Posts Tagged ‘fusion

28
Sep
11

mexipino fusion

When Jeremy treated me to lunch at Papalote for helping him complete his move to Seattle, I had already ordered a prawn quesadilla before I noticed a poster advertising their new “Mexipino burrito.” A burrito filled with chicken adobo, garlic rice, and fresh tomatoes? I told myself I would try it next time.

Next time was last night, and oh my goodness! That rice is amazing. Imagine the best Mexican rice you’ve ever had, drained, and fried in oil with garlic. So delicious. So something I’m going to try at home. (The chicken wasn’t bad either.)

It was the first food we’ve eaten out in a long time that made both J-P and me gasp with delight. (Eating in, the last thing was Mervin’s limes pickled in chili oil.) Thus continues our trend of being more impressed with San Francisco’s street food than with its high-end cuisine. I never thought I would like a Fresh-Mex place this much, but J-P nailed it: “It’s been Fresh-Mexed, but by Mexicans, not Californians.” How can that be bad?

17
Sep
10

tamales’ elopments with mid-American cuisine

After the Chicago World’s Fair introduced the rest of the country to Texas Mexican food in 1893, tamales ran off and eloped with multiple US regional cuisines. They turned up in the South, gravy-drenched and wearing nothing but cornmeal masa. They also gave birth to tamale pie, the hot-dish version of themselves that only the Midwest could have sired. In Texas, we continued to eat our nixtamal dumplings filled with puerco con chile. (No need to say chile colorado, since there was only one color of chile in Texas). It wasn’t until the 1990s that California came to us, bearing what it swore were authentic Mexican tamales, and therefore much better than ours. Despite their sneering tone, some of us wiped the orange grease from our fingers and had a taste, deciding that black bean tamales and chicken-and-green-chile tamales might be alright, too.

28
Jul
10

attitudes toward diversity in food

Thanks to Joan for pointing out the differences in tone and language between these New York Times articles, one about Bulgarian-British star chef Silvena Rowe, the other about Tomas Lee and the increasing availability of Korean tacos.

Rowe can indulge, without reproach, an “Orientalist vision” in her “sexy,” “hedonistic” “signature dishes.” (Perhaps she gets a pass because she caters to “the pomegranate craze” in a “Britain avid for new cuisines.”) Her food is the product of great thought and creativity: she “reinvents” herself, “finds” herself, “locks herself in her room” until she gets her variation on someone else’s recipe right. She “preserves” recipes through her innovation, and looks to the past (that outdated Orientalist vision again).

Meanwhile, Tomas Lee and the other Korean taco chefs profiled in the second article (note that they are many; Rowe is one) are “making up a cuisine as they go along.” They hardly think about what they’re doing, much less lock themselves away for research. Inevitable product of the interaction between Korean shopowners and their Mexican employees, Korean tacos were “just lunch” for all these “entrepreneurs” (not chefs, note) who are now trying to “mainstream” Korean food in America. Dave, though, pointed out my favorite line: “The tortilla and the toppings are a way to tell our customers that this food is O.K., that this food is American.” Even so, the article sounds rather concerned that there are so many “trend-conscious restaurateurs with few apparent ties to Korea” who are getting in on the act. (Compare to how Rowe’s tenuous ties, as a Bulgarian-born, Russian-educated British citizen, to the Middle East go unremarked in the previous article.)

Meanwhile, in Arizona, SB 1070 (otherwise known as the Your-Papers-Please Law) with go into effect tomorrow. Andrew Leonard of Salon’s “How the World Works” noted an uptick in Google searches for Pei Wei, the casual pan-Asian spin-off of Scottsdale-based P.F. Chang’s. Were people searching for information on the Pei Wei franchise in Chandler, Arizona, that fired 12 employees for taking May 29 off (unauthorized) to protest SB 1070? Nope, the buzz was all about the cut-rate entrees the chain is offering to celebrate its tenth anniversary. This leads Leonard to a wonderful rant:

What really gets me riled are the ridiculous contradictions baked into the ersatz globalization symbolized by a chain of faux-Asian eateries in a state like Arizona.

Diversity is fine if it applies to the ability of Arizonans to eat cheaply priced cuisine that imitates Chinese or Malaysian or Thai (albeit with all the sharp edges sanded off.) The fact that producing such cuisine for such low prices requires exploiting cheap labor gets swept under the rug. The fact that actual Asians have almost nothing to do with the production of the food is also considered irrelevant. …

But god forbid society itself should become more diverse, along with the food.

The actually interesting story there, about the workers who were fired for knocking off to go to a protest, also shows a limit to the kind of “community organizing” that has been most effective in the minority- and immigrant-heavy service sectors. Not only are significant classes of these workers (domestic workers, farm laborers) not even covered by basic labor protections, but those who are covered are only protected when they’re involved in straight-up labor organizing. Fighting against “race-baiting laws” that make the whole community insecure (including workers who might otherwise organize)? Not covered.

Thanks to J-P for the Andrew Leonard tip. (He also points out that William Gibson probably feels slighted that his 1991 coinage “kimcheewawas” didn’t make the Korean tacos article.)