by Ulises Silva
I know this’ll come as an absolute shock to you, but Taco Bell, and any Mexican restaurant with schlocky advertising (seriously, “Yo quiero Taco Bell?”), a drive-thru, and anything with the word “mild” printed on it isn’t real Mexican food. And forget any restaurant that claims to be “authentic.” You can tell it’s fake by turning off the lights and seeing if those globs of melted nacho cheese glow in the dark.
No, the horrible truth about Mexican food is that most people have been conditioned to dislike real Mexican food despite its deliciousness and non-glowing properties.
I can almost understand why those fine, learned gentlemen at Top Gear called Mexican food “refried sick.” If England’s Mexican food offerings are anything like the ones here, chances are the Top Gear lads had just finished an order of beef and butter tacos from Sir Nigel’s Authentic Mexican Harbour before spouting their drivel.
Hell, even I think Mexican food is sick—at least as it’s interpreted by Taco Bell, Del Taco, Mighty Taco, Glowing Taco, and Freedom Pita Bell (i.e., what Arizona legislation will start calling Taco Bell). In fact, their renditions of Mexican food run counter to some very basic tenets of Mexican cuisine and culture:
- The only time there should be anything yellow on a taco is when you’re serving them on yellow plates.
- Mexicans never spray sour cream on anything except walls.
- Contrary to what Old El Paso says, Mexicans never really worried about OSHA-compliant tacos.
- And, trust me on this one, no Mexican ever said, “Quick, let’s slather some dog food in between two tortillas, drown it in a yellow glowing substance, and call it a Mexican Pizza!”
And yet, it seems I’m one of 14 people in the world who thinks this fake Mexican food is disgusting. (It’s only blind speculation, but I’m guessing the financial success of Taco Bell has something to do with people actually liking Mexican Pizza.) Which wouldn’t be a problem—except that it’s trained most people to dislike real Mexican food because they don’t recognize it.
I once made authentic tostadas for a potluck dinner. It’s a specialty of mine, so I went the whole nine yards. I fried tortillas to crispy perfection. I had seasoned, shredded chicken and non-yellow queso fresco. I even made my famous, controversial guacamole! But my all-white colleagues, alarmed by the lack of spray-on sour cream and toxic sludge nacho cheese, hardly touched any of it. Conversely, years later, when I made more conventional nachos for another potluck, you’d think I was serving $100 bills the way people practically inhaled them.
Now, not even Mexicans are resistant to the power of nacho cheese. A few years ago, a group of Mexicans from Guadalajara opened up a restaurant here in the Metro Detroit area. I blissfully thought, “Finally! Real Mexicans making real Mexican food!” Alas, the owners, knowing what Americans really wanted, offered ‘authentic’ dishes that glowed in the dark. Yay.
Tex-Mex and Southwestern cuisines represent culinary hybrids where things like yellow cheese and ground beef are socially acceptable. And that’s fine. What’s not fine is for places like Taco Bell to appropriate and crappify Mexican cuisine, and still call it Mexican food. They do a disservice to Mexican cuisine, and to anyone who will forever think tacos are supposed to be crunchy and indigestible. So why not instead call it Creative Liberties Mexican Food, or Americanized Glow-in-the-Dark Globbification Cuisine Loosely Based On True Mexican Cuisine?
Hey, it’d make a pretty catchy jingle.
To learn more about Ulises, visit Digital Decaf.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.