Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nachos, as Mexican as tequila

What to many may be an invention of U.S. cuisine as part of that never-ending desire to flirt with its southern neighbor, turns out to be more Mexican than expected. That is so because nachos were born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, a Mexican town close to Eagle Pass, Texas.
According to several authors, in October 1943 a group of American ladies arrived at a restaurant called Club Victoria, which had closed for the day. However, the gallantry of the manager, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, not only erased their hunger, but he made something out of the little that he had on hand. With corn tortillas and cheese, he created what we now know as nachos, though he named them Special Nachos.
For Adriana P. Orr, a librarian who worked for a quarter century as a researcher at the Oxford English Dictionary, her investigation concluded when she found a 1949 cookbook titled “A Taste of Texas,’ edited by Jane Trahey, which included a comment on the authorship of the nachos, giving credit to Anaya, as she stated in her article, “Nachos, anyone?”,  published by the dictionary in 1999.
Karen Haram agreed with Orr, as she stated in an article entitled “The Legend of Nacho’s Appetizer,” published by the San Antonio Express-News in 2002. She interviewed Ignacio Anaya Jr., son of the creator of the universal snack, who corroborated the story of the creation.
According to Orr and Haram, the originator of the dish died in 1975.
“I did not know about that story, but almost all Tex-Mex style food has its origins in Mexico,” said Gonzalo Aguilar, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico, who is a cook at a seafood restaurant in east Tulsa. “I have a very good recipe for nachos with beef. And it ends up the way I like it: spicy.”
Aguilar’s nachos have chipotle peppers, jalapeños, beans, peeled tomatoes, garlic, beef, and of course, chips. “You can’t leave out the jalapeno slices,” he said.
The flavors of the Mexican states of Sonora and Puebla are present in the nachos served by Luis Mercado and Javier Manríquez, owners of a mobile food outlet next to Plaza Santa Cecilia in east Tulsa.
“The Sonora style nachos come with beans and ground beef,” Mercado said. “The Puebla style are for people who are dieting; they come with chunks of chicken and pico de gallo.”
Gonzalo Mejia, a native of Jalisco, Mexico, and a cook in a taco truck on the city’s northwest side, said “the original nachos have beans, tomatoes, jalapeño, guacamole, sour cream and on top, meat or chicken.”
Whether they originated here or south of the border, nachos represent – at least in their  ingredients – the Hispanic cookbook.

Did you know?
October 21 is International Day of the Nacho.

Who were Frank Liberto and Howard Cossell?
Liberto and Cossell are considered promoters of nachos in the United States. Liberto adapted Anaya’s recipe to suit the palate of his customers in the baseball stadium in Arlington, Texas, while Cossell was responsible for popularizing it among football fans.

Photos by Juan Miret

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