During class we have talked a lot about authenticity and what that word means in a global world were foods are transported from location to location, spices and crops being traded and melting into pots at dinner tables. Mexican food that is authentic to Mexico is different than Mexican food authentic to the Unites States are very different. This raises the question of what is authentic, what is appreciation, and what is appropriation.
Reading Gustavo Arellano’s book Taco USA, gives different perspectives to this question. One part that I want to discuss is his point of People loving Mexican food but not Mexicans and how this translates to food in the United States.
“While we’ve long quarreled with Mexico over seemingly everything, we’ve always embraced the food, wanting to experience the “authenticity” of the other half: enjoying the meals Aztec emperors might have feasted on before meeting their fate…eating like Mexicans night eat on the streets, in poverty back in Mexico, in the cantina through cookbooks, canned products, classes, trips to the motherland or the local taqueria- but always within the prism of America”Arellano 8
I have seen this happen where people want to experience food in an
“authentic” environment in the safety of a restaurant for a meal and then they are free to continue with their own way of life. Especially in our political culture right now, you see politicians eating at “authentic” restaurants, chewing up authentic spices and dishes and then leaving to go pass through legislation that can dehumanize the same people that made their food. If someone wants to experience real authenticity with what they eat and where they eat they should first start by trying to learn about the people. Rather than using it as a facade for a couple hours before returning to their normal.
There is a lot more to a culture and to their food, than just a fabricated authentic experience through packaged goods and recipes written online by chefs who sometimes don’t even belong to the culture they are writing about.
This made me wonder if sometimes I go into restaurants that are made to look authentic but are only as we discussed in class a “real-estate ploy”. I am going to try to start a new habit of researching a place before falling for the authentic look of it.