When someone asks you, “what is your favorite food?” to provide an answer is not all that easy. There is such a variety of food that many choices seem tantalizing. Some food might be simply tasty, while others can have a personal history behind them. Often, it is the food that combines a sense of culinary delight and the resonance of personal history that creates the most powerful food experience. For me, the tastiest food possible, and the one that resonates with my personal history the most, is the enchilada.
An enchilada is a Mexican dish that is similar to a burrito, but it is topped and filled with a variety of sauces (there are several different types of enchiladas), cheese, sour cream, and numerous other ingredients a person might desire to have on top of the enchiladas. The practice of rolling tortillas dates back to the Mayan times (Zeldes, Leah A), but the first recorded instance of enchiladas was during the era of the Spanish conquistadors. Bernal Díaz del Castillo, a famous Spanish conquistador, wrote about a meal he and other Europeans enjoyed at this time (back then, the tortilla was called tlaxcalli by the native Natuatl people) (Oregon State University). To describe the taste of an enchilada is difficult, but I think it is the combination of cheeses, spicy tomato-based sauce, sour cream, beans, rice, corn, meat (chicken is my favorite), tortilla, and spices that blows my mind. I would like to think of it as a lasagna (which is also amazing) but with more ingredients and spicy. Having refined beans, rice, and cheese on the side is phenomenal. Washing it all down with a soft drink is a pleasant touch as well. Basically, enchiladas combine my favorite ingredients in my favorite way.
But what is my personal connection with enchiladas that makes them special? When I was a child, if my family wanted to eat out somewhere special, we would go to Mexican restaurants. Charming traditional Mexican music in the background, the endless chips with salsa, the family atmosphere, and the smells of the food are now burned in my memory. I have only positive memories about Mexican restaurants and food, and the enchilada itself is a large part of these memories. I almost always ordered an enchilada with chicken when in Mexican restaurants, and when I eat one now, those feelings of my family being together returns to me. My father and mother have divorced, but when I eat an enchilada, I feel like I am at the table with my deceased father and living mother again, having a pleasant family night together again.
If I was deprived of enchiladas for eternity, its close cousin, lasagna, would be my first choice as a supplement. However, even if the lasagna has positive memories associated with it in accordance with my personal history, it is not a food that has staved off feelings of family separation like the enchilada has for me.
Zeldes, Leah A. (10 November 2010). “Eat this! Enchiladas, Mexican comfort food.” Dining Chicago. Chicago’s Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
“Tacos, Enchilidas and Refried Beans: The Invention of Mexican-American Cookery.” Mexican References Food And Culture. Oregon State University. Archived from the original on 18 July 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2008.