Throughout our country’s history, the foods we enjoy incorporate a melting pot of cultural influences. Hispanic cuisine is one of America’s favorites, evolving into a staple as supermarkets, natural and organic food stores, and restaurants boast more offerings than ever before.   

Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is the perfect time to enjoy the Latino foods and ingredients that have reshaped American cooking and dining.   

“Mexican food, in particular, has become one of the most popular types of cuisines in America,” says renowned restaurateur and cookbook author B. Smith (right), who serves as national spokesperson for the Lawry’s “Cooking Up Culture” campaign.   

“Some longstanding, traditional dishes in America have roots in Mexican cuisine,” she says. “Tacos, tamales and enchiladas, to name a few, are traditional Mexican dishes that can be found at any given time on American dinner tables. But you don’t have to limit yourself to those traditional favorites when cooking at home. It’s easy to add the essence of Mexico to any meal.” (Think spices, herbs and marinades.)   

While many American favorites like chili, fajitas, salsa, tortilla chips, quesadillas, burritos and nachos were influenced by Mexican cuisine, they are homegrown American inventions that are not considered “authentic” Mexican. Even dishes that exist in Mexico, like enchiladas, tacos and tamales, are cooked and served differently in the United States. True Mexican dishes are not cooked to be as spicy as their American versions.   

Authentic Mexican food also tends to use much less melted cheese. And of the menu items enjoyed in America and Mexico, guacamole may be the most consistent recipe of all Mexican-inspired dishes. Although there are some variances in American versus Mexican preparations, this Mexican staple almost always combines avocado, chiles, cilantro, onions and lime juice and is enjoyed by most fans of Mexican cuisine.   

“It’s also important to recognize that when we enjoy Mexican cuisine, we’re also enjoying global flavors from other cultural cuisines, such as the European and Native American cultures,” Smith says. “No cuisine is purely indigenous to one country. The discovery of new lands and new people always brought with it new traditions from around the globe.”   

Tune in tomorrow for our weekend recipe: Shrimp Chiles Rellenos. 

The Cookbook Shelf 

Photo courtesy of Lawry’s