Last Thursday our class had the awesome opportunity to Skype in Gustavo Arellano to ask him questions about his book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, which we are reading in class! It was interesting and pretty fun!
First of all, Arellano is a hilarious and witty guy. So much so, that I felt as though I had known him for years. He spoke with ease to our class and in was definitely more of a conversation than an interview, which I loved.
Everyone in class asked quite insightful questions, but something I really wanted to know was his thoughts on the term “authenticity”, so I ended up asking if he believed that authenticity is a real thing in regards to Mexican food. What made me think of this question was the video that was shared in class on Chef Fabián León and whether or not authenticity existed.
To my surprise, Arellano doesn’t believe that there is a such thing as “authentic” Mexican. He explained that as he traveled to states in order to do more research on Mexican food in the states, he came to find out that authenticity doesn’t have to do with where it was made, but that anything can be authentic — even Taco Bell! Taco Bell is authentic, in his opinion, because authenticity is based on the history of something. It is how food has evolved throughout the years. It’s true that a taco made in Mexican restaurant in San Francisco compared to one made by someone’s abuela at home in Jalisco, Mexico, compared to a Taco Bell taco made for a drive-thru order here in Lexington, Kentucky can taste COMPLETELY different. BUT, all of them are authentic. They are all tacos, but all take different tastes and shapes. It shows the history and the beauty of how the taco has grown and changed over time.