If you’re here, reading this, it’s safe to say that you probably know the difference between authentic Mexican food and ingredients (birria, Cotija cheese, al pastor tacos, huitlacoche) and U.S.-ified Mexican favorites (chimichangas, hard-shell tacos, fajitas).
But there are a lot of folks in the United States who aren’t quite so clear on the distinction. And that chaps the Mexican government’s hide. So it flew 50 chefs from Mexican restaurants in the U.S. to Mexico City for a crash course on authentic Mexican cuisine.
According to an AP piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mexican food is often misunderstood. The real deal is complex and flavorful, so much so that the Mexican government has lobbied UNESCO to declare Mexican food a “cultural patrimony of humanity.” But in the United States, it’s burritos and tacos laden with gloppy yellow cheese and shredded iceberg lettuce.
‘A lot of so-called Mexican restaurants just decorate their walls with bright sombreros and hire a mariachi and think that makes them authentic,’ says Rosa Maria Barajas, owner of Rosa’s Plane Food at the airport in Calexico, Calif. She has banned cheddar cheese from her restaurant.
Meanwhile, USA Today files its own Mexican food piece. In this one, a reporter visits Mexico City and delights in the pozole, the mole, and the pork-in-banana-leaf dish mixiote. Although the article will drive you out of work early to hit the nearest authentic Mexican food place, the author sadly can’t stop herself from ending the piece with a warning about “Montezuma’s revenge.”
Will the U.S. ever widely adopt the real cuisine of Mexico? Not while it still mistakes salsa for other things.