" is actually a mistranslation from the Mexican "frijoles refritos," which means "well-fried beans," a distinction first mentioned in Erna Fergusson's Mexican Cookbook (1934), but "refried" has remained in common parlance with regard to this dish."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman] 1999 (p. 268)

    "Refried beans is the misleading translation of a term very familiar in Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America; frijoles refritos. This refers to beans which have first been cooked in water and are subsequenty fried. There is no question of their being fried twice, i.e. literally refried. Diana Kennedy (1986) has explained the matter: "Several people have asked me why, when the beans are fried, they are called refried. Nobody I asked in Mexico seemed to know until quite suddenly it dawned on me. The Mexicans have a habit a qualifying a word to emphasize the meaning by adding the prefix re-. They will get the oil very hot (requemar), or something will be very good (retebien). Thus refrito beans are well fried, which they certainly are, since they are fried until they are almost dry.""
    ---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 657)

    "During all my years of living in Mexico and teaching Mexican cooking in New York, I (like everyone else) have thought of frijoles refritos as refried beans. Several people have asked me why, when the beans are fried, they are called refried. Nobody I asked in Mexico seemed to know until quite suddenly it dawned on me. The Mexicans have a habit of qualifying a word to emphasize the meaning by adding the prefix re-. They will get the oil very hot (requemar), or something will be very good (retebien). Thus refrito means well fried, which they certainly are, since they are fried until they are almost dry. I am glad to day that Santamaria in his Diccionario de Mexicanismos bears this out, but I am embarrassed that it has taken me so long for the light to dawn."
    ---The Cuisines of Mexico, Dinana Kennedy [Harper Row:New York] 1972 (p. 282)

    Compare these recipes

    [19th century]
    "Para frijoles refritos
    (Refried beans)
    These are stewed with more lard and good broth. Add sliced or grated cheese when served."
    ---Encarnacion's Kidtchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California, Encarnacion Pinedo, edited and translated by Dan Strehl [University of California Press:Berkeley CA] 2003 (p. 132)

    [1982]
    "Frijoles Refritos
    (Refried beans)
    Left over beans lose their flavor unless fat is added when reheated. If left over beans have not been mashed, mash them; melt enough fat (1 T. For every cup) and fry beans in it. A little grated cheese added will give them a special flavor."
    ---The Good Life: New Mexico Traditions and Food, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert, 2nd edition [Museum of New Mexico Press:Santa Fe NM] 1982 (p. 63)
    [NOTE: This book notes the pinto (spotted) bean and the bolita (round light brown bean) are the varieties widely used in New Mexico.]


    Salsa
    The origins of salsa (combination of
    chilies, tomatoes and other spices) can be traced to the Ancient Aztecs, Mayans and Incas. Salsa recipes evolved according to place and taste.

    Salsa origins
    "...the Indians, tens of centuries ago, cultivated the tomato and the pepper plants and improved and developed them until the tiny hot and pungent berries of the latter had been transformed into a number of varieties of peppery fruits, and the little red sourish berries of the other had become big luscious scarlet tomatoes....Long centuries before Columbus landed on the shores of the New World, the tomato and the peppers had spread from the land of the Incas to Central America and Mexico where they were cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs who called the tomato "tomatl," which the Spaniards under Cortez corrupted to the name by which the fruit is know to us today...Very probably they [chilies] are of real value and aid in warding off fevers and other maladies, as the natives claim, for they stimulate the digestive organs, especially the liver."
    ---Foods America Gave the World, A Hyatt Verrill (p. 34-5; 37)

    European encounter
    "The Spanish first encountered the tomato after their conquest of Mexico in 1519-1521, yet few references to tomatoes have been located in Spanish colonial documents...Sahagun was the first European to make written note of "tomates." According to Sahagun, Aztec lords combined them with chile peppers and ground squash seeds and consumed them mainly as a condiment served on turkey, venison, lobster, and fish. This combination was subsequently called "salsa" by Alonso de Molina in 1571."
    ---Souper Tomatoes: The Story of America's Favorite Food, Andrew F.Smith (p. 26-7)

    USA introduction
    "Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce--an indication of this condiment's origin in Spanish-speaking countries of the Western Hemisphere, particularly Mexico and the countries of Central America. In these countries, the word "salsa" encompasses a wide range of culinary concoctions, from sauces that are smooth, cooked, and served warm or hot, to condiments that are chunky, raw, and served at room temperature. In the United States, the consumptino of condiment salsas began to expand beyond the local Hispanic communities during the 1940s, initially in those parts of the American Southwest wehre Mexican food was traditionally eaten. The msot common type of salsa was--and still is--a version of Mexican salsa cruda (raw sauce), also known as salsa fresca (fresh sauce) or salsa Mexicana (Mexican sauce), made with chopped tomatoes, onions, and fresh green jalapeno or serrano peppers...Salsa's popularity nationwide is generally attributed to Americans' increasing consumption of hot-and-spicy foods during the second half of the twentieth century...Salsa are also perceived as healthy foods, because many of them are low in calories, high in fiber, and full of vitamins."
    ---Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004, Volume 2 (p. 389)

    USA commercial production
    "In Texas, salsa manufacturing began in 1947. dave and Margaret Pace operated a small food-packing operation in the back of their... store in San Antonio. They were manufacturing syrups, salad dressings, and jellies and sold their products door-to-door. Dave, by trial and error, began to make picante sauce and test it on his friends...By 1992, the top eight salsa manufacturers were Pace, Old El Paso, Frito-Lay, Chi-Chi's, La Victoria, Ortego Herdez, and Newman's Own..."
    ---The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, Dave DeWitt [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 259-60)

    What is the oldest known recipe for salsa in existence?
    Excellent question with no simple answer. Food historians generally agree New World style
    salsas (spicy mashed chili/tomato combinations) originated in Aztec Central America. Accurate/authentic evidence & early recipes is sketchy because this cuisine was first recorded in print by Spanish scholars (missionaries, mostly). Father Sahagun recorded a salsa-type food (no recipe) in 1529. First mention of salsa in recipe in USA print is even more challenging.

    Our survey of early "salsa" recipes in USA cookbooks and newspapers reveals these interesting points:
    (1) The term "salsa" in USA print has been used over the years to denote several items, including Italian-style tomato sauce.
    (2) Some early Mexican-style "salsa" recipes were given "Americanized" names, as in "Sauce for Tostatas."
    (3) Salsa (Mexican style) crossed the USA print border in the early 20th century, starting with bordering states (Texas, California).
    (4) 1930s/1940s mainstream print happens. The concept is regional & exotic. Think: Elena Zelayeta
    (5) 1950s TexMex launches mainstream USA marketing campaigns.
    (6) 1970s TexMex ragingly popular. Raw salsa & chips become standard bar fare & supermarkets snacks. Think: Diana Kennedy

    Also worth exploring? The multicultural/cuisine connection of salsa-type recipes served by different cultures. Cajun/Creole, Indian, and Chinese cooks offer interesting twists in this tasty theme.

    [19th century California]
    "Salsa picante de chile colorado
    (Spicy red-Chile sauce)
    Remove the crowns, then flatten and devein ten or twelve chiles; toast them in a warm oven, and when they are quite toasted, take them out and put them in cold water, then hot. Wipe them off and put in a casserole. Bathe the chilies in boiling water; let them soak for one or two hours, or let them simmer. Then take them out of the water in which they have been soaking; add a small amount of fresh water so the sauce will have a uniform consistency. After grinding the chilies well in a mortar, pass the sauce through a heavy strainer."
    ---Encarnacion's Kitchen: Mexican Recipes form Nineteenth-Century California, Encarnacion Pinedo, edited and translated by Dan Strehl [University of California Press:Berkeley] 2003 (p. 156)
    [NOTE: This is one of several recipes included in the chapter titled "Salsas."]

    [1934]
    "Chili Salsa

    1 pound dry red chilies
    1 onion
    1 clove garlic
    1 teaspoon vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon oregano (Marjoram)
    3/4 cup oil
    1 tablespoon flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon water
    Sprig parsley
    Remove stems, seeds and veins from peppers--wash well, cover with hot water and bring to boil. Mash with masher and let cool. When cool, run through colander to remove pulp from skin, mash thoroughly until skins are almost dry. Chop onion, garlic and parsley fine. Fry in oil. When delicately brown, add four and salt. Then brown the flour, pour chili pulp into mixture, add vinegar, sugar and oregano. This salsa is used in many Spanish dishes."
    ---"Delicacies From Mexico," Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1934 (p. B18)

    [1944]
    "Sauce for Tostadas

    1 1/2 cups tomato puree
    1 minced onion
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1 tablespoon vinegar
    2 tablespoons oil
    1 12 teaspoons salt
    Green peeled chilies to taste
    Combine ingredients in order given, mashing well. If desired, zucchini or string beans may be used instead of the mashed beans. Cut zucchini in rings, string beans in small pieces and cook until tender; add a tablespoon of vinegar to water in which zucchini is cooked."
    ---Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayata [Griffin Brothers:San Francisco] 1944 (p. 34)

    [1958]
    "Salsa de Chile Colorado
    (Red Chile Sauce)
    Her eis my version of that indeispensable Mexican chile sauce. I have Americanized it a little, as I have noted below. Since some chiles are not as hot as others, you may want to add some chile tepines to suit your taste. My personal touch is adding a tomato sauce, as it is not the Mexican custom to do so. I happen to like it better than way. In making this sauce, Mexicans do not thicken it; but you may do so, after dipping tortillas, if desired. What's more, if you do not care to go through all this trouble, there are several good prepared enchilada sauces on the market. This sauce may be used for enchiladas, cooked chicken or pork.
    6 chiles pasillas
    6 chiles colorados
    3 cups hot water or stock
    2 cloves garlic
    1 teaspoon oregano
    1/4 teaspoon comino
    1 tablespoon vinegar
    1 can tomato sauce (optional)
    2 tablespoons oil
    Salt
    Put chiles in hot, dry skipped until parched. Remove seeds; wash and soak chiles in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes, or until soft. Do not discard water. Add remaining ingredients except oil and mix in blender or grind until very smooth; strain if necessary. Heat oil, add sauce and simmer for about 10 mints to blend flavors. makes about 1 quart, enough for 12 enchiladas."

    "Salsa Para Tostadas Y Tacos #1 (Sauce for Tostadas and Tacos #1)
    This sauce should be hot--at least to be Mexican--so add green chiles or chile chipotle to suit your taste.
    2 (8 oz.) cans thin tomato sauce
    Gren peeled chiles, chopped or Chile chipotle, chopped to taste
    1 tablespoon oil
    1 tablespoon vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon oregano, rubbed between palms of hands
    salt
    Mix all ingredients well. This may be served hot or cold. Makes about 1 pint."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice Hall:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958 (p. 157-159)

    [1972]
    "Salsa Mexicana Cruda
    (Fresh Mexican sauce)
    About 1 12/ cups
    You will find this sauce on Mexican tables at any time of day, for it goes well with breakfast eggs, with roasted or broiled meats at lunchtime, or tacos at evening, and there are people who put a spoonful of it into their frijoes de olla. It is marvelously crunchy and refreshing served just with tortillas. The Sinaloa verson calls for some scallions and lime juice in place of the onions and water, and the Yucatecan version, x-ni-pec, substitutes Seville orange juice for the water.
    1 medium tomato (about 6 ounces)
    1/2 medium onion
    6 sprigs fresh coriander
    3 chiles, perferably serranos
    A bowl
    1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    1/3 cup cold water
    Chip all the ingredients finely--do not skin the tomato or seed the chili. Mix together in a bowl and add the salt and water. Although this can be made up to three hours ahead, it is best made almost the last minute, for it soon loses its crispness and the coriander its sharp flavor."
    ---The Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row:New York] 1972 (p. 297)


    Sopaipillas & fry bread
    Recipes for sopaipilla/fry-bread foods were known to ancient old world cooks. Deep fried doughs with flavored with honey, nuts and spices were enjoyed by peoples of Greece, Rome and Egypt. In many places they were called
    fritters. The Spanish word "sopaipa" (from which sopaipilla is derived) means honey cake. "Sopaipilla. A deep fried fritter usually served with honey. Sopaipillas, whose name is from the Spanish, are a staple of Mexican-American menus...history reveals they originated in Olde Town, Albuquerque, [New Mexico] about 300 years ago...Diana Kennedy, in her Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico (1978), writes "For years I have been denying to the aficianados of the sopaipillas of New Mexico that they have a Mexican counterpart. I have now disvovered that they can be found, though rarely, in the state of Chihiahua...I have yet to see them on an restaurant menus in the north." A good sopaipilla is supposed to resemble a puffed-up pillow; if cut into a round shape, it is called a "buneulo." "Sopaipilla" was first found in American print circa 1940."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 303)

    History of the word sopaipilla

    Where does Native American fry bread fit in?
    One of the foods many people today connect with the Navajo people is fry bread. If you visit Navajo country you will find dozens of "traditional" fry bread stands. Many of these stands are run by families working out of modified RVs. These products are remarkably similar to state fair elephant ears and on-the-fly fritter-type delicacies.

    The problem with current recipe for "traditional" fry bread (aka Indian Fry Bread, Navajo Fry Bread, Squaw Bread) is that the ingredients (wheat flour, baking powder, refined white sugar) and cooking utensils (frying pans, iron cauldrons) were not traditionally used by Native Americans. They were introduced to this continent by European explorers & pioneer families. European and American cookbooks from all time periods abound with recipes for fried breadstuffs. Think: bannock.

    Why wheat & baking powder instead of maize and oil? Some food historians tell us Native Americans embraced wheat flour and modern leaveners for practical reasons. They could easily obtain the finished products through trade and they adapted well to traditional recipes. To boot? These wheat-based products proved appealing to European/American travelers/tourists. The current recipe for fry bread is very tasty and sells well.

    Native Americans counter that the "Americanization" their foodstuffs was a direct byproduct of American government intervention. Products like Fry Bread are examples of what enterprising cooks create under challenging circumstances. Yes, this is complicated. Our research confirms Native American claims. Does this reduce the historic authenticity of Navajo Fry Bread? Certainly not. If anything? It invites an entirely new conversation.

    "...the [Navajo] people produced surplus for sale and trade so as to acquire a few items for which they had acquired a taste while interned at Fort Sumner and depended upon federal rationing. Army rations included that typical United States beverage brewed wtih hot water and ground-up black tree-seed, coffee. Navajos adopted coffee as their preferred non-alcoholic beverage. Coffee calls for sugar to sweeten it, and the Navajo people eagerly sought refined sugar, which had not been available to them prior to U.S. sovereignity. The typical sweetener of Mexican and Spanish colonial times was panocha, brown lumps used much as white sugar today. Army rations relied most of all upon wheat flour, milled to remove the nutritious husks in order to faster rising in making yeast breads. Inasmuch as the Army failed to employ home demonstration agents to instruct Navajo women in baking techniques at Fort Sumner, Navajo women learned to employ white wheat flour to make 'fried bread' on a modified Mexican model. Rather than shape the dough into very thin tortillas, Navajo woman adopted the quicker course of frying white flour dough in deep fat skillets."
    ---The Navajo People, Henry F. Dobyns and Robert C. Euler [Indian Tribal Series:Phoenix AZ] 1972 (p. 42-43)

    "Fry bread, the important of the foods of the pan-Indian movement and the symbol of intertribal unity, does not represent precontact indigenous foods ro cooking style. The origins of this dish are apparently in the nineteenth century and reflect the ongoing cultural change that happens everywhere. Fry bread usually is made with a dough of wheat flour and milk or water. The dough is leavened with yeast or baking powder, kneaded, flattened into individual patties of farying sizes, and then deep fried. Fry bread is served with a variety of accompaniments, such as honey, maple syrup, and sugar, and sometimes wrapped around hot dogs or other filling in place of a bun or tortilla. The Lakota today sometimes eat fry bread topped with pureed and sweetened fruit pudding. In a variation, popovers (stuffed fry bread) are made by piling raw bread dough with a mixture of cooked beef, chili,onion, tomato sauce, and taco seasoning and then folding and deep frying the result. This dish sometimes is likened to tacos. Whatver the combinations, fry bread has a central role at powwows. Some historians believe that ggru bread originated as a result to Navajo incarceration at Fort Sumner, where the Indians had access only to flour and lard. Other see a connection to Spanish deep-fried churros and sopaipillas, which are flat, lard-fried, breadlike treats often served with sugar. According to another theory, the Plains Indians were among the first to make fry bread, having been influenced in the early nineteenth century by the French, who were particuarly noted for their fine yeast-leavened breads and who, more importantly, maintained influence and contact with tribes throughout the Mississippi area from Canada to Louisiana. Still another claim is that fry bread resulted from the creative efforts of inventive reservation women with government rations."
    ---Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004, Volume 2 (p. 169)

    "In frontier America, as in colonial America, any form of bread made with corn instead of wheat was the sad paste of despair," writes Ms. Fussell (p. 220). "Native corn eaters on the Southwest, whose caste status did not depend upon wheat, nonetheless incorporated wheat into their cornmeal pastes as the incorporated the Madonna into their Corn Mothers. A recipe for contemporary Navaho cake, in Traditional Navajo Foods and Cooking [1983], is a true child of the hybrid cuisine engendered when wheat met corn. (p. 225).

    The earliest recipe we have for modern fry bread dates to the early 1930s:

    "Squaw bread..2 tablespoons Royal baking powder, 1 quart like warm water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon compound, flour enough to make about like biscuit dough. Roll and cut any shape desired. Fry in kettle of boiling compound. Recipe from Nancy Rogers Ware (Cherokee)"
    ---Indian Cook Book, The Indian Women's Club of Tulsa, Oklahoma [1932-33] (p. 7)


    Tacos
    The origins of traditional foods such as tacos cannot usually be traced to a particular year or person. They are foods that evolved because the ingredients and technology needed to cook them were readily available. The history of tacos begins with the story of
    corn and the cooking of tortillas. Taco salad & Taco soup are new to the table.

    "To most people in the United States, a taco is a tortilla bent in half to form a deep U shape, then fried crisp and stuffed to overflowing with ground beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato, and grated cheese. Throughout Mexico, however the simple taco consumed by millions of people daily is a fresh, hot tortilla rolled around some shredded meat or mashed beans and liberally doused with any one of the endless variety of sauces for which Mexico is justly famed, but which are sadly misrepresented this side of the border...Tacos are usually eaten as a snack between meals, in the evening with a bowl of soup for supper, or as an appetizer before the main meal of the day."
    ---The Tortilla Book, Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row:New York] 1975 (p. 53-4)

    Why call them "tacos?"
    "The [National Taco Council] reports this theory of the origin of the word taco: 'It is popularly believed that taco came from the word ataco or atacar, which means stuff--and stuff they have."
    ---"Everything You Wanted to Know About Tacos," Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1972 (p. K9)

    When did tacos become popular in the United States?
    "1931--The Los Angeles restaurant El Cholo opens at 1121 South Western Avenue in a courtyard with a mission-style fountain. Proprietress Rosa Borquez serves enchiladas, chiles rellenos, Sonoran-style chimichangas, burritos, tacos and green-corn and cheddar tamales..."
    The Food Chronology, James L. Trager [Henry Holt:New York] 1995 (p. 467)

    According to El Cholo this restaurant opened in 1927. The history portion of the site does not mention tacos.


    Taco soup
    Taco soup, as we Americans know it today, is a new twist on an old culinary theme. It is based on a long history of "New World" soups and stews. Food historians confirm that spicy tomato-based soups/stews topped with cheese, onions, and chips have existed for hundreds of years. These recipes originated in Central/South America, where tomatoes, chilies and
    maize-based tacos are indigenous. Recipes vary according to local ingrendients and taste. After the Columbian Exchange many European cultures adopted spicy tomato-based soups. Think Gazpacho. Sometimes these soups were topped with crisp bread products. Tortilla soup circa 1940s may be the inspiration.

    Our survey of magazine and newspaper articles reveals recipes called "taco soup" began appearing in American publications in the early 1990s. They were promoted as quick family soups composed primarily of canned items and packaged taco mixes. Ingredients are similar to standard American chili. Presumably, the end-product is thinner (aka soupier) than the traditional chili counterpart. There are several variations.

    Given the timing, it is quite possible the "inventor" of the contemporary American recipe is an innovative marketing team promoting its company's products. It may not be a coincidence that the oldest recipe we find for taco soup was published by Campbell's Soup [1993]:

    "Taco soup
    1 can Campbell's condensed Tomato Soup
    1 soup can water
    1/4 cup salsa or taco sauce
    Crumbled tortilla chips
    Shredded Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
    Sliced green onion (spring onion)
    Sour cream,
    In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, combine soup, water and salsa. Over medium heat, heat through, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle each serving with tortilla chips, cheese and onion; top with a spoonful of sour cream. TIP: To add zip to this Mexican-style soup, substitute shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers for the Cheddar cheese. Makes about 1 1/2 cups or 2 side-dish servings."
    ---Campbell's Simply Delicious Recipes, Patricia Teberg editor [Crescent Books:New Jersey] 2003 (p. 48)

    The oldest recipe we find in a magazine is from 1994:

    "Quick & Easy Can-Do Soups. September's return to car pools, classrooms, and living by the clock needen't be an uphill climb. If you can operate a can opener, you've practically mastered these super speedy soups. Hearty Taco Soup satisfies with its generous assortment of toppings. Shredded cheese and lettuce from a deli salad will give you a head start on preparation."
    ---"Can-do soup," Southern Living, September 1994 (p. 160)

    Related dishes? Tortilla soup, Gazpacho, Taco salad, & Seven layer taco dip.

    Tortilla soup
    We are finding several varations on the Mexican culinary theme of Tortilla Soup. Stock, meat, vegetables and spices vary according to region and period. The common thread for all recipes is the inclusion of crisp tortillas. This crispness is achieved purposely by frying (in fat) or exposing to air (stale). Essentially, tortillas provide the grain component, commonly found in soups throughout the world. European soup grain equivalents are pasta, rice, barley, and dumplings. Food historians generally tell us soup is ancient. It is consumed by all segments of society. Recipes have been shared, imported, adopted and adapted whenever peoples of divergent cuisines meet. This explains why many of the ingredients listed in traditional Mexican Tortilla Soup are from the Old World.
    Tortillas are generally the foods of the common Central American peoples.

    Except for the tomatoes, the other ingredients [chicken, beef, onions, oil, spinach, salt, pepper and cheese are "Old World" foods introduced to Mexico by Spanish settlers. The use of tortillas, in this recipe, more likely descends from European practice of adding crisped bread to soup (think croutons & crackers) rather than ancient Mayan/Aztec customs. Taco soup is the the same idea, a shortcut promoted by commerical food companies. Tortilla soup, a tomato and chicken-broth based recipe topped with tortillas, is more closely aligned with authentic Mexican cuisine:

    "Ten years ago, you had to head to Mexico if you wanted to find a warming bowl of tortilla soup. Today, many people are enjoying Mexican fare and they're searching for authentic dishes, hence, classics like tortilla soup are becoming easier to find on the menus of neighborhood and upscale Mexican restaurants. It's no wonder. This elemental chicken and tortilla brew is like Mexican soul food-almost a national soup. It has been cooked for generations across Mexico by the upscale and humble alike, with each cook-and region-giving it a slightly different twist. Americans' first acquaintance with tortilla soup can be traced to a restaurant in the Zona Rosa, a popular nightlife and restaurant district in Mexico City. Fonda El Refugio started serving authentic interior and coastal Mexican cooking to tourists in the 1960s. Although some will argue that authentic tortilla soup possesses certain characteristics, there's no wrong way to make it. At its most fundamental, tortilla soup, or sopa de tortilla, consists of chicken broth flavored with roasted chilies and served with strips of fried tortillas. Cooks may add what they wish-from bits of chicken and avocado to elegant squash blossoms and vegetables, especially tomatoes. Some purists insist that epazote, a Mexican herb, also is an essential ingredient. Ellen Brown, author of Southwestern Tastes (HPBooks, $19.95), sees tortilla soup as a uniquely southwestern dish that is especially popular in Texas. Several Chicago restaurants serve versions of tortilla soup, including Frontera Grill, 445 N. Clark St. An unequivocal fan, Brown said that, "When I think of tortilla soup, "I think of the Mansion's.""
    ---Tortilla Soup of Mexico," Kim Pierce, Chicago Tribune February 25, 1988 (p. 2)

    [1944]
    "Sopa de Tortilla (Tortilla Soup)

    4 tortillas
    1/4 cup oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1/2 cup tomato puree
    3 quarts broth, chicken or beef
    1 teaspoon cilantro (coriander)
    Sprig mint leaves
    Grated cheese
    Cut tortillas into strips about the size of macaroni. Fry tortillas in oil until crisp, then rmove from pan and drain on absobent paper. Place in pot and add boiloing broth wich has been prepared in the followin manner: Fry onion and tomato puree in the oil which was used in frying the tortillas. Add stock. Mash the cilantro, add a little broth, and strain into the stock Cook half an hour, adding the mint leaves during the last 10 minutes. Serve with grated cheese. Serves 6."
    ---Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta [Dettners Printing House:San Francisco] 1944 (p. 16)

    "Sopa Seca de Tortilla (Dry Tortillas Soup)
    6 tortillas
    1/2 cup oil
    1 onion, minced
    2 cups tomato puree
    6 hard-cooked eggs
    1 bay leaf
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Grated cheese
    Cut tortillas into strips like macaroni. Fry in oil until crisp. Set aside to drain on brown paper. Fry minced onion in oil in which tortillas were fried. Add tomato puree. Season and cook, covered, 30 minutes. Butter a casserole. Place in layers, tortilla strips, sauce, grated cheese, and round slices of hard-cooked eggs. Follow same procedure until all ingredeints are used, having round of eggs for last layer. Cover with remaining sauce. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) 30 minutes. Serves 6."
    ---ibid (p. 17)

    [1958]
    "Sopa de Tortilla (Tortilla Soup)

    It's worth rounding up some fresh cilantro (coriander) for this soup. If you haven't a Mexican store nearby, go to a Chinese one and ask for Chinese parsley (or yinsoits'oi), or plant some seeds from your spice cabinet and wait a month for your soup.
    6 tortillas
    1/4 cup oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1/4 cup tomato puree
    2 quarts broth, chicken or beef
    1 teaspoon fresh cilantro (coriander)
    Sprig of mint leaves
    Grated cheese
    Cut tortillas into strip about the size of macaroni, fry in oil until crisp, then remove from pan and drain on absorbent paper. Place in pot and add boiling broth withc has been prepared in the following manner: Fry onion and tomato puree in the oil which was used in frying the tortillas. Add stock. Mash the cilantro, add a little broth, and strain into the stock. Cook half an hour, adding the mint leaves during the last 10 minutes. Serve with grated cheese. Serves 6."
    ---Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, Elena Zelayeta [Prentice-Hall:Englewood Cliffs NJ] 1958 (p. 21)

    [1964]
    "Sopa Mexicana (Mexican Soup)

    At first glance it may seem presumptious for this simple soup to denominate itself the essence of Mexican soupery, as its name implies. However, the ingredients and methods add up to what our neighbors refer to as netamente Mejicana--netly or one hundred per cent Mexican. This unpretentious, but savory poor man's soup contains the basic recaudo and tortillas; sprinkling cheese over the soup is a national custom...
    1 tsp. chopped onion
    1 large, ripe tomato, chopped
    1 tsp. chopped parsley
    Oil for cooking
    2 qts. soup stock
    1 cup cooked spinach, well chopped
    10 tortillas
    Salt and pepper
    1 cup shredded white cheese, as crumbly as possible.
    Saute the onion, tomato and parsley until the onion is tender. Add the soup stock and chopped spinach and bring to boil. Drop in the tortillas which ahve been quartered and lightly fried in deep fat; don't get them too hard. Serve the soup in bowls and sprinkle on cheese at the last second. Stays eight appetites."
    ---The Food and Drink of Mexico, George C. Booth, facsimile 1964 edition [Dover Publications:New York] 1975 (p. 40)

    Related dishes? Taco soup, Gazpacho, Taco salad, & Seven layer taco dip.


    Tamales & tamale pie

    "Tamales are made for an occasion, and an occasion is made of making them. Men, women, children, and servants all join in with good humor, shredding, chopping, stirring, and cleaning the husks, until all is prepared. Then everyone converges to form a real assembly line, some daubing the husks with masa while others add the filling, fold, and stack into the steamer...Tamales are fiesta food, the Sunday night special in many restaurants, the ceremonial food prepared in honor of the dead on All Saints' Day--and they were eaten by the Mexican rulers long before the Spaniards came to the New World. Those early inhabitants of Mexico also had tamales of corn tassels mixed with aramanth seeds and the meat of ground cherries. And them made them of tender corn, like the uchepos of Michoiacan today. And what an enormous variety there is today, from the smallest norteno to the three-foot sacahuil from the Huastec countury...Probably the most surprising members of the tamal family are the shrimp ones form Escuinapa in Sinaloa. Small unskinned shrimps are used...In Sinaloa, too, they make large tamales like elongated bonbons. They are filled with the usual pork and tomato sauce, but added to it are all sorts of vegetables cut into little strips--zucchini, potatoes, green beans, plantains, and chiles serranos. Chiapas seems to have more than its share of varieties. On the coast there are those of iguana meat and eggs, and inland around Tuxtla Gutierrez the Indians make countless varieites...Tamales colados in Campeche and Merida...are cooked in banana leaves, with a wonderfully savory filling seasoned with achiote and epazote. The tamal itself is made of uncooked tortilla dough that has been diluted in water, strained, and thickened over the fire...Michoaca...is famed for its tamales: the fresh corn uchepos and the corundas--the bread of the Tarascan Indians--made of maize dough leavened with wood ash and wrapped cunningly into rhomboid shapes with the long leaf from the corn stalk...Throughout Mexico there are tamales filled with fish, pumpkin, pineapple, and peanuts, and those made of black and purple corn and rice. Wherever you go you will find something different...The tamales from central Mexico have a white, spongy dough that bears no resemblance to the rather soggy, grayish dough of most commercial tamales available here [in the United States]. Today the Mexican housewife has a choice of many first-class flour prepared especially for tamales."
    ---The Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row:New York] 1972 (p. 84-88) [NOTE: This book contains several tamale recipes.]

    Food historian Sophie Coe noted "Paintings of Classic Maya vases show us plates of round objects with dark spirals on their upper surfaces, exactly the patter one would expect on the cut top of a tamale filled in this fashion...Today tamales are always werved with their wrappers, but this may be because postconquest additions like lard and broth make them too sloppy to be served conveniently without them." America's First Cuisines, [University of Texas Press:Austin] 1994 (p. 148)

    What kinds of tamales did the Aztecs eat?

    "It is said that tamales saved Hernando Cortes and his men from starvation in Mexico. When the Aztecs realized that the Spanish soldiers were not (as had been thought because of their "pure" white skin) high priests from Quetzalcoatl, the god of plenty, they stopped giving the invaders food. Cortes, howeever, had won the loved of a woman named Malinche and told her he would have to leave if his men could not obtain food. Malinche told Cortes to storm the gates of the city on a certain evening. He did, and Malinche led a group of friends who bombard the Spaniards with tamales."
    ---American Heritage Cookbook: and Illustrated History of American Eating and Drinking, Menus and Recipes, [American Heritage Publishing CO.:New York] 1964 (p. 398)

    "Tamales...are an important feature of Mexican food and date back to pre-Columbian times. A specially prepared cornmeal dough, usually stuffed with something but sometimes cooked blind, is steamed inside little...packages of carefully trimmed corn husks or similar wrappings such as banana leaf. The dough is...made from a particular kind of ground nixtamalized corn kernals, and pure lard (which was not used...in pre-Columbian times). It produces what could be described as an aromatic bun with the consistency of firm polenta. Size and fillings vary widely...Sweet tamales are made as well as savoury ones...Tamales are almost invariably eaten with atole, corn gruel. They remain, as in the past, an important festival food...However, tamales have become much more than just a festival food, being available at all seasons; they can be bought from street vendors for breakfast."
    ---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 780)

    "Tamale. A term describing a wide range of dishes based on a cornmeal-flour dough that is placed inside cornhusks (sometimes a banana leaf) and then steamed. Tamales are of Mexican origin and were enjoyed by the Aztecs (the word comes from the Nahuatl tamalli) in several versions, from appetizer to sweet dessert. In Mexico they are traditionally served in restaurants on Sunday nights and as a ceremonial food on All Saints' Day. As early as 1612 Englishman Captain John Smith mentioned a kind of tamale made by the Indians of Virginia, and by 1691 note was made by others of a bean-filled tamale of the Southwest...Tamale pie. A Dish of cornmeal mush milled with chopped meat and a hot chili sauce. The term first appeared in 1911."
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 322)

    Tamales online, GourmetSleuth (good for history, customs & pictures)

    About Tamale Pie

    "Origin of Tamale Pie. In The Dictionary of American Food and Drink (revised edition, 1994), John Mariani writes that the term "tamale pie" first appeared in print in 1911. It may be so, but my own research has turned up nothing that predates World War I. Then, as during World War II, women were urged to save meat. Conservation Recipes (1918), a booklet compiled by the Mobliized Women's Organization of Berkeley and published by the Berkeley Unit, Council of Defence Women's Committee, offers five recipes for Tamale Pie, each from a different woman. All are completely meatless and all contain corn, cornmeal, and tomatoes in some form (puree, sauce, canned tomates., etc.). Some enrich the mix with ripe olives or cheese, and some don't. Tamale pie also appears in Everyday Foods in Wartime (1918) by Mary Swartz Rose, assistant professor, Department of Nutrition, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York...The Tamale Loaf in Good Housekeeping's Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries (1922) also adds ground beef, only here it's cooked, then ground...The July 1941 issue of Sunset published a tamale pie in its popular "Kitchen Cabinet" column and called it a version of "a long-time Western favorite." A Chicken Tamale Pie (with canned corn) makes the 1943 edition of Joy of Cooking and another chicken variation, the 1948 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Tamale pie surged in popularity after World War II, when, according to Gerry Schremp (Kitchen Culture: Fifty Years of Food Fads, 1991), it became the darling of potluck suppers."
    ---The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997 (p. 148)

    Recommended reading: America's First Cuisines/Sophie D. Coe & The Story of Corn/Betty Fussell


    Tortillas
    First, there was
    maize. Then, there were tortillas:

    "Tortilla...a round, thin unleavened bread made from ground maize, a basic food of Mesoamerica. It is not known how many millennia this has been a staple; but when the conquistadores arrived in the New World in the late 15th century, they discovered that the inhabitants made flat corn breads. The native Nahuatl name for these was tlaxcalli and the Spanish gave them the name tortilla...The art of tortilla-making was highly developed by the native Mesoamericans; 17th century Spanish observed, Francisco Hernandez, remarked on the fine, almost transparent tortillas prepared for important people....Fresh tortillas are eaten as bread, used as plate and spoon, or filled to make composite dishes such as tacos and enchiladas."
    ---The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 803)

    "The most common and popular antojito (appetizer) of all is the everyday taco. You just take a warm tortilla, put some cooked and shredded meat across it, couse the meat with a sauce, and roll up the tortilla. In true Mexican style, which you tip one end of it toward your mouth you should curl the other up with your little finger so that none of the sauce is lost. Not quite so common is the fried taco...Of course, there are exceptions to this...for in parts of Jalisco and Sinaloa they make thin tortillas especially for crisp tacos, and in Yucatan the cotzito is a taco, tightly rolled around some shredded meat and fried crisp. In Chihuahua and Baja California they just double the tortilla over and fry it--but it is practically never fried crisp."
    ---The Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy [Harper & Row:New York] 1972 (p. 116-7)

    "Tortillas are small flat maize-flour cakes served hot with a variety of fillings of toppings. They are of Mexican origin, and have become more widely known in the late twentieth century owing to the increasing popularity of Tex-Mex cuisine. Etymologically, the word means virtually 'little tart'. It is an American Spanish diminutive of the Spanish torta, 'round cake', which in turn goes back to late Latin torta (probably source of English tart). It was first mentioned in an English text as long ago as the end of the seventeenth century (Tartilloes are small Cakes made of the Flower of Indian Corn,' William Dampier, New Voyage Round World, 1699), but it did not really become established until the mid-ninetheenth century."
    ---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford Univeristy Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 347)

    "Tortilla...The world comes from the Spanish-American diminutive for the Spanish torta, "round cake." (In Spain, the tortilla espanola is more like an omelet.)"
    ---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariana [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 330)

    "A Spanish tortilla has nothing in common with its Mexican counterpart except its Latin root--torte, meaning a round cake...a Spanish tortilla is simply a potato omelet.."
    ---The Foods and Wines of Spain, Penelope Casas [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1982 (p. 163)

    RECOMMENDED READING
    1. America's First Cuisines, Sophie D. Coe
    2. The Story of Corn, Betty Fussell

    Old world counterparts? Pita, naan, lavash, lefse.


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    © Lynne Olver 2000
    16 February 2014