Good morning and welcome to another edition of the Guide’s food celebration extraordinaire. Since none of us would survive without food very long, we need to celebrate the life-giving sustenance we derive from the deliciously tasting treats we can concoct. Whether celebrating our daily bread, being grateful for the amazing things you can do with cheese or even a cupcake, the Guide feels it’s important to celebrate the food we have around us. So every week we dig into the finest of fake food holidays and dig out another treasure. While I thought about doing trick or treat day, I just felt like it was too easy being Halloween and everything. So when I looked and thought, one food eventually stood out above the rest. Hence, this week the Guide celebrates National Nacho Day, November 6th.
As for my experience with nachos, the first time I remember having nachos was at a church event when I was about eight years old. Here was cheesy goodness, dripping over crispy tortilla chips and covered with pickled jalapenos, ready to devour. I remember immediately being delighted by the spicy cheese running down the back of my throat, mixed with the crispy chips and a counterpoint with the jalapenos kicking up the spice quotient. I knew immediately I loved this dish. What I didn’t understand, evidently, was that the dish was very spicy. People came out of there demanding something to drink to deal with the heat.
This fact should not have surprised me. But I had an incident as a two-year-old that forever changed my relationship to spicy foods. At two, I loved sugar. Ok, maybe that never changed. I always loved sugar. But I loved it at two as well. I remember my mother having jars of things. One particular jar, I recognized as sugar. Or at least I swore it was sugar. I do not know what I was thinking to be honest other than I was going to have something delicious going down my tongue. Well, that deliciousness turned dark very quickly. As I realized I pounded a large quantity of black pepper and swallowed it whole.
I do not know whether the response occurred immediately or took a few seconds. What I can tell you was that I felt a fire in my throat that I never felt before, and never have since, Chinese red peppers coming the closest. I ran to my mother screaming that I had eaten sugar and it hurt. She ran to the kitchen and discovered an open bottle of pepper that I swallowed. Off they ran me to the hospital to discover that severe sores covered my mouth and throat. It was so bad I couldn’t eat solid food for three months. All my foods were liquids. And they were not sure how extensive the damage was.
They told my mom they couldn’t know whether my taste buds would come back fully. Thankfully, slowly but surely they did. Day by day I could eat a little more. And day by day I could eat foods that were a little more solid. But one unexpected outcome of this was spicy foods tasted better than plain foods. They allowed me to taste things better as they awakened my dormant buds.
This side benefit allowed me to appreciate things like nachos and other spicy foods in a way that other people couldn’t handle. And so nachos quickly became among my most favorite of foods. Not only did it have that cheesy goodness. But it proved I could actually taste things and I would not lose my ability to taste all the delicious food out there. So thank you nachos! And thank you spice food! For without your reminder, life would be much less flavorful.
The Fake Food History Behind The Nacho
For you Guide aficionados out there, you know we have reached the portion of this food celebration where we delve into the amazing fake food history behind our favorite dishes. This means delving into the deep web or using our time machine to take us on adventures to unknown lands and discover the history behind our favorite foods. Or it means that we do some research and we make a ton of things up. Whether you can tell the difference can be anyone’s guess. What we can tell you is this, you will enjoy our filling in the gaps of the marvelous food history we discovered.
But the Nacho represents something altogether different. What’s different about the Nacho, as opposed to other food histories, is that there is a specific story behind its invention and creation. As opposed to other stories where we feel like not much may be known, with the Nacho we know everything. And the fantastical story needs no embellishment, mostly. Whereas I have had struggles finding the history of the potato or deciphering cave paintings to get the history behind honey, no such struggles exist here. And we did not need to change the names to protect the guilty, which makes our legal team so much more relaxed. So without further ado, the Guide presents to you the Fake History of the Nacho.
Once upon a time, in the land of Mexico, lived a man by the name of Ignacio Anaya. But everyone called him Nacho. Because he always said stuff like Nacho business. Or Nacho food to the drunks who would come in and try to steal from the kitchen. He was the maître d’hotel of a hotel and restaurant in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. They stationed lots of military families in and around Eagle Pass. And the wives would frequently go south of the border to do some shopping. This occurred long before the days where we got weird about walls and borders.
Three women named Jalapeña, Cheddah, and Chippy walked into the restaurant of the hotel after the restaurant had closed. But Nacho, while not particularly kind to the drunks, definitely wanted to encourage American dollars to be spent south of the border. So he reasoned that he needed to make something up on the spot for the women who had come to him to get something to eat and out from under the hot weather they were having.
So as he arrived in the kitchen, he noted the crazy mess that was inside. He had some tortillas out there and some oil to fry stuff with that the staff should have dumped at the end of the day. So he decided to cut up the tortillas and fry them for the women. But he needed something to go with it. Inside the refrigerator, there were lots of odds and ends, but nothing that he felt like he could do quickly. He was not a chef after all, and only running the hotel. So he ran to the fridge and got the first thing he could. He grabbed cheese they shredded earlier that day and might spoil quickly. And to top it off, Nacho added some pickled jalapeños he found lying around.
The ladies took to the dish like bread on butter. It turned into an instant hit. When asked what the dish was to be called, he replied Nacho’s Especiales. Evidently, over time, the apostrophe was lost and it became Nachos special, and eventually special Nachos. This dish became so popular he went on to be a chef in the kitchen before eventually establishing his own place called Nacho’s in the same town. And this recipe was originally printed in the 1954 St. Anne’s cookbook.
As with most popular dishes, someone else does claim to have made the dish first. El Cholo restaurant history states a waitress named Carmen Rosa invented the dish in the early fifties before moving out to California. She would then introduce the dish to El Cholo in 1959 in Los Angeles. Of course, this occurred 5 years after first being in a cookbook. So you be the guess of who lies and who tells the truth here.
For those of you who love nachos, but prefer the cheese sauce version of it with mixed in pickled jalapeno juice, you will have to credit that to Frank Liberto, owner of Ricos products who helped sell food at the ballparks. He turned the shredded cheese into cheese sauce and ended up calling them ballpark nachos. Of course, this version of the nacho would spread and is frequently the most common version of the nacho outside of higher scale restaurants who still use the original shredded cheddar.
This, my friends, is the history behind that amazing dish, the nacho. Of course, now we add a ton of other condiments to it. Whether ground beef, pork, chicken, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, chives, or olives, the Nacho represents the Mexican version of Heinz 57 ketchup. There are literally hundreds of varieties of the dish. But they all begin and end with cheese, chips, and jalapenos.
5 Best Nacho Places in Southern California
I know you are thinking what with the history of the Nacho, we couldn’t possibly do more to celebrate the food holiday. But the Guide prides itself on always giving you more. So we here at the Guide make sure to give you the best recipes or locations for your favorite dishes. Normally, we would want to have a recipe as we love to have things that you can make at home. But we honestly do not have anything unique or different to add to the Nacho dish. But many restaurateurs do. And as such we are going to give you my five favorite Nacho places in Southern California. So here they are.
5) Casa De Reyes – Old Town San Diego
Located in the heart of Old Town San Diego and run under the auspices of the Old Town Family Hospitality Corporation, this restaurant really turns up the old world with dancing productions, amazing food, and plenty of visual stimulation included. And the Mexican food located there is second to none. But I’m all about the nachos, and you get some delicious classic nacho fare there. Between the fresh corn chips, tons of melted cheese, beans, pico de gallo, jalapenos, sour cream and guacamole, this will take you back to the nachos your mother used to make. Between the ambiance and the food, there is nothing like it in Southern California.
4) Komodo – Los Angeles and Venice
Began in 2009 as an attempt at California and Asian Fusion cuisine, Komodo blends Mexican cuisine with Korean fare like no one else around. And they have one of the most amazing Nacho dishes in all of Southern California. Covered in Chicken and Bacon and smothered in cheese and Kimchi, you will never taste another nacho dish out there like it. If you love your spice like I do, you will definitely make your way out to Komodo to try out this amazing nacho dish.
3) El Cholo – Los Angeles and Orange County
While they may not be the place that created the original nacho dish, the restaurant who so popularized the dish throughout the west does make some pretty amazing Nachos. Between the cheddar and Jack cheeses and the Jalapeños and chips, you cannot go wrong. But they also have another more complex version of the dish with beans, guacamole, and salsa. On top of this, they make their chips in-house and have a sweet and crispy taste to them.
2) Wingnuts – Costa Mesa
While their chicken Nachos are very delicious, it’s the Far East Nachos that gets my taste buds singing. Those crispy wonton Nachos with the creamy garlic dipping sauce, teriyaki chicken and sauce, olives, green onions, melted cheddar and fresh tomatoes just melt in your mouth. I know it’s a bit odd that a wing place has such amazing nachos, but it without a doubt is among my favorite Nacho places throughout Southern California. Around since 2002, it does have a bit of a sports bar niche as well as a hanger type theme. But Wingstop focuses on its wings. But my favorite by far is the nachos.
1) Sky’s Gourmet Tacos – Mid-City
One of the few places that do a variety when it comes to Nachos from vegan to filet mignon and everything in between, Sky Gourmet Tacos does not skimp on the flavor when it comes to your Nacho tastebuds. While tacos may be their specialty, they do not skimp when it comes to flavors and varieties on their Nachos, which is a pleasant surprise as most people follow the exact same recipe. If you are looking for full flavor and variety, you will not find a better place.
Continue The Conversation –
So what did you think of the history of the nacho? It’s so funny that everything in there is pretty much verbatim from the history I found, with the exception of the names of the women who were military wives visiting the town. I guess sometimes life itself makes the best fake history. Or in this case, real history. And if you love nachos, where are your favorite places to get them. Given that it’s Tex Mex Cuisine, can you find it in other places outside the United States or not, and what unique flavors do they concoct? I always love hearing from you.
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If you liked this post, please like the post at the end underneath the comments. And definitely follow me here at the Guide. As things are transitioning, I am hoping to get things under control and I look forward to getting a regular newsletter out. In it, make sure you read it and you will get the password with access to the Dad Rules. These are ten rules every dad should follow and every father should know about. Thank you for stopping by for another food holiday, and be sure to check us out next week for another edition of our food holiday series.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David “Nacho” Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life