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Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents a tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine’s tremendous popularity north of the border. Arellano’s fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, food writing, personal anecdote Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents a tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine’s tremendous popularity north of the border. Arellano’s fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, food writing, personal anecdotes, and Jesus on a tortilla. In seemingly every decade for over a century, America has tried new culinary trends from south of the border, loved them, and demanded the next big 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 tortilla wraps and ballpark nachos. It’s a little-known history, one that’s crept up on this country and left us better for it.


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Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents a tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine’s tremendous popularity north of the border. Arellano’s fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, food writing, personal anecdote Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents a tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine’s tremendous popularity north of the border. Arellano’s fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, food writing, personal anecdotes, and Jesus on a tortilla. In seemingly every decade for over a century, America has tried new culinary trends from south of the border, loved them, and demanded the next big 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 tortilla wraps and ballpark nachos. It’s a little-known history, one that’s crept up on this country and left us better for it.

30 review for Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Darrenglass

    What an incredibly disappointing book. If you know me, you know that I love Mexican food of all kinds. Whether it is cheap burritos in west Texas, high end alta cocina, regional dishes found in small Mexican villages, or moles that I make in my own kitchen, I love Mexican food. I have been known to plan vacations around Mexican cooking, including several cooking classes that my wife and I have taken. I am also very interested in food writing and the cultural history of food. So needless to say, I What an incredibly disappointing book. If you know me, you know that I love Mexican food of all kinds. Whether it is cheap burritos in west Texas, high end alta cocina, regional dishes found in small Mexican villages, or moles that I make in my own kitchen, I love Mexican food. I have been known to plan vacations around Mexican cooking, including several cooking classes that my wife and I have taken. I am also very interested in food writing and the cultural history of food. So needless to say, I was excited to read this book. And there were parts of it that were very interesting. Especially some of the opening chapters about tamales and the early days of Mexican food coming to America, which contained lots of information I havent seen anywhere else. But as the book went on I grew more and more tired of Arellano's high horses and pet peeves. He writes from a very southern california-centric point of view, and some of his generalizations to the rest of the country don't really mesh with my experiences living in Texas and the east coast (one example is that it seemed odd to read about the dissapearance of Tex-Mex at the same time that Chuy's is opening a dozen new locations) and it generally made me distrust many of his claims. But most disappointing to me was Arellano's use of the word 'authentic'. Throughout the book he throws the word around in various ways without ever really seeming to intellectually engage with what he means by the term or even really giving a definition of it. Instead, he uses the word as a compliment at times while other times criticizing the ways other people use the term (for any of Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless's faults, I at least understand what they mean when they use the word). I admit that in recent years I have become very interested in the idea of what we mean when we talk about authentic ethnic food (see the great Lucky Peach Issue 2 article a few months back on the topic) but the chips on Arellano's shoulder are big enough to be annoyingly inconsistent. Arellano is a good storyteller for the most part, and I enjoy the 'character' he does in his 'Ask A Mexican' work (because i assume it is a character). But if you are looking for a book that discusses the history of Mexican food in the US with any intellectual consistency and depth, I would recommend looking elsewhere. (In particular, I am looking forward to Jeffrey Pilcher's new book, as his Que Vivan Los Tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity remains the pinnacle of writing about Mexican cusine.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Buddle

    Tacos rule. But you know this. There's nothing as good as a good taco. There's nothing as good as a good tamale. Maybe it's just me, but that's how I feel. Mexican food, properly prepared (and sometimes even improperly prepared) is the best. I'll tell you this. I am a little bit romantic when it comes to Mexican food. So much so, when I finished this book, I literally emailed its author the following: Gustavo- I just finished your book "Taco USA" and admire the work and dedication you put into it. Tacos rule. But you know this. There's nothing as good as a good taco. There's nothing as good as a good tamale. Maybe it's just me, but that's how I feel. Mexican food, properly prepared (and sometimes even improperly prepared) is the best. I'll tell you this. I am a little bit romantic when it comes to Mexican food. So much so, when I finished this book, I literally emailed its author the following: Gustavo- I just finished your book "Taco USA" and admire the work and dedication you put into it. Thank you for the book. Though I now live in NYC, I too am from Southern California. I am one of those white people who love Mexican food. I grew up with the smells of Menudo, corn tortillas, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and tamales. I wanted to share with you my story. My Mom grew up in East L.A. in the 1950s. She was of Spanish descent, her abuela spoke only Spanish; her mother spoke both Spanish and heavily accented English. My mom's mother -my grandmother- was head of the household. Her husband had been killed in WWII and she did not remarry so the household was a Spanish speaking one. East L.A. even then was a neighborhood of Latinos. The way my mom explained it, there were all types of people: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, a vast array of people who spoke a common language. Though my grandmother's last name was Tucker, her maiden name was Balderama. They fit right in. Grandma Tucker was the sole breadwinner. Every day she trekked by bus to downtown L.A. where she worked as a secretary for an accounting firm. She worked hard. The money she earned had to support not only three people: my mom, her brother, and their abuela. They were, in short, poor. I imagine that it was the Spanish language that bonded them to the neighborhood. It was comfortable to speak one's native tongue, even if it was a different dialect. My mom's abeula didn't like the slang words, but she didn't mind the people that spoke them. They made friends with their neighbors. And like neighbors do, they shared food. I'm not claiming to great complexity. When it came to taco's we liked fresh tortillas, not fried. We ate enchiladas in green salsa. If we wanted a snack, my mom made us a corn tortilla quesadilla (just jack cheese melted between two tortillas), or something my sister and I called a "butter" (butter slathered on a flour tortilla and heated in the microwave). But the thing that I feel the most nostalgic about, the thing that chokes me up even as I type this, is probably the most Mexican. Tamales on Christmas Eve. My mom didn't make tamales. We ordered them. I grew up in Buena Park. In the 70s of my youth, you could still find what we considered authentic Mexican food at small hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I'd go with my mom when she ordered, and she'd speak Spanish, ordering two dozen spicy tamales and a dozen sweet ones. The order would be ready on the Eve. I can remember the smell when they came into the house already warm; you could smell the spicy chicken, the steamed masa. Oh my god, it smelled like Christmas. You'd take a tamale and first unwrap a wet piece of paper that was wrapped around the corn husk. You'd open the husk and slide the tamale onto your plate. We ate and ate, But there would always be leftovers. My Grandmother would bring empanadas that she made, stuffed with spiced beef. Great, but I don't regard them as romantically. Christmas morning while my sister and I tore open our presents -food was the last thought for us- my mom heated up two tamales and ate them with a cup of coffee. That smells like Christmas too. I live in Queens now. There's a tamale lady who sells chicken and cheese enchiladas on Saturdays. Her spot is right below the elevated train platform. My wife and I sometimes stop and buy tamales from her (my wife had never had tamales before meeting me, now she's addicted). When the tamale lady opens her cooler, that smell wafts out and I'm hit by an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. When we take them home and unwrap them, I sometimes feel like crying. Not out of sorrow, but out of pure joy. I wish my mom was around to try these tamales (she died 2 years ago...fuck cancer). Their aroma makes me think of my mom. This happened again recently when I went out for a run and ran by the window of someone who must have been preparing menudo. When my mom got home from work, she would frequently heat up a can of menudo for a snack or lunch. I didn't really eat it -tripe seemed disgusting- but my mom loved it. So when I ran past that window and the scent of menudo hit me, I felt a surge of emotion in my chest and again was on the verge of tears. Yep, my life is tied up with Mexican food. I just don't like the taste, I have all sorts of associations with it. It's more than chips and salsa to me. So thank you for the book. I don't normally write to the authors of books I like, but your book made me feel like Holden Caulfield, only instead of picking up the phone, I could just send you an email. Thanks again, Jeff I've never before written to a writer. So I must like this book. If you have any connection with Mexican food, even if you just like a frozen margarita, you should probably read this.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sean Owen

    Food writing has to be the most dreadful genre. Worse even than Malcolm Gladwell pop psychology or memoir. It seems everyone is either a blowhard like Anthony Bourdain or on some quest to show off their bona fide cultural authenticity. Books like "Taco USA" show that it need not be that way. If you're like me you know that two of the greatest programs to ever air on television are "A Hot Dog Program" and "Sandwiches You Will Like" In those programs the camera crew visited unpretentious, iconic re Food writing has to be the most dreadful genre. Worse even than Malcolm Gladwell pop psychology or memoir. It seems everyone is either a blowhard like Anthony Bourdain or on some quest to show off their bona fide cultural authenticity. Books like "Taco USA" show that it need not be that way. If you're like me you know that two of the greatest programs to ever air on television are "A Hot Dog Program" and "Sandwiches You Will Like" In those programs the camera crew visited unpretentious, iconic regional restaurants renown for their hot dogs or sandwiches. Taco USA mines food gold in a similar vein, but in this case the focus is on varieties of Mexican food in the US. In fact the right camera crew could translate this book into a stellar third pillar beside "A Hot Dog Program" and "Sandwiches You Will Like" Arellano succeeds where so many authors fail because of his sense of humor, curiosity and unpretentiousness. The book covers the origins of all of the classics Mexican food imports and the various feuds, characters and funny anecdotes that accompanied their rise to dominance. Arellano also rises up admirably to address and at the same time laugh off the ridiculous authenticity question that invariably comes up when talking about Mexican food. About the only bad thing I can say about this book is that reading it before bed is a difficult task because you're going to find yourself getting up to go find snacks in the kitchen.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Delicious... makes the mouth water. My favorite section was the four pages of San Diego style Mexican food in the burrito chapter, including the history of the "-bertos". Wish I could get a California Burrito out here! Delicious... makes the mouth water. My favorite section was the four pages of San Diego style Mexican food in the burrito chapter, including the history of the "-bertos". Wish I could get a California Burrito out here!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joey Nardinelli

    Wow. Almost a whole year to read this. The story of this book, in short, is that I put it on an Honors seminar syllabus as our core text, unread save for an article that served as the basis for an early chapter in the book. I had met Gustavo Arellano a few months before at Tucson Meet Yourself, and was super excited to use his book for my first course taught specifically for the UA Honors College. A few months into 2020, and well...COVID hit. I kept reading but increasingly fell behind as my stu Wow. Almost a whole year to read this. The story of this book, in short, is that I put it on an Honors seminar syllabus as our core text, unread save for an article that served as the basis for an early chapter in the book. I had met Gustavo Arellano a few months before at Tucson Meet Yourself, and was super excited to use his book for my first course taught specifically for the UA Honors College. A few months into 2020, and well...COVID hit. I kept reading but increasingly fell behind as my students were also struggling to keep reading about food, especially at restaurants that they could no longer travel to. Is that this books fault? Not even remotely. What Gustavo has written here (and I humbly use his first name mostly because he seems so friendly and warm both in person and in his writing here) isn’t really a standard history of Mexican food in America, but really an examination of the cultural diffusion of Mexican foods and products into the American zeitgeist leading to so much of the Americana of today’s culinary landscape to owe continued indebtedness to la comida pura. I also really love Gustavo’s unabashed curiosity and fandom for things like my now-hometown of Tucson, the loncheras of Orange County, and the unusual (what I call the grilled cheese and tomato soup of Mexico) El Paso Chico’s Tacos. This book feels incredibly well-researched (an impossible thing to judge) and it also feels somewhat timeless. These are stories and histories that have to do with the dawning of America but also very much are informed by the experience of peoples immigrating from their homes seeking new opportunities. Anyone who needs an updating in the American Dream (myth though it remains in many cases) should really read a book like this. In closing, I would say I’d be curious to see how the last decade of American politics might shape Gustavo’s take on these stories today. While he doesn’t err cautiously away from criticism, I think he plays a bit too much with the kid gloves when discussing the likes of Glen Bell and other Anglo entrepreneurs who out and out stole recipes and concepts from Mexican businesses and mom-and-pop joints in ways that, while they may have flown decades ago (but did they? Did they really?) wouldn’t at all fly today. And yet, Taco Bell still has my patronage at least monthly with horrifying, dubious, and yet gustatorily satisfying creations like nacho fries (yikes). It’s all very complicated, as Gustavo contests, but I think the knowing and championing of the Mexican families that really tie into the legacy of some of these foods and dishes is well worth knowing and celebrating. I feel like Gustavo helped me to better understand my own backyard of Tucson and it’s Sonoran culinary heritage that much better, so when I go to Casa Molina or Losbeto’s (any of the various Beto’s, really) or Tania 88 or El Guero Canelo or Anita Street Market, I better grasp why the tortillas might be the way they are, what motivates their inclusion of chile colorado (it’s traditionally Sonoran! And it’s amazing!), and why I should be so grateful to be eating more of these foods and never moan about the absence of a California-style burrito on a menu. So that’s a thanks, and a strong recommendation. Read this. But also be prepared to be hungry. Don’t fight the cravings!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura Brown

    I'm happy to say that by the time the credits rolled, I've come to understand Mr. Arellano and give him kudos for this well-researched, funny, entertaining book. I found this book in a university library next to Michael Pollan, and was initially shocked out of my comfort zone by the differences between the two. Arellano peppers his book with reference to "gabachos," or the "pinche gringo," and other derisions of white America. Are they fairly earned? Maybe. Is the widespread generalization gratu I'm happy to say that by the time the credits rolled, I've come to understand Mr. Arellano and give him kudos for this well-researched, funny, entertaining book. I found this book in a university library next to Michael Pollan, and was initially shocked out of my comfort zone by the differences between the two. Arellano peppers his book with reference to "gabachos," or the "pinche gringo," and other derisions of white America. Are they fairly earned? Maybe. Is the widespread generalization gratuitous and unnecessary in an otherwise well-constructed study of culinary popular culture? Definitely. After reading some of his Ask a Mexican columns, that is a much better venue, and the jokes land in a way they don't in this book. Ultimately, Arellano is a well-intentioned troll. If you can get past the racial wordplay, the book gives a very thorough and interesting journey through Mexican food and its adaptations to the American palate over the last two centuries. I learned a ton about the history of industrialized Mexican food, fast-food, and how "authenticity" should be (if even) defined. Particularly as a Texan-born gabacho living in California, everything he wrote rang familiar for me, and it was nice experiencing that nostalgia (because who doesn't remember that Pace Picante commercial from the 90's?). If you eat, cook, or think about Mexican food, this book is worth a read - even por nosotros pinches gringos culeros. ;-)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Church Sielen

    Really interesting about the origin of Mexican food in the US. I can now argue about what is "authentic" Mexican food. Really interesting about the origin of Mexican food in the US. I can now argue about what is "authentic" Mexican food.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gaby QR

    I feel this is book understands Mexican food and all those derived from it. It makes you understand why Americans have fallen for Mexican food and what that means for Mexican culture.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bach

    Few books cover as much ground as Taco USA. While there is a slow chapter here and there, when it finds it's pacing it's a gripping read on the evolution of Mexican culture on food in the United States. Few books cover as much ground as Taco USA. While there is a slow chapter here and there, when it finds it's pacing it's a gripping read on the evolution of Mexican culture on food in the United States.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

    Interesting read on many restaurants I actually had been too

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Mathews

    Taco USA is the second book that I've read this month about Mexican food in America. When I began, I was already a devotee of pure Mexican vanilla and the fair trade coffee of Oaxaca. Now, I've found a USDA certified organic chocolate bar! Gustavo Arellano's book has gone a long way in answering my questions about the history of Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex, why the traditional recipes changed over time, the nutritiousness of the cuisine, and how the introduction of canning, the invention of machinery, a Taco USA is the second book that I've read this month about Mexican food in America. When I began, I was already a devotee of pure Mexican vanilla and the fair trade coffee of Oaxaca. Now, I've found a USDA certified organic chocolate bar! Gustavo Arellano's book has gone a long way in answering my questions about the history of Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex, why the traditional recipes changed over time, the nutritiousness of the cuisine, and how the introduction of canning, the invention of machinery, and a fascination for fast, street food (throughout our history - not just today) helped an already loved and craved-for cuisine become a regular part of our dinner or lunch repertoire. Now, all I have to do is shop the growers' markets for fresh organic Florida produce, learn to trust and to try new or familiar fruits and veggies imported from Mexico, find a source for local, unmodified corn and heirloom tomatoes, plant a new variety of peppers in the spring garden, and cook up a little Tally-Mex!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    The U.S has been invaded! Oh and what a wonderful invasion it has been. I have a deep love for all food Mexican. I even married a beautiful young Mexican lady. And the green chili her Mama used to make was so wonderful. Now that tradition, along with many other wonderful recipes, have been passed to my wife. This book tells the story of how so many of these great foods crossed the border and created there very own regional favorites such as Tex-Mex and the Southwestern rage. So grab this book an The U.S has been invaded! Oh and what a wonderful invasion it has been. I have a deep love for all food Mexican. I even married a beautiful young Mexican lady. And the green chili her Mama used to make was so wonderful. Now that tradition, along with many other wonderful recipes, have been passed to my wife. This book tells the story of how so many of these great foods crossed the border and created there very own regional favorites such as Tex-Mex and the Southwestern rage. So grab this book and some tacos, maybe a burrito and a bowl of green chili as well, and enjoy the smoky spicy flavors of a great food invasion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Greene

    An entertaining and enlightening look at the history of the integration of Mexican food into American culture. People like me who were raised on fabulous home-cooked Mexican dishes passed down through the generations will get an added kick out of Arellano's descriptions of mainstream Mexican cuisine in the U.S. Warning...this book will make you very hungry. I hit different types of Mexican (including fast food) eateries 4 times in 1 week. An entertaining and enlightening look at the history of the integration of Mexican food into American culture. People like me who were raised on fabulous home-cooked Mexican dishes passed down through the generations will get an added kick out of Arellano's descriptions of mainstream Mexican cuisine in the U.S. Warning...this book will make you very hungry. I hit different types of Mexican (including fast food) eateries 4 times in 1 week.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Norwitz

    The author of the 'Ask a Mexican' column pens a book about the history of Mexican food in the United States. Sometimes a bit light on details, and affecting a breezy style, he still managed to entertain and leave me consistently hungry while reading the book, which was certainly his intention. The author of the 'Ask a Mexican' column pens a book about the history of Mexican food in the United States. Sometimes a bit light on details, and affecting a breezy style, he still managed to entertain and leave me consistently hungry while reading the book, which was certainly his intention.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen Bales

    This account of how Mexican food has made it's way into American cuisine is funny and informative. I admit to being one of the vanquished! This account of how Mexican food has made it's way into American cuisine is funny and informative. I admit to being one of the vanquished!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    I really enjoyed this book and learning the history of one of my favorite types of food

  17. 5 out of 5

    Justinian

    2020-11 - Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Gustavo Arellano (Author) 2012. 320 Pages. We saw this book used as a text in a college classroom while watching a show about food in New York City at “the ass crack of dawn” (Thanks Kyle Zemlicka!) Before the 30-minute episode was done we had ordered the book on kindle. Note: Mexican food is my favorite cuisine. I personally feel that a good Mole’ sauce is the pinnacle of taste and greatness. This book is a romp through US history through 2020-11 - Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Gustavo Arellano (Author) 2012. 320 Pages. We saw this book used as a text in a college classroom while watching a show about food in New York City at “the ass crack of dawn” (Thanks Kyle Zemlicka!) Before the 30-minute episode was done we had ordered the book on kindle. Note: Mexican food is my favorite cuisine. I personally feel that a good Mole’ sauce is the pinnacle of taste and greatness. This book is a romp through US history through the lens of food … Mexican food. Of course, this begs the question … What is Mexican food? Modern Mexico is a large and diverse nation encompassing many diverse geographic and climate zones which influence its cuisine. Mexico also has a long colonial history and a pre-European history of great sophistication, complexity and worth. In fact, there is a lot of the pre-Columbian that still exists and moves modern Mexican society. The bottom line is that Mexican cuisine is not a mono-cuisine. This then leads to the idea of authenticity. Authentic Mexican cuisine is not frozen in time or place. It is diverse and ever evolving to new influences, tastes, and inputs. This evolutionary process is seen in how food changes when it crosses north into the USA … or rather when the USA expanded and gobbled up large chunks of Mexico. This book does a marvelous job of showing that evolutionary process at work as Mexican cuisine spreads and adapts. What I found interesting though was that it the USA, it was the cuisine of the poor that has led the infiltration and adaptation … variations of chili Colorado, Tamales, Tacos … the crown jewels of Mexican cuisine does not come until much later in history and even now it is still not common. This book is really about a give and take … a conversation between food, people, industrialism, and taste. You see waves of introduction as people in the US are looking for that “next thing” and then they adapt it to their own tastes and to the needs of mass distribution. It makes sense that this tome would be used as a textbook. It provides a very good look into trends, machinations, and evolutions on both sides of the Mexican cuisine line. A little discussion is given to the food contributions of the indigenous people and the “Columbian Exchange”. This is important because so much of the worlds food today has its origins in the Americas and was modified and developed by the indigenous people of the Americas. I found connections in my own family history to the “Tamale Man” of the past that surprised me. A good read … best accompanied by the food that is in the book. Viva Mexico!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deeanna

    This was a fun and engaging nonfiction read that was light enough to pick up and put down over the course of a month, but also informative and very well researched. I definitely was raised on Mexican food and thought I knew my stuff; this book definitely made me look around and go "Wtf is any of this." While I probably won't remember every single founder of every single restaurant, here's a few major takeaways: -Man, we bastardized Mexican food RIGHT AWAY. I had no idea we were canning tamales in This was a fun and engaging nonfiction read that was light enough to pick up and put down over the course of a month, but also informative and very well researched. I definitely was raised on Mexican food and thought I knew my stuff; this book definitely made me look around and go "Wtf is any of this." While I probably won't remember every single founder of every single restaurant, here's a few major takeaways: -Man, we bastardized Mexican food RIGHT AWAY. I had no idea we were canning tamales in the 1890's, among other things. And the "romantic" view of Mexico has always been a thing and was always, essentially, a lie. -My preferred kind of American Mexican food is New Mexican (which makes sense since that's what my mom cooks)- now I know what defines that and how that influences my cooking. Also it leaked into Colorado's Mexican food WHICH I can see evidence of here (even though our green chile is totally inferior). -Some of the brands I consider generally mediocre and inauthentic- Pace, Old El Paso, Ortega- have been around much longer than I thought and maybe aren't as "inauthentic" as I would've thought. Whatever that even means- I feel like nothing is "authentic" any more. - So many dishes across the country I have to try! And I had NO IDEA that the Chubby's I have been to was the incorrect one. I do think that the authors point of view is very California-centric and some of his opinions should be taken with a grain of salt, but overall I found the book a good way to turn what I thought I knew on its head.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    It took me a bit to get into this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. I found the initial chapters about vanilla and chocolate to be the least interesting and at first the author's light tone was a little abrasive. However, as he moved into trends and "Americanization" of different types of Mexican food, and the history therein (for example, how chili & tamales were initially popular, compared to the evolution of tacos and burritos), I could not have been more fascinated. I loved learning It took me a bit to get into this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. I found the initial chapters about vanilla and chocolate to be the least interesting and at first the author's light tone was a little abrasive. However, as he moved into trends and "Americanization" of different types of Mexican food, and the history therein (for example, how chili & tamales were initially popular, compared to the evolution of tacos and burritos), I could not have been more fascinated. I loved learning about the history behind all sorts of Mexican food, from Taco Bell to the rise & controversy of Rick Bayless to oddities I've noticed (the "bertos" chains in southern California) to interesting tidbits (canned tortillas existed!!). I definitely recommend to anyone interested in any of these areas.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Kelley

    This is an interesting book on the history of Mexican food, Tacos, burritos Tex-mex and most importantly the history of Tequila. It covers how places like Taco Bell, Chi Chi, Taco johns, Del Taco and others came about. The description of some of the food at the time that they had to make do with for the closes thing for Mexican food was pretty sad. Did you know there are or were can tortillas ? How disgusting. There is a chapter on real chocolate and Mexican hot coco which I can not wait to try. This is an interesting book on the history of Mexican food, Tacos, burritos Tex-mex and most importantly the history of Tequila. It covers how places like Taco Bell, Chi Chi, Taco johns, Del Taco and others came about. The description of some of the food at the time that they had to make do with for the closes thing for Mexican food was pretty sad. Did you know there are or were can tortillas ? How disgusting. There is a chapter on real chocolate and Mexican hot coco which I can not wait to try. It is interesting to see how food is different depending on the region like when they are talking about green chili. I grew up in Southern New Mexico so I am very familiar with Hatch green chili and the way it is served in New Mexico. It talks about the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado and for that matter in most of Colorado. I live in Pueblo and Pueblo is well known for its green chili also and it is a running competition on which towns green chili is the best, In Colorado the green chili is more like a stew or a gravy but it sure is good. There are parts of the book that in my opinion plod along but all in all this is a pretty good read and informative.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tay

    Perhaps it’s simply because I’ll eat just about anything if it’s served on a warm tortilla but I found Taco USA to be immensely enjoyable. Gustavo knows his food and he knows his writing. While there are periods where the point seems to get away from him (in fairness this is an insanely complicated historical exploration), he overall succeeds in his goal: a broad look at how Mexican food wove its way into American culture. I could have done without his Top Five chapter and would have liked to ha Perhaps it’s simply because I’ll eat just about anything if it’s served on a warm tortilla but I found Taco USA to be immensely enjoyable. Gustavo knows his food and he knows his writing. While there are periods where the point seems to get away from him (in fairness this is an insanely complicated historical exploration), he overall succeeds in his goal: a broad look at how Mexican food wove its way into American culture. I could have done without his Top Five chapter and would have liked to have seen a little more effort on recent evolution (Kogi isn’t discussed until the very end and only briefly. Also, make sure you have your favorite Mexican inspired dishes on hand because you will find yourself wanting tacos, enchiladas and all the rest throughout your read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Devon Leger

    This book will make you hungry! And I think that’s Arellano’s main point. His writing about food is brilliant and impressive, but the book brings in a lot of history as well. We tend to think that Mexican food has been around a long time in the US, but a lot of the staples are actually pretty recent inventions, many from the 50s or later. Taco Bell, hard shell tacos, frozen margaritas, nachos, fajitas; Arellano tracks down interviews or first hand accounts of these greats getting invented! He’s This book will make you hungry! And I think that’s Arellano’s main point. His writing about food is brilliant and impressive, but the book brings in a lot of history as well. We tend to think that Mexican food has been around a long time in the US, but a lot of the staples are actually pretty recent inventions, many from the 50s or later. Taco Bell, hard shell tacos, frozen margaritas, nachos, fajitas; Arellano tracks down interviews or first hand accounts of these greats getting invented! He’s definitely an alt-weekly writer, and one of the best, so the chapters kind of read like great alt-weekly pieces. Fun book and I learned a lot.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julie Butcher

    “And if your neighborhood still suffers under the tyranny of Taco Bell and combo plates? Fear not -- Mexican food is coming to wow you, to save you from a bland life, as it did for your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Again. Like last time -- and the time before that.” ― Gustavo Arellano, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America Perfect pandemic reading! I'm so glad I waited to read it! Love Gustavo Arellano's writing and reporting. This book is a gift and a treat. It is also “And if your neighborhood still suffers under the tyranny of Taco Bell and combo plates? Fear not -- Mexican food is coming to wow you, to save you from a bland life, as it did for your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Again. Like last time -- and the time before that.” ― Gustavo Arellano, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America Perfect pandemic reading! I'm so glad I waited to read it! Love Gustavo Arellano's writing and reporting. This book is a gift and a treat. It is also researched in detail and concludes with well-resourced endnotes. A fun, informative, a delicious read!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Enjoyable book detailing the popularity of Mexican food not just in the Southwest but across America. The author describes the birth of taco, burrito, margarita and nachos- in many cases involving some of my favorite restaurants (El Cholo) or products (Tapatio). I learned why all the taco stands in San Diego End in Berto (founded by members of the same extended family). I am a fan of the author’s columns in the LOs Angeles Times, and his book is written in a similar style- filled with details bu Enjoyable book detailing the popularity of Mexican food not just in the Southwest but across America. The author describes the birth of taco, burrito, margarita and nachos- in many cases involving some of my favorite restaurants (El Cholo) or products (Tapatio). I learned why all the taco stands in San Diego End in Berto (founded by members of the same extended family). I am a fan of the author’s columns in the LOs Angeles Times, and his book is written in a similar style- filled with details but highly approachable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Juan González

    As a fellow OC native, I'd always been curious about reading Arellano's work; I really found this book by accident, while looking through the section of cookbooks at the Santa Ana library. All in all, this was a fascinating, and relatively straightforward, retelling of the histories of various companies, dishes, and foods that have come to define Mexican food's place in the United States (just as the title connotes). I did find this book truly fascinating, especially the bits about the history o As a fellow OC native, I'd always been curious about reading Arellano's work; I really found this book by accident, while looking through the section of cookbooks at the Santa Ana library. All in all, this was a fascinating, and relatively straightforward, retelling of the histories of various companies, dishes, and foods that have come to define Mexican food's place in the United States (just as the title connotes). I did find this book truly fascinating, especially the bits about the history of local OC/LA eats that I've gone to numerous time, but never really pondered about.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Herlocker

    And now I'm hungry! Having grown up in California eating my mom's homemade Tex-Mex (because according to her CA Mexican food just wasn't as good) this book brought back a lot of memories. I love burritos and can remember their popularity rising in the '80s as the book discusses. The book explained much of what I experienced in travels throughout the Southwest and makes the valid point that Mexican food is not only yummy, but an essential American cuisine. And now I'm hungry! Having grown up in California eating my mom's homemade Tex-Mex (because according to her CA Mexican food just wasn't as good) this book brought back a lot of memories. I love burritos and can remember their popularity rising in the '80s as the book discusses. The book explained much of what I experienced in travels throughout the Southwest and makes the valid point that Mexican food is not only yummy, but an essential American cuisine.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Ursenbach

    I loved this book! Gustavo Arellano wonderfully tells the various tales of Mexican food’s journey into and through the US. Managing to avoid painting the culinary culture and it’s people as a monolith but instead reveling in it’s vast diversity and endless ingenuity. It’s a love letter to food and a historical journey all wrapped in a narrative voice that is both confident and likable.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stagger Lee

    This history of Mexican food in the US is much more interesting, entertaining and in places enraging (as another gabacho makes a million from a Mexican's idea) than you'd probably expect. Written with humour and some subtle politics. Excellent stuff although it's cost me a packet sourcing obscurer ingredients to try and replicate some of the food he describes This history of Mexican food in the US is much more interesting, entertaining and in places enraging (as another gabacho makes a million from a Mexican's idea) than you'd probably expect. Written with humour and some subtle politics. Excellent stuff although it's cost me a packet sourcing obscurer ingredients to try and replicate some of the food he describes

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    Densely packed with details, the book follows the history of tamales and tacos to burritos and tequila and everything in between (including Fritos and Doritos and Taco Bell). Food to eat while reading the book: Por supuesto, you will crave Mexican food.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Clark

    Totally enjoyed the book. I have even visited several of the establishments he mentions in the book. All true observations so maybe the rest of the book is true as well. Lots of good background in his documentation.

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