The History Behind The Tortilla Chip
One could argue that the perfect snack food must be salty, full of texture, flavorful but still enough of a blank slate to support a variety of edible accompaniments, and of course portable. If that’s the case, then the humble tortilla chip is just about as inherently perfect as any snack food is ever going to be. From pre-game tailgating to summertime pool parties to movie nights with the whole family, tortilla chips have proven themselves to be an integral part of the American snack experience. But how did this all come to pass? The Invention of the Tortilla Chip As is the case with so many popular inventions, it’s hard to pinpoint with absolute certainty who first had the light bulb moment that resulted in soft tortillas being transformed into crispy chips. Many people believe the honor goes to Rebecca Webb Carranza. Carranza, who was born in Durango, Mexico, and her husband Mario co-owned a Mexican deli and El Zarape Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles way back in the 1940s. Legend has it that the couple installed an automated tortilla making machine that churned out product of great quantity but sometimes questionable quality, leaving them with an overabundance of misshapen and ripped tortillas they were loath to throw out. So, they decided to cut them up and fry them instead. A few dashes of salt later, a new snack craze was born. The Evolution of Snack Time At first, the Carranzas served up their “Tort Chips” to family and friends, but as word got out demand increased and they started selling 10-cent bags of chips at their Mexican deli. Business continued to spread and Tort Chips were soon sold up and down the west coast of the United States. Big name companies like Wise soon took notice of the tortilla chip’s widespread popularity and began to manufacturer their own versions. The rest, as they say, is history. Tortilla Chips Today Rebecca Webb Carranza divorced her husband Mario in 1951 and signed her tortilla business over to him in the process. She may not have capitalized financially from the tortilla craze she is credited for starting, but in 1994, she received the Golden Tortilla in honor of her contributions to the industry. Carranza passed away in early 2006 at the age of 98, but her legacy lives on in every tortilla chip savored by snack fans all over the globe. The Washington Times reports that tortillas are now outselling hamburger and hot dog buns, and tortilla chips are increasing in sales faster than potato chips. The chips are available in a wide variety of shapes including the traditional triangle, scoops, squares, circles, and strips. Consumers can buy them lightly salted or infused with zesty flavors like lime and chili powder. Wise Tortilla Chips also come in mouthwatering flavors like Salsa Verde and Nacho Cheese; the salsa verde is the perfect complement for kicked-up Salsa Con Queso dip, while the nacho cheese chips are irresistible when topped with guacamole or ranch dip or even just eaten all on their own. While technically unofficial, February 24th is wildly recognized by snack fans as National Tortilla Chip Day. There’s never a bad day to grab a bag of tortilla chips but maybe the next time February 24th rolls around you can stock up on a few extra bags, gather up some friends, and raise a triangle or two to Rebecca Webb Carranza, inventor of the ever-enduring, versatile, beloved, and above all delectably delicious tortilla chip.