The Unexpected History Of The Word 'Nacho'

Nachos are a beloved snack at restaurants, bars and ballgames and they're so popular that they even have their own national day of celebration as well as an international day of celebration.

The tasty snack was invented in Piedras Negras, Mexico and while some other Mexican dishes like tamales have been around for centuries, nachos weren't invented until 1940, per The New York Times.

Today, when you make or order nachos, in addition to cheese, they'll be topped with a whole mess of toppings like sour cream, meat, salsa, and onions. Some have even put a unique spin on nacho recipes like these Irish nachos. The very first nachos, however, had a much simpler recipe containing corn chips topped with melted Colby cheese and pickled jalapeños. These prototype nachos were born when one very kind maître d'hôtel jumped in to feed some hungry patrons after hours.

Named for the man himself

While some foods' names come from their descriptive translation, (sushi translates to "sour rice" in Japanese; burrito translates to "little donkey" in Spanish,) nachos got their name from the man himself who invented him.

According to Time Magazine, the story goes that some military wives from Eagle Pass, Texas, had crossed the Rio Grande for a shopping trip and had arrived at the Victory Club looking for drinks and a snack after closing time. While there were no cooks in the kitchen, the maître d'hôtel, Ignacio Anaya, known as Nacho, jumped into help.

Mr. Anaya is said to have entered the kitchen to find food and located totopos (a kind of corn chip,) Colby cheese, and pickled jalapeños. He laid the chips down and topped them with the cheese and jalapeños and popped them into the oven to bake. He served his inventive snack to the military wives and called it Nacho's Especiales, which roughly translates to Nacho's Specialty. So next time you dig into a plate of delicious, cheesy nachos you can send a little thank you out to Mr. Anaya for introducing the world to his creative snack.