International Day of the Nacho

October 21 has been declared the International Day of the Nacho. Nachos are a Tex-Mex dish from northern Mexico. The dish is composed of tortilla chips (or totopos) covered with cheese or cheese-based sauce, and is often served as a snack. More elaborate versions add more ingredients and can be served as a main dish. Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya is credited with creating the dish in about 1943. The original nachos consisted of fried corn tortillas covered with melted cheese and sliced jalapeño peppers. Nachos originated in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.In 1943, the wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had already closed for the day. The maître d’hôtel, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, invented a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, fried them, added shredded cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, added sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, and served them. Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, “Nacho’s Restaurant”, in Piedras Negras. Anaya’s original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne’s Cookbook. The popularity of the dish swiftly spread throughout Texas and the Southwest. The first known appearance of the word “nachos” in English dates to 1950, from the book A Taste of Texas. According to El Cholo restaurant history, waitress Carmen Rocha is credited with making nachos in San Antonio, Texas, before introducing the dish to Los Angeles at El Cholo Mexican restaurant in 1959.

A modified version of the dish, with cheese sauce and prepared tortilla chips, was marketed in 1976 by Frank Liberto, owner of Ricos Products, during sporting events at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This version became known as “ballpark nachos”. During the September 4, 1978 Monday Night Football game between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys, sportscaster Howard Cosell enjoyed the name “nachos”, and made a point of mentioning the dish in his broadcasts over the following weeks, further popularizing it and introducing it to a whole new audience.
Ignacio Anaya died in 1975. In his honor, a bronze plaque was erected in Piedras Negras. Anaya’s son, Ignacio Anaya, Jr., served as a judge at the annual nacho competition until his death in 2010.

The nutritional breakdown and total calorie count for a serving of nachos typically depends on the type of nacho, type of cheese, and additional toppings (such as beef, jalapeños, etc.) that are included in the serving. Most typical corn tortilla chips have contain about 15 calories per chip. Baked corn tortilla chips have about 6 calories per chip, making them a healthier alternative option to the usual fried chip. Mexican-style cheddar cheese contains about 110 calories per ounce. Adding a source of protein, such as chicken or beef, increases the calorie count by about 100 calories or so. All in all, a single serving of nachos can contain as much as 300 – 600 total calories. A single serving of nachos also contains significant amounts of fat, sodium, and calcium. There are around 16 grams of fat, 816 mg of sodium, and 272 mg of calcium per serving of nachos. In other words, one serving contains 39% of the daily value for fat, 34% of the daily value for sodium, and 27% of the daily value for calcium.

A variation of Nachos consists of a quartered and fried tostada topped with a layer of refried beans and/or various meats and a layer of shredded cheese or nacho cheese, topped with habanero hot sauce. Other variations include barbecue nachos (replace cheese with barbecue sauce) and poutine nachos (replace cheddar cheese with cheese curds and gravy). Although nontraditional, these versions are still classified as nachos. Traditional nachos consist of the tortilla chips topped with cheese and jalapenos, as done by Anaya who created “nachos”. The modern form of nachos has several possible ingredients with the most common toppings being, cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, jalapenos, and sometimes lettuce. Lettuce is a less common topping, if added at all. The topping of the greatest quantity is often the cheese.

Nachos vary from the modern style served in restaurants to the quick and easy nachos sold at concession stands at ballparks. The nachos sold at concession stands consists of tortilla chips topped with pump-able cheese sauce. The cheese sauce comes in condensed form to which water or milk and pepper juice is added. What consists of the condensed form itself is a trade secret.Another variation of nachos is Dessert Nachos. These vary widely, from cinammon and sugar on pita chips to “s’more nachos” with marshmallow and chocolate on graham crackers. For dessert nachos, typically it simply refers to scattered toppings on some form of crispy base.

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