I went to Carolina’a del Norte in Phoenix this morning. As I sat there eating one of the simple pleasures of living here, I was reminded of one of the great Mexican Food arguments which circulates around this part of the world.
My friend Bob Boze Bell, millionaire publisher, of True West magazine, has been in a several decade long debate with the Distinguished Professor Paul Andrew Hutton, Professor of history at The University of New Mexico.
Both men are well versed, lecture, and have written extensively, on the history of the American west. Professor Hutton says, that New Mexico has the nations best “Mexican food”, with Mr. Bell correctly arguing, that Arizona has the best!
This is not some subjective argument because I prefer Arizona’s use of certain chiles or cilantro. There is a simple reason that we have the best Mexican food in the U.S. Arizona was the least inhabited region of the Southwest. We had no real anglo settlement until, after the Gadsden Purchase in1852 and then the Civil War, which ended in 1865. Tucson was basically an army outpost from the 1860’s on. Eventually growing into a small community and then the largest city in what would become Arizona, until the farming around Phoenix grew in the early 1900’s.
Now I’m sure Professor Hutton, will take great offence with me, a mere cook, lecturing him on history. But knowing history and understanding it are two different enchiladas (Professor Hutton, please see; food, Mexican, if that school has dictionaries).
The food currently being offered in New Mexico is a combination of Spanish and Native American, traditions starting in the 1500’s. In the 500 years since they have developed a separate “New Mexican “cuisine, that although delicious, is not Mexican food.
Here in Arizona we’ve only had 150 years to bastardize the Mexican food, with our best efforts coming directly with Mexicans, across the border. California like Texas are both older and have a lot of fusion, Mexican food. I’m not saying that there are no great Mexican food restaurants in these places… there are.
Just saying, Mexican food, is a misnomer, like saying, American food. There are many styles and traditions through out Mexico and the food here is mostly “Northern Mexican” food. But, Professor Hutton, our Mexican food can beat your Mexican food with one stove tied behind it’s back!
Mad Coyote Joe