Next up we move to Mexico and our very own Mex it up. If you love chilli, then this is the food for you. It is no surprise that 33 of the countries that form this part of Latin America have the Tortilla as their main staple. Depending on where one resides in Mexico, protein differs (meat is preferred up North, and chicken and veg down South) but all tortillas are serve with corn, beans, avocado, tomatoes and rice.
Food Fact: Did you know that tortilla’s were originally canned. That is a bizarre thought but during the 1980s, many Americans could only find canned tortillas, a creation attributed to El Paso’s George Ashley. El Paso was able to spread Mexican food around world and had some success, but canned tortillas can no longer be found on supermarket shelves today. Thank goodness! Nothing beats fresh cooking and that’s why we highly recommend Mex it up for an authentic experience.
“For nearly half a century, the only tortillas available to the majority of Americans came in cans – sometimes placed in long tin cans so that the tortillas lay flat in their natural state, or stuffed into cans, sold by dozens of companies who wanted to capitalize on the growing American taste for tortillas but didn’t have access to local tortilla factories.
Canned tortillas are almost extinct now, manufactured by only a handful of companies for survivalist purposes, but remain the ultimate testament to America’s desire for Mexican food of any kind, no matter how foul. And it also remains the most influential Mexican food El Paso gifted to the United States.
The man responsible for this curious artefact was George N. Ashley, the founder of Ashley’s Mexican Foods. His place in the pantheon of Mexican food in this country is secured even if the memory of canned tortillas leaves the annals of history for good. For it was Ashley who advanced the idea of Mexican dinners: instead of just offering ingredients and giving customers recipe books to make them, Ashley was the first to can whole dinners – enchiladas, chile rellenos, refried beans, and other treats – and to also freeze them for easier keeping.
The Ashley’s brand is long gone, its trademark logo of a silhouetted, dancing Spanish señorita forgotten, but it stood for decades as the best choice for Mexican food whenever there wasn’t a Mexican restaurant around. Ashley was a railroad engineer by training who found himself out of a job in 1929, as the Great Depression gripped Texas. He opened a dairy store the following year, but wanted to serve Mexican food, partly because he and his family had long enjoyed it but also because Ashley thought Americans preferred a cleaner environment than the one offered at a typical El Paso Mexican restaurant or across the border in Ciudad Juárez. In 1932, Ashley’s incorporated Mexican meals onto their menu.
“Some Mexican restaurants [in the city] still had dirt floors, live chickens in the kitchen, and no refrigeration,” his son George, Jr. told a reporter decades later. “My dad decided then and there that he could make Mexican food and serve it in more sanitary surroundings.”
– Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by G.Arellano