Feb 8, 12:49 AM EST
Rebecca Carranza, pioneer of the tortilla chip, dies at 98
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Rebecca Webb Carranza, who is credited with playing an important role in popularizing the now ubiquitous tortilla chip, has died at age 98.
Carranza died Jan. 19 at a hospice in Phoenix, Ariz., said her sons, Mario R. and Victor Luis Carranza.
In the late 1940s, the Carranza family's Los Angeles-based El Zarape Tortilla Factory began making tortillas by machine, but at first many of the corn and flour disks were misshapen and had to be thrown away.
Carranza took some of the rejects home for a party, cut them into triangles and fried them. The result was a huge hit with her guests and she began selling them for 10 cents a bag. By the 1960s the Tort Chips, as they were called, were El Zarape's main business.
Carranza, meanwhile, was one of about 20 industry innovators honored with the Golden Tortilla in 1994 and 1995, the only years the award was given, said Mario Orozco, an employee of Irving, Texas-based Azteca Milling, who created the honor.
Rebecca Webb was born in Durango, Mexico, on Nov. 29, 1907, to a Utah mining engineer who was working for an American mining company and his Mexican-born wife. She was a teenager when the mining company moved her family to El Paso, Texas, and after her parents divorced she moved to Los Angeles with her mother.
She met her husband, Mario Carranza, on a blind date and they married in 1931.
Inspired by a friend's successful tortilla shop in East Los Angeles, the Carranzas opened their factory in the early 1940s.
After the couple divorced in 1951, Carranza's husband took over the business. His tortilla chip factory closed in 1967, partly because of competition from national companies.
In addition to her sons, Carranza is survived by 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.