The American food experience is less like a blanket and more like a patchwork quilt. There is not one type of taste of food that encompasses the American food experience. If you were to pick the quintessential “American” food, what would it be? Apple Pie? Hamburgers? Chicago Style Pizza?
I am always on the lookout for pieces of the American food quilt, dishes that are woven into the American experience by the unique circumstances that brought them into existence. I found a gem in Santa Fe, NM. Hidden in the back of a 5 and Dime store (a rare American experience in it’s own right) right in the heart of Santa Fe’s tourist drag, I had my first encounter with a Frito Pie.
The Frito Pie was created in the 1960’s by Teresa Hernandez, who worked at the food counter at the time. It is proudly served there today in staggering volumes, still in the Frito bag just like the original.
Visiting the lunch counter at the Five and Dime in Santa Fe is a authentic Santa Fe experience in its own right. When I visited, it became apparent that it is a real local hangout spot. You could get a heaping helping of local culture by just sitting down for a while and watching the steady stream of locals coming in for a cheap bite and cool place to hand out.
The whole mess arrived in my hands covered in gooey melted cheese. Underneath the cheese, I saw hints of the spicy, crunchy goodness waiting to be uncovered in the form of a layer of Fritos covered in spicy, home made chili.
When I stuck my spoon in and applied its contents to my mouth, I was surprised by how spicy chili was (I guess I shouldn’t be, after the spice level of my meal the previous night. People in New Mexico really like their food HOT!)
When it all melted together in the bag, the Fritos softened and soaked up some of the juice from the chili, blending the flavors in a most pleasant way.
I enjoyed my iconic Santa Fe food experience underneath the warm spring sunshine in Santa Fe’s central square, soaking up absorbing its unique architecture and some great people watching at the same time.