Why Are American and Mexican Food So Different?

113It is not news that the cuisine of America and the cuisine of Mexico are quite different things. Mexican food recipes, for example are certainly not very similar to those found in America. Strangely enough, Canadian food is rather similar to our own, as is often the case with neighboring countries – so why is the culinary tradition of our southern neighbor so different from ours? Mexican recipes use different ingredients than we commonly see in the average grocery store and create flavors, which seem exotic to American palates.

A Look at the Uniqueness of Mexico’s Food History

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.

The US has a different history, being a former British colony with most of its early immigration coming from northern Europe and having different culinary traditions. This alone accounts for some of the divergence of Mexican and American cooking, since traditional Mexican recipes have a profound Spanish influence which is missing from most American cooking.

For a long time, however, immigrants to Mexico from the old world hailed, for the most part, from Spain, leaving an indelible stamp on the new nation’s cuisine. Many Mexican recipes are adaptations of Spanish dishes, with some classic recipes from Spain surviving intact. This led to a distinctive blend of culinary traditions drawn from Spanish and indigenous ingredients and cooking methods.

The Spanish are not the only immigrants to Mexico who have contributed to Mexican food, of course. The popular Mexican recipe al pastor came to the country with immigrants from Lebanon and Syria and is an adaptation of the Middle Eastern dish shawarma. However, unquestionably the Spanish have had the strongest influence over Mexican food recipes.

The US has had a much more diverse population historically, meaning that American cuisine is more of a patchwork quilt of different influences and ingredients, which is characterized by constant change. By contrast, Mexico has been able to develop its own style of cooking; but Mexican cooks do of course adapt the foods of other countries to local tastes as well as enjoying them as they are.

Locally Available Ingredients Make the Difference in Mexican Food

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.