Friday, May 18, 2012


Every now and again I have a touch of sympathy for critiques of liberal behavior. This paragraph struck me as generally accurate:
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.
On the one hand, I really love Rick Bayless's food. And I can appreciate the desire to create ethnically authentic experiences and cuisine as much as the next white guy. On the other hand, I really love kimchi tacos. The world would be a worse place without them.


Dan said...

Now how in the hell did this guy (and you, by extension), make this about political leanings? I agree with the underlying sentiment - why TF should I know or care whether a given meal is "authentic", especially if it is supposedly "authentic" to a place I have never been?

My objection, though, is to the automatic tying of that kind of connoisseurism to the left. I have no idea how Bayless voted in the last election. I sincerely doubt that I would consider him a "leftist", and the author provides no evidence that he or the professors he cites are to the left of anyone.

It's about class, not politics. Because this knucklehead presumably happens to hang around with a liberal group, he's assuming all "foodies" are liberals. But they're not. They are just people who happen to care a little too much and take themselves a little too seriously - a trait that is not at all tied to liberal politics.

I reject his attempt to tie a misguided attention to the "authenticity" of food to liberalism. You're just as likely to find American chop suey or bogus beef stroganoff on the table of a Democratic-voting union member as on that of a tea-partying right-winger. You're also just as likely to see the upper classes of both parties chowing down on rare sushi or snails imported from France.

Jim said...

I am not sure that upper crust conservatives chowing down on sushi and escargot is really the point. I thought the point here was more about attitudes towards inauthenticity. I am not really defending conservatives here. Saying that really crappy tacos are ok because they make money isn't a real appealing argument to me either.

But the commentary is on the claim that disrupting the food of a culture is akin to an attack on the culture. It is not about whether Conservatives eat sushi or (probably non-liberal)union Democrats eat chop suey. And I would argue as the general defenders of minority cultures, liberals would logically be more given to this kind of thinking. My experience would seem to go along with that. Whether the empirical evidence would support my experience is a question always up for debate.


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