mis migas: autenticas o no?

Late night –> slow morning –> lazy breakfast.

Are these migas? All the elements are there: stale tortilla chips (the eponymous migas, or crumbs), eggs, cheese, salsa picante. Does it matter that the salsa is the liquid variety (Tapatio, specifically), rather than pico-like? How much does that change the identity of the dish? If I’d had a jar of Mrs. Renfro’s or Green Mountain Gringo in the fridge and had used that instead, would my breakfast have been more authentic? What if I had ginned up my own salsa? It’s what I would have done if there’d been onions and canned tomatoes in the pantry. (I really need to get to the grocery store.) And would my salsa have been even more authentic if I’d had fresh tomatoes instead of canned?

In The Farmstead Egg Cookbook, Boston suburbanite Terry Golson presents her recipe for huevos rancheros with an apology: “I don’t claim that these are totally authentic huevos rancheros, but they are delicious and very easy to make.” She fries an egg, puts it on top of a fried corn tortilla, and tops that with salsa from a jar and some queso fresco (more authentic than my cheddar). Clearly it’s the ease of the dish that worries her, but I also remember reading about someone of a similar background to Golson’s seeing a Mexican woman cooking a sauce from scratch for a breakfast dish and being slightly appalled at the effort required. (It’s not that hard, really, if you have the ingredients on hand.) It seemed primitive and patriarchal, and not something that a busy, modern woman could take home to the US.

How should we judge the authenticity of Mexican or Tex-Mex egg breakfasts, parvenus to the public faces of both cuisines? In Que vivan los tamales, Jeffrey Pilcher reports Marilyn Tausend’s finding that “The habit of eating eggs for breakfast, when transferred [through mid-century tourism] from the United States to Mexico, stimulated creative experimentation rather than slavish imitation. In searching for national counterparts to Eggs Benedict, Mexican chefs served huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) fried with tomato-and-chile sauce, huevos albañiles (bricklayers’ eggs) scrambled with a similar sauce, and huevos motuleños (from Motul, Yucatán) fried with beans, ham, and peas. Soon, no hotel with pretensions to luxury could neglect its own ‘traditional’ egg dish on the breakfast menu.”

The taint of Americanism seems to be one of the factors that earns Tex-Mex scorn from Diana Kennedy and her followers. Does the fact that these egg dishes are a product of U.S. tourism make them any less authentically Mexican? They did originate in Mexico, after all. You can’t get much more “authentic” or “interior” than the Yucatán. Does the fact that they are innovations, rather than traditional dishes, make them less authentic?

Whatever the answers, my lazy migas were very tasty.

8 Responses to “mis migas: autenticas o no?”

  1. May 21, 2010 at 13:03

    I’ve long thought that “authenticity” is a pretty strange criterion for food one would like to eat. (And I’m not a convenience food user.)

    • May 22, 2010 at 19:36

      I’m not a big convenience food user, but I think it’s important to make judgments about which ones I use. Canning has been with us for such a long time (the large-scale version for almost two hundred years) that I tend to give canned ingredients a pass. Especially tomatoes, beans, and jalapeños.

      Even though it isn’t your meaning, this comment made me think about the class, gender, and agency implications of a complete nix on convenience foods in the name of authenticity. If you don’t have the time or resources to cook completely from scratch, the way tv chefs and peasant women do, then you’re not doing the best for your family. So compromising on convenience foods makes you a bad person (bad woman, usually). Not only inauthentic, but unloving, too. The tv chefs also completely ignore that they have the choice whether to spend the time cooking from scratch, whereas the peasant doesn’t. Interesting stuff.

  2. 3 Jon
    May 21, 2010 at 14:41

    Mex-Tex? Anytime you start pulling the authenticity card on any form of “fusion” cuisine, you’re going to be picking open the scabs of whatever colonial/military event brought the foods together. I mean, shit, what is authentic American food anyhow?

    • May 22, 2010 at 19:20

      I’m all about picking at the scabs here. Speaking of scabs, how’s your appendix?! Besides recently gone missing, I mean.

      • 5 Jon
        May 26, 2010 at 06:29

        I can’t stand the pain medications anymore, but being pantsless, while it has benefits, makes it difficult to get out into today’s world. Well, maybe not so much in San Fran, but DC police aren’t so forgiving (NB: best headline EVAR; “Nude Jogger Nabbed Near White House; Authorities Check Out Package” )

        I was really just saying that “authentic” is a loaded term. I most often see it used to deride damned fine food as “…but it’s not really authentic.” There’s a narrow category of foods where I want “authentic,” but even then — what “deserves” that title and what doesn’t? Chicago-style pizza? Jamaican food, with elements of British, Spanish, indigenous and a diverse collection of African traditions? There’s a clear national cuisine, but by what metric is it “authentic” ?

  3. 6 Jon
    May 22, 2010 at 06:14

    Of note, the new food truck near work:


    Rebel Heroes, serving vietnamese bahn-mi style sandwiches, Cuban sandwhiches, Meatball subs, French-inspired eggwiches, and Inca cola. “All our Rebels–our new take on the Old Guard of classic subs, come with Rebel Mayo by default (but you can choose what you’d like) and topped with Swiss Cheese and can be pressed upon request at no extra charge if you like it nice and crispy. Just ask us to “Cubano It!””

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