Nachos are one of the first things that come to mind when you utter the words ‘tortilla chips’.
It’s a quintessential comfort food. It’s a bit enigmatic too as it happens, crossing culinary boundaries. Some might consider it more Tex Mex than authentically Mexican. It depends on what you think constitutes ‘authentic’. So what’s the deal with nachos?
We asked our Culinary Manager, Carlos Macías, who hails from Celaya, Guanajuato. He says nachos are “more of a snack, like bar food or a starter that gets people in a party mood. Nachos are a kind of maverick dish – more open to a wide variety of toppings”.
In Mexico, you’ll find a dish called Chilaquiles which looks similar to the untrained eye. But there’s a key difference. Carlos describes them as “a main dish, usually bathed with hot (warm) salsa”. So now you know. Nachos were invented by a Mexican man, in a hurry, for a group of unassuming women coming back from a day trip. We had to find out more…
In 1940 a group of military wives crossed the Rio Grande river for a shopping trip. On their way back they visited the Club Victoria restaurant in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico for a drink and a bite to eat.
The maître d’hôtel, Ignacio Anaya García didn’t have any chefs on shift as it was after opening hours. Ever the hospitable host, he went into the kitchen and improvised. Grabbing three ingredients: freshly fried corn tortillas, jalapenos and grated cheese; he layered them and placed the pan into the oven. Little did he know he had, in that moment, created a culinary sensation.
There’s much debate about how the dish was bestowed with the name Nachos. In Latin American countries, ‘Nacho’ is a common nickname for Ignacio. According to one version of the story, the ladies themselves declared the dish ‘Nachos Especiales’.
Mr García eventually opened up his own restaurant named after the dish. His legacy lives on. Nachos have become a firm favourite for people all over the world and the topping combinations are seemingly endless. The city of Piedras Negras commemorates his creation every year with a three-day International Nacho Festival, and guess what? His son works as one of the judges for that very festival.
Google Doodle by artist Alfonso de Anda marking the inventor’s 124th birthday
The dish became the proverbial Elvis of the food world when they entered popular culture. Texan businessman Frank Liberto saw an opportunity to serve nachos in baseball and football games in the 1970s and it took off in a big way. He’s the reason nachos are synonymous with sports and cinema. As with all food, there’s the cordon bleu quality and then there’s cheap and cheerful. There’s a time and a place for every serve.
If you’re hungry for more, we love this article The Original Nachos Were Crunchy, Cheesy and Truly Mexican from the New York Times. It shares some fascinating details about how Mexico and America experienced a “shared culinary reality” as ingredients crossed the border and were bartered with. The intermingling of food and culture leads to some innovative creations, like this favourite snack. Whether you like yours heaving with cheese, or delicately balanced with different toppings; one thing’s for sure, this is ‘nacho’ average food provenance story.
For nachos with a fresh, seasonal twist, try making Blanco Niño Summer Nachos. We think it’s a crowd pleaser!