¡Ask A Mexican!
By Gustavo Arellano
How can it be that in a city where just about every commercial kitchen in every imaginable cuisine is powered by some seriously world-class Mexican talent, we can’t get decent, affordable Mexican food without having to go to Queens or Brooklyn or the Bronx? Sure we’ve got Rosa Mexicano and Mercadito and the like—but I can’t afford to spend a month’s rent on one meal. All I want is a nice taqueria that I don’t have to traverse a bridge or a tunnel to get to. This isn’t Arizona! Everyone’s a damn immigrant here! So why are we being punished like this?
Dear Gabacho: Are you a proud New Yorker—or a proud Manhattanite? Because you answered your question in your pregunta. The Big Manzana historically didn’t have great Mexican food (although it did have a crucial role in the development of Mexican food in the United States—you’ll have to wait next year for my upcoming book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America (And Soon, the World) for the details) because Mexicans didn’t migrate to the region. That changed in the last 20 years, with the 2000 Census showing that Mexicans were New York’s fastest-growing ethnic group—and that was before the Reconquista truly wrapped its mestizo hands around Gotham! You have some of the highest concentrations of people from Puebla and Hidalgo in the United States, so feast on barbacoa and cemitas poblanas (sandwiches that make hoagies seem as puny as a singular pierogi) to your panza’s content—and leave the whining to Arizona governor Jan Brewer.
I’m a huge fan of yours and I decided that I would at long last ask the Mexican a question! I set down this morning to drink my mocha and realized that I had no idea how Mexicans like their coffee. The Europeans have espresso, the Americans have McDonald’s mud, but what do the Mexicans have? Help me, amigo!
Dear Gabacha: Café de olla—coffee from the pot, preferably lead-lined. Spiced with cinnamon and piloncillo, unrefined brown sugar usually formed into a cylindrical triangle from which Mexis smash off pieces. Café de olla is like a Mexican woman—spicy, sweet, caliente, perfect for late nights, early mornings and slow, gentle blowing on its top before sipping.
SHAMELESS PLUG! Not for me, for once, but for the most-Mexican gabacho I know: Robb Walsh, the Gibbons of Texas food history. Recently came out with a new book, The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbecue Cookbook, and Walsh being Walsh it’s no mere grab-bag of great, easily reproducible recipes: you also get gorgeous pictures and stories on the different facets of Tex-Mex cuisine. Learn, for instance, about the curious history of the fajita, or the advent of the margarita. A great, useful read, and like I say in the blurb I contributed on the back of the book: anyone who doesn’t buy it deserves deportation. Learn more at robbwalsh.com, and felíz grilling!
Dear Readers: As you read this, my trusty burro, pigtailed chica and I are crisscrossing Aztlán researching Mexican food. So now is as good as any time to do some housecleaning for the columna. Hay que start with a letter from the Mexican’s longtime amigo, William Lobdell. For years one of the most prestigious religion reporters in the United States, he’s also the author of the touching, brilliant memoir Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace, a book the Mexican wholly recommends. He wrote in recently regarding my column theorizing why so many Mexis are Mormons:
The real reason why Mormons had such good luck at converting Mexicans is that the missionaries and even past prophets have told Latinos that they are the descendants of Lamanites, a lost tribe of Israel that came to America around 600 B.C. As a Lamanite, therefore, Mexicans are part of God’s chosen people and very, very special and God has something incredible planned for them. This, naturally, is very appealing to people of poverty and hardship. Of course, recent studies show that native Americans (North, Central and South) come from Asia, not the Middle East. But this hasn’t stopped the majority of Mormons from using the you-are-a-Hebrew sales pitch to natives of North, Central and South America. And when those convert Mormons find out that they don’t have an ounce of Jewish blood in them, they are devastated.
On the other side of the Mexican equation is the following gentleman:
Your “understanding of Mormonism” is partially incorrect and frankly offensive. Mormon men do NOT dominate their wife. Mormons do NOT hate homosexuals, nor anyone else for that matter. I suggest you do better research, and apologizes in print for these untruths. Good luck finding the courage to do that.
Actually, señor, Mormons do quite hate homosexuals—otherwise, church doctrine wouldn’t classify it as a sin, or unnatural. But what do I know? My Catholic faith preaches the same pendejadas—and we protect pedophiles much better than ustedes, to boot. As for the husband domination? That’s what makes your religion so appealing to Mexicans—don’t start denying it, now!
CONTEST ALERT! Primeramente, for those who won last year’s contest—the Mexican mail system screwed up my deliveries of your free book, so they’ll be coming in the next couple of weeks. Now, a new one: the Mexican doesn’t mind pirated versions of his column, but he doesn’t like when pendejos used his picture without his permission. See, my face is owned by the awesome artist Mark Dancey, and his tolerance of piratería is not as generous as mine, mainly because he’s not a Mexican.
So, the contest: anyone who rats out anyone who uses this column’s logo anywhere in the world gets a free copy of my book. Send proof of the piratería to my email or snail-mail address below.
Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org, be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!