Op-Ed: Mexican Food is More Than Just Your Average Taco

“Mexican food is gathering importance in the U.S. We are living through a time when it is being revalued, and that is really exciting as a cook,” Gabriela Camara said in an article for VICE.

Coming from a home that values the culture behind every meal, it is insulting to realize how people can very easily look down upon our food.

Not just for me, but for many Mexican families who have had to adapt to an American lifestyle, we feel that our food, because of the history and the stories behind it, should be valued for all its worth.

Guadalupe Barajas, a Mexican woman who has been living in California for more than 40 years, feels proud that not only does her food taste delicious, but it can “unite her family and bring them closer together.”

For her, what she makes in the kitchen and how it has a positive impact on her family is more important than anything else. The idea of being able to unite people under one roof to eat foods like, “carne de puerco, tacos enrollados, tacos dorados, birria y pozole,” is what makes her happy and that is all that matters.

For the Mexican community, a meal is not only for nourishment, but it is a way to break down barriers between different cultures.

For Maria Barrera, a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, she feels that “the problem at least in this country is that when people think about Mexican food all they think about is tacos. All they think about is Tex-Mex food, they think about chimichangas, they think about chalupas. People make it seem as if that is all we have. When there are things like mole, that can take up to 500 days to make and is undervalued.”

The thing is, The point Barrera makes is so valid. In this country when we think of Mexican food we always refer back to tacos, rice, and beans. Never do we consider the varieties of food and even the different ethnic groups who correspond with Mexico.

In Mexico, we have the Nahuas, descendants of the Aztecs, Mayas, Zapotecos, Mixtecos, Totonacas, Purepechas and more. There are so many different types of Mexicans and yet were all categorized under tacos and burritos.

Why is that we can proudly identify others by their most expensive or “sophisticated” meals but we are all okay with putting “Mexican” under an umbrella and saying yeah they make good tacos, but I think that is about it?

Gabriela Aguirre, a self-made Mexican chef, believes that Mexican food deserves a higher value, not only because there are so many steps involved into making it, but because the process of cultivating the land and transporting the ingredients used is not something anyone can do.

This ties into to another issue, why do we get so offended when we have to pay more than three dollars for a pound of grapes but are totally okay with knowing that people who cultivate and work these fields, still are not getting paid or receiving the benefits they have earned?

From my perspective, I have been able to see how something that takes awhile to prepare can encourage community and communication even there is a barrier.

Motions and simple words like “spicy” or “muy bueno” can unite people from different cultures and that is what I have been able to see through Mexican food.

Do I think it is underpriced for all the hard work it takes to be made? Yes.

But do I feel that there is more to it than just a price? Of course.

The idea of bringing people together and allowing others to take part in one’s culture can be a valuable experience for others. Being able to celebrate and distinguish a group of people for their accomplishments is what we should be there to do.

Instead of undervaluing one’s unique differences we should appreciate them and value them for all their worth.

As we continue to progress, we can only hope that Mexican food will be able to branch out and not only be associated with tacos but everything else it has to offer.

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