Cheese has millions of fans globally. It’s at home in a multitude of recipes, a mainstay when it comes to countless snack food flavors, and its good consumed as it is. There are several kinds of cheeses – Blue – Cheddar – Swiss etc but I recently determined there is no “Nacho Cheese” in the context of a cheese type.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines more than 70 cheeses for labeling purposes but has no definition of nacho cheese. Since the agency has no definition of nacho cheese, it can technically be any cheese that isn’t already another kind of cheese.
Think tanks and retail sales research firms offer no breakdown on sales of nacho cheese. They can’t track what doesn’t exist. Renowned data collector Nielsen tracks categories such as “entertaining cheese” and “cheese sauce mix” but doesn’t brake out nacho cheese.
But wait you say. What about all these products that tout “Nacho Cheese and “Nacho Cheese flavor”? Nacho cheese is the bestselling Doritos flavor, and Kroger stocks about 150 products in its supermarkets that contain the phrase “nacho cheese,” from cheese dipping sauces, to chips, to crackers, to Bugles.
Well one major producer of “Nacho Cheese” products puts the perception and definition of Nacho Cheese on the consumer. Mike Siemienas, spokesman for General Mills (which owns Old El Paso) says “It really is based on what consumers are used to and what they believe nacho cheese flavor is.”
But Alas PepsiCo, the maker of Doritos looks at Nacho Cheese as a flavor – a flavor arrived at by blending cheeses. PepsiCo spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said “The flavor Nacho cheese is made with cheddar and Romano cheeses”
History suggests that Nacho is simply a tortilla chip that is enjoyed with cheese.
A 2002 story in the San Antonio Express-News, have Nachos being invented by a man named Ignacio “Nacho Anaya (thus the name) in 1943 in Mexico. The cheese he used: “Wisconsin cheese, the round one,” the story goes. It was melted on the tortillas and topped with jalapeños. So the original nacho cheese, by this account, was cheddar.
Re-read the above paragraph slowly then consider Meriman Webster’s definition of Nacho. “ A tortilla chip topped with melted cheese and often additional savory toppings (as hot peppers or refried beans)”.
Nacho is a chip – not a cheese. Nacho is even a flavor – but still not a cheese. Somewhere during the chip’s inception as one of the globe’s favorite snacks the lines between chip and cheese became blurred and “Nacho Cheese” began to be verbally slung around.
So now you, like me have yet another conversation starter that will be right at home at a bar or a party. Nachos, baby is not a cheese.