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Nachos are a deliciously cheesy contradiction. Recipes for nachos run the gamut, from the simple to the preposterous. They were invented in Mexico, by a Mexican, but they’re not exactly Mexican food. Some of the food science that makes them possible has been around for thousands of years, but one of the most ubiquitous nacho ingredients has only been available since a development in the 1970s.

Like a good dad joke, nachos are corny yet oddly comforting. This episode of Food History dives into the historical, scientific, and culinary journey that gave us this bar food favorite. You’ll learn why one group of researchers looked to corn to explain the rise of vampire myths, and how Na3C6H507 gave us the nacho cheese you’ll find at bowling alleys and ballgames.

Food History is a new series from Mental Floss where we dive deep into the culinary stories that lead to the food on our plates. If you have an idea for a dish, cooking technique, or cuisine that you’d like us to explore in a future episode, tell us in the comments.

See our previous episode about the history of mashed potatoes here:

And read more about nachos in our article, 15 Delicious Facts for National Nacho Day:

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