A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 13, 2009
Tortilla Chip

Tortilla chips are are small, crispy fried wedges of corn tortillas. In 2003, Texas declared “tortilla chips and salsa” to be the official state snack. The snack is often (but not always) given free-of-charge at Tex-mex restaurants. Tortilla chips with melted cheese can be made into nachos.

“Tortilla chips” is cited in print in a 1935 El Paso (TX) newspaper. “Tostos” toasted tortillas were made in San Antonio from 1933 and called “"the famous ‘Tostos,’ a toasted, crispy tortilla chip” in a 1939 newspaper story (see below). Tortilla chips were sold at the 1936 Texas Centennial; a 1936 California newspaper advertised “Mexican Tortilla Chips” sold in cellophane packages.

Rebecca Webb Carranza, who died at age 98 in 2006, was given credit in her obituary for inventing or popularizing tortilla chips, but the food product was well-known when Carranza began mass producing machine-made tortilla chips, by about 1950. 


Wikipedia: Tortilla Chip
A tortilla chip is a snack food made from corn tortillas, which are cut into wedges and then fried (alternately they may be discs pressed out of corn masa then fried or baked). Corn tortillas are made of corn, vegetable oil, salt and water. Although first mass-produced in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, tortilla chips are considered to be a Mexican food. Though usually made of yellow corn (as pictured), they can also be made of white, blue, or red corn.

The tortilla chip was popularized by Rebecca Webb Carranza as a way to make use of misshapen tortillas rejected from the automated tortilla manufacturing machine that she and her husband used at their Mexican delicatessen and tortilla factory in southwest Los Angeles. Carranza found that the discarded tortillas, cut into triangles and fried, were a popular snack, and she sold them for a dime a bag at the El Zarape Tortilla Factory. In 1994, Carranza received the Golden Tortilla award for her contribution to the Mexican food industry. She died in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 19, 2006, at the age of ninety-eight.

Tortilla chips are the quintessential and often complimentary appetizer in Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants in the U.S. and elsewhere. Their popularity outside of California saw a steady rise in the late 1970s when they began to compete with corn chips, the dipping chip of choice during the first three quarters of the 20th century. They are typically served with a dip, such as salsa, chili con queso, or guacamole. When not served with a dip, the chips are often seasoned with herbs and spices. Although now available worldwide, the United States is one of the main markets for tortilla chips. Commercial brand names for tortilla chips include Tostitos, Doritos, and Don Tacos (in Japan).

A more elaborate dish utilizing tortilla chips is nachos, which consists tortilla chips served with melted or shredded cheese, although often other toppings are added or substituted, such as meat, salsa (such as pico de gallo), refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, diced onions, olives, and pickled jalapeños. More elaborate nachos are often baked for a short period of time to warm the tortillas and melt shredded cheese. First created circa 1943 by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, nachos may represent the earliest known creation from tortilla chips.

A similar fried corn snack is the corn chip, which is not made from a tortilla, but from corn meal which has been processed into a particular shape, typically a small scoop. Fritos are an example of this. The principal difference between the corn in tortilla and corn chips is that the corn in a tortilla chip has undergone a process known as nixtamalization, which involves processing the raw corn with quicklime. Note that both tortilla and corn chips are referred to as “corn chips” in Australia and Oceania. The main snack food competing with tortilla and corn chips is fried chips made from potatoes, known as potato chips or ‘crisps’.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
tortilla chip n. orig. U.S. a (usually wedge-shaped) piece of tortilla which has been fried or baked until crisp, typically eaten with the fingers and served as a snack with salsa or some other dip; cf. NACHO n.
1938 N.Y. Herald Tribune 24 Mar. 18/7 Texas has borrowed a food idea from Mexico, and today presents New York with the *tortilla chip.
2004 B. LAND Goat II. v. 83 The Kappa Sigs serve finger food of the worst kind.., plain potato chips, corn chips, tortilla chips and salsa.

27 August 1933, San Antonio (TX) Light, part 7, pg. 2, col. 5 classified ad:
La Vencedora
TORTILLA MANUFACTURERS
Real Mexican tortillas made fresh and sanitary by machine daily.
TASTOS (TOASTED TORTILLAS)
312 Buena Vista G. 0902
(An identical September 3, 1933 ad spells the product “TOSTOS”—ed.)

4 January 1935, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. 16, col. 3 classified ad:
INDUSTRIAL TORTILLA FACTORY, 211 1/2 S. Mesa, M1183, Tortilla chips also.

25 June 1936, San Mateo (CA) Times, pg. 3, col. 5 ad:
MEXICAN TORTILLA CHIPS
In Cellophane Package
2 pkgs. 27c

31 March 1938, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, pg. 18, col. 7:
TORTILLA CHIPS—Texas has borrowed a food idea from Mexico, and today presents New York with the tortilla chip. We have other corn chips that are similar, but this was the specialty sold by bushels at the Texas centennial. Delicious with all kinds of drinks. Or put them into menus. A booklet of recipes suggests their use in casseroles, stuffed into tomatoes, used in rarebit, in hot tamale pie, in chicken stuffing, in tuna fish salad: Good, these chips, 100 percent corn, crisp, slightly salty, tasting like the best popcorn ever popped.

Time magazine
Sunset Gold
Monday, Dec. 05, 1938
(...)
Larry Lane visited the Coast as adman for Better Homes and Gardens. He was born in Horton, Kans., had jogged around Minnesota with a horse and buggy selling Keen Kutter knives, got his learning at Drake University. Like many another Coast visitor, Larry Lane saw at once how vastly Far Western modes of living, eating, fun-making differed from those of the rest of the U. S. When he bought Sunset (largely for its established name) in 1928, he determined to publish a magazine capitalizing on the Far West’s insularity. His first move was to slash the price from 25¢ to 10¢ a copy. Second was to junk all purely literary features. He then divided the magazine into four general departments: Western Gardening, Western Homes, Western Foods (a Sunset All-Western Thanksgiving dinner included chilled papaya nectar, tortilla chips, spiced loquats and steamed persimmon pudding), and Western Travel.

1 April 1939, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 6B, col. 1:
MACHINE-MADE
TORTILLA IS
POPULAR
There has been an increasing demand for the machine-made tortilla, according to the management of La Vencedora, tortilla factory located at 310 Buena Vista street. This firm is one of the pioneer factories of its kind in the United States.

Much of the popularity of the machine-made tortilla has been brought about by the public’s conviction of its quality, its convenience and sanitation. The texture, form baking and flavor of the machine-made product is said to be superior to the hand-made tortilla because the selection of corn grinding, mixing and baking are all done with uniformity and under sanitary conditions.

La Vencedora is constantly improving its manufacturing processes and the grade of goodness of its products. Its entire personnel, including both factory workers and distribution employes, are local labor and proficient in their line.

Aside from this white corn tortilla, which is a delicious complement to any meal or dish and a basic ingredient in the preparation of Mexican tacos, La Vencedora manufactures red tortillas, specially baked for enchiladas, and the famous “Tostos,” a toasted, crispy tortilla chip that has won widespread attention. All of the products manufactured by La Vencedora enjoy a largedemand and are obtainable at grocery stores throughout the city.

Google Books
Sunset’s Host and Hostess Book
By Helen Kroeger Muhs, Sunset magazine
Published by Lane publishing co.
1940
Pg. 117:
Add French dressing, half a cup or so, chill, and serve on a big plate of shredded lettuce accompanied by tortilla chips. 

Google Books
The California Cook Book: For Indoor and Outdoor Eating
By Genevieve Anne Callahan
Published by M. Barrows
1946
Pg. 62:
Tortilla chips; toasted French bread; bread sticks.

Los Angeles (CA) Times
Rebecca Webb Carranza, 98; Pioneered Creation, Manufacture of Tortilla Chip
By Valerie J. Nelson
February 07, 2006 in print edition B-11
The headline in Popular Mechanics magazine saluted a manufacturing triumph in Los Angeles: “Tortillas Meet the Machine Age.” It was 1950, and the El Zarape Tortilla Factory, among the first to automate the production of tortillas, had used a tortilla-making machine for three years.

Corn and flour disks poured off the conveyor belt more than 12 times faster than they could be made by hand. At first many came out “bent” or misshapen, as company President Rebecca Webb Carranza recalled decades later, and were thrown away.

For a family party in the late 1940s, Carranza cut some of the discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them. A hit with the relatives, the chips soon sold for a dime a bag at her Mexican delicatessen and factory at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Arlington Avenue in southwest Los Angeles.

By the 1960s, the snack the family packaged as Tort Chips and delivered up and down the coast had evolved into El Zarape’s primary business.

Carranza, who was recognized by the tortilla industry as one of the pioneers of the commercial tortilla chip, died Jan. 19 from complications of old age at a hospice in Phoenix, her family said. She was 98.

San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune
OBITUARY
Rebecca Carranza; a pioneer of the tortilla chip; 98
ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 24, 2006
Rebecca Webb Carranza, who is credited with playing an important role in popularizing the now ubiquitous tortilla chip, has died at age 98.

Ms. Carranza died Jan. 19 at a hospice in Phoenix, said her sons, Mario R. Carranza and Victor Luis Carranza.

In the late 1940s, the Carranza family’s Los Angeles-based El Zarape Tortilla Factory began making tortillas by machine, but at first many of the corn and flour disks were misshapen and had to be thrown away.

Ms. Carranza took some of the rejects home for a party, cut them into triangles and fried them. They were a huge hit with her guests and she began selling them for 10 cents a bag. By the 1960s the Tort Chips, as they were called, were El Zarape’s main business.

Ms. Carranza was one of about 20 industry innovators honored with the Golden Tortilla in 1994 and 1995, the only years the award was given, said Mario Orozco, an employee of Irving, Texas-based Azteca Milling, who created the honor. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, April 13, 2009 • Permalink