Ormond Beach Restaurant Blog

How and Why Did Mexican Food Become Popular in America?

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America is essentially a big melting pot of immigrants from all over the world. It’s not surprising that it also includes cuisine that originated in other countries. If you’re looking for a restaurant that serves something other than traditional American dishes, Mexican food is probably the easiest to find. This is especially the case as you get closer to the Southern border. But why and how did Mexican food become so popular?

Immigration

One obvious reason why you may find Mexican food on your plate is immigration. Naturally, the people who immigrate to the United States from South of the border are likely to continue eating the foods they grew up with. Over time, they’ll have shared their dishes with other people, spreading the popularity of this kind of food as fast as they can. Mexican immigrants didn’t just stay near the border, either. You’ll find Mexican cuisine in the North of the country, too, although it may not be as prevalent there is it is in the states that are direct neighbors with Mexico, including California and Texas.

Traditional Restaurants

If you leave your home country and miss the food you eat there every day, it’s only natural to find ways to replace it. Since America is the land of opportunity, many immigrants have capitalized on that nostalgia by opening up Mexican restaurants all over the country. Of course, these restaurants differ widely in price and quality, as there is more than one way to make a good burrito. The great thing is that Mexican restaurants give other Americans the opportunity to try food they would never make at home, because they’re not familiar with it. Of course, you’ll probably have a different dining experience when you order a taco from a street vendor than when you order a dish from a restaurant that serves more traditional Mexican food.

Tortilla Chips

What do tortilla chips have to do with the popularity of Mexican food? Quite a lot. If you didn’t already know this, you might be surprised to learn that tortilla chips are made from the leftover dough that is used to make tortillas. However, tortilla chips weren’t really popular until Frito-Lay mass-produced Doritos – a flavorful tortilla chip. This happened in the 1960s. Nowadays, you expect to see tortilla chips on your supermarket shelf, and they definitely hold their own next to potato chips. If you do travel to Mexico, you may not find tortilla chips as easily, because they were an American invention. In fact, an authentic Mexican experience means something different in America than it does in Mexico.

Authentic Mexican Experience

Americans love good Mexican food. They even created their own version of it. For example, you’ll find Tex-Mex, which is a fusion of Mexican and American cuisines. It’s most popular in Texas, but you can find it almost anywhere. While Tex-Mex sometimes has a negative connotation, it’s really just a little different way of preparing food. For example, cumin is used commonly in Tex-Mex, but it’s not usually found in Mexican cuisine. Mexican cuisine also includes fewer starches, which is why you won’t find an abundance of nachos, tacos, and tortilla wraps on the other side of the border. Of course, an authentic Mexican food experience must always include fresh ingredients.

American Menu Inventions

Most of the Mexican food you’ll find in America includes some purely American inventions. While dishes like fajitas, salsa, tortilla chips, and quesadillas taste delicious, they are native to America and not Mexico. Even enchiladas, tacos, and tamales – which exist in Mexico – are served and cooked differently. For example, many Mexican foods are served spicy, because they were cooked with chili peppers. However, in Mexico the chili sauce is added after the fact. Another ingredient that is usually missing in Mexico: cheese. In contrast, many Mexican dishes served in America include shredded or melted cheese in nearly every dish.  

Healthy Food That Is Delicious

It’s normal for people to eye any foreign food with suspicion. That’s also why it took a while for Americans to adopt Mexican food, which is also the reason why the success of the fast food chain Taco Bell was a big surprise to many. The truth is that Mexican food – when prepared fresh with authentic ingredients – is healthy and delicious. Nowadays, Mexican food (or rather the American version of Mexican food) is so popular that you’ll find it served at games and in schools throughout the country.