Why Are Mexican and American Food Different?

By Ken Kudra

Everyone knows that Mexican food is different and that Mexican food recipes are definitely not the same as American recipes. Unlike Canada, which has a culinary tradition which is quite similar to our own, America's neighbor to the south has a radically different way of cooking, with many recipes and ingredients which are unfamiliar to the American palate - but what is it that has caused such a divergence in the cuisines of the two neighboring nations?


There are two important reasons why Mexican food differs so greatly from the standard fare in the United States. One is historical. Unlike the United States, Mexico spent a much longer time as a Spanish colony than did the US. It is true that parts of the US were originally Spanish territories, though the Spanish colonial period lasted for a much briefer length of time here, with the influence of Spanish cuisine being pronounced mostly in regions, which were once Spanish territory, largely those bordering Mexico.

By contrast, what is now the United States was largely colonized by immigrants from Northern Europe, especially the English, Dutch and Germans, with French settlers in some areas and later on, immigrants from eastern Europe and Scandinavia - and to a lesser extent, literally every other part of the globe.

Colonists who came to Mexico from Europe came by and large from Spain and had a deep and lasting influence on what is now the nation of Mexico. Many classic Mexican recipes are either Spanish and are made much the same way as they are in Europe or are adaptations of Spanish dishes using local ingredients as substitutes for those, which were unavailable in the Americas.

Mexico has of course had significant numbers of arrivals from outside of Spain since, especially settlers from Syria and Lebanon, who brought one of their traditional dishes - shawarma with them. This has been adapted into the Mexican classic al pastor. However, the Spanish influence is stronger than any other in the Mexican kitchen is.

Since the US has a much more diverse population, no single nationality's cuisine ever assumed quite the dominance over American cooking as can be seen in Mexico with Spanish influence. The development of Mexican food is largely the product of two cuisines rather than many melding together over time.

Different Ingredients

The other important factor in the difference between the cuisines of Mexico and the US is in the ingredients used. Just like in this country, Mexican cooks and Spanish colonists alike have always worked with the ingredients, which were widely available. In Mexico, of course that meant avocado, chili peppers, corn, pumpkins, pineapple, and other produce typical of the country's warmer climate.

This blend of native ingredients and recipes with those brought over by the Spanish is what made Mexican food what it is today and many of the most famous Mexican food recipes clearly show this marriage of old world and new world cuisines. From tacos to soups to Mexican casserole recipes, this is one very successful - and very popular type of fusion cuisine. - 29857

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