To examine the history of Mexican food, one has to travel back to the time before the 1300s when Mayan Indians were the habitants of what is now Mexico. In fact, Mayan use of corn, a staple in Mexican cooking, can be traced even further back, to 500BC. However, by the 1300s, the Aztecs were well entrenched and had become the dominant population. It is around this time that their use of chili peppers, salt, honey, and, chocolate started to appear in Mexican dishes.
Two hundred years later, the Spaniards invaded Mexico and so Spanish food also became entwined with Mexican cooking. It is easy to understand that after 200 years of rule by the Aztecs, Mexican food had already undergone huge changes. Yet, Spanish influence heralded the introduction of entirely new foods; dairy foods, exotic spices, herbs, and, garlic.
Over the next few hundred years, many countries influenced the development of Mexican cuisine. As a result of being invaded, or, due to trade with other continents, Mexican food combined with food and recipes from the Portuguese, French, Africans, and Filipinos’.
The Flan, a custard based dessert, has long been associated with traditional Mexican food, however, the flan came to Mexico through the European invaders and its history can be traced back to Medieval Europe. The Spanish influenced the development of quesadilla and the extensive use of avocado, hence, guacamole was concocted. The Mexican sweat tooth can be traced back to the invasion by the French who brought with them sweat breads and desserts.
And so, even in Mexico, what we consider to be traditional Mexican food is typically already influenced by the foods of many countries.
Outside of Mexico, cultural influences on Mexican cuisine continues. Tex-Mex cuisine originated in Texas and is a combination of Mexican and North American food. Tex-Mex food incorporates American cheese (Traditional Mexican food does not include cheese), beans, spices, and, tortillas. Even chili con carne and fajitas evolved from the combination of cooking from Mexico, Texas, and the Southern United States. Nachos are definitely an American invention and can only be found in parts of Mexico that attract high numbers of American tourist.
Originally and abbreviation for the Texas Mexican Railway train that ran from Texas to Mexico, the word Tex-Mex, when used in relationship to food, is said to have first appeared in the New York Times in 1963. Although Tex-Mex refers to a certain combination of food cultures, around the world it is a phrase that is synonymous with American-Mexican food. The dishes are based on the food available in the region of Texas and Northern Mexico – beef.
The mingling of food and the development of inspiring dishes continues. The food combination in the southwest, which includes the areas of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and, California, is known as New Mexican Cuisine and is very different to the Tex-Mex of the South. It combines more of what would be called regional American food, with Mexican food.