I just came across this gem 11 “Mexican” Foods You Won’t Find in Mexico, which concludes: “Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex cuisines are actually more popular in the U.S. than authentic Mexican cuisine, and while these hybrids may have roots in Mexico, they’re truly American inventions.”
I read that and squinted a little. Okay… so Americans invented the burrito because they put rice in it? But then you go on to read the rest of his article about what’s real and authentic about Mexican cuisine. Fine, great. Texas-style chili is definitely not Mexican, but who thought it was?
But the post is called 11 Mexican foods you WON’T FIND in Mexico. And… er… I was like wait. I mean, I know that he’s probably not super familiar with Mexico but you do know that we have grocery stores here? And Walmarts? And Costco? Do you think everyone lives in some tiny puebla where their abuelita is outside cooking tortillas on an open fire? Never mind, I totally want that.
Okay let’s take a peek at this list of things Mexicans would probably faint if they ever saw because it’s so unheard of here in Mexico:
Cheddar Cheese Enchiladas
“Cheese isn’t nearly as essential to Mexican cuisine as it is to Tex-Mex. In Mexico, enchiladas may be garnished with a sprinkle of crumbly queso fresco, but shredded cheddar is non-existent there.”
Well, unless he’s talking about enchiladas suizas, which are covered in cheese. He said it doesn’t exist – it’s not real – it’s not authentic. You won’t find it! In fact, I even went so far as to venture out to my local grocery store to take photos of cheddar cheese. Because yes, dear food writer from Park Slope NY, they do have cheddar this far south of the border. Amazing.
“The vast majority of the time, tacos in Mexico are made with two small corn tortillas, topped with meat and possibly a sprinkling of onion and cilantro and a drizzle of thin salsa. This whole Ortega hard-shell taco with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, and shredded Cheddar? American.”
Has he heard of tostados? I don’t want to BLOW HIS MIND but here in Mexico they do eat crunchy hard-shelled tacos, they just aren’t folded in half. They are open-faced, which in my mind is even better for piling on lettuce (yes), tomatoes (in the form of pico and salsa) and ground beef/chorizo, shredded chicken, fried fish/seafood. And they are served everywhere.
We love them! Here’s the display in the grocery store:
“While nachos were in fact invented in Mexico in 1943, they were created by the maître d’ of a restaurant just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, for the wives of American servicemen after the restaurant had closed. The name of the inventor? Ignacio Anaya, or Nacho for short. Their popularity spread through Texas before reaching California and the rest of the country.”
And since we’re talking about a post called “Things not in Mexico” I’d like to point out that they do eat nachos here too. That guy Nacho was pulling a fast one. “Here are some totopos, with some cheese and salsa on it. I invented it.” 75 years later a guy’s quoting him online.
Typically it’s just chips and salsa, I will give him that, but we also have really gooey nacho type things here too. Really? Yes! I’m not saying it’s the height of Mexican cuisine, but yes, even Mexicans can eat bad Mexican.
At almost every Oxxo (like a 7-11) there’s a big nacho cheese dispenser for you to pour yellow cheese on tortilla chips. In fact if you search online you can buy a used “despachadora de queso para nachos” like this one:
“According to Gustavo Arellano’s Taco USA, these rolled and fried tacos were first served by a chef named Aurora Guerrero, who invented them at her Los Angeles restaurant Cielito Lindo in 1934.”
Okay but he’s saying you won’t find them in Mexico. Pop over to my local Chedraui, here in Oaxaca, Mexico and boom:
So yes, there are things in Mexican cuisine that as a rule don’t happen south of the border as much as it happens in the states. But if we’re going to talk about authentic Mexican I’d say the biggest differences are:
1. A lack of recognition of the different regions – there’s no mono-Mexican cuisine. Even the humble taco is served completed differently from one state to another. Don’t give me enchiladas, give me enchiladas mineras like they serve in Guanajuato. Be specific.
2. The over simplification of food – for example you rarely see sopes or garnachas on menus. If there’s mole, it’s always mole negro not one of the hundred other styles. There’s so many different versions in Mexico that I rarely if ever encountered in the US.
3. If you aren’t making tortillas fresh at least daily, (and if they are doing tacos, then per order) then you’re committing a small culinary crime, in my opinion – also the reason more Americans seem prefer flour to corn tortillas… they simply haven’t had fresh corn tortillas.
But Mexico is very connected to the world. Beyond these “not real” foods they seem intent on eating, they also have French pastries, Danish blue cheese, American and gluten-free bagels, and bad jarred Thai curries (just like they sell in American super markets). As the middle class becomes more affluent, more and more convenience foods show up, just like in America. It’s not some culinary land of purity down here, although I have to say they’ve gotten a lot of things right.