Authentic Mexican Cuisine — Not Quite What You Think it Is

Mexican food has, for decades, loomed large in American cuisine, especially in the Southwest. Our neighbors to the south drew inspiration from Mayan centuries-old dishes and ingredients, and as American settlers moved West, modern Mexican food found a place on American plates and remained a favorite ever since. Today, many decades after Texas settlers first encountered native Mexicans, American fast food restaurants from coast to coast bring Mexican food to hungry Americans. In fact, around 67,300 restaurants in the United States serve a burrito, whether or not it is a Mexican-only restaurant or not. But not everything served is truly authentic Mexican fare.

How Americans Adopted Mexican Cuisine

Texas’ long land border with Mexico is where Mexican cuisine entered the young United States. There, according to The Daily Meal, typical Texas ingredients such as wheat flour and beef, which are rare in Mexico, were used when adapting real Mexican food for an American frontier palate. This became Tex-Mex, and its popularity spread ever since the early 1800s to become the name and face of Mexican food in the States. Chili Con Carne has similar origins, being served at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and ever since, according to The Daily Meal. What we often call “Mexican food” today is in fact a sort of fusion from Texas’ and Mexico’s common border, rather than something original and authentic.

Then What Really is Authentic Mexican Food?

Rather than emphasizing beef and wheat flour, authentic Mexican food focuses not only on corn tortillas, but on vegetables and fruits as well. Tomatoes, onions, avocado, cilantro, poblanos, and white cheese are the staples according to Real Simple, all of which are in fact lean and nutritious food, unlike the fried, wheat and meat-heavy Mexican food found in American restaurants. This benefits adults looking to lose weight and improve nutrition and heart health while still savoring Mexican flavors. A consumer could cook his/her own authentic Mexican food with store-bought ingredients, for example, and have total control of what goes on the plate (and what doesn’t). A whopping 71% of American households cook with Mexican ingredients and make Mexican (authentic or not) dishes, so preparing this cuisine can be a familiar and popular culinary route to take. Or, specialized Mexican restaurants may go the authentic route rather than the common Tex-Mex style, which can have a lot of fat and carbs in it. Americans are often on the lookout for bold new flavors and unfamiliar foods, and given how authentic Mexican food is overshadowed by Tex-Mex, the authentic cuisine may be a huge hit.

Authentic Mexican food packs flavor, nutrition, style, and healthy eating into one package, and the immense popularity of Mexican cuisine in the United States makes it likely that authentic Mexican food, despite the prevalence of Tex-Mex, will also have a place on American dinner tables as well.

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