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).