HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

please, a definition of "authentic mexican"

A colleague and I are having a discussion of what would define authentic mexican, and was interested in getting everyones take on this.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
    1. re: azhotdish

      I guess my question was a little different/specific. Most of what I am reading is very vague.

    2. This is a good question but I don't know that you'll be able to find a specific answer. Just like we have regional foods and flavors so does Mexico. Sonoran Mexican food tastes different than other regions I've visited throughout Mexico. I can say for certain this one thing - Taco Bell is NOT authentic Mexican! ;)

      I can't wait to see how everyone else weighs in on this one...

      31 Replies
      1. re: scorpioscuba

        And yet I know many, many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who love love love to eat at Taco Bell! So...maybe it is "authentic" enough!

        1. re: tokyorosa

          True, there are many there but that may be just because it's vaguely familiar, not necessarily authentic. It's not easy - that same argument is thrown around my family when we want to eat ethnic in the US, you say "oh, I see a lot of Chinese in that Chinese restaurant - it must be good/authentic." Well, it may be but those people may also have no taste or have any care about authentic. A hoard of people from the theme area/region of the restaurant rarely indicates its quality.

          For me, what any authentic cusine boils down to, though, is the use of
          a) seasonally fresh and local ingredients available to people in that area
          b) typical techniques and preparation styles
          c) common flavor profiles.
          I think the key is, like Grey says below, that there are many regions in Mexico. I think you could more easily define what is Authentic Sonoran food, or what is authentic Oaxacan - kind of like you could authentic Northwest or Southern cuisine here.

          1. re: pgerding

            Good points, pgerding. And there's no surprise that Tex-Mex and Southwest have such similarities to types of regional Mexican; until 1848, New Mexico and most of Arizona and Colorado were part of Mexico. (ABZconcierge; if you had been born in your present domicile, Copper Square, 160 years ago, you would be a Mexican citizen, albeit an old one.)
            One item that ISN'T authentic Mexican is burritos. If you find one in Mexico, it is an effort to make an American feel at home.

            1. re: Veggo

              Not necessarily true.... burritos are eaten commonly in Northern Mexico... often known as burritAs or mulitas... they are different however... in a similar way as fried tacos are different in Mex vs Tex Mex cuisine. Mexican Burritos tend to NOT have rice, sour cream, cheese or guacamole. Not that they NEVER have those things... just never in conjunction.

              One of my favorite burritas.... was typically Friday night fare among teens & young adults in Aguascalientes. Imagine a footlong + mamoth stuffed with thin steak that is sauteed with onions, jalapenos & asadero cheese.... and is meant to be split by 4 or so people. Yes, it was very similar to a spicy philly cheesteak made with good cheese.

              I will expand more on my take of authentic Mexican tomorrow.

          2. re: tokyorosa

            tokyorosa, really, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans eat at Taco Bell? Do they see TB as "their" McDonalds? What do they say about the food? Very interesting!

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Oh, my gosh! That made me laugh! "'Our' McDonald's." I'm using that the next time I have a chance, Sam! My brothers will think it's hilarious.

              My Mexican grandma, may she rest in peace, was a sucker for a canned tamale. And she made the best tamales on the planet. I wouldn't stand before her and say, "But gramma, those're not *authentic*!" (She'd've given a dismissive wave to the whole idea of "authentic," as she was an inventive, "authentic" Mexican cook all her life and made do with what she had, whether it was greens she picked from beside the irrigation ditch near her house or a block of cheese from the government.) As for the argument that you must use--what?--proper technique and fresh ingredients and whatnot, I say, "Ppppthbbbbbth." As far as I'm concerned, if I toss Velveta on Wonder bread, it's "authentic" Mexican cooking because it's an authentic Mexican cooking it.

              And seriously, the attempt to define authenticity in Mexicans/Mexican cooking is only so much "other-izing" of Mexicans and Mexican culture. This is not, I mean, a discussion among Mexicans, but among a group of (mostly) non-Mexicans, so...who is deciding what "authentic" Mexican is? Apparently not Mexicans themselves.

              I'm so sending this question in to "Ask A Mexican"! ("Dear Mexican: What is authentic Mexican cooking?")

              1. re: tokyorosa

                *laugh* I love it! That's exactly why I prefer the word "traditional" to "authentic".

                1. re: tokyorosa

                  tokyorosa, no me de cuenta que Ud es Mexicana (pensaba que sea Japonesa), pero todavia me gustaria saber...

                  What do Mexican-American and Mexican say and think of TB food?

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Hmmm...Sorry, Sam, but I'm not really sure I have any authority to act as spokesperson for La Raza. But for myself, I used to enjoy tossing back a Taco Bell Taco Supreme or two--until I found that Taco Cabana had a killer margarita machine that dispensed the most amazingly addictive and lethal margaritas (think llquored-up Slushy). After that, well, it was Cabana all the way!

                    But what I really want to know is: What do white people think of McDonald's? Is it "authentic" white food?

                    1. re: tokyorosa

                      Not being a white person, I have no authority to say either. There is one McDonalds here in Cali, a city of 1.5 million people. I've never met anyone that has eaten at one. Now and then there have been some "Mexican" and "Chinese" restaurants that are as authentic as my kosher preparations.

                      That margarita must be from the same type of machine that Tony Bourdain encountered in one of the Mexican border cities. He left mumbling to himself, also with "authenticity" problems.

                      1. re: tokyorosa

                        tokyorosa,

                        Whether I qualify as white depends on your point of view. Many in America still consider Jews from eastern Europe to be "passing". But being third generation, and having grown up in suburbia probably makes me as American as anyone.

                        That being said, I found the McDonald's in Austria to be passing. The beer and wiener schnitzel were a nice complement to die Big Mac.

                    2. re: tokyorosa

                      'Otherizing' is right. I see the discussions of 'authenticity' as one that deprives that cuisine of change, innovation, and movement. In effect, it's a way to assure that 'true' Mexican (Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc.) cuisine and people remain officially in the past. It's a romantic discourse that develops from the self-loathing of the no longer authentic modern enlightened culture (do modernized nothing we have is truly authentic any more) and the yearning for a time untouched by the original encounter (a culinary 'imperial nostalgia' if you will-- all apologies to Renato Rosaldo).

                      And for no good reason at all, I will state that I loathe the use of 'authenticity' as an evaluative criterion for selecting restaurants. Deliciousness reigns supreme as my deciding factor. It's not that discussing the cuisine or the innovations is out of bounds, but it is a tedious and inefficient means to decide upon what one wants.

                      1. re: Lizard

                        Lizard, I'm not bothered by discussions about "authentic" nor do I think such concerns impede culinary change. You're right about "deliciousness". BOTH variables can be applied as in tr's tale above:

                        tokyorosa: "But, Gramma, is this authentic?"
                        Abuela: "Hell no, but its really delicious!"

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          See, I don't think my grandmother would care about what is "authentic" Mexican food. I certainly don't. I also don't step into another culture and start talking about what is "authentic." (Not that you're doing thatt, Sam, but that does seem to be the direction of this thread.) I mean, seriously, I don't spend my time in Asia judging whether or not this pho is more "authentic" than that pho--or if this ramen is more "authentic" than that ramen. I figure if it's there and I'm eating it, it's "authentic" enough.

                          Additionally, I am bothered by discussions about authenticity that make objects of the people and culture being discussed. White folk have a very romantic view of many, many cultures and cultural practices, cooking included, and so "authentic" ends up being a host of whites' romantic idea(l)s about what they think Mexican cooking "should" be--based on, what? Certainly not an intimate view of the culture in most cases.

                          I would suggest that, if one is not Mexican, that one's opinions about what is "authentic" Mexican food are patronizing at best and racist at worst. Certainly one can say "I like this" or "I don't like that," but "This is not 'authentic'" is only so much colonization at work..

                          1. re: tokyorosa

                            I guess when we are talking about whites, we mean the general american wonder-bread eating public? (as opposed to using it to mean 'whites' in the rest of the world, im pretty sure the french are just fine with thier chow for example)

                            ---annnyway, america is a nation of immigrants. There are VERY few foods that we can talk about as being 'american' as opposed to 'americanized.' I guess what im trying to say is that American food is BUILT on romanticized versions of other cultures and the 'old country'. (what those foods are is another thread!)

                            Since these romantic ideals are really what american food is all about, its no wonder that we are a nation obsessed with authenticity when it comes to food. I mean, we are for the most part building off of other cultures and thier foods---we aren't cooking with a great depth of knowledge past down from countless generations--heck, most of us can't even trace our family past ellis island. I know I can't. I have no knowlege of my eastern european, swedish, anglican and german anscestors (really, pick a country). I don't have any recipes from them--just a notion of 'jewish' food. So the appeal of other cultures that have that kind of rich history, and food history, is huge. It represents something that many americans cannot cannot really attain --' authenticity.'

                            That said, is the notion rediculous? yeah, probably, and im sure its something that people many other nationalities aren't nearly as interested in.

                            1. re: tokyorosa

                              Tokyorosa, as you can see from my post above, I agree. I am actually now thinking about an overall colonial discourse at work on Chowhound where culinary explorers fight over who has found the original, authentic (i.e. untouched) restaurant in which they can plant their flag of discovery.

                              This concept of discovery depends on a notion of 'authentic' that keeps the culture separate-- and more importantly, without the innovation, prevents the culture in discussion from having discovered the 'chowhound us'. 'Authentic' means they are carefully preserved behind glass like a museum exhibit.

                              I am aware this is a rather sinister reading of chowhound, but whenever I see the obsession with authenticity come up, this is what I think. Particularly when the subject is 'ethnic' food, a concept that comes with borders in place. There is a fantasy of this other, separate culture that must remain separate and must live in an unchanging time ('allochronic' tends to be favoured among the anthropologists).

                              Now, this is entirely different, say, than what Sam does when he talks about foodways and practices he has encountered. Talking about social life and social practices of food in addition to their deliciousness is one thing-- but the treatment of certain finds as valuable for being 'authentic' (i.e. untouched by the world around them, a fantasy concept at best') leaves a sour taste.

                              And for other languages: tradition is good, particularly if one keeps in mind that tradition is invented and malleable.

                              As for isolating this obsession in the US, hardly. Europeans are preoccupied with identity and culture too, but in a different way.

                              1. re: Lizard

                                I'm replying to myself because I realise this is kind of inflammatory and I didn't mean it that way. I think I'm more trying to figure out why the quest for authenticity bugs me so much.

                                1. re: Lizard

                                  I think 'discussions' on authenticy are annoying if someone trumps deliciousness ... they don't care if it is tasty if it is not authentic.

                                  It is annoying when people whine about it ... not a Mexican example but say reegionalism as in ... there's no real pizza, deli, Cuban food in SF.

                                  In that later example, people miss the deliciousness they have had in the past and each promise of 'authentic food' is met by disappointment and the wail of 'not authentic' which is annoying to many people who don't know the food.

                                  As to limiting innovation, I don't think the authenticy seekers care if the authentic version is available at least one place. For a long time, New England seafood, my love, wasn't available in SF.

                                  A few places branched into Californiazed lobster rolls on 'artisan' rolls (spit) and don't get me started on the $16 clam chowder served with clams in shell ... no kidding, you had to pick the clam shells out of the 'chowder' which had one teeny cube of potato.

                                  But a real clam shack opened. I can buy a real lobster roll on real top-loading buns. The tartar sauce for the fried clams doesn't have things like Meyer lemon juice or rosemary mixed in. I am content and as long as I have access to the the real deal I am happy as a fried clam. If other places innovate ... cool ... I'll happily welcome that. No more passioned discussions about authenticy on this front from me. If you like your lobster roll mixed with creme fraiche on a rosemary baguette ... cool .. .I have access to the version that makes me happy.

                                  However, there was so much delicious food that I ate in Mexico that isn't available in SF. I'll continue to bemoan the lack of 'authenticy'.

                              2. re: tokyorosa

                                Generally when the subject of "authentic" comes up in conversations here it's to challenge an opinion of whether X is really something you might find in Mexico vs. something that's just "Mexican-inspired" (e.g. Chipotle).

                                All cities have Chili's. Few cities outside the SW have something like the San Angel Inn.

                                When I discuss "authenticity" here its not "so much colonization" as much as it is to convey the concept of, "opening up one's mind as to what Mexican food is". I know I'm not suggesting bashing corn with stones.

                                That is, if someone can't make it down to Oaxaca or Jalisco, why not at least try Forest Cafe or Maya or Topolobompo instead of Chipotle or the usual combo plate place when travelling. We're still dealing with a whole lot of folks who honestly believe ALL Mexican food comes wrapped in a tortilla and smothered in cheese - even many here on CH.

                                For the record, when I lived in the DF in 93-94, there were three Taco Bells on Insurgentes alone. Our staff thought TB was crap. But they ate Domino's take out for lunch 2x weekly (and always the dreaded ham/pineapple). I wish they had taken an interest in "traditional pizza".

                          2. re: tokyorosa

                            Well stated. Growing up in the shadow of New Orleans, I cringe, when someone states that a take on "Gumbo," is not authentic. Over my life, I've had hundreds of bowls, of "authentic" gumbo, created by Louisiana cooks and chefs. I've had a fine, light broth with a scoop of rice, a few shrimp and a garnish of chives - this from a chef from Layfayette, in the heart of Cajun Country. On the other end of the spectrum, I've had gumbo so thick and black, that one had to eat it with a fork - and almost everything in between. My wife, who is a great NO-influencend cook, does several and they range from thinnish red to almost black, and thick. Nearly all have been good to great. Hey, what's an "authentic" gumbo? It's all about good.

                            One of the best pizzas, that I have had, was decried by a Chicago native, as not being "authentic." But, it was great. It should be about the food, not some gastro-anthropologic idea of what it should be!

                            Thanks for sharing your take,
                            Hunt

                        2. re: tokyorosa

                          We love to eat Taco Bell because it is so American. =)

                          I remember going to the States to visit the family and always saying I wanted Taco Bell. It wasn't until much later in my life that I came to realize that people thought that was Mexican... we just thought it was really yummy American food!

                        3. re: scorpioscuba

                          Right. You almost have to be vague in definition.

                          "Authentic Mexican" isn't just a single moniker. Each and every distinct region of the country (much like other large countries like the United States or China, among many others) boasts their own varied interpretations of a native cuisine. That's your overall answer.

                          To get more specific you'd simply have to begin exploring those regions individually, and see what each of them traditionally offer in terms ingredients, spicing, textures, etc.

                          1. re: scorpioscuba

                            I agree completely. It's like trying to define "Southern Food." It all depends on to where, in the South, one is referring. New Orleans, often thought of as a paradigm of "Southern Food," is about as different, as can be from food just up the River, in Memphis, or Atlanta, or nearly any place in Alabama, or Mississippi. Having lived much of my life within the confines of The South, it was decades, before I first experienced "Low Country Cooking," near Charleston, SC - totally different, than almost anything I had ever had.

                            Same for Mexico - it depends on where one is referring. Just along the border, the food changes dramatically from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of California - different ingredients, bases/sauces and different garnishes and cheeses. Just think, almost every "State" in Mexico has its own take on mole.

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Yes, I agree with Bill Hunt. It is the one thing that I can't understand about Phoenix and the Valley. Lots of "mexican" restaurants... but none that have the mexican food that I am accustom to, which is probably more Baja, since I am originally from Los Angeles, CA. The Sonoran mexican food to me is a 'yawn'. It seems bland and uncreative.
                              If anyone knows of a good/great mexican food joint that serves "Baja" style in East Phoenix/Valley, please let us Californians know.

                              1. re: doubleddae

                                Never having spent much time in CA, I cannot recommend one - a few fish tacos in SD doesn't count, in my book.

                                I've had the same problem with NM Indio-Mexican/SW (Richardson's does about the best) and real Tex-Mex (what I grew up on). About the closest that I have found along those lines has been El Conquistador, which is Jalisco-oriented.

                                For my tastes, the heaviness of the Tex-Mex is what I crave. Just the opposite of the Baja-taste. I guess that I need to do a road-trip to Nuevo Larado to fill up!

                                Hunt

                                1. re: doubleddae

                                  I was just thinking of starting a thread about that. I learned to love "authentic" Mexican food growing up on the west coast. When I moved to the Phoenix area I thought I'd find all these great Mexican restaurants, but it turned out I just don't care for the Sonoran food as much. The beans are to smooth, the wet burritos are too greasy, the sauce has a weird bland tomato flavor (most of the time)...

                                  It must be a matter of preference though. But this hound prefers what he got at the first random taco shack he found by the Santa Cruz beach last week over anything he can come up with in the valley.

                                  And I'll say the closest I've found to that style is Los Favoritos. At least the sauce is starting to remind me of that red pepper flavor you get in LA. But it's not the highest quality.

                                  1. re: doubleddae

                                    I wonder if this wasn't the question that the OP was trying to get answered in the first place. If the OP really is a concierge, I suspect that his question may have had a rather more practical and mundane meaning. In other words, someone from Boston, Duluth, or Seattle who is visiting Phoenix may well ask a concierge for advice on "authentic Mexican" places. After being directed to a general discussion of what is Mexican food, the OP posted, "I guess my question was a little different/specific. Most of what I am reading is very vague."

                                    Unfortunately, this thread, which perhaps should be on the SW board, is here in General topics, so the conversation has turned into another pointless authentic/traditional/delicious philosophical debate and discussion.

                                    In my original reply (lower down the thread, I believe), tried to provide some practical and specific suggestions to distinguish between Mexican restaurants in the context of Arizona, but I suspect the OP might like more specific comments and recommendation more appropriate to what would be viewed as 'authentic Mexican' in the context of Phoenix.

                                    ed

                                2. re: scorpioscuba

                                  Agreed. Taco Bell is NOT authentic Mexican! Taco Bell is not even authentic Tex-Mex. Taco Bell is a fast food based on Tex-Mex and not Mexican cuisine. However, the original “Bell Burger” (Taco meat, cheese, tomato in a burger bun) should be considered good whether or not it is looked upon as authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex . Also, when the suits at Taco Bell pulled the Bell Burger from the menu that was the day they began thinking with their heads inside the bun.

                                  Taco Bell defination
                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taco_Bell

                                  1. re: JeetJet

                                    How can it be based on Tex-Mex when the originals (including Taco Tia) were in California? Shouldn't it be Cal-Mex?

                                    paulj

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      Wow, I recall Taco Tia. There was also Pup’n Taco, and Taco Lita. In answer to your question I guess Tex-Mex fast food can originate in Cal just the same as anyplace else. But since these other fast food places were around at the same time that does not preclude them from also being inspired by the Tex-Mex tradition. In fact, since Taco Bell is a mainly a fast food more than a Tex-Mex food it makes even more sense that it began in Southern California. Still, however, the idea of ground beef with a mex flavoring (especially in a burger bun) is closer to Tex-Mex IMO than anything in Cal that came before. This is making me hungry for a Bell Burger and there is a Taco Bell near my home that still sells them.

                                      1. re: JeetJet

                                        One of those sites claimed that Bell's original taco filling was derived from his chili dog recipe. It also claimed an early innovation had to do with the premade, easily filled shells.

                                        I wonder if this means that the crisp U shapped shells were a Bell invention. They certainly seem to be more American than Mexican. But I don't know if others were serving anything similar before.

                                        I do though regard a flat crisp tortilla as authentic, such as Los Pericos brand of Tostadas.

                                        paulj

                                3. Well, I don't have the definitive answer on what defines AUTHENTIC Mexican, however if ORANGE cheese is involved it's NOT authentic!

                                  1. I think regionality, as in all other countries and cuisines, is a factor when you are responding to the question, "What is authentic Mexican?"

                                    There is no answer.

                                    But the opposite, "What is NOT authentic?" might be easier to answer, if regionality is the context, as in,
                                    -no yellow cheese
                                    -no saucy carnitas
                                    -no pinto beans
                                    -no flour tortillas.

                                    At the end of the day, however, who can be the judge of authenticity?

                                    My sister received grant money to do a project with the "tortilleras" of Coapan, women who sell hand-made tortillas. The interviews and photo-documentaries slowly revealed some of the changes that have occurred just in the past 10 years (bags, plastic, metal stands, mixture, buses) that made some people say the work they did was not authentic. But ask them anytime, and they think it is damn authentic: they still get up at 5 to grind the corn, then still have to mix everything by hand, they still have to pack 100 pounds of tortillas and carry them around from house to house. So authenticity is, in fact, one of those things outsiders try to cling to. All cultures and cuisines are in constant movement and change.

                                    We also have to consider the private/public divide. You can go to as many homes as you like and you'll find different recipes and methods, sometimes completely different foods from what you find in the restaurant. Is it not authentic? I think it is.

                                    At the end of the day, food that tastes great is great regardless of its authenticity, and whoever claims to be an authenticity guru/police is a joke. Wouldn't that title be allowed to Mexicans? And wouldn't they also be mistaken when they spoke about other regions they didn't know?

                                    So, don't worry about authentic. Particularly if you are not in the country of origin or in a part of that country exclusive for tourists.

                                    P.S. Californian Mexican is perhaps the least authentic Mexican I've had in the States.

                                    --
                                    Wandering, I am

                                    1. The entire concept of authenticity can lead to (and has led to at Chowhound on many occasions) long and argumentative discussions. As tokyorosa points out, authentic Mexican food could be anything cooked by an authentic Mexican. Nonetheless, down here on the border in Yuma, a useful definition for an “authentic” restaurant would be one run by or catering to newer, more recently immigrated individuals. In other words, Mexican food like what one finds in Mexican restaurants on the other side of the border. These "authentic" places tend to have certain specific differences from the old line/old school places that have operated here for more than 50 years (which may themselves present an authentic cuisine reflective of the cooking of Mexican-American families in Yuma in the 1940s and 50s) and the restaurants mostly focused on attracting non-Mexican clientele.

                                      By this definition, I would expect an “authentic” restaurant would feature more corn tortillas than flour. Tacos would generally be rolled or soft, not hard/folded. For the most part, I would expect tacos to have cabbage, not lettuce, on them and not to have cheese. When cheese does show up, on frijoles for example, it often would be white, not yellow. Similarly, pork should be more common than in old school or gringo places, with meat choices like al pastor and carnitas. No dishes should be made with ground beef except albondigas.

                                      I would also expect greater use of green chilies, tomatillos, nopales, and other vegetables. There should also be agua frescas to drink - things like jamaica, horchata, tamarindo, or other fruit-based beverages. I would expect an “authentic” restaurant to offer more caldos, like menudo, caldo de res, or siete mares, and fewer combination plates. Items like pescado entero, birria, or lengua should be on the menu. The salsa and other dishes might be more spicy hot than at old school or gringo restaurants.

                                      I realize that these are broad generalizations, and I am also not sure that all these specific things would apply in restaurants outside of the Yuma area. However, I have tried to indicate what “authentic” Mexican means to me, if “authentic” has any meaning at all.

                                      ed

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Ed Dibble

                                        Some years ago we traveled across New Mexico. We ate at a number of New Mexico style places, such as M&J(?) Sanitary Tortilla Factory. But in Santa Fe we ate (twice) at Old Mexico Grill (no longer in business). This was a nice sit down place (i.e. not a taqueria), with a Mexican as opposed to New Mexican menu. I don't recall most of the menu, but this was the first place I had 'rajas' - creamed poblano pepper strips in cream, served, if I recall correctly, over chicken.

                                        Even earlier we spent a month with a family just south of the border, and then traveled south as far as DF. Up north we had corn tortillas at the noon meal, which was often a simple chicken soup and noodles. Pinto beans were eaten whole, at the end of the meal. Homemade flour tortillas were common at the evening meal. Sundays our host bought barbacoa for breakfast. Further south, the flour tortillas disappeared, and black beans were more common than pinto. Traveling on a budget we had 'comida corida' (multicourse businessman's lunch) at noon, and bought supper and breakfast items at the panaderia (bakery). I don't recall having a 'taco' (hard or soft) once during the trip.

                                        paulj

                                      2. I don't think that anything made by a Mexican is authentic Mexican cuisine ... what if that person is making pizza or hamburgers ... doesn't make it Mexican.

                                        I think that this website pins it down nicely and suggest looking in Diane Kennedy's book for the definition.
                                        http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico...

                                        It says that authentic Mexican food, while varying from region to region and even kitchen to kitchen, is based on specific traditional recipes.

                                        "Traditional Mexican cooking is as complicated and precise as traditional French cooking, with just as many hide-bound conventions as French cuisine imposes. You can't just throw some chiles and a glob of chocolate into a sauce and call it mole ... There are specific recipes to follow, specific flavors and textures to expect, and specific results to attain.'

                                        For all of Wiki's flaws this is a nice overview
                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_...

                                        It is not though ... Tex-Mex cuisine
                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tex-Mex_...

                                        It is not ... Taco Bell, Chipotle, Chevy's
                                        It is the taco truck on the street, the prepared food in the Mexican grocery / carnerceria / panaderia

                                        I'm curious about your discussion with your friend. Can you tell us what each of you defines as authentic Mexican?

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: rworange

                                          Unless "Kennedy" is her married name, I'm not buying a guera's defo of "authentic" Mexican. (But I don't know a single thing about this woman, so if she is Mexican, I apologize to Senora Kennedy!)

                                          Haven't you heard of Mexican pizza? I think it might be on the menu at Taco Bell...Anyway, a flour tortilla topped with some refrieds, salsa and cheese in the oven. Mmmm! "Authentic" as all get out--but only if you eat it in front of the TV while watching Betty La Fea or Camera Inflagrante!

                                          1. re: tokyorosa

                                            You mean Julia Childs didn't know squat about French cooking?

                                            And, hey, "Betty la Fea" is Colombiana!

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              I just finished reading Julia Child's bio, so I do know that she initially gave tons and tons of credit to the French who collaborated with her. Later on, I don't know how true that was. Anyway, she's a great lady and a great chef, but she was standing on the shoulders of giants, French ones, as she learned her trade--which is how I think a lot of cooks in America become "experts" in a kind of cooking that isn't of their own cultures. (See also: Rick Bayliss (sp?--because I don't know and I don't care), cultural appropriation, and the concept of noble savages.)

                                              In re: Bourdain and the "authentic" margarita-machine margarita--
                                              Anthony Bourdain is an amusing little so-and-so, but a judge of what is "authentic" Mexican anything? Not unless it's black tar heroin. Then I'd trust him!

                                              1. re: tokyorosa

                                                I both agree with you and disagree.

                                                I agree in the sense that as a Polish American, someone who wasn't, who just had some Polish aquaintances, tried to tell me what was good Polish American food ... and it was NOT.

                                                Boudain is all over the place so I don't consider him any sort of expert on things Mexican.

                                                Where I disagree is when someone like a Child or Kennedy or Bayless spends their life learning about a cuisine I don't see where it is any less valid than a chef in that particular culture of choice following a same path.

                                                I don't think anyone with that sort of fascination ... someone who delights in the journey of learning as much as possible and totally immersing themselves in a culture ... is viewing another anyone as 'noble savages'. That's the stuff of tourists and temporary visitors and not someone embracing a culture with love.

                                                I think that in any culture if you are truly interested in the food and show a genuine interest ... whether it is cooking or appreciating the food cooked ... the people of any ethnicity respect that and are willing to let you in on their community.

                                                Why can't someone who may not be a member of a certain ethnicity have an opinion of what is authentic or not if they have had major exposure to the food in that country.

                                                I get off into learning about various cusines that are available locally. i've eaten at every Portuguese and Tibetan restaurant in the area. I haven't been to either country. While I have a good idea of what those foods taste like locally, I would not even think of saying it is authentic or not.

                                                I am not Mexican. However, I worked a year in Mexico, eating lunch daily with the Mexican staff. Celebrating weddings and other events in that country. My SO is Latino and I have known his family over a decade, sharing meals with them. So I feel more that qualified to say if something is authentic in terms of my experience at home and what I tried while in Mexico.

                                                I do agree there is a romance to outsiders by what is new and unusual to them. Some of the crap Roberto eats ... I'd like to slap him ... the soda and the hot dogs and ... well, there's a lot of 'authentic' junk food. There's a lot of food that is the food of sheer poverty ... the lunch of white rice with a fried egg on top dressed with hot sauce and served with tortillas, for example. I doubt that would make it any cookbook.

                                                1. re: tokyorosa

                                                  tokyorosa, you're introduced the idea of a tie between genetic/ethnic background and "authenticity".

                                                  Well, I'm genetically 100% Japanese. Grew up with a wonderfull world of traditional, (authentic?) home cooked Japanese food--as well as a wonderfull world of traditional, (authentic?) home cooked Mexican food (obviously to a much lesser extent). This because of growing up in the Central Valley of California at a time before chain restaurants and when Japanese and Mexican (from Chiapas, Michoacan, and Jalisco) must not have had any self pride and worked with each other [I'm being ironic here].

                                                  Today, years and miles later--and after working a fair bit in Mexico and elsewhere, and not at all in France--I prepare Japanese, Mexican, and French (among others).

                                                  So does my genetic makeup mean that my Japanese is authentic, but not my Mexican and French? Does it mean that my eating ume and gohan as a meal is real but just presumptuous If a Frenchman did the same? Does it mean that if I prepare and eat hotdogs exactly the same way that Roberto (con desculpas) does, that I'm somehow doing something not quite right? I love to do French sauces and love their technique (although the French themselves...). Am I genetically unable to understand my sauces?

                                                  Well, I don't think so. I know of quite a few hakujins (our term for "whites") that know about as much as anyone about Japanese food and "authenticity". They know more than a lot of Japanese people because they persued such knowledge with love, passion, time, and self.

                                                  And finally, if I ever by mistake arrive at the Christian heavan (being a Buddist), I would not be surprised if God was just like Tony Bourdain.

                                              2. re: tokyorosa

                                                Because of the Mexican pizza comment, I'm not sure if you were just kidding about Dianne Kennedy. However, if you are unfamiliar with Kennedy, she moved to Mexico in 1957 and spent the time since researching and writing about Mexican cooking.

                                                As the link in the above post says of her ...

                                                "she took the time to travel Mexico, searching for the best of the best of the traditional preparations. For the most part, she didn't find them in fancy restaurants, ... comedores ... or fondas ... She found them as she stood next to the stove in a home kitchen, watching (Mexican women) prepare comida .... She took the time to ... learn from home cooks before she started putting traditional recipes, techniques, and stories on paper."

                                                Her books include:
                                                The Cuisines of Mexico
                                                Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico
                                                From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients
                                                The Art of Mexican Cooking
                                                My Mexico: A Culinary Odyssey with More Than 300 Recipes
                                                http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/prod...

                                                I guess if anyone was looking for a good definition of authentic Mexican food, that would be a good place to start.

                                                1. re: tokyorosa

                                                  Tokyorosa and Sam, I've been enjoying your discourse up-thread. Aside from the big chuckle it gave me there's more than a grain of truth running through the comments both of you made. The more time I spend in Mexico and studying the food and cuisine the more elusive "authenticity" becomes! I've given up and decided to just enjoy what I eat NOB and not worry if it's authentic or not.

                                                  Diana Kennedy is a Brit who moved to Mexico in the 1950s to marry her husband who was a journalist based in D.F. After he died, sometime in the 60s, she moved to NYC but realized after a couple of years that she really missed Mexico, so she moved back. What followed was one of the most thorough and in-depth ethnographic explorations of Mexican food-ways and food culture. She loved nothing more than to hop in her truck and rumble off all over Mexico in search of good eats, and having been a journalist and married to one as well, she recorded everything. One reads her cookbooks as much for the commentary - since it provides rich and tremendous context - as for the recipes. DK was awarded the Order of the Aztec, the highest award Mexico offers, for her work in researching and presenting the food of Mexico. She does, I believe, hold dual citizenship. She has lived in Zitacuaro, Michoacan for a good number of years. The house she built there is a completely integrated ecological system, and she did this long before it was politically correct. Diana Kennedy is a Mexican food purist and very much a supporter of the old ways and methods. I leave July 14th for a week of classes with Diana Kennedy at her home in Zitacuaro. Needless to say I am looking forward to them. I suspect there may be a discussion or 2 along the way about "authenticity" ;-)

                                                  If DK represents the purists and the link that connects the past and the present culturally, what about alta cocina, where does it fit? As Lizard also posted up-thread where does innovation and natural evolution of a cuisine fit? Neither Mexico nor it's inhabitants exist in a time warp, so why should the cuisine be hide-bound as well. Mexican ingredients and products provide a wonderfully diverse creative canvas. There is now an entire generation (maybe 2) that have attended culinary schools in the U.S. and Europe and had the opportunity to work in some of the best restaurants in the world. They've returned home to apply what they've learned to their native products and putting their stamp on things in the form of alta cocina.

                                                  I have always been a fan of traditional Mexican cuisine, but I've found myself being more and more enthralled with alta cocina. Partly because it is modern and clean and partly because of the juxtaposition it takes against the backdrop of traditional Mexican. For me it demonstrates the evolution, cultural and otherwise, of the cuisine from one era to the next. Some of the most satisfying meals I've ever had have been at street stalls or fondas, some of the most interesting, exciting and creative have been in the alta cocina restaurants of D.F. The two styles are existing side-by-side for the moment, much like Teotihuacan exists side-by-side with D.F. Ah, but I'm beginning to ramble; I guess my Mexican coffee from Uruapan hasn't quite kicked in yet this morning ;-)

                                                  Tokyorosa - as a white gal, yeah, I'd say that McDonalds is authentic American - which I think is as difficult to define as Mexican ;-D - in a sort of mid-century, retro sort of way. Taken in it's historical context, it does have a place in the continuum of the evolution of food in the U.S.

                                                  Sam - the margarita slushy machine is most likely either an Italian granita machine, or an Island Oasis granita dispenser. Both are pretty cool and you can put just about any kind of mix through either of them to make perfectly refreshing, but killer drinks with a kick.

                                                  1. re: tokyorosa

                                                    Diane Kennedy met my grandparents when they lived in Zitacuaro. When they moved with us, she came too, to map the authentic recipes of the region, like Mole Miahuateco.

                                                    She is a serious woman, determined to truthfully record authentic Mexican cuisine.

                                                    She has BEEN/SEEN/TASTED/WRITTEN "authentic" Mexican food and "knows" it in depth, and through regional and familial diversity.

                                                    Sometimes the outsider gets to see more, because they are both interested and wanting to get "educated" on things that for many are mundane and common sensical.

                                                    So, yeah, this "güera´s" recipe book are absolutely the real thing.

                                                2. I'll go through some of the things I've eaten in homes in Mexico. Some in the south (Michoacan) and some in the north (Coahuila). For lunch in middle class homes we usually ate 2-3 courses. First course was sopa. Sopa can be soup, pasta or rice course similar to Italian first course course concept. Second course is usually meat with a salad or vegetable, beans and tortillas. Tacos, burritos, tostadas are all tex/mex or us/mex. Although tamales are served at home and there are roadside snack places that serve something like a soft taco. For breakfast, Mexican rolls, fruit, fresh juice and sometimes sweet tamales with fruit filling. Supper is similar to lunch, but a smaller meal.

                                                  In the mountains in Michoacan, I stayed with another family. There weren't a lot of fresh fruits or vegetables. It's beans and tortillas three meals a day with some queso (white cheese). Making tortillas before every meal is work, but they are heavenly. Once or twice a week add a chicken or pig. In the summer, we'd pick berries and make a pudding.

                                                  In Morelia, there is a very small upstairs restuarant that serves the best, spiciest fish soup in the world. Sorry, I can't remember the name.

                                                  I don't want to get into the authentic, traditional debate, but the home cooking that I've had in Mexico is a very distant relative to Taco Bell or most Mexican restaurants. A restaurant with carne guisado might come closer to "home" cooking than one that just serves tacos, etc. Most dishes aren't that spicy, but some like the fish soup are!

                                                  Restaurants in Mexico, especially in tourist areas, serve some things that are closer to tex/mex. Must be to please the tourist.

                                                  I think that Ed's post on the restuarants is right on.

                                                  Finally - I'd like to note to paulj. That New Mexico is not part of Mexico, and New Mexican food isn't very much like Mexico food. Although some of it comes closer. I don't want to pick on Paul, but I read recently that 60% of people in the U.S. thought that New Mexico was part of Mexico.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: TexasIndia

                                                    The New Mexico state magazine (I forget the name of the publication) always has a hilarious column in the back about the people who can't seem to understand that they are part of the US. There are even stories of letters being rejected by postal workers because there isn't enough "international" postage attached!!!

                                                    As for tacos, they are very "authentic."...although as someone pointed out, they take a different form in Mexico. As for the poster who commented that he never ate one during his trip there, that probably says more about the type of restaurant he ate in than anything else. In Mexico, tacos are street food, served as a snack...usually in the evening (since the main meal is taken mid-day). You would never see a taco on the dinner menu. I ate plenty of tacos in Mexico City...but again, more from street vendors or places equivalent to fast-food joints....there are many taco chains in Mexico (but no TB, to my knowledge!). If you avoid that type of place when you travel (and many do) than you wouldn't eat tacos in Mexico. The typical taco there is served on a small corn tortilla, with grilled or roasted meat, onions, cilantro, and maybe a little cabbage or white cheese. Exactly what you would get at many taquerias in California......

                                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                                      Looking at some mid-scale restaurant menus from Mexico City last week it seems that tacos are becoming popular as botanas ... which I don't remember from my time there. My memory was what you mentioned ... someone cooking them up in the street mainly on griddles of questionable origin.

                                                      http://www.guadiana.com.mx/
                                                      http://www.villamaria.com.mx/m1_E.html

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        Those botanas look like appetizers or tapas. Some are like American appetizers such as potato skins (Guardiana), but others allude to traditional Mexican dishes. One of those botanas is a 'prehispanic' platter. The 'share' section of the menu also includes tacos. It is interesting to compare the Spanish and English descriptions of these dishes. The Villa Maria place talks about 'revitalizing' traditional cooking ('resaltar la tradición gastronómica de nuestra nación').

                                                        I suspect these represent a shift in middle class sensibilities. In the past they would have aspired to all things Spanish and European. Now it is acceptable, even chic, to reclaim a Mexican, and even Indian, past. In part that is a home grown trend, but it must also be influenced by the international interest in such things. The fact that someone like Diana Kennedy is admired by New York food critics adds respectability to traditional Mexican dishes in the US, Europe, and in urban Mexico.

                                                        paulj

                                                    2. re: TexasIndia

                                                      I did not mean to imply that New Mexico is part of Mexico (though it once was). However New Mexican cooking does have an authenticity or tradition of its own. In an apparently ineffective manner, I was trying to contrast it with the 'old Mexico', as represented by the restaurant in Santa Fe. And as indicated in the rest of the post, I have some familiarity with Mexico itself, mainly Piedras Negras (on the border), Zacatecas in the interior, and DF.

                                                      I agree about the tacos and types of restaurants. They certainly did not appear on the 'comida coriada', the budget traveler's 'dinner'. And my choice for the lesser meals was the panaderia rather than the street vendor. Earlier experience in Ecuador left me quite cautious when it came to eating at informal establishments. And traveling with a small child, we did not seek out the stands that operate mainly in the evening (as seen on Bourdain's episodes).

                                                      But tacos, even in the authentic taco truck version, are a small part of the Mexican cuisine. They are, to the rest of Mexican cooking what the hot dog is to American (US) cooking.

                                                      paulj

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        I strongly disagree with you.

                                                        There are at least 100 varieties of tacos in Mexico that are eaten at all chow times, in all kinds of establishments or non establishments, and in every single region of our country.

                                                        The "taco truck" is only one type of taco that it is consumed exclusively at night, but be sure, many more Mexicans eat tacos for dinner than people eat hot dogs in the states for lunch, and I can honestly say, there is no comparison.

                                                        The "taco" is our national dish.

                                                        Why? Because taco is just something inside of a tortilla, and judging by the 2 kilos (4.5 pounds) of tortillas consumed, in average, by a Mexican family, the numbers are high in the taco department.

                                                        Just because you did not find tacos in the "comidas corridas" you had in your visits does not mean they are not a huge part of our "authentic" food. It just shows that tacos are not prominent in comidas corridas.

                                                        1. re: mirilara

                                                          Could you elaborate how tortillas are eaten at a typical home meal?

                                                          I can imagine three styles:
                                                          - various items are place in the tortilla, it is folded over (or rolled) and eaten. Fajitas are perhaps the closest approximation to this in US restaurants
                                                          - bits of tortilla are torn off, and used to pick up items from the plate. This, though, might work better with large Ethiopian injera than small corn tortillas
                                                          - tortillas are rolled up, and eaten along with spoonfulls of soup (chicken noodle, pozole, menudo).
                                                          In other words, a tortilla (corn or flour) might be used as sandwich bread, spoon, or roll.

                                                          http://lomexicano.com/mexicanfoodreci...
                                                          under antojitos lists 10 subtypes of taco (tortilla wrapped around a filling), mostly distinguished by the filling. Most appear to be variations that one would find a stand or fonda.

                                                          paulj

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            All three....

                                                            > Rolled Up Tortillas... are the most "proper" technique, and used in the Comida, with guests etc.,

                                                            > Tearing a piece of tortilla and scooping is most common with breakfast & very informal meals... the dish also matters... Carne Ranchera (steak strips in a stew of tomatoes, onions & jalapenos) & beans come to mind.

                                                            > Family style fillings and stacks of tortillas.... are typically known as Taquizas or Taquear... usually part of a casual get together with friends & relatives.

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              A couple of year ago, the Appleton Art Institute in WI, asked me for the name of Mexican artists for a "5 de mayo" exhibit (how ironic!).

                                                              I called up my father and we decided to make a piece on the taco, the national dish, the identification of mexicanity.

                                                              On one side of the fram was the Mexican flag all made with fruits and vegetables (and a giant skull, coz, of course, so much of our identity is also related to our connection with death and the spirits), on the other side were the names of 50 different types of tacos. Just 50, coz the others didn´t fit.

                                                              Next to the painting was a poem, a taco poem mind you, in both spanish and english. People were encouraged to write something down to be sent to our Art Center in Tehuacan, where we would later show the taco piece AND the tortilla piece (which was also shown in the palacio de bellas artes in Mexico City).

                                                              Tacos are diverse in their fillings (taco de papa, taco de enchilada, taco de cabeza, taco de cazo), in the way they are cooked (tacos de canasta, empanadas crudas, tacos fritos de papa), their shape (flautas, dobladas de frijol), whether they are covered in sauce or not (taquitos ahogados, seco de machaca), and by its formality as a taco or not (heheheh)... plainly wether someone rolled it or folded it for you or not (like Eat_Nopal´s Taquiza).

                                                            2. re: mirilara

                                                              Ah, tacos (let's substitute tamales here). I was fortunate to have dined on many occasions at Chapanlandia, a primarily Guatamalan restaurant in New Orleans. The family was from a tiny area of Guatamala, known as Chapanlandia, land of the Chapans. It was a family run business on Magazine St, and specialized in the food of the Gulf of Mexico - all of it. On the menu, they offered at least a dozen tamales, all done in a traditional manner, from the land of origin. I'd delight in doing all of them, as the Cuban vs the Veracruz vs the Guatamalan vs the Honduran, etc. were all different beyond my belief. All were great and handmade to order, but as different as night vs day. Were they "authentic?" I do not know, having not spent time in all of the areas of their origin, but I believe that the recipes came from those geographical areas. How different could a dozen tamales be? You had to be there to experience it for yourself.

                                                              Great thread,
                                                              Hunt

                                                        2. An interesting aspect to this quest of 'authentic' Mexican is how other immigrants to the USA view Mexican food. A vegetarian Hindu neighbor was talking about wanting to fix Mexican food. Her idea was to buy some hard taco shells, and fill them with things like avocados, tomatoes and beans or lentils.

                                                          paulj

                                                          21 Replies
                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            When I worked in India, quite a bit of the time our whole team would eat together at one of the host (an Indian agricultural research center of some sort) institution's cafeterias. When I got tired of Indian, I just discreetly cut up any meat, curds, lettuce, if any, a bit of tomato on my plate, rolled it all plus hot sauce into a soft roti, and...voila...Mexican food while no one was looking.

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              It is also interesting to talk about what Mexican immigrants think of Mexican food.

                                                              The struggle for "Mexican" identity within Mexican immigrants to US has been happening since the beginning of immigration.

                                                              Mexicans first started celebrating "5 de mayo," even though it is not a holiday in Mexico, because they needed to have a holiday were they celebrated Mexico and Mexicanity without really affiliating themselves with Mexico.

                                                              To discuss access to new foods and cultures and they way they intersect poverty and need, we begin to understand that authenticity is a flowing and contextual concept, that only very few people are obsessed about.

                                                              Ask a Mexican what they think is authentic American, and they will have some ideas, despite the fact that most Americans think they are "undefinable" as a culture. Ask an American what is authentic Mexican, and surely, as we have this whole thread to prove, they will have some ideas, even though most Mexicans can only talk about what they know.

                                                              And then we can start talking about were "authentic" starts: indigenous practices BEFORE the conquista (extremly subjective)? authentic of the past 500 years? of the past 100? of the past 50? where does it start or end... this "authentic"?

                                                              I say, go out and eat. If it´s good, learn its history and understand where it came from. And then, keep eating.

                                                              Good food is not always authentic.... =)

                                                              1. re: mirilara

                                                                "Mexicans first started celebrating "5 de mayo," even though it is not a holiday in Mexico, because they needed to have a holiday were they celebrated Mexico and Mexicanity without really affiliating themselves with Mexico."

                                                                Careful there.... 5 de Mayo IS a day of celebration in Mexico... its just a minor one mostly celebrated in by the Zacapoaxtla population of Atlixo, Puebla whose ancestors carried the day. It used to be a Federal holiday... but was later abolished as Mexico & France have developed a close relationship.

                                                                5 de Mayo came to be big in the U.S.... because the U.S. was supplying weapons & uniforms to the Mexicanist army.... while the battle's victory has been deemed militarily insignificant (given that Maximilian still ended ruling Mexico).... it was symbolic of the Mexican resistance that kept the French mired in a Mexican quagmire.... averting what everybody in the U.S. really feared... a French launching pad for its North American republican empire. It was as much a celebration by the civil war weary & weakened Anglos as of the Tex-Mexicans.

                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                  Cinco de Mayo came to be big in the USA because Cervecería Corona has pushed it so hard in the last 20 or so years. Prior to that time, it was but a blip on the Mexican calendar, celebrated pretty much exclusively, as EN says, in the Mexican state of Puebla.

                                                                  It is not now nor has it ever been a federal holiday in Mexico. As Veggo says, September 16 is Independence Day here.

                                                                  In fact, the biggest celebrating is done on the night of September 15, with the Gran Noche Mexicana. During that celebration, every city and town in Mexico re-enacts Hidalgo's *grito*, his 1810 cry for independence made in the church tower in the town of Dolores, Guanajuato--now known as Dolores Hidalgo.

                                                                  The re-enactment of the grito is accompanied by speeches, folkloric dancing, music, and fireworks. The party lasts all night. The last Gran Noche Mexicana I attended lasted till 7AM on the 16th. It's like 4th of July and New Year's Eve all wrapped into one package.

                                                                  The 16th is pretty much reserved for recuperation from the 15th and the parades that Veggo mentions.

                                                                  1. re: cristina

                                                                    Nice history as always, cristina, gracias. Later let's talk about dia de los muertos- the "day of the dead ", that lasts a week! I have well-dressed ceramic skeletons around my house, and nobody understands!
                                                                    Cept you.

                                                                    1. re: cristina

                                                                      cristina, que tal? You've now provided the new litmus test for Mexican restaurants in the US: if they properly celebrate la Gran Noche Mexicana, then they're "authentic"!

                                                                      Funny, though, throughout elementary school in California in the 50s our classes always did something special for el cinco de mayo. There were always celebrations around Fresno as well.

                                                                      1. re: cristina

                                                                        Actually, the way I heard this story - which appears to not be apophycral and is actually taught in some university level marketing courses - is that Miller Brewing was looking to create a holiday to increase beer consumption among college students just prior to graduation. Voila! Cinco de Mayo.

                                                                        Corona and Grupo Modelo and every other brewer and tequila producer joined in later on.

                                                                      2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                        Well, cinco de mayo is in fact celebrated here in my home state of Puebla. However, it is not an actual celebration. There is an official/military parade to conmemorate the battle, like u said.

                                                                        And yes, the US has many reasons to celebrate it because you are right, the US goverment was highly invested in the French-Mexican war (the US would be rather different had the outcome been different).

                                                                        There are a lot of celebrations that do not end up becoming this big, particularly when the reason for celebration, in this case, the fact that this particular battle was won, are compartively small.

                                                                        Anthropologists have studied this phenomenon of appropriation of "false" identity markers in the context of 5 de mayo. Although there was a huge corporate push behind what is now a big "american" celebration, like cristina says, the first people to celebrate it where in fact Chicanos.

                                                                        In its early days, 5 de mayo, was celebrated almost as if it was Mexican Independence day. That is why so many Americans continue to believe it is something really big in Mexico: because Mexican-Americans/Chicanos used to use that day to celebrate. In many cities around the US you couldn´t even find a "Grito" celebration.

                                                                        1. re: mirilara

                                                                          I would like to add that the first Cinco de Mayo celebrated on U.S. soil was in San Antonio, TX in 1863.

                                                                          It was an official holiday under Benito Juarez' government later to be abolished by Diaz' dictatorship... as he ironically became a Francophile himself (Diaz was the Colonel of the Cavalry unit that dealt the French its greatest losses in that battle).

                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                            I wish one could edit posts beyond two hours... my post above should be clarified to say that Miller Brewing was "looking for a holiday to latch onto" to sell more beer... Never meant to imply that 5/5 had no significance.

                                                                      3. re: mirilara

                                                                        The "real deal" Mexican holiday is September 16, since 1810. (My birthday, not quite the year). Cinco de Mayo is a little amorphous, Juneteenth is a gringo fabrication.
                                                                        I make efforts to be in tiny Mexican towns on Sept. 16 to watch the prideful schoolkids performing skillful parades - on my birthday. Best present I could have.

                                                                        EDIT: and I'm just a gringo.

                                                                      4. re: paulj

                                                                        pualj, When I was in India, I found people's idea of Mexican food was sometimes so far off that Taco Bell would have *felt* authentic.

                                                                        1. re: don giovanni

                                                                          Does Indian cooking make much use of medium-heat peppers? It seems to me that they use a lot of spices to lay the ground work, or 'base notes' of a sauce (cumin, garlic, coriander, fenugreek, etc) but only use chilies for heat. In contrast Mexican cooking makes great use of chilies such as poblano/ancho, guajillo, pasilla, etc. Cumin, cinnamon, and garlic area there as well, but not as prominently as in Indian.

                                                                          An Indian/Mexican fusion could be interesting. Come to think of it, the Caribbean, including Belize, might the place to look for such a fusion.

                                                                          paulj

                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                            Now that you mention it, I don't recall being served any moderate chiles over there. They were generally spicy. But I'm certainly not enough of an expert to say that's always the case.
                                                                            Indian-Mexican fusion...that would be so weird. The interchange of flat breads would work out well. And they actually have a broth/sauce they serve with a lot of things that has a tomato flavor. Maybe that could be replaced with some kind of salsa. (More generally, they have a lot of things they call "chutneys" that could be interchanged with various salsas or perhaps just flavored to taste more Mexican.)
                                                                            I'll have to give it a try. My sister (who is a chef) will think I've gone crazy, after already hearing about me trying to mix Mexican food with Chinese and Italian flavors/concepts.

                                                                            1. re: don giovanni

                                                                              Some aspects of Central Mexican cooking remind me of Indian cuisine....

                                                                              > Goat Birria vs Goat Curry
                                                                              > Garbanzos en Adobo vs. Punjab Style Chickpeas
                                                                              > Molotes vs Pakoras
                                                                              > Fajita Style Dishes vs Kababs on Hot Plates

                                                                              There are some spicing differences... but with little adjustments you could serve this side by side, with a transition chutney/salsa etc.,

                                                                              >

                                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                Nice. I like it. Curry/Birria had occured to me. I was not aware that the Mexicans ever used garbanzos, but that would certainly be a good crossover.
                                                                                Seems to me the use of cumin and chile powder is a nice link as well. The main thing is the Indian use of flavors like coriander, turmeric, mint, etc. (But imagine mint in fajitas! that would be delicious.)

                                                                                Actually, I just remembered something I made once. I was cooking some Indian style fish ("fish fry") and I was making a coconut salad to go with it. Suddently I got inspired and put avocado in...next thing I knew, I'd made a coconut guacamole; it was definitely somewhere in between Indian and Mexican in flavor. And it was delicious with the fish.

                                                                                1. re: don giovanni

                                                                                  Coriander, Mint & Coconut are definitely common flavors in Mexican cuisine as well as you go south. I should mention there are some fusion Indian-Mexican restaurants... I particularly enjoyed one in Coatepec, Veracruz (Mexico's premier Coffee area)... in that occassion it was mostly Indian with a few localist adaptions like an Eggplant & Mole Colorado curry.

                                                                                  Garbanzos are very common in Mexican cooking particularly at home... another interesting bridge dish are Lentils & Pineapple in Adobo... similar to some of the fruit based curries.

                                                                            2. re: paulj

                                                                              As in Mexico, use of chilis and chilis of different heat varies across the many different regions of India. As I mentioned elsewhere, it is easy to take selected Indian street food home (or where ever we were staying), do a little prep, and end up with something quite "Mexican".

                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                I've had Xinjiang-style cumin lamb that could easily pass as a Mexican dish.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  Anybody know anything about the history of Chinese "tamales" I know there was some trading / exchanges during colonial times.... any connection there on this dish?

                                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                    There's nothing tamale-like about cumin lamb, and from what I've read New World ingredients used in Xinjiang arrived via the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia.

                                                                                    People stuff local leaves all over the world. Asians were steaming sticky rice in banana leaves centuries before the Spanish arrived in the Americas.

                                                                        2. This question reminds me of a Hollywood Squares question many years ago. Paul Lynde was asked, “What two eating utensils are traditionally used two eat spaghetti?” Lynde answered, “A fork and a.....flyswatter.”

                                                                          A wonderful smile – Paul, we miss you.
                                                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Lynde

                                                                          1. Authentic: the way my mama / abuela / tia made it

                                                                            Inauthentic: the way your mama / abuela / tia made it

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              Really funny. Just like running vs jogging: Anyone slower than me is jogging, anyone equal or faster is running.

                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                For sure.

                                                                                I did a little survey with the women from my town in Puebla, and their answers could be boiled down to what you say.

                                                                                That is why the question just turns into a "I saw/ate/had/know/am."

                                                                                Personal experiences, in fact, colors our entire cosmovision and, of course, our ideas of authenticity.

                                                                              2. I'm confused by this continual question. Trade and cultural routes(Mission Trail, Santa Fe Trail, etc) have existed for a long time between the US and Mexico. Is the idea that as soon as someone or something comes North across the present day border, authentic becomes a mirage and everything becomes "Gringoized"? What about the Mexican food of Immigrants 100 years ago? Was it significantly different than today? When does Mexican-American become a cuisine to stand alone?
                                                                                I don't see Mexican the same as other "imported" cuisines, since we share a border and history with Mexico. Things seem to seep in by osmosis, rather than arriving intact from foreign shores.

                                                                                1. AP article from Mexico City
                                                                                  http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/food/32...

                                                                                  "Is it real, or is it Tex-Mex?
                                                                                  Mexico wants the world to know what food is authentic"

                                                                                  "Traditional Mexican cuisine dates back 3,000 years to the Mayans, who based their diet on corn, beans and vegetables. Most Americans confuse Tex-Mex specialties such as chili, chimichangas, nachos and hard-shell tacos, often laden in processed cheese and sour cream, with real Mexican food. The same goes for Cal-Mex fusions, such as the burrito, which combines fresh vegetables, fish and even fruit-based salsas with rice and beans in a flour tortilla."

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    Cool... and it's about time. You go Mexico!