Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

By Jeffrey M. Pilcher | Go to book overview

have shown how the national cuisine has been used for ideological purposes. Nineteenth-century cookbooks sought to establish cultural boundaries of citizenship by excluding dishes that were not considered respectable, particularly indigenous foods made of maize.2 In the twentieth century, the national cuisine has been politicized through inclusion as well as exclusion. The Yucatán, for example, has been a culturally distinctive region since the days of rival Maya and Aztec empires. Its foods were virtually invisible in nineteenth-century Mexican cookbooks, but they have recently been subsumed within the national cuisine, despite the resistance of Yucatecans who reject the label “Mexican.” 3

Contemporary national boundaries do not provide any better guide to authenticity than do lines of region, ethnicity, or class. Cuisines grow organically from the local climate and soil and from global movements of trade and migration. By contrast, national borders are fixed artificially at a particular place and time, often through war and diplomacy. When the United States invaded Mexico in 1846 and imposed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it annexed South Texas without regard for its Mexican population and history. Although the Lower Rio Grande is at the center of a common agricultural region and local cuisine, it divides two nations. A dish served on the south bank of the river is the national cuisine; on the north bank, it is ethnic food. For families on both sides, it is simply home cooking.

The search for authentic Mexican food—or rather, the struggle to define what that means—has been going on for two hundred years, and some of the most important sites of contention have been outside of Mexico. Notions of authenticity have been contested through interactions between insiders and outsiders, they have changed over time, and they have contributed to broader power relations. The very idea of Mexico was first conceived by Creoles, people of European descent who were born in the Americas and who imagined a shared past with Aztec monarchs in order to claim political autonomy within the Spanish empire. Nevertheless, the Creoles scorned native foods made of corn, as well as the lower-class people who ate them. When independence came in the nineteenth century, attempts to forge a national cuisine were split between nostalgia for Creole traditions and the allure of European fashions. Foods considered to be Indian were largely ignored, along with yet another variant of Mexican cooking that emerged in the northern territories conquered by Yankee invaders. With the U.S. rise to global power in the twentieth century, this Tex-Mex cooking was industrialized and carried around the world. Mexican elites, confronted with the potential loss of their culinary identity

-xiv-

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Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction - A Tale of Two Tacos 1
  • Part I - Proto-Tacos 19
  • Chapter 1 - Maize and the Making of Mexico 21
  • Chapter 2 - Burritos in the Borderlands 46
  • Part II - National Tacos 77
  • Chapter 3 - From the Pastry War to Parisian Mole 79
  • Chapter 4 - The Rise and Fall of the Chili Queens 105
  • Chapter 5 - Inventing the Mexican American Taco 130
  • Part III - Global Tacos 161
  • Chapter 6 - The First Wave of Global Mexican 163
  • Chapter 7 - The Blue Corn Bonanza 189
  • Conclusion - The Battle of the Taco Trucks 221
  • Notes 233
  • Glossary 263
  • Select Bibliography 268
  • Index 283
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