mi comida favorita

“It’s worth the drive for those tamales.”

My thoughts exactly, dictated by another member of Team Taco on the thirty-minute drive back from Georgetown. We drove out to meet my parents at Taqueria Becerra (they told me when they would arrive in Lexington, a four hour drive for them, at two hours away the day of their travel).

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We met in the church parking lot downtown, right outside of the taqueria. Mom got out of the car to greet me first. “Well, they certainly have an interesting color scheme. Have you been here before?”

I love my family.

There were only three tables taken at dinner time on this Thursday night, and all three were sitting latinos. A nice young lady wearing a Crank and Boom t-shirt addressed us smiling from behind the counter: “Sit wherever you like! I’ll be right there.”

My parents looked at me expectantly. “So,” my dad said. “What do we get here?”


I settled on two tacos (chorizo and carne asada, my two favorites) and a tamale. After downing two baskets of chips and salsa and catching up with the family, our food started to trickle out. It was all displayed simply. My parents almost took a bite as I said “Wait–we’re missing something.” They were puzzled. Everything we ordered was there. Just as they started to try to protest, our server came back with a plate of limes and another of cilantro and onion (the taco trinity). In typical Hudson tradition, everyone’s plates rotated: my mother’s gordita was too cheesy for me (and I still don’t really know how to eat them); my dad got pork rind tacos that he loved and that I simply did not. It’s redeeming quality lay in the tortilla (these are made by our server’s mother every morning. I prefer these to the tortillas from Ramirez, even. They’re so good.)

The winner, decided by all, was the tamale. I opened up the corn husk, the steam revealing an orange mass riddled with flecks of spices and pulled pork. It was equal parts spicy and savory, but not overpowering. I did the math in my head: if I babysat for one hour, I could afford ten tamales from the taqueria here in Georgetown. I was transported. More than any other place, more than any other food, I loved this nearly-empty Georgetown dig tamale.

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A quick note to parents out there: If your child has been diagnosed with OCD, please give them the correct ETA and duration of stay before you arrive–if not, at least buy them tamales and tacos.

My family left happy (for four people, it only cost about $20), and decided as we parted ways that they should next time bring their friends. That’s the cool thing about all the places Taco Literacty takes you: when you go, you go not only once, but again in the future, multiplied by all the people who came, too.

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J-stor? More like Bae-stor.

Online research databases: you know the timeless romance. Although “J-stor and chill” may never really catch on, taco research ain’t half bad. Overwhelmingly what I’m finding is the intersection of migration, life, and food and how this manifests itself in different facets of economic and political culture of the United States. Here are just some of the title pages of my directed research so far. Click on the photos and, if you have access, check them out online.

Good (food) work being done in the world today, eh?

Sensory Vocabulary

Sensory Vocabulary

Super useful–wish I had this (or the thought to search for it) before I started writing.

Taco Literacy

sensory vocabulary image.jpg Sensory vocabulary with a couple dialectics.

This image gives some synonyms for thinking about your descriptions. Credit goes to Profe Lance Langdon at U California Irvine for sharing this image. Profe Lance had Taco Literacy in mind when he saw this one.

Texture and appearance is cool. What would taste and texture look like? What about taste and appearance? Also, what about sounds?

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Four More Quote Cannons

“Missionaries were equally intent on culinary change for evangelical purposes. Wheat was the only grain that could be used for the Eucharist according to medieval Church doctrine, while wine signified the blood of Christ, and olive oil was essential to sacraments and celebrations.” (Pilcher 29)

I had to revisit this quote, seen in the last post of quotes from Planet Taco. This quote was followed by an explanation that wine was hard to develop in the New World, and therefore it and oils (essential for sacraments) had to be imported. This makes me wonder about the influence on the Church of the food environment of the New World, and how both seemed to grow to accommodate each other. Was it always dependent upon an unequal trade-domination paradigm, or have things changed?

“Scholars have only begun to investigate the connections between household labor and the fate of empires.” (28)

This quote, although short, stands in front of what I’m coming to discover is a serious issue in the world of academia and intellectual society: the invalid trivialization of food, food workers, and the acquisition of ingredients. It makes sense when put into the perspective that without food, we wouldn’t be alive to have an empire to begin with; furthermore, when analyzing the inequality and identities assigned in relation to specific foods, it becomes increasingly important for liberation theorists and political historians.

“…American plants took root wherever they would grow and […] their superior productivity spurred early modern populate growth around the world.” (36)

American plants (namely corn and chiles) spread like wildfire, but what was interesting about this spread was that even in other nations, these foods were considered to be for the impoverished populations of the world. On a positive note, as the quote indicates, this led to a boom in the growth of and capacity for a greater world population that, in turn, led to more productive economies and scientific/humanitarian developments.

“Chocolate’s popularity among the European aristocracy provides a curious counterpoint to the experience of corn and chiles, illustrating how a Mesoamerican food could gain status for its exoticism. The favored drink of the Indian nobles, it was savored by Cortes and his band of conquistadors in the palace of Moctezuma. Merchants and priests also acquired a taste for chocolate while living in the colognes, and by the end of the sixteenth century, they had carried it home to Spain. Soon it was taken up by the court in Madrid, and from there it spread through the noble houses of Europe. As it traveled, the bitter drink of the Aztecs was transformed through the addition of sugar, spices, and other flavorings. Italians may have been the first to make chocolate ice cream, and less memorably, they experimented with grating it on polenta instead of cheese. Chocolate’s exotic origins and distant sources added to the appeal for European consumers. Unlike chiles and corn, the tropical cacao tree was not easily transplanted to Europe, and it became an important article of transatlantic trade. Spaniards relied at first on supplies from Tabasco and Soconusco, at the southern tip of the old Aztec Empire, but growing demand prompted the establishment of plantations in Venezuela and Ecuador. The most valuable cacao was grown in Soconusco and Caracas, while the more abundant product of Guayaquil was considered the ‘chocolate of the poor’.” (40)

The dichotomy illustrated in the two polarized receptions of American foods (that of chocolate vs that of corn and chiles) and the manipulation of their use and significance to the classes to me is paralleled to our modern understandings of Latino culture. Either we see it as dirty, poor, and the “other,” or we see it as exotic, erotic, and good entertainment. This is a sad indication of development, but I also wonder if it could not also be positive. Is it okay, as it was with hot chocolate, to add a little American sugar and spice to Mexican culture?


 

Works Cited:

Pilcher, Jeffrey M.. Planet Taco. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

 

Quote Cannons: Planet Taco

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I went pretty crazy on the quotes from the beginning of the book. To be honest, they took me away. For the rest of Planet Taco, I took a chill pill, and decided that as I continued to read, my blog posts at least could utilize and unpack some of those quotes that I drew out from the front end.


 

“However nutritionally sound, the recipe for tortillas required enormous physical labor from women. Arguably, they worked as hard grinding corn on the metate as did the men they fed who constructed the physical monuments of Teotihuacan, the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.” (Pilcher 27)

This quote was significant to me for several reasons. Primarily, it placed the development of the tortilla within a comparative time period I had not initially considered. For some reason, I had assumed the construction of the monuments and the construction of the tortilla were far removed, when in reality, both probably fed into each other. It was also interesting to read about the important role of women in the development of society and the progress of families. Girl power was very, very real, and in fact, was necessary.

“Missionaries were equally intent on culinary change for evangelical purposes. Wheat was the only grain that could be used for the Eucharist according to medieval Church doctrine, while wine signified the blood of Christ, and olive oil was essential to sacraments and celebrations.” (29)

I had also not initially considered the religious implications of food, and how dominance and colonialism was not constrained simply to to political or economic life, but also in religious practices. In this way, food becomes both a doctrine and a judgement received, but this time, in the more serious realm of eternity, not just in relation to the city center.

“Definitions of race therefore depended as much on culture as on physical appearance, and the baker’s guild of Mexico City reinforced this artificial hierarchy by producing breads appropriate for every rank and income.” (30)

Specific grains themselves were reflections of identity enforced by existing regulations of the time. This makes me wonder just how many types of breads there were, and if it was possible to change your perceived place in society by changing your diet. It seems to me that after enough mixing of race, many peoples of varying ethnic content would look feasibly similar enough for confusion. Did a similar thing happen with baked goods? Were the lines ever blurred in favor of oppressed peoples?


 

Works Cited:

Pilcher, Jeffrey M.. Planet Taco. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Taco Trip: the Table

One of the best parts of the Taco Trip was getting to know some of my super-interesting classmates. Our conversation went from bananas, to plagues, to Jairo’s insanity, to sophistry, to puns, to secret agent tacos, to, naturally even more puns. The thoughtfulness and laughter at our table reminded me of the power of food to bring people (even the weirdest ones) together.

I’ve put some fast-facts together about the members of our table for a behind-the-scenes look at some of the members of the notorious Taco Crew. Look through the slideshow to learn about the people who rock the tacos!

Birria on the Taco Trip

On Saturday, the Taco Crew (not to be confused with Team Taco, mis amigos) went to try birria together on a field trip to defeat all field trips. Looking back, I don’t imagine the day as drearily as I know it was. In reality, it was raining, cold, and grey as far as the eye could see. I approached a suspicious looking white van with a Mexican man in the passenger seat who beckoned out a cracked window, “Hey, over here; get in the van.”

In literally any other circumstance, this would be a situation in which I immediately turned the other way. Luckily, that white van was university property, that man was one of my favorite professors, and this trip was planned a long, long time ago in a classroom not far away from where I slid into my seatbelt that morning alongside some fellow classmates. We waited for the rest of the class to show up, and once everyone was accounted for, we embarked for our destination: Birrieria Jalisco.

We walked into the oblong room as an anamorphic blob, as awkward as humanly possible. “It’s okay, guys,” profe insisted, “you can be rude here. It’s alright.” We relaxed a bit. Taking our seats, we pored over the menus. I knew what I would get long before we arrived: Birria.

The Food

Before the main course came, our waitress laid three salsas on our table with a basket of chips. As she laid down the salsas, she ordered their spiciness: light green: mild; the middle: spicy; the red salsa: fire.

The light tomatillo salsa (salsa verde) was sweet, spicy, but not in a lasting way. This salsa smelled like the stereotypical “Mexican Sauce” from my childhood. It was mild enough to be able to eat it without taking a water break. The darker red salsa was too spicy for such liberal usage. It even smelled spicy. It was also, in my opinion, the least salty of the three. The heat of this salsa went immediately to the throat. The medium, which seemed almost like a mixture between a salsa roja and a salsa verde, was immediately sweet, then slowly spicy as time wore on the tastebuds.

After a while of chips and conversation, the moment we’d all been waiting for arrived: the main course. A deep well of birria was placed in front of me. “You okay?” Kristi asked.

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A closer look at the birria.

“I’m so good. I’m just… ugh. I’m so happy.” Soup is probably my favorite food group.[1] It reminds me of home, of the every-other-weekend making of a big stew for the family. A hot broth and good meat are good for the soul–It’s simply and undisputed fact.

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Thick tortillas for the transport of goat to mouth.

The soup was savory. The meat chunks were huge, and required a bit of tearing apart for spooning. I found four bones in the bowl.[2] I was impressed. The goat was tender, and the lime was a great addition to the stew. The tortillas were thicker here than I was used to, but they came in handy for eating the rest of the meat. My experience with this birria was, overall, extremely positive. It was the cure we all needed for the rainy, cold day before midterms.


[1] The food groups, you know: veggies, proteins, grains, soup…

[2] This is a great thing in my book. I remember sneaking the bones from stews and roasts for sharing with my grandfather, who taught me how to take as much flavor out of them as you could. After long enough of chewing on a good bone, it can become hard to tell if the marrow yours or not anymore. It takes the hunger out of you. It’s calming. Bones are good.