Throwback Thursday: Latin American Influence on American Foods

While the sitcom Seinfeld may have been marketed as a show about nothing, that didn’t mean the show didn’t offer audiences any relevant information. Take for instance a 1992 episode where George Costanza alerted viewers to a very important fact: salsa had overtaken ketchup as the most popular condiment in America.

Since 1992 mayonnaise has taken the title of number one condiment, but salsa still outranks ketchup in popularity. Inspired by of Jerry and George’s musings on the appeal of salsa and the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, this Throwback Thursday focuses on Latin American influences on American foods.

Hispanics and non-Hispanics believe that American food has been significantly impacted by the Hispanic culture, and Mexican food has been of particular influence on the American culture. According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota and author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, the first tacos appeared in the United States in the early 20th century, when Mexican migrant workers were starting to come across the border. Once hard shell tacos were invented in 1947 as an alternative to corn tortillas that didn’t last very long, the taco started to spread outside of the Mexican-American community.

This food invention led to American businessman Glen Bell to open up a small chain in San Bernardino, CA called Taco Tia in 1954. That chain may not sound familiar to you, but in 1962, Bell decided to open up another Mexican-inspired restaurant: Taco Bell. Taco Bell is credited with making Mexican food more appealing to the United States, where many Americans had previously regarded it with suspicion. Today, Taco Bell sells over 2 billion tacos a year, with 6,500 locations in all 50 states and nearly a dozen countries.

Taco Bell and other fast food chains such as Chipotle are not the only way that American taste buds are being influenced by Latin American cuisine. Hispanic food is relatively easy to make at home and many brands such as Kashi and Marie Callender’s have added Latin American-inspired frozen food options to their repertoires. This trend is apparent in snack food as well, with many chip brands boasting a jalepeno or chile flavor. Celebrities have even been influenced by Latin American cuisine in the creation of their own food brands; Justin Timberlake recently launched his own tequila line, Sauza 901, and Eva Longoria owns a Latin American steakhouse restaurant called Beso.

Hispanics make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population, so it’s really no surprise that Latin American food has had an influence American cuisine, and their culture will undoubtedly keep adding flavor to foods globally.

Cover Photo Source: Dallas Events Inc

Jenny is a Junior Executive at SJG. She earned her BA in Psychology and a minor in Educational Studies in 2014 from Colgate University. Outside the office, Jenny loves to travel (usually to Disney World), bake and watch copious amounts of TLC.