Anthony Bourdain Apologizes for Ridiculing New Mexico's Frito Pie Tradition--But How New Mexican is Frito Pie?

Categories: Mexi Meals

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My pal Russell Contreras over at the Associated Press' New Mexico bureau always pulls out amazing stories about the magnificent state (yes: he's the one who first gave nationwide attention to the Breaking Bad tourism industry that now rules Albuquerque), and he had a doozy yesterday about a controversy involving Anthony Bourdain and the Land of Enchantment.

Seems Bourdain has filmed a New Mexico episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown, and he swung by the Five and Dime store in Santa Fe's historic plaza to try their legendary Frito pie, that fascinating concoction of chili and Fritos served in a bowl or--better yet--in a Fritos bag. Bourdain was unimpressed, stating on the show it reeked of Hormel, stating "New Mexico, you have many wonderful things...I think, let Texas have this one."

After the store's manager complained, Bourdain apologized, but only after pissing off most of the state, which relishes Frito pie as one of their culinary traditions. Hate to break it to you, New Mexicans, but the Frito pie ain't New Mexican--not even close.

I've had the Five and Dime's Frito pie, and it's a fine specimen (although the chile relleno burritos sold in the cart in front of the store is better). But, by definition, the Frito pie isn't New Mexican. Its base ingredients--Frito and chili--came from San Antonio. Kaleeta Doolin, daughter of Fritos founder Elmer Doolin (who bought the original Fritos recipe from a Oaxacan immigrant), has a recipe for Frito pie that her grandmother concocted back in the early 1940s, long before any New Mexican could cite it as their own. Not only that, the Doolins were notorious for making recipes based on Fritos--I still have a Life magazine clipping that is a Frito advertorial urging Americans to use Fritos as stuffing for their Thanksgiving turkey.

New Mexico has embraced the Frito pie tradition more than Texas--you can buy it from carts across the state. But ustedes are better off promoting your fabulous green chile cheeseburgers than a Texas import. And Russell: please don't sic La Santa Muerte on me for writing the truth...

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147 comments
Devon Loomis
Devon Loomis

Frito pies are Tex-Mex. The producers of that show didn't do their homework. Puro Burque!

Dorian Jones
Dorian Jones

Carolla built a pirate ship. Great podcast!

James Provencio
James Provencio

i think anthony should write a formal apology to the newspaper. cause if not...

Steve Mares
Steve Mares

@ Dorian Jones - I'm sure it was the network, now that he's on CNN. As many years that he was doing 'No Reservations' and including 'The Layover', not once do I recall him apologizing for something he said or did! That's why media entertainment that's own by these giant corporations are going out, whether it's TV or radio. That's why a lot of personalities are doing their shows online or satellite like Howard Stern, Adam Corolla, and Tom Leykis, just to name a few. Fuck coporate media!

Dorian Jones
Dorian Jones

Chili cheese fries >>>>>>>>>>> chili fritos. Especially since they are probably using canned chili in NM judging by Bourdain's description. Junk food on top of junk food. Just sad. Maybe his network pressured him into apologizing.

Jennifer Mizban
Jennifer Mizban

Albuquerque is a major city with lots of non-native New Mexicans. Anyone whose family has been in New Mexico since the late 1500's can say whatever we want, wherever we want! ;)

jamizban
jamizban

Fritos are a Texan invention and chili not spelled chile is never from New Mexico. One last thing. Mexican food and New Mexican food are two completely different cuisines. It's like saying Chinese food and Italian food are the same, because they both use noodles. 

mlindeman522
mlindeman522

I was under the impression that chili poured into a large bag of Fritos was a NASCAR thing.

Steve Mares
Steve Mares

I don't even see how he was being offensive! I think it's obvious that you're likely to get the shits if you consume chilli from a convenience store! I don't understand why he apologized, he sholuld stand by his words 'cause he said what he felt at the moment. I've lost some respect for the guy now!

Petey Pablo
Petey Pablo

My Dad says he has been eating chili beans since the 1960's in the city of Oxnard, California and he said that it became very popular at his high school! Oxnard High School!

Dorian Jones
Dorian Jones

Frito Pies don't seem all that interesting to me, and I think he was on to something and he should not have apoligized. (paging Steve Mares!)

Rob Loeza
Rob Loeza

Fuck frito pie that's not even close to Mexican food that's a bunch of merican crap!

griffinmichael
griffinmichael

Wait, I thought green chili cheesburgers were a Pueblo, CO thing?

Chris Carey
Chris Carey

really, he is nothing more than a hipster-douche, though. who else still sports 1 earring??

Chris Carey
Chris Carey

damn straight. older AND better, though.

Jake Westenberg
Jake Westenberg

He has to go on a apology tour for talking shit about a food item? Seriously. Is it that important he apologize for that.

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

Don't tell that to Texans...

tppbfan
tppbfan

Favorite meal growing up in Texas.We even had a special bowl we made it in.

Layered cheese ,chili ,onions and fritos .

 Top that bad boy off with a Big Red  soda and thats living

Liz Kadison
Liz Kadison

Is anyone else surprised that Bourdain actually apologized? That guy is a professional asshole. A very entertaining and funny asshole, but an asshole nonetheless. He says mean things. It's funny. Get over it. This is like getting mad when South Park makes fun of something.

Fernando Rios
Fernando Rios

Still remember the Chilli Billies from Garry Templeton Little League in Santa Ana

Gabriel Tenorio
Gabriel Tenorio

But tony is right! Did you hear how he lauded Mexicans and their awesome COCINA skills? Fritos with 'chili' is the armpit of the culinary world one step to the right of hot flaming Cheetos drowned in watery nacho cheese all atop a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yes it exists and kills brain cells just contemplating it. And who wants to take credit for the so called QUESO from San Antonio. THey should have stopped at the puffy taco (stolen also). Silli texicans

Kit Hope
Kit Hope

Chili Fritos out in Fontana. Or chilitos.

Joanne Buelna Huntley
Joanne Buelna Huntley

Ok back in the 1970s (yes, I'm that old) Cypress, CA Little League and Cypress Girls Softball served "Chili Billies" at the concession stands. They were served in white styrofoam cups and were made with Fritos, canned chili, and had cheese on top.

Daisy Shobokshi
Daisy Shobokshi

fabulous green chile cheeseburgers ..... mmmmmmm. ... I WANT.

Inez Russell Gomez
Inez Russell Gomez

Or Woolworth's much. When we came to Santa Fe, we got Chinese or went to Furr's. Which did, by the way, start in Texas.

Inez Russell Gomez
Inez Russell Gomez

Doesn't matter where it was invented; it matters who perfected it. And just because you never heard of it, doesn't mean it didn't exist. We ate 'em in Las Vegas, NM back in the 1960s... and we had never been to Texas.

Mick Carter
Mick Carter

I'd never even heard of them until after I'd moved away from NM. They're not a NM tradition.

Mick Carter
Mick Carter

It's not a NM tradition. I'd never even heard of them until I moved away.

Tino Cardona
Tino Cardona

My favorite episodes of No Reservations was when he filmed Piedras Negras, Coahuila; Baja/Tijuana, and when he was in Mexico City and Puebla. Ill admit though i am being bias :P

Paul Mizban
Paul Mizban

having a long line of family from New Mexico, whatever the fuck Frito pie is, it is not a New Mexico tradition.

Melanie Crabapple
Melanie Crabapple

Why is this such a big deal? We're talking about pouring chili on Fritos. It's not one of the great moments in gastronomic history.

David A Rivera
David A Rivera

The chili billies I grew up with were with Fritos

David A Rivera
David A Rivera

I grew up in Cypress. Went to Charles Lee Damron. Cafeteria lady named Billie Plunkett claimed she came up with the name. I wonder

James Creely
James Creely

I saw it by accident and although you gotta love regional inventiveness and taste its pretty pathetic.

Mayling Tate
Mayling Tate

Dangit, now I gotta go buy the stuff for Frito pies, (what I've always known them to be and what it will always be!) because I haven't made that in a long time!

Renae Marquez
Renae Marquez

my son has been playing little league for about 10yrs now in orange county and the chili billies they serve have tortilla chips, not fritos...how is that the same?

Renae Marquez
Renae Marquez

my son has been playing little league for about 10yrs now in orange county and the chili billies they serve have tortilla chips, not fritos...how is that the same??

robdewalt
robdewalt

@Dorian Jones The reason it was important that he apologized is because he unequivocally stated that the chili in the Frito pie was canned Hormel chili. It's not. It's made fresh every day, just like it has been since Teresa Hernández began cooking them at the Five and Dime General Store (formerly Woolworth's) in Santa Fe in the 1960s. It's irrelevant that they are uninteresting to some people. Bourdain lied for the sake of snark, or just didn't do his homework, or a bit of both. The apology was warranted. 

HyperionCity
HyperionCity

@Renae Marquez - Playing Little League for 10 years?  Jesus, how old is that kid?  Seems like an unfair advantage.  His name isn't Danny Almonte, is it?

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