Today is National Nacho Day, which seems like as good a reason as any to celebrate the splendor of tortilla chips topped with cheese.
1. Nachos Aren’t a New Snack
While new generations of chefs are putting their own spin on nachos, the appetizer has already stood the test of time. The cheesy chips date all the way back to 1943.
2. There Was an Actual “Nacho”
Nacho is a common nickname for the Spanish name Ignacio. The heroic Nacho who is immortalized by the dish first crafted the snack almost by accident, when he was pressured to create a meal using whatever he could find in the kitchen.
3. Nachos Were Invented Right On the Border
As the dish’s origin legend goes, nachos were first crafted by Nacho when he was working as the maître d' of a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Right before closing, a party of women came in for a bite to eat. They were the wives of officers stationed at Fort Duncan in Texas, and would cross over the border to shop. The restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found, but the ladies did not leave disappointed. The maître d' combined the first three things he found in the kitchen: shredded Wisconsin cheddar, tortilla chips, and sliced jalapeños. When the women asked him what this new improvised creation was called, he told them “Nacho Especiales.”
4. Nachos Had Taken America by Storm by 1949
After the new food was unveiled, it started to spread throughout America. In 1949, the dish was first mentioned in English print in a cookbook that gave credit to the original creator.
5. Nachos Are in the Public Domain
The creator never sought to claim ownership of the dish, but his son contacted a lawyer in 1960 to explore the possibility. Unfortunately, too much time had passed, so the recipe was free to the public.
6. Nachos Don’t Have to Be Unhealthy
If you want to cut down on greasy food but aren’t ready to give up nachos, just make some adjustments. For a more diet-friendly snack, try baked tortilla chips, ground chicken, a small amount of cheese, and lots of vegetables.
7. Beef, Beans, and Other Tweaks Are Considered “Modern”
The authentic version of the dish is simply shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and jalapeños, just as the creator made it. Nachos with other additions are considered a spinoff of the original.
8. Tortilla Chips Are An American Invention
Although they’re known as Mexican restaurant staples, tortilla chips could carry an American culinary passport. An American tortilla factory came up with an ingenious way to get rid of their scraps—they took warped and unsellable tortillas, fried them up, and sold them for ten cents a bag. The company managed to get rid of its surplus and make money doing it.
9. “Nacho Cheese” Is Also An American Invention
Nachos were becoming popular in restaurants in Texas, but as they required an oven to melt the cheese, one man sought to make a more convenient solution. Nacho cheese is liquid goo that can be layered over chips quickly. If you’re wondering what’s in it, the recipe is a well-guarded secret.
10. The FDA Doesn’t Consider It a Real Cheese
If you turn your nose up at this liquid cheese, you’re not alone—the concoction does not meet the FDA’s standards for real cheese.
11. Stadiums Love It, Though
The liquid cheese invention did not have to be refrigerated and had a longer shelf life than regular cheese, so it was easy to serve at ballparks. The sauce hit the stands in 1976 and was an immediate hit. Nachos soon outsold popcorn, stadiums’ former bestseller.
12. Nachos Can Take on a Grand Scale
A school in Kansas holds the record for the largest plate of nachos in the world. The gigantic platter weighed a whopping 4,689 pounds, and 2,200 of those pounds were nacho cheese alone. Servings of the 80-foot creation were sold to the masses for a dollar each in an effort to raise funds for charity.
13. The Recipe Is Made to Be Tweaked
Nachos can take on many different forms, including nacho lasagna, chocolate nachos, and even spicy nacho-flavored beer. Although the original recipe is rigid, modern takes can be a lot more creative.
14. Nachos Are Delicious Enough to Carry Two Holidays
In addition to today’s National Nachos Day, Piedras Negras observes the Day of the Nacho on October 21 and has erected a bronze plaque to honor the dish’s creator.
15. Ambitious Cheese Sauce Lovers Can Make Their Own
All you need is milk, butter, flour, and your choice of cheese. There are also plenty of vegan recipes floating around that use vegetables, tofu, and beans as substitutes.