The world is a melting pot, even if we don’t always see that. In the US, we have people who have immigrated from all over the globe, our numbers are Arabic, our letters mostly Latin, and our language is a strange amalgamation of words that came from so many different cultures, that most of the time we don’t even realize just how integrated we truly are. But here’s something you might not know: tomato pasta sauce didn’t start out in Italy. In fact, if you really love red sauce, you should thank a Mexican!
See, way back when the Spanish called Mexico “New Spain,” they learned about a lot of different foods that they’d never heard of before. Chocolate, for instance, was first offered to Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes by the Aztec king Montezuma and is nothing like we know it today. In fact, at the time, Cortes described it as, “a bitter drink for pigs,” and it wasn’t until it was mixed with honey or cane sugar that it became popular in Spain.
Even more interesting is the fact that tomatoes originated in Mexico, not Europe. The first person to write about tomato sauce was Bernardino de Sahagún, a Franciscan friar. Berny had traveled to New Spain (AKA Mexico) in order to work as a missionary but today is widely known for his adoption of Mexican foods and culture, as well as his index created about the Aztec people. Ol’ Bern liked to explore the areas he visited and learn everything he could about them and is revered as one of the first true anthropologists because of it.
During one of his visits to Tenochtitlan in the late 1500s (Mexico City today), de Sahagún made notes about a tomato sauce prepared with onions, peppers, and chilis. His notes made it back to Italy, and the sauce made a splash with pasta for the first time in 1790, when it appeared in a cookbook by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi.
So not only did Mexico provide us with chocolate, vanilla, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and a slew of other amazing foods, but it is directly responsible for giving us the tomato-based Italian sauces we love so much today.
Which makes sense. Think about salsas. Salsa is little more than tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices…which is pretty much the same thing.
The whole point of this, besides the fact that it’s hella interesting and a fun party fact to know, is that we truly are a melting pot. Not just the US, but the world. There are very few places on this globe that have not been directly affected by other places on this globe. If we keep that in mind, perhaps we can spend more time getting to know each other, and adapting those things we love so much about other cultures, instead of looking for the things that set us apart.