Gustavo Arellano's new book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, celebrates food from places we might not expect - like Taco Bell - as Mexican food. While he started out as an “auténtico,” Arellano has come to the conclusion that there is no authentic Mexican cuisine. Arellano describes in delicious detail the cuisine that has migrated north across the Rio Grande. He believes that Mexican American food has become a movable fiesta of hybrid tastes and bold regional experiments that have rendered terms like "authenticity" meaningless. Mexican food is a big, inclusive kitchen, he says; all are welcome who add something to the melting pot. Arellano lays out the pre-Columbian origins of Mexican cooking, then traces the food's stateside arrival via exiled Mexican revolutionaries and itinerant "tamale men" street vendors. In the book, which is on the APL Recommends 2012 Nonfiction list, he says that the taste for salsa doesn't really explode until the 1970s, and then in the 1980s it just goes crazy. Wrapped inside "Taco USA" is a bigger story about Mexican immigrants' struggles to assimilate. A longtime food writer, Arellano made his national reputation with ¡Ask a Mexican!, in which he supplies carefully researched, mildly ironic responses to both Mexican and non-Mexican readers' frequently clueless queries.
Mexican Food Milestones:
- 1972: The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy boldly proclaimed that Mexican food in the United States was a fraud and that Americans should eat only "authentic" Mexican food.
- 1986: Modern Southwest Cuisine by John Sedlar captured the the southwestern cuisine movement of the 1980s.
- 2004: The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos by Robb Walsh applauded Tex-Mex cooking with history and recipes.