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Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered Americaby Gustavo Arellano
Synopses & Reviews
Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents an entertaining, tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisines tremendous popularity in el Norte. In the tradition of Bill Buford's Heat and Calvin Trillin's The Tummy Trilogy, Arellano's fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and Jesus on a tortilla.
When salsa overtook ketchup as this country's favorite condiment in the 1990s, Americas century-long love affair with Mexican food reached yet another milestone. In seemingly every decade since the 1880s, America has tried new food trends from south of the border — chili, tamales, tacos, enchiladas, tequila, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and so many more — loved them, and demanded the next great thing. As a result, Mexican food dominates American palates to the tune of billions of dollars in sales per year, from canned refried beans to frozen margaritas and ballpark nachos. It's a little-known history, one that's crept up on this country like your Mexican neighbors — and left us better for it.
Now, Taco USA addresses the all-important questions: What exactly constitutes "Mexican" food in the United States? How did it get here? What's "authentic" and what's "Taco Bell," and does it matter? What's so cosmic about a burrito? And why do Americans love Mexican food so darn much?
Tacos, alas, sold separately.
"In this entertaining nod to culinary and cultural histories, journalist Arellano (¡Ask a Mexican!) traces the roots of Mexican food in the U.S. and explores the cuisine's many offshoots, underscoring why salsa is now our #1 condiment. Knowing it's impossible to pinpoint the birth of the world's first taco, Arellano focuses instead on how the phenomenon of something so simple as a crispy or soft tortilla folded over fillings came across the border. Beginning as street food in California in the 1920s — much later than the introduction of chili and tamales in both California and Texas — tacos gained popularity as inventions cropped up to fry large numbers of shells at once for mass production. It paved the way for Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, who began his empire in San Bernadino, Calif., in 1951, where he also sold hamburgers and hot dogs in case the taco craze didn't catch on. It did, and today there are more than 5,800 Taco Bells worldwide. Arellano makes the point, one that's particularly relevant in today's heated immigration debate, that as much as some Americans may protest Mexican immigrants, they're in love with Mexican food. While he's clear that no best-of list can encompass all the great places to eat tacos and burritos in America, Arellano's top five (El Rancho Grande in Tulsa, Okla., for example) illustrates just how far from the border the craze has traveled." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"An appealing cultural exploration of Mexican food in the United States....Readers will come away not only hungry, but with a deeper understanding of the Mexican people and their cuisine." Kirkus
"In a chatty, lighthearted style and with mordant wit, Arellano traces the steady northward creep of Mexican cooking from Texas and the Southwest into the heart of Yankee territory." Booklist
"[Arellano] manages to squeeze in mentions of just about every Mexican restaurant (including, believe it or not, both Taco Cabana and the dining room of the Austin Hyatt), product line, and preparation in the country. If you've ever wondered about the roots of Taco Bell or why fajitas are called that or who invented the frozen-margarita machine, you'll find answers here." Slate Magazine
"Absorbing" The New York Times
The nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! presents an entertaining, tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine's tremendous popularity in America.
In the tradition of Bill Buford (Heat) and Calvin Trillin (The Tummy Trilogy), Gustavo Arellano satisfies readers with a fascinating narrative that combines history, cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and an overwhelming passion for cooking and eating.
When salsa overtook ketchup as this country's favorite condiment in the 1990s, America's century-long love affair with Mexican food reached a plateau that it continues to beat every year. Mexican foodstuffs dominate American palates to the tune of billions of dollars in sales per year. Now, Taco USA addresses the all-important questions: What exactly constitutes "Mexican" food in the United States? What's "authentic," and what's "Taco Bell"? What's so cosmic about a burrito? And why do Americans love Mexican food so darn much? With insight and humor, Arellano looks at the history and politics of all aspects of Mexican food in the United States, from tater tot burritos in South Dakota to long-forgotten pioneers, and investigates the origins and history of these trends, interspersed throughout with personal anecdotes, social commentary, and, of course, vivid descriptions of delicious food.
About the Author
Gustavo Arellano's ¡Ask a Mexican! column has a circulation of more than two million in thirty-eight markets (and counting). He has received the President's Award from the Los Angeles Press Club, an Impact Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and a 2008 Latino Spirit Award from the California State legislature. Arellano has appeared on the Today show, Nightline, NPR's Talk of the Nation, and The Colbert Report. For more information, visit AskAMexican.net.
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