Anyone can stroll into Papa Lopez Mexican Cantina and enjoy a delicious meal without knowing about the history and background of the Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican dishes. However, cultivating a deeper understanding of the traditions of Mexican food will give you a deeper appreciation for it. It's also essential if you want to bring that tradition home and start cooking your own tasty Mexican dishes between visits to our restaurant.
Culinary Building Blocks
As with any country, the traditional foods of Mexico are based on the crops that grew there before trade brought in exotic ingredients like sugar, cocoa, and unusual spices. Corn was the staple grain of the area for thousands of years, so it's only natural that it's used to make sopas, tortillas, and many other bread-like dishes. Beans and rice also grew well, especially in areas with seasonal rains, so the Spanish rice and refried beans you enjoy today are part of a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Pigs and chickens are easy to raise on food scraps and little grain, so chorizo, carnitas, and numerous pollo dishes are all favorites that Mexican home cooks have been relying on for generations.
The Spanish Arrival
Of course, the Mexican and Tex-Mex food we eat today was permanently altered by the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico during the 1500s. They brought cows and sheep, introducing dairy into Mexican cuisine. Today's creamy queso topping over a steaming hot dish of your favorite Papa Lopez enchiladas would not exist if not for the arrival of cheese. Garlic and new spices were also brought into the country, resulting in the complex flavors you can find today in modern Mexican food. We'd have no quesadillas, and definitely no cheese to spread over a bed of chips to make nachos, if not for the Spanish infusion of new flavors and dishes. Black pepper, cilantro, and oregano were all introduced around this time, while the chili peppers used for hot sauce and salsa were first bred in Mexico and later spread to the rest of the world.
Drinking in Mexico
Everyone knows about tequila, the liquor made from fermented and distilled agave nectar, but it's far from the only drink in Mexico. Beer is very popular and first arrived when Germans and Dutch immigrants brought along brewery equipment and set up their own companies. Mexicans took to the fermented drink well because it's similar in some ways to pulque, tepache and tejuino, drinks made from agave sap, pineapple and corn flour, respectively.
Ready to develop your appreciation for Mexican food in a more hands-on way? Swing by Papa Lopez Mexican Cantina for lunch or dinner and experience all the flavors for yourself. You'll leave with the satisfaction of knowing there's always more to learn about Mexican food during your next trip to see us.