An appealing cultural exploration of Mexican food in the United States.
Part history, part social commentary, Arellano’s (Orange County: A Personal History, 2008, etc.) comprehensive narrative will certainly whet the appetite of readers, as he chronicles how Mexican food products moved across the border and into American homes, restaurants and grocery stores. The author discusses tamales sold on the street corners of Chicago, canned tortillas and the first frozen-margarita machine, now ensconced in the Smithsonian. He examines the advent of the Mexican restaurant and the rise of Taco Bell, Chi-Chi’s and other chains, chili con carne cook-offs and the difference between Tex-Mex and true Mexican food. Arellano explains the history behind bottled salsa and the idea that the product is the “top-selling condiment in this country, even more than ketchup. It’s partly true: salsa does bring in more revenue for companies than ketchup…but [in 2007] ketchup moved more units.” Readers travel along with the author as he explores the rise of Mexican cookbooks, most written by non-Mexicans, the author’s five favorite Mexican meals in the United States and the search for “authentic” Mexican food. Because Mexican food is so ubiquitous—from restaurant menus to grocery-store shelves—Arellano writes, “the purpose of this book is not just to cover a cuisine whose history barely registers into the official American story, but to make ustedes hungry. I want not only to make you desire Mexican food, but also to understand it, to appreciate it further.”
Mission accomplished. Readers will come away not only hungry, but with a deeper understanding of the Mexican people and their cuisine.