Latino Food Culture

Latino Food Culture

Latino Food Culture

Latino Food Culture

Synopsis

Latino cuisine has always been a part of American foodways, but the recent growth of a diverse Latino population in the form of documented and undocumented immigrants, refugees, and exiles has given rise to a pan-Latino food phenomenon. These various food cultures in the United States are expertly overviewed here together in depth for the first time. Many Mexican American, Cuban American, Puerto Ricans, Dominican American, and Central and South American communities in the United States are considered transnational because they actively participate in the economy, politics, and culture of both the United States and their countries of origin. The pan-Latino food culture that is emerging in the United States is also a transnational phenomenon that constantly nurtures and is nurtured by national and regional cuisines. They all combine in kaleidoscopic ways their shared gastronomic wealth of Spanish and Amerindian cuisines with different African, European and Asian culinary traditions. This book discusses the ongoing development of Latino food culture, giving special attention to how Latinos are adapting and transforming Latin American and international elements to create one of the most vibrant cuisines today.

Excerpt

If you think of iconic and quintessentially American foods, those with which we are most familiar, there are scarcely any truly native to North America. Our hot dogs are an adaptation of sausages from Frankfurt and Vienna; our hamburgers are another Germanic import reconfigured. Ketchup is an invention of Southeast Asia, although it is based on the tomato, which comes from South America. Pizza is a variant on a Neapolitan dish. Colas are derived from an African nut. Our beloved peanuts are a South American plant brought to Africa and from there to the U.S. South. Our french fries are an Andean tuber, cooked with a European technique. Even our quintessentially American apple pie is made from a fruit native to what is today Kazakhstan.

When I poll my students about their favorite foods at the start of every food class I teach, inevitably included are tacos, bagels, sushi, pasta, fried chicken—most of which can be found easily at fast food outlets a few blocks from campus. In a word, American food culture is, and always has been profoundly globally oriented. This, of course, has been the direct result of immigration, from the time of earliest settlement by Spanish, English, French and Dutch, of slaves brought by force from Africa, and later by Germans, Italians, Eastern Europeans, including Jews, and Asians, up until now with the newest immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere.

Although Americans have willingly adopted the foods of newcomers, we never became a “melting pot” for these various cultures. So-called ethnic cuisines naturally changed on foreign soil, adapting to new ingredients and popular taste—but at heart they remain clear and proud descendants of their respective countries. Their origins are also readily recognized by Americans . . .

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