Dear Readers: Talk about a lazy Mexican—nearly four years after promising ustedes that I was going to write a book about the history of Mexican food in the United States, my Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America is getting released this week! April 10! It has 300-plus pages of astounding history (Did you know the first famous Mexican-food restaurateur was Buffalo Bill Cody?), delicious food (Bacon-wrapped hot dogs are Mexican? You know it!), and avaricious gabachos making millions off the foodstuffs of anonymous Mexis! I'll be invading Tucson and other cities soon with a trunkful of books; find out more information for book-signings at my website, or in this column. In the meanwhile, buy Taco USA at your favorite local bookstore, your finer online retailers or your craftier piratas, but buy it: My libro editor has already promised to deport me from the publishing industry if we don't sell enough copies!
In honor of this momentous occasion, we turn the columna over to comida.
Dear Mexican: Am I the only one who gets ticked off when I see all these food trucks riding around selling Korean, Chinese, Brazilian, etc., food—yet all I see when I look at the menu is Mexican food? They mostly sell burritos, tacos, quesadillas, etc. All they do is change the fillings and don't even give credit to Mexicans! For example ... Los Angeles' Kogi Korean BBQ? Why not call it Kogi Korean BBQ Tacos and Burritos or something like that? Even better: Kogi Mexican-Korean Food! Their whole menu revolves around Mexican food! I thought whites were the only ones who appropriate Mexican food, like when they try to claim chili (con carne) as their own. Now Koreans and others are getting into the act.
Dear Wab: What did Koreans ever do to you, güey? Did some hot-ass chinita reject you because her parents thought you were a cholo, damn your master's degree? (Happened to the Mexican—true story!) If the luxe loncheras that now dominate America's big metro regions really wanted to disappear the Mexican roots of their comida, they wouldn't be serving burritos, tacos or quesadillas—they'd call them "wraps," "cornmeal pinchers" and "cheese turnovers," respectively. Instead, all I ever see them do is change the first part of the name, but keep the Mexi vessel—and Mexican food, like Mexis, are fundamentally malleable and no le vale madre about strict taxonomies.
The only problem you should have with these luxe loncheras are the efforts by bureaucrats and wimpy brick-and-mortar restaurant owners to shut down them and their Mexi hermanos. Other than that, if you don't like gabas going Mexi with their food, leave them to their $8 "gourmet" tacos, and find the lonchera with the two-tacos-for-a-buck and a free drink.
So various regions of the U.S. are known for specific styles of food—Cajun cuisine, Texas barbecue, New York or Chicago pizza, etc. Seeing as how Mexico is a pretty expansive nation as well, I wondered how wildly regional specialties might vary in different areas, and if you could name any tasty treats those regions claim to do best.
Looking for More Than a Combo Plate
Dear Gabacho: Space doesn't permit the Mexican to list the multitude of regional varieties of Mexican food in the motherland, so I'll instead give a shout-out to my compa, Bill Esparza, a professional musician by trade who moonlights as America's greatest expert on regional Mexican treats on his blog, Street Gourmet LA (www.streetgourmetla.com) This is a man who was smuggling gabachos into Baja California to eat the dazzling food of that region long before Rick Bayless and his ilk knew the difference between aguachile and chile con carne.
In the meanwhile, make sure to check out Taco USA for the many regional styles of Mexican food in this country, from Tex-Mex to Cal-Mex to Sonoran, New Mexican and ... Den-Mex?! All in the book, cabrones—buy it!