By definition, a snack is a term coined for the portion of food that is generally smaller than a proper meal and is eaten between the meals. Originally, snacks were prepared from simple ingredients that would easily be available at any house-hold. Traditionally, leftovers, fruits, salads, cold-cut sandwiches, nuts and similar simple-to-make food items were consumed as snacks.  With the globalization of cultures and industrialization taking over, packaged food and processed items started filling up the shelves of the snack-section in markets. Potato chips, chocolates, sausages, yogurts and smoothies are just to name a few.

In the series of articles titled ‘Snack-Time’, this is the first of the three where in we covered two popular snacks from the North-American continent. Read on for all that information you need to know about how some of your favorite snacks came to be known in their present worth.

Nachos

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Most of us Indians have developed a palate for spicy food and hence many of us are fond of Mexican food. The perfect blend of spice and flavours, ranging from that of spicy peppers to tangy sauces makes it a perfect blend for visual satisfaction and for quenching ones’ huge appetite. One such popular Mexican snack is Nachos. Nachos is a originally dish of tortilla chips topped with cheese or cheese-based dressings. Be it the movies or the football matches, nachos form an integral part at the menus of the snack-shop at stadiums and movie halls. THe traditional nacho recipe makes ones’ mouth water just by the mere mention. The salty crunch of the chips, the delectable flavours of the sauces, the creaminess of the cheese dressing and the fresh crisp of the jalapenos make it the best possible savory snack using cheese and chips. This appetizer can easily be transformed into a meal sized portion by jazzing it up as per your taste.

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The Mexican treat does not have a very ancient history. There are numerous tales about how this dish came into existence. Accounts claim that Nachos originated in Mexico, in the city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila. It is said that in the early 1940s, around 1943, a few number of ladies while on a shopping trip went to the Victory Club restaurant, located just south of Eagle Pass, Texas, after it had closed for the day. Reluctant to turn paying guests away, the maitre d’hotel, Ignacio Anaya, assembled a simple dish with whatever ingredients were available in his kitchen: tortilla chips and cheese, and coined a new name for it that read, ‘Nacho’s Especiales.’ He cut the tortillas into triangles, shredded cheddar cheese and tossed it in and heated them quickly. He then sliced some pickled jalapeno peppers and added them before serving it to the bunch of the women. As the word spread the name of the dish was changes. The apostrophe was dropped and it became ‘special nachos’. The popularity of this dish spread all over through Texas and the Southwest. Anaya also worked at the Moderno Restaurant which follows the original recipe till date. He went on to open his own restaurant which he called the ‘Nacho’s restaurant’ in Piedras Negras. Who knew that these tiny canapes of tortilla chips topped with cheese and a few pickled jalapeno peppers could take him that long a way.

Popcorn

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Buy a ticket for the 2.00 p.m. show of a movie and enter the multiplex. You are welcomed by the pleasant aroma of corn and a long queue; a queue not crazy enough to enter the hall, but eager enough to grab a large bag of pop-corn! Popping corn, or better called as Popcorn is basically a variety of corn or maize that puffs up from the kernel when heated, due to expansion.

The history of popcorn dates back to the before Christ era. As per the records, Popcorn was first cultivated on the Mexican lands around 9,000 years ago. It was derived from a wild grass. The evidence of popcorn being cultivated from 3600 B.C. was found in New Mexico. A few centuries later it was then domesticated on agricultural lands across Central and South America as well thus gaining popularity. It is one of the oldest forms of corn known and cultivated by human dwellings. Corncobs were also found at two atavistic sites in the country, Peru viz.  Huaca Prieta and Paredones  and it is claimed that they may belong to a time as early as 4700 B.C. This fact implies that people dwelling along the coast of northern parts of  Peru had already been introduced to the concept of popcorn by this time.

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The narrative that the British settlers  travelled to America in the 16th and 17th centuries and hence, carried what they learned about popping corn from the Native Americans is claimed to be a myth. There is no proof that the natives from the coast of North American cultivated or even knew about popcorn so early.

Popcorn gained popularity during the Great Depression as it was inexpensive and costed nothing as compared to other food items. It thus became a common domestic commodity. During the World War II, prices of candy soared as sugar cultivation and consequently, manufacturing processes of candy became highly priced. This is when the Americans consumed almost thrice the amount of popcorn they used to use earlier.

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A popped kernel of the corn is known as a flake, which can either be shaped as a butterfly (right) or as a mushroom (left) as shown in the picture. Popcorn can either be eaten with salted toppings like butter and spices or with toffee or caramel toppings as a sweetened snack. Many other versions like cheese flavoured popcorn  are also widely available these days. The snack has gained popularity all over the globe and is also taken as breakfast cereal.

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These are two famous snacks that the North Americans introduced us to. The other two parts shall cover a few more snacking options from the other cultures. Till then, keep crunching on those spicy nachos and these soft melt-in-the-mouth popcorns! Snack away!