Here's the 7th instalment of this series of posts which feature new books by our members. Please put your hands together for Sandra Nickel and her children's non-fiction book called Nacho's Nachos!
Tell us about your new book.
It’s the deliciously true story about how nachos were invented—about what happened when a regular customer asked Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya for something new and there were no chefs in the kitchen. This year is the 80th anniversary of the invention of nachos and Oliver Dominguez has created a fantastic retro vibe for the story. The book also includes the original recipe, which has inspired variations that have literally spread all over the world, from Texas to Paris to Egypt!
What inspired you when working on this project?
Around six years ago I was making nachos in my kitchen and wondered: where did these come from? I hopped online and discovered that Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya had invented them. It was unbelievable to me that I didn’t know my favorite snack was created by a man named Nacho. I had eaten nachos every single Saturday growing up, and I didn’t know that! I immediately thought: People need to know this. Kids need to know this!
I started researching and discovered the stories about the invention didn’t agree. My curiosity drove me to travel to Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. The families of Anaya, Mamie Finan—the woman for whom nachos were invented—and Rodolfo de los Santos—the owner of the restaurant where nachos were invented—still live in the area and very generously agreed to speak with me. What I discovered was that even in Piedras Negras, folks have different versions of the story. It made me double down on research and look beyond the internet. I found two archived newspaper articles, where the reporters interviewed Anaya himself. When I read them, I felt that I was as close as I was ever going to get to the truth. With those articles and the details I gathered from photographs and interviews, I at last had my story!
Tell us about the creative process for this book.
I wrote my first drafts from what I found on the internet, before my trip to Mexico. They were narrative nonfiction, and I imagined conversations. I also imagined the setting since I didn’t have photos or descriptions of the restaurant where nachos were invented. After my trip to Mexico, gathering photos, discovering the archived articles, and interviewing the families, I decided to write the story as straight nonfiction. So many of the details out there are wrong. People have even posted photos of Anaya that aren’t him. In fact, there isn’t a single accurate photo of him on the internet. I wanted to be sure that my version only included details that I could verify. I also provided all the photographs I collected to Oliver Dominguez so his artwork could be as accurate as possible too.
Did you encounter anything unexpected while working on this project?
The great thing about writing, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, is that it’s always filled with the unexpected! My favorite unexpected discovery for Nacho’s Nachos was that the original nachos were different from the piles of tortilla chips we now see all loaded up with lots of toppings. Anaya’s original creation was pure and simple: a freshly fried tortilla quarter, with melted cheddar cheese and a single strip of pickled jalapeno pepper. It really is perfection!
Now for something completely different! Hot Air Balloon Ride in the sky or Hovercraft Ride through the swamp, Why?
Ooooh, that’s a hard one for me. I’m hugely scared of heights and I get motion sick on boats. That said, I have tested my acrophobia by skydiving and paragliding, so I’m going to go with hot air balloon ride. I have a lingering hope that confronting my fear of heights will one day make it disappear. Wish me luck!
Good luck, Sandra, for both the hot air balloon ride as well as the launch of your new book! It was very interesting to find out how invention stories get muddled as time passes. Great to have writers like you who are committed to delivering historical truth to kids!
Bio: Sandra Nickel
Sandra Nickel writes books and poetry for young readers. In 2020 and 2021, she has three books coming out: Nacho's Nachos (Lee & Low), The Stuff Between the Stars (Abrams) and Breaking Through the Clouds (Abrams). Sandra's poetry can be found in SCOOP magazine. Sandra holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has presented workshops on writing for children and young adults throughout Europe and the United States. Sandra has twice won the Katherine Paterson Prize for picture books.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Benvenuto! Bainvegnì! Welcome!