Angel 's Reviews > Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America

Taco USA by Gustavo Arellano
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's review
May 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: foods-and-epicurious, history, pop-culture

Though it can get a bit long at times (the chapter on restaurant history really felt like a long haul), the book overall is very good. Arellano is covering a lot of ground, but that is because Mexican food in the U.S. has taken so many forms, it has been transformed so many times, it has been adapted so often that it takes a lot of effort and research to track it all down. Track it all down the author has. From the early restaurants to food in the grocery stores with side trips about tequila and even the invention of the frozen margarita machine, Arellano covers it all from the early days of Mexican and American history to today. I did learn a lot, and I think a lot of readers will learn something as well. What I found amazing is that the food has taken such diverse forms and adaptations. In the end, Mexican food, as the U.S. sees it and consumes it is as much Mexican as it is something new that has been assimilated and adapted to the U.S. It was another immigrant so to speak.

If you enjoy food writing, you will probably enjoy this book. If you enjoy microhistory books, you will like this book as well. There are a lot of interesting stories and details in this book. There are some well known tales, such as Mr. Bell starting what became Taco Bell to the lesser known stories of tamale vendors (well, lesser known today, but Arellano makes sure you know by the time you have read this book). Very good reading, and a book that will make you hungry for some Mexican food and some tequila.

Similar books, or at least ones I have read and that I think will appeal to readers who like this one:

* The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
* Glazed America: a History of the Doughnut


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Reading Progress

May 22, 2012 – Shelved
May 31, 2012 – Started Reading
June 2, 2012 –
page 7
2.26% "An opening scene. The irony of known bigot Tom Tancredo, anti-Latino immigrant proponent, enjoying lo and behold, Mexican food."
June 2, 2012 –
page 8
2.58% "A question Arellano seeks to explore/answer: "But that so many Americans, with no blood ties to Mexico, who might not even like the country, revere my cuisine? The reported in me is fascinated; the Mexican in me, flabbergasted.""
June 2, 2012 –
page 19
June 4, 2012 –
page 29
June 4, 2012 –
page 50
16.13% "Finished chapter on the Chili Queens of San Antonio and the Tamale Kings of San Francisco. Interesting story of good ideas, or at least good tasty ones, sort of ruined as they got absorbed into an American version that is a shell of the savory, authentic past."
June 4, 2012 –
page 53
17.1% "Amusing to me. The taco is so much embedded in US culture "that even Irish pubs will sell corned beef tacos during Cinco de Mayo served by lasses wearing T-shirts boasting 'Irish I Were Mexican.'" Yep, the influence is ever present. But hey, tacos are just oh so good. Thank you Mexicans :)"
June 5, 2012 –
page 66
June 5, 2012 –
page 71
22.9% ""If the tamale men were the scouts to gauge American interest in Mexican food and the taco houses the explorers, then what followed were the colonists, the settlers, the tamers of the frontier: the Mexican sit-down restaurant." And we start with Cano's chain, El Torito."
June 5, 2012 –
page 77
June 7, 2012 –
page 86
June 7, 2012 –
page 90
29.03% "Rick Bayless is a bit of a thin-skinned whiner, plus on white authors writing Mexican food cookbooks: "In the process they introduced a fraudulent concept to the question of Mexican cuisine in this country: the idea that the food they documented was 'authentic,' while the dishes offered at your neighborhood taco stand or sit-down restaurant were pretenders to be shunned." As Arellano writes, P.T. Barnum approves."
June 10, 2012 –
page 110
June 10, 2012 –
page 122
39.35% "From cookbooks to a history of Southwestern cuisine ending up in New Mexico and its chiles. Now, we move on Tex-Mex."
June 12, 2012 – Shelved as: foods-and-epicurious
June 12, 2012 – Shelved as: history
June 12, 2012 – Shelved as: pop-culture
June 12, 2012 – Finished Reading

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