Mexican Food Is the True American Food

In the course of this culinary blending, a multibillion-dollar industry arose. And that’s where leftist critics of Mexican food come in. For them, there’s something inherently suspicious about a cuisine responsive to both the market and the mercado. Oh, academics and foodies may love the grub, but they harbor an atavistic view that the only “true” Mexican food is the just-off-the-grill carne asada found in the side lot of your local abuelita (never mind that it was the invading Spaniards who introduced beef to the New World). “Mexico’s European-and-Indian soul,” writes Rick Bayless, the high priest of the “authentic” Mexican food movement, in his creatively titled book, Authentic Mexican, “feels the intuitions of neither bare-bones Victorianism nor Anglo-Saxon productivity”—a line reminiscent of dispatches from the Raj. If it were up to these authentistas, we’d never have kimchi tacos or pastrami burritos. Salsa would not outsell ketchup in the United States. This food of the gods would be locked in Mexican households and barrios of cities, far away from Anglo hands.

—Gustavo Arellano has a bang-up excerpt from his book  Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America in the new Reason. “Mexican food has become a better culinary metaphor for America than the melting pot,” he writes, which: SO TRUE. He also isn’t a Mexican-food elitist (DESPITE BEING MEXICAN), which I really appreciate. I’ve had SoCal taco truck tacos and I’ve had Virginia flour-tortilla enchiladas smothered in cheese and red goop, and they’re both delicious. Arellano agrees. He doesn’t even hate on a breakfast burrito he found with tater tots in it (the man recognizes a good idea when he sees one).


4 Comments / Post A Comment

This is just because absolutely everything is better in a tortilla.

e (#734)

It’s really interesting to read his take on the food truck issues. I live in LA and was here when that was happening, and I think that article sort of glosses over some of the main concerns that came up over the trucks (it is true that the restaurants were really silly and jerks about it) but there are real concerns about inspection- all our non-mobile food establishments here get food inspections and have to post a letter grade from the health department. If you had a truck that was making people sick, how would you report it? They could simply move neighborhoods and paint over their sign and be a brand new crappy business.

In LA there are a lot of mobile businesses that also take up parking spots- food trucks, truck stores (these look like small white moving vans with a person inside and boxes of fruit and bread and candy) and lastly the scrap metal trucks which are pickups with piles of old metal scraps. Many taco/food trucks don’t take up street parking- they park in gas station lots or other places, but at least in my neighborhood where parking is hard to find, when you pass 12 scrap trucks, a truck store and a taco truck as you search for a place to park near the store you actually need to get to…I guess I’m enough of a square to also see the side of the people who don’t like taco trucks.

I don’t think tacos need to come from a suspicious man in the mouth of an alley to be good, but there’s definitely good and bad mexican food. I think when people are looking for “authentic” mexican food, they’re really just using authentic as a shorthand for “good.”

ujas2134 (#4,045)

I love Mexican food and every time I have the opportunity to buy a Taco I do it because it is my favorite type of food. Two years ago I decided to maintain a healthy way of living and with the help of my wife I planted berry plants in the backyard. She found a website with berry plants for sale and we decided to try this, now my kids are very grateful for that.

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