You Should Know Rebecca Webb Carranza, Pioneer Of The Tortilla Chip

Food & DrinksHistoryHoliday 4 Comments

It’s National Tortilla Chip Day! So, before you grab a celebratory bag of these tasty treats, we thought you should know pioneering businesswoman Rebecca Webb Carranza, the woman responsible for introducing the tortilla chip into modern food culture.

According to a February 7, 2006 article in the LA Times, in 1950, the El Zarape Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles was among the first to automate the production of tortillas, having used a tortilla-making machine for three years. Corn and flour disks poured off the conveyor belt more than 12 times faster than they could be made by hand. At first many came out ‘bent’ or misshapen, as company President Rebecca Webb Carranza recalled decades later, and were thrown away.

For a family party in the late 1940s, Carranza cut some of the discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them. A hit with the relatives, the chips soon sold for a dime a bag at her Mexican delicatessen and factory at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Arlington Avenue in southwest Los Angeles.

By the 1960s, the snack the family packaged as Tort Chips and delivered up and down the coast had evolved into El Zarape’s primary business.

Carranza, who was recognized by the tortilla industry as one of the pioneers of the commercial tortilla chip, died in January 2006 from complications of old age. She was 98.

  • Alice

    You can bet we will be honoring Ms. Carranza on Saturday with bucketfuls of chips and some tasty Mexican delights.

  • ALJ

    Isn’t it so interesting that tortilla chips, yet another staple that we all eat and enjoy all the time, were created because of something that was not quite correct? And leave it to a Woman We Should Know to have created them. Great story!

  • Tippy40

    To think that this woman’s ingenuity of making use of her imperfect tortillas led to the creation of a new product that has become a multi-billion dollar grocery staple is really cool. It’s sort of a good metaphor for life… don’t make yourself crazy trying to strive for perfection because you can find value and beauty in the imperfect if you take the time to look.

  • Gargouille

    So that’s how the word for a potato and egg pie ended up naming a triangular chip! I especially love that they were called mistake chips at first. What a great etymology!