A few words about Arizona foodways?

Barbeque as we know it comes from every corner of the planet.   Today, barbeque style is a hot topic in this country as states and  cities try to define and defend their particular style.  We all know that in the South pork and vinegar sauce are king, in Kansas City rich tomato based sauce with lots of sweet molasses and sugar rule the barbeque joints.  Texas is all about the beef.  Seattle is known for its alder smoked salmon and California is best known for the accidentally created Santa Maria grilled tri tip beef.  But what are the classic foodways of Arizona?  Although this is open to  interpretation, a few things are obvious.  First,  Arizona’s proximity to Old Mexico means chili peppers and a strong Mexican food influence.  One of Arizona’s five “C’s” stands for cattle.  Beef has been big in Arizona for three main reasons: weather, grass and Vernon avenue in Los Angeles.  At the turn of the century L.A. had numerous large slaughter houses that processed a huge amount of cattle, most were located on Vernon avenue. 

Hogs have had a very limited role in Arizona due to the heat and regulations.  Arizona style barbeque is closely aligned to that of Texas, mostly beef, usually just salt and pepper, sometimes a dry rub and hints of chili powder.  Notable restaurants like Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, Monte’s, Durants,  The Other Place and the Stockyards all served big beef cuts cooked on a grill. 

 Indigenous woods of each region also help define style.  The lack of oak, pecan, hickory and other fruit woods in Arizona force mesquite to rise to the top as the leading cooking wood.  With that said, most of the commercial cooking wood used  in Arizona restaurants comes from Mexico, and is trucked North between bundles of pot, coke and people.  Carne Asada, grilled marinated skirt steak, cooked directly over open mesquite flames and served with pinto beans continues to be a main stay with the Latino population in Arizona.  Tucson, despite being smaller than Phoenix, is credited with creating more Arizona foodways dishes than any other city in the state.  It is widely held that the Chimichanga was created at El Charro in the Old Pueblo.  Today, the Sonoran dog, a hot dog wrapped in bacon and dressed with mayo and a jalapeno sauce is growing in popularity due to establishments like El Guero Canelo’s. 

Sonoran dog

Arizona’s style of classic Mexican food is also aligned closely with  Tex-Mex food.  Rich red chili sauce,  tortillas, onion, tomatoes and lettuce make their way into numerous classic Mexican food dishes. 

So what is Arizona foodways?  The food found in Arizona is melting pot of cultures from the people who moved here.  You can find almost any type of American and international food in the state.  However,  in the end, it is a beef based, mesquite grilled, meal with a strong Mexican influence that best defines Arizona’s infant barbeque style.

     Click here for a Arizona Foodways video on YouTube.


~ by El Toro BBQ on October 25, 2010.

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