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What to Know About Mexican Culture and Cuisine Before Your Next #TacoTuesday

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In recent years, Mexican food has become all the rage. You see everything from #margaritamondays to #tacotuesdays to #fiestafridays on social media — there seems to be a Mexican themed dish or drink for every day of the week! It seems that tacos, burritos, salsa, tortillas, and enchiladas are as common as hamburgers in “American” cuisine these days. In 2011, there were almost 40,000 Mexican restaurants across America. And even more interesting, over 70% of American households use Mexican ingredients or eat food made popular by Mexican cuisine (think: tortillas, salsa, guacamole, etc.,). How did this happen? Where can you find the best Mexican food? When trying a new cuisine, it’s always interesting to learn the background behind it — a peek inside a new culture! Indeed, it may even inspire you to seek out authentic Mexican food, which is really the best Mexican food. Americanized Mexican food has certainly become mainstream in our culture, but a taste of the real thing might make you never go back!
The Popularity of Mexican Food
One out of every ten restaurants in the United States serves Mexican food — that makes it the most popular type of international cuisine nationally! Mexican food is also the most popular ethnic food in the United States, with over 40% of a share of ethnic food sales. There are over 65,000 restaurants in the United States that serve a burrito and salsa is now the number one condiment in the United States, even past ketchup and mayo, which are “typical” American condiments! And even more interesting: tortillas have been outselling hot dog buns since 2010!
Tex-Mex (which first occurred in the 1940s) might be in part responsible for this popularity, in addition to Mexican immigrants. Tex-Mex is also a great example of our integration with our neighbor, Mexico; the cuisine is a fusion of the two countries. Interestingly enough, Mexico is also in the top four “megabiodiverse” countries globally; between 60-70% of the well-known diversity of the globe is located in Mexico, which may also explain the versatility and vibrance of their cuisine.
Digging a Little Deeper
Mexican cuisine is believed to have its origins in the Mayan Indians and what they cooked 2,000 years ago! They lived off the land, using beans, corn, peppers, various fruits, and chocolate in their cooking, as well as an assortment of meat — all of which is expressed in modern Mexican cuisine today.
Enchiladas were first mentioned in the United States in 1885, but the idea of the tortilla wrap dates all the way back to the Aztecs. For etymology fans, “enchilada” means “in chile.” There are seven moles (sauces) of Oaxaca. These are negro (black/chocolate mole), rojo (red) mole, coloradito (brown), amarillo, verde, chichilo, and manchamantel.
Popular Mexican foods in the United States include burritos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, plantains, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, and churros. Margaritas are also quite popular, as is horchata. The vibrant colors and complex flavors of Mexican food attract people, as well as the heartiness of the food.
Where Can You Find the Best Mexican Food?
There may be some heated debate about where to find the best Mexican food, but it’s not hard to figure out how to spot authentic Mexican food. Eating in an area that has a large Mexican influence will usually ensure a taste of the authentic — these may not be the flashiest or best known restaurants, but they’re sure to be delicious.
Of course, a trip to Mexico will also ensure you an authentic taste of Mexican cuisine, and you’re likely to find other delicious dishes that haven’t made their way across the border! And authentic Mexican food may also be healthier than the Americanized version (less cheese, for example). Don’t be afraid to be adventurous — take a culinary journey that’s sure to leave you craving more.
If you’re looking to explore a new cuisine, consider trying Mexican food! It has quite a following in the United States and trying everything from Tex-Mex to authentic Mexican food will bring a host of new flavors, tastes, and textures to your tastebuds. You may find your new favorite food by venturing outside your comfort zone!