FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Tortillas at the Supermarket

The traditional corn tortilla and the increasingly popular flour tortilla became a significant component in everyday American meals after 1950. As companies tapped into the growing Latino market by mass-producing Mexican as well as Central American and other Caribbean foods, they also produced taco shells, tortilla chips, and frozen burritos, which became staples in grocery chains and convenience stores. By the 1990s, salsa challenged ketchup for condiment supremacy in America.

Tortilla production, 1992

Tortilla production, 1992

Machine-made corn tortillas can be produced at the rate of 3,000 dozen per hour.

Courtesy of Art Velasquez

 

Flour tortilla packaging, 1970

Flour tortilla packaging, 1970

Chicago entrepreneur Art Velasquez founded Azteca Foods in 1970, which sold Mexican and Central American foods in supermarkets across the country. Azteca extended the shelf life of its flour and corn tortillas by adding a preservative to the masa (dough).  

Lent by Art Velasquez

Azteca Fiesta Ad, 1991

Azteca Fiesta Ad, 1991

Azteca sought to attract new customers by providing recipes for traditional Mexican foods as well as ideas for using tortillas with other types of cuisines.  This magazine ad from 1991 “presents two short courses to a fiesta,” including recipes for “Chicken Enchilada Bake” and “Baked Ice Cream” using the company’s soft tortillas and crispy salad shells.

Flour tortilla shell mold, 1987

This mold was used in restaurants to bake taco salad shells. Gift of Art Velasquez.

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The Mexican Kitchen

In the 1980s, Nordic Ware, a cookware company in Minnesota best known for its specialty Bundt cake pan, became one of a number of firms producing tools and utensils for “Mexican-style” foods at home. The “Authentic Mexican Cookware Set” includes a cast-aluminum tortilla press, taco fryer, tostado (chalupa) mold, and cookbook. Gift of Nordic Ware, through H. David Dalquist.

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