A travel blog sprinkled in literature and served up with a dollop of foods from around the globe.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Taco USA

My travels through Mexico last year were by far some of the most eye opening of experiences I’ve had in my short twenty-one years on earth. After hearing horror stories from my American classmates, of drug cartels, beheadings, gang warfare and abductions; it would be fair to say I left the air-conditioned bus station at Cancun with much trepidation. It only took my around 45 minutes to realise the fear was entirely unnecessary and that the Mexican people were some of the warmest people I had encountered. Starving after my flight I walked to a block of eateries all arranged around a square. In my best Spanish I walked up to one and confidently said "Hola Señor, ¿Que Tal? Quiero una fajita, por favor...con salsa." He looked at me blankly and then began to chuckle, I assumed my accent had failed me and walked away embarrassed, bringing out my phrasebook for inspiration. It wasn't until I started looking at the brightly painted boards above the vendors that I saw nothing that remotely resembled a fajita or a taco. It turned out Old El Paso had been lying to me all these years. Sizzling fajitas, frozen margaritas and hard shell tacos were all part of the “Mexicanisation” of American cuisine. They only existed in the space in between American and Mexican food. 

In a survey conducted by the Mexican agency in the US, Conhill it manifests that Hispanic food boasts the largest influence on American culture, at 32%. However many food theorists such as Rick Bayless, Diana Kennedy, Susan Feniger and Jonathan Gold are in debate as to whether the surge of Taco Bells, El Torito, Chi-Chi's and Frito Lay's are akin to pejorative cultural appropriation. In his recent book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America (2012) Gustavo Arellano, traces the humble roots of Mexican cuisine from the stateside origins in the 1800s into the 21st century obsession for 2am hard-shell tacos.

Arelleno asks the question what makes food Mexican? Is in its origins or is it whether Mexicans eat it? This is an idea that has permeated throughout the research I have is undertaken. If we are to look at our nations evolving sentimental feeling of heterogeneity, then are we still allowed to complain about our foods origins after we have integrated into their community? Personally, I believe the travelling nature of food can only have a positive reaction. Change, alteration and adaptation have been and will always be a part of cross-culturalism and as long as the origins are not forgotten and a grandmother continues to pass her recipes downward, the Mexican traditions are safe. As Arellano attests to the autonomous nature of Mexican cuisine, it is "Always evolving, never stagnant, and continually striving for something better, consistently delicious." and if that isn't something to raise your frozen margarita to, I don't know what is...cheers! 

1 comment:

  1. I was so happy to see that you had written a post about Mexican food in relation to how it has become severely Americanized. In fact, my experience of eating Mexican food in Norway is a result of this Americanization. Not only did I think it was acceptable to to eat taco filling in Tortilla's and still call it Taco's, but I also ate Fajitas with Taco spice mix on the filling and called it Fajitas.Thank you so much for clarifying the authenticity of Mexican food!