It’s National Nachos Day, where we celebrate the history and deliciousness of a classic Tex-Mex snack!
While it might be hard to believe a time where nachos didn’t exist (truly dark days), the dish that would eventually become the delicious combination of tortilla chips, cheese, and more toppings than you can shake a breadstick at wasn’t even invented until the 1940s.
The year is 1943. The place is Piedras Negras, Mexico, right across the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. As it was the wartime years, Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass was used as an officer’s club after many decades of being preserved as a historical monument. While the officers commiserated on the war effort, their wives would often get bored and head to nearby Piedras Negras to go shopping.
On one such shopping trip, these soldier’s wives showed up at a hotel operated by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya. The hotel’s restaurant had already closed for the day, but wanting to keep the women’s business, he quickly went into the kitchen to make a snack using whatever ingredients he could find. Those ingredients were tortillas, cheddar cheese, and pickled jalapenos.
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🗓TOMORROW: It’s #NationalNachoDay and that means $5 nachos all day! Join us at any Salsarita’s for your favorite combination of nachos for $5!! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Not valid online. Not valid with any other offers or discounts. Upcharge for steak/shrimp and/or Guacamole may apply.
Thinking fast, Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, fried them up to be nice and crispy, sprinkled some shredded cheese over top, and then slice some pickled jalapenos to mix into the now melted cheese. He called it "Nacho's Especiales,” or Nacho’s Special. And it was an instant hit.
From Piedras Negras, Nacho’s Especiales would quickly spread to nearby Texas by word of mouth. Anaya would go on to found his own restaurant, "Nacho's Restaurant,” which still serves the original recipe. That same recipe then appeared in the 1954 edition of St. Anne's Cookbook, although nachos as a dish began appearing in Texas as early as 1950.
Nachos remained largely unchanged until 1976 when a modified version was served at a Texas Rangers baseball game. Containing prepared tortilla chips and “cheese sauce”, it became known as “ballpark nachos” and would serve as the basis for countless variations picked up by other restaurants and amusement parks.
From there, the stops were off. Nachos can now be served with ground beef, olives, tomatoes, avocados, or salsa. There are even more regional dishes that serve tortilla chips with curry or tomato sauce.
For the real deal, head to Piedras Negras between October 13th to 15th for the International Nacho Festival. The rest of us will have to content ourselves with a bag of tortilla chips and whatever ingredients we have in the fridge, in keeping with Nacho’s original intent (if not his specific recipe).