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Food & Drink

Gustavo Arellano's 'Taco USA' book tour comes to San Antonio with dire warning for regional cuisine

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Oranges for sale: Taco USA author Gustavo Arrellano

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, Gustavo Arrellano, Simon & Schuster, $25, 320 pages


Arellano dedicates Taco USA "To all the Mexican workers — busboys and waitresses, line cooks and sous chefs, janitors and crop pickers, and so many more — who toil anonymously in our food industry, making American cuisine even more Mexican than we can ever realize." Even America itself, he implies, is more Mexican than we realize. Assimilation is happening at every level of society. And America is eating it up. As Taco USA notes, salsa sales have overtaken ketchup as America's leading condiment. 

While Main Street America is getting hip to chips and salsa, elsewhere the creative forces of assimilation are experimenting, with interesting results. As Arellano told me over red and green bowls of chile, they're putting French fries in burritos in San Diego, green chile on the burgers in New Mexico — and of course putting their burgers inside their burritos in Denver. And they're selling panocha, cheap, in Chimayo, N.M., during Lent, something that even an open-minded California Mexican like himself had trouble comprehending at first. 

"Panocha is a New Mexican pudding made with brown sugar and [sprouted] wheat and sold during Lent. … It's also a different name for vagina. So imagine a Mexican like myself from southern California coming here and seeing all over the place during Lent 'Panocha one dollar, panocha one dollar…' I'm like what? Then I realize it's pudding. Good pudding, man. Oh my God is it good." •

Ari LeVaux writes Flash in the Pan, a weekly syndicated food column, that appears in 22 states. Follow him on Twitter at @arilevaux.

Gustavo Arellano reading and book signing

Free
6pm-8pm Thu, May 10
Southwest Workers Union Underground Library
1412 E Commerce
(210) 299-2666
swunion.org

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