Authors@Google: Gustavo Arellano

[email protected]: Gustavo Arellano

Gustavo Arellano visited Google LA for a conversation with Google LA Chef Michael Brown. They spoke about Gustavo’s book: “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” This talk took place on June 20, 2012.

>>Presenter: Hi everyone, I’m Catherine
Eng and I’m on the Authors at Google team here at Google Los Angeles. It’s my pleasure, today, to welcome Gustavo
Arellano to our campus today to talk about his new book “Taco USA: How Mexican Food
Conquered America.” Gustavo is the editor of OC Weekly, an alternative
newspaper in Orange County, California, and he’s the author of “Orange County: A Personal
History”, a frequent commentator for L.A. Times and Marketplace, a lecturer with the
Chicana and Chicano Studies department at Cal-State Fullerton. Gustavo also writes the very popular and nationally
syndicated column “Ask a Mexican” in which he answers any and all questions about America’s
spiciest and largest minority. This award winning column has a circulation
of over 2 million in 39 newspapers across the U.S. and was published in book form in
May of 2007. Gustavo is a long, lifelong resident of Orange
County and is a proud son of two Mexican immigrants, one of whom was illegal. Please help me welcome Gustavo Arellano. [Applause] >>Gustavo Arellano: Thank you, thank you. >>Michael Brown: Thank you. I would first like to thank you for all the
contributions you’ve made to the understanding of the Mexican culture and, you know, the
format that you’ve put it in is just really unique and special. >>Gustavo Arellano: Thank you, I appreciate
it. >>Michael Brown: Thank you. One of the first questions we have is why
are so many Mexican foods like chili and salsa and tacos, of course, been turned into a national
and international money maker and yet, from an outsiders view, not a lot of that money
is being filtered back into Mexico? What are your thoughts on that? >>Gustavo Arellano: What, the book, “Taco
USA” I address that. There’s this misconception that it’s only
rapacious Americans who are making all this money on Mexican food or Mexican food stuffs
like Tequila, like hot sauce, tortillas, Fritos, Doritos and all these different things, but
that’s not necessarily true. What happens is, when it comes to food or
the production of food, it’s a business and business is capitalism and capitalism
is rapacious, so in the book you have everyone ripping everyone off. Mexicans ripping off Mexicans, Americans ripping
off Mexicans, Mexicans ripping off Americans, Koreans coming in and ripping off Mexicans,
Mexicans coming in and ripping off Koreans and when I first started doing this book,
part of me, you know, you have that sort of jingoistic thing like no person other than
a Mexican can make Mexican food, everything else is fake. But that’s not the case, food is food is
food. I think what matters, ultimately, is the foods
good, after that, I mean, you cannot ding someone for ripping someone else off. I mean, they’ll get theirs in the afterlife
but [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: here in the terrestrial world, they would do it too. One example I had was Taco Bell. We all know what Taco Bell is, of course. They got, Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell,
he got his idea for making these tacos from a restaurant in San Bernardino that still
exists, Mitla Café, it’s on the corner Mount Vernon and Sixth Street, now celebrating,
in San Bernardino, celebrating its 75th anniversary. So that kind of sucks, okay, that’s fine,
but then at the same time I also interviewed the founder of El Torito, Larry Cano, who
is a Mexican guy and he admitted to me his business strategy was he would tell his trusted
employees, “Okay, you’re gonna find Mexican restaurants around the United States that
are popular, you’re gonna get a job at those restaurants, you’re gonna work there for
a month, you’re gonna steal all their secrets, then you’re gonna get fired and then you’re
gonna come back to me and we’re gonna rip em’ off. So, you know, it goes both ways. [Laughs] >>Michael Brown: Nice. That’s great. Also, in “Taco USA” you talk about the
history of Mexican food in the United States and its evolution. Everywhere from the TamaleMan to the Chili
Queens to Taco Bell and Tex-Mex food that you were saying, what are your thoughts on
authentic, on authenticity and how people really kind of portray that theirs is authentic
and yet they’re doing it here in the United States so how authentic could it be? >>Gustavo Arellano: Exactly. When it comes to food there’s always going
to be that question of authenticity. What is authentic, what isn’t? And the funny thing is, most people, they
really do care about that question and they’re incredibly passionate about it. I was one of those people, again, before I
started doing this book I was one of those people that there’s real Mexican food and
then there’s fake Mexican food. But as I started doing the research for the
book, doing the research for the book took me about two years, well, a lifetime of eating
Mexican food with two years of actual intense research via eating Mexican food all across
United States. It quickly dawned on me that people’s idea
of what, quote unquote, Mexican food is, is completely different, yet at the same time
everyone assumed that their Mexican food was not only the authentic version but the version
that everyone else ate. I’ll give you an example, I travel a lot
to Denver, Denver’s one of my favorite cities to travel, it’s just a great atmosphere. So, over there, the Mexican food is absolutely
crazy. Chile Rellenos which we all know what they
are, here in Southern California they’re stuffed chilies with cheese and you fry them
in egg batter and voilà, there you have it. In Denver, you have that but instead of white
cheese it’s yellow cheese, instead of like the big Anaheim Chilies that we use they’re
smaller squatter chilies from Southern Colorado. They put the egg batter, sure, but then on
top of that they wrap it in won ton skin then fry it and there’s your chile relleno. That’s one dish. A much crazier dish is something called the
Mexican hamburger. A Mexican hamburger is a burrito of beans
and chicharrones, pork rinds, with a hamburger patty right in the middle. Then they serve it to you on a dish and they
cover it in chili, in chili gravy. And there, we would call it a wet burrito,
over there they call it a smothered burrito and it’s covered in this chili gravy that
is orange, bright, bright orange, for the Broncos, they love the Broncos so much. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: It is an amazing dish. It is an absolutely amazing dish, yet it exists
nowhere else in the United States. So, when I first found out about the Mexican
hamburger, I asked, “What’s a Mexican hamburger?” They would look at me. “You mean you don’t have them in Southern
California?” I’m like, “No, guys. You guys only have it in Denver.” And then they got really sad about that. They’re like, “Oh, we thought everyone
knew what a Mexican hamburger was.” So you go all across the United States and
everyone has this idea of what’s authentic and what’s not. So, ultimately, we’re reduced to having
to acknowledge that there is no such thing as authentic Mexican food. It’s authentic if you say it’s authentic
but really it’s not authentic. It’s like this existential morass that we
should never really get out of, right? Similarly, what matter is, is the food good? And if it’s good, good for you, and the
great thing, though, about, all this said, that question of authenticity is what’s
driven American consumption of Mexican food. There’s always been, in the mind of Americans,
they’ve always known that the Mexican food in front of them, that it’s great, but there’s
better Mexican food somewhere down the path. That’s been the course of Mexican food in
this country for over 125 years starting with tamales, going with what we know now as just
chili in a can, it used to be called Chili Con Carne, going through Taco Bell, at one
point people thought Taco Bell was quote unquote, authentic food, or the most authentic food
you could find. And, of course, every decade there’s a new
Mexican food stuff that comes in to be the new authentic Mexican food. In the '80s it was fajitas, now fajitas are
as American as Doritos. >>Michael Brown: Absolutely. And, you know, I’ve noticed in a lot, you
know, of the Carl's Junior commercials and some of the brands that are out there now,
that the Chipotle Chili is like the end all to chilies. [Laughter]
>>Michael Brown: And that one is just really, it’s got a great smoky flavor but as far
as depth of flavor compared to all the other chilies like the Guajillo and Cascabel, you
know, is it ignorance on their part or is it just lack of experimentation? What is your thought on that? >>Gustavo Arellano: I don’t think it’s
ignorance as much as they just haven’t been exposed to it. And, of course, I guess that’s ignorance
in a way where if there’s something in front of you and you don’t know it that’s ignorance,
but at the same time, as you know, with foods there’s different trends that come in. There’s different trends that fall in and
out of flavor. So, for the longest time the only chili that
Americans knew, well no, the first quote unquote chili that Americans knew came from Mexico,
was a Tabasco pepper that they would eat in their Tabasco hot sauce. Then it became chili powder, just chili powder,
you created from, was it Tabasco pepper? I don’t think it was Tabasco pepper, other
peppers from Northern Mexico. Then it became hot sauce. That, for them, was their perception of peppers. Oh, then, of course, just chili peppers from
New Mexico. Which we now know is the Ortega pepper or
Anaheim chili that came from New Mexico. So these were all different traditions that
would come into the United States. Then, of course, the Jalapeño comes in once
nachos became popular in the 1970s, all of a sudden people were eating jalapeños. Then Chipotle, the chipotle pepper not the
Chipotle burrito chain that really kicked in, in the late 1990s and so forth. But now you’re starting to see more peppers
come out habanero, people are starting to realize what habaneros are, you’re having
these habanero eating contests. Google YouTube there’s this great clip,
I think it’s this 13 year old boy he’s like, “I’m gonna eat a habanero” and
he chomps, he bites into it full on and then within 20 seconds his face turns crimson. He’s like, “Ahh!” [Laughter] >>Gustavo Arellano: Well, typical teenager
going [Makes monster-type noise]
>>Gustavo Arellano: But people are realizing that. Did these peppers become invented in those
decades? Of course not, they’ve always existed in
the United States. One big thing though that’s happened is
those peppers come up along with Mexicans. Or, rather, get into the main stream so the
chipotle pepper, it’s most famous use is around central Mexico with Poblano cuisine,
Chilango cuisine, food from Mexico City. That, those traditions didn’t really penetrate
the mainstream of the united States until, really, the 1970s and 80s with Rick Bayless
and Diana Kennedy and other chefs, you know, here in Southern Califor–, or just here in
Santa Monica actually, the Two Hot Tamales. But they really didn’t explode into the
American consciousness until Chipotle, the Chipotle burrito chain, which interestingly
enough doesn’t use chipotles. [Laughter]
>>Michael Brown: Right. And that’s what leads me to my next question. You know, you talk about the hot sauces and
sauces in modern day cuisine and, you know, what is, you know, and the habanero we were
talking about, you know, at what point does burn your insides out
[Laughter] >>Michael Brown: and look how much heat I
can take supersede the flavor and the balance of a well balanced salsa. >>Gustavo Arellano: Exactly. Americans, the world really, the world has
always been enticed by heat, by spices. That’s what made Columbus, so they told
me elementary school, sail the ocean blue, “Oh we need to get some pepper and salt
and what not.” And then when it comes to the chili pepper,
Americans have always been entranced by it but also scared by it. So they’re like, “Oh my gosh!” like,
“It’s gonna kill us.” In fact, the first, the very first write ups
of Mexican food in the United States, they were negative. They were from scouts who were going across
what’s now the American Southwest during the Texan War for Independence and also before
the Mexican-American War. They would write these dispatches that would
say, what was it, oh okay, that after the Texan war, after one battle, that the vultures
or buzzards, they wouldn’t eat the corpses of dead Mexican soldiers because Mexicans
eat chili pepper and if the vultures would eat their corpses they would die because their
flesh was so spicy and so filled with peppers that they would die. And later on, through the 1850’s, 1860’s
you still had this urban legend that if you, you know, in Texas wherever there were corpses
of dead Mexicans, you shouldn’t have your cows eat on the grass there because the cows,
cause that chili pepper, it’s still there and the cows are gonna eat it and they’re
gonna die. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: So Americans, so part of that it’s like they’ve always known
that about Mexican food, that it’s super spicy. So that masochistic tendency in our culture,
you wanna eat the spiciest, hottest thing alive. That’s where you have your chili contests,
chili, you know, chili with beans or, no, no not with beans, don’t talk to Texans
about that. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: But the, chili, you know, chili cookouts and so forth, but at the same
time, again, Americans, when it comes to Mexican food, they don’t just eat what’s in front
of them, they won’t just accept it. They always want something more. That’s one thing that critics of fast food
Mexican, they’ve never got the American palate, the American palate is much more refined
than we give them credit for. We used to, Americans used to eat something
called taco sauce. Taco sauce basically tomato paste with vinegar
and a little bit of chili, it’s pretty disgusting, you should not eat taco sauce. But Americans ate that for decades and decades
until other consumer, or, other marketers, rather, other producers started making better
hot sauce; Tapatio, Cholula and onward, and those became multimillion dollar empires as
well. And, you know, you taste Tapatio, it’s not
gonna fry you; it has a certain flavor to it. And then on top of that you skip over actual
fresh produced salsas, you know, freshly made salsas, go to Trader Joes, go to Whole Foods,
you have whole aisles full of these really tasteful salsas. So, again, on one part, Americans do wanna
get fried by Mexican food but on the other hand, you also want the best possible experience
imaginable. And that’s the great thing about Mexican
food, that you have the whole panoply of experiences all within this one cuisine. >>Michael Brown: Yeah. It’s funny you bring up the Tapatio and
one of the first questions I get, and you touch upon this in your book a little bit,
is about the, about the charro who’s on the front of the bottle and I always get the
question, “Why does he have blue eyes?” [Laughter] >>Gustavo Arellano: They give him, Tapatio,
of course, is amazing hot sauce. We all know it here in Southern California,
it’s a little Mexican with a massive sombrero with a smile and yes, he has blue eyes. And the reason he has blue eyes is, it’s
in regards to, the word Tapatio, Tapatio refers to somebody, it’s a nickname for somebody
from the city of Guadalajara in Jalisco. Jalisco, I like to describe Jalisco as the
Texas of Mexico. It’s a place that, it’s a really great
place but people there, they think a little bit too highly of themselves but at the same
time they have that right to do that. Jalisco is that birthplace of Tequila, Jalisco
is the birthplace of mariachi and as it so happens to be, Jalisco is also a place where
you have a lot of very light skinned Mexicans with blue hair, or blue hair
[Laughter] >>Gustavo Arellano: Blue eyes and blond hair. So a lot of people say, “Oh, typical Mexicans
always trying to scrub off their brown skin.” But you talk to the founders of Tapatio who
actually come from Mexico City but they spent a couple years in Jalisco but they said, “Well,
no, this is how the people from Jalisco look like so we’re just depicting what’s truthful.” >>Michael Brown: Right. >>Gustavo Arellano: But, of course, Americans
are like, “Mexicans don’t have blue eyes.” So silly, so silly. >>Michael Brown: I did notice, I’m married
into a Mexican family and I do notice that the way that Americans use Tapatio compared
to the way a lot of Mexicans use it, in my wife’s family, they just use it to put on
the popcorn or maybe on some sort of potato chip but not necessarily as a salsa you would
put on your taco or anything else. Has that been your experience as well? >>Gustavo Arellano: Absolutely. For Mexicans, hot sauce, it’s really a condiment
to use on just, on snacks. So, of course, on Doritos and Fritos and now
you have Tapatio flavor Doritos and Fritos, and what do Mexicans do? They put Tapatio on those Tapatio flavored
Doritos and Fritos and popcorn, just little snacks. But the great thing with a Mexican family,
usually you have somebody there who knows how to make salsa. And let’s face it; salsa is much more tastier
than hot sauce. The reason why the founder of Tapatio created
Tapatio in the first place was because he couldn’t bring his salsa to work because
they said, “It’s not in a bottle so it’s unsanitary.” So he needed to create something that he could
package in a bottle so he made Tapatio. And, of course, Americans, some Americans
do know how to make salsa but most Americans don’t so they’ll just buy, they’ll just
go with what’s at the store and they’ll just get Tapatio and pour it. Hey, Tapatio’s great, it’s. My favorite hot sauce right now, though, is
Gringo Bandito. Gringo Bandito is a hot sauce made by Dexter
Holland of the Offspring, you know the famous punk band? And I kid you; well I’ll tell you the story
of Gringo Bandito. The first time someone gave me a bottle of
Gringo Bandito, it has Dexter just like the charro on Tapatio, so imagine, you know, big
old sombrero, big old [inaudible] but instead of a Mexican it’s Dexter Holland, you know,
blonde hair punker with sunglasses going like this with guns. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: Somebody gave me the bottle and I threw it in the trash can immediately. It was that, “Oh, dumb Americans thinking
they can steal Mexican food.” But then I became smart, I got smart so about
20 minutes later I fished it out of the trash can, I opened it and it’s great sal, hot
sauce, you have to have it here at Google. It’s an amazing hot sauce. I would dare say it’s better than Tapatio. >>Michael Brown: Wow, that’s a bold statement. >>Gustavo Arellano: It is a very bold statement. I’ll stand by it. >>Michael Brown: You touched upon Tequila,
um, you know, that’s a huge, huge moneymaker and I know there are specific limitations
on where it’s produced, how it’s produced and other things about, you know, how you
can call it Tequila. Can you touch upon that a little bit and,
again, how come a lot of the other Mexican spirits didn’t take off like the Mescal
and the Tepache and stuff like that? >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh, I love Tepache. Tepache is this fermented pineapple drink
that’s cut with brown sugar, it’s absolutely amazing. You have to, you can only find it here locally
at Mexico City style restaurants but you have to try it, it’s absolutely good. In my book there’s a whole chapter devoted
to Mexican alcohol and the reason that Tequila is, the reason Tequila took off the way it
did, again, going back to the Jalisco methods. Why did, you know, Mexico has so many musical
traditions, why is it that mariachi got associated with Mexico more than any? It’s because there was a concerted effort
in the 1930s in Mexico with the Mexican government when they were basically branding themselves
to the rest of the world, they made a conscious effort that were gonna use most of the culture
of Jalisco because in their mind Jalisco, people from Jalisco, they never inter married
with Mexicans, with Indians, they were all proud Catholic capitalists which, not necessarily
true, but those were the myths that were created. That’s why Tequila exploded the way it did. Of course the Mexican government and the Tequila
producers in Jalisco, there were more than just Tequila producers period. They were very, very zealous. No, zealous isn’t really the right word
but they’re very protective of Tequila. So, technically, it can’t be called Tequila
unless it’s made in 5 states in Mexico; Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, in I think Navolato >>Michael Brown: Novaleo? >>Gustavo Arellano: Novaleon and another one
I can’t remember. 90 percent of them are made in Jalisco which
is the birthplace Jalisco, or, the birthplace of Tequila. Tequila is great, don’t get me wrong, I
love it, but as you know, that came at the expense of so many other Mexican alcohols. It’s interesting that you mention Mescal
cause if you go to the more popular hipster bars right now, you’re starting to see this
influx of Mezcal. Mezcal, Mezcal is basically the angrier cousin
of Tequila. It’s made the exact same way except Mezcal’s
distilled once and Tequila’s distilled at least twice. So Mezcal’s much smokier, I think it’s
better than Tequila, frankly. So that’s just taking off but Mezcal, the
first famous Mexican restaurant in the United States was a rest–, was a pop up restaurant
operated by Buffalo Bill of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and on his menu he was serving
Mezcal in 1886 in New York City. So hipsters who think, “Oh I created something.” Uh oh, Buffalo Bill beat you more than a century
ago. But other great, other great alcohols; Sotol. Sotol is this, oh my God I can’t even describe
it but it’s this amazing liquor, or not liquor but it’s amazing alcohol from Chihuahua
made from, basically made from this dry shrub from the desert of Chihuahua. There’s one I think that’ll never take
off, Pulque, Pulque is the oldest, one of the oldest alcohols known to man that’s
made from fermenting the sap of the maguey plant where Tequila comes from and I don’t
think it’ll ever take off cause it’s basically like drinking alcoholic spit. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: It’s very frothy. It’s really good, it’s an acquired taste. It’s very frothy but it’s never gonna
take off, then again, I guarantee you if not next, if not this year but next you’ll start
seeing Pulquerias or some Pulque up here in the United States in the hipster bars. >>Michael Brown: That’s amazing. I, you know, hand in hand with drinking Tequila,
like you mentioned, is mariachi music. And growing up in kitchens myself, you know,
listening to La Nueva [Laughter]
>>Michael Brown: And K-Love and going home and watching Novelas, that’s how I learned
Spanish and I learned it in a very kind of rude way. And when I married into the Mexican family
I was very, very timid about speaking Spanish to my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, but
they were just happy I was trying. >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah, yeah. >>Michael Brown: And you touch in your book,
and mention how a big attitude of Americans is like, “How come they’re not learning
how to speak English?” To where back in the day the immigrants would
definitely learn how to speak English and try to get the accent down. And now it seems to be almost the opposite
like we wanna know how to speak Spanish the right way. [Laughter]
>>Michael Brown: All the cool words and stuff like that. What’s your thoughts on that? >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah, I talk about that
a lot in my 'Ask a Mexican'' book. This idea of how Mexicans, they never simulate
into the United States, that the only part, that the only part that Mexicans, that simulate
into the Mexi-, into the United States is food because Americans love Mexican food. They might not like Mexicans all the time
but they love their Mexican food. But that’s false. I mean, that’s demonstrably false. I’m the child of Mexican immigrants like
in my bio, my Dad came to this country in the trunk of a Chevy in 1968 and that was
the first time he came here illegally. He knows how to speak English but he lives
his entire life in Spanish. I’d say 95 per, 95 percent of the time,
he’s speaking in Spanish, although, he’ll only speak English if he absolutely has to
which most of the times he doesn’t have to. The first language I spoke when I entered
Kindergarten was Spanish. Now I’m bilingual but I prefer English over
Spanish and I’ll only speak Spanish if I have to. And I want my children, if I ever have children,
I want my children to speak Spanish but I know they’re all gonna speak English and
they’ll probably have a name like Brittany or Jonathon. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: or something like that. But that’s the great thing about modern
day America is that in the past you might have had that nasty, that really xenophobia
where people would be made fun of if they can’t speak one language or another. But nowadays at least people, our generation,
we’re cool. Like, if your parents don’t speak English
that’s fine. In fact, you wanna learn other languages. Like me, I’m in Orange County, I’ve learned
just cobbling together bits and pieces a little bit of Vietnamese, I’ve learned how to read
Korean, I don’t know what I understand, what it means but I know how to read the Hungul,
the Hungul script. I wanna learn Arabic, I think it’s perfectly
fine and so more and more people are starting to become like that. We’re, you guys know this at Google, especially,
we’re in a global society, this day of like borders, of cultural borders just closing
and never opening, they’re done and we’re for the better. >>Michael Brown: Yeah. And in the news recently they’ve come out
with some stats saying that now the Asian population is now the largest immigrant movement
more than the Latino movement. I find that very interesting. >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh yeah, that’s awesome. The great thing with immigrant culture in
this country is you have all these hybrids. Today we had Dos Chinos. Dos Chinos was created by two Vietnamese guys,
they’re not Chinos but they grew up in Santa Anna which is a very Mexican city. So they grew up their entire lives with Mexicans
calling them Chinitos. Because, of course, for Mexicans, no other
Asians existed except Chinese, doesn’t matter if you’re Laotian , Hmong, Thai, you’re
Chinito. So, instead of being all bitter about that
they’re like, “Hey, we’re Vietnamese but we’re also Mexican and we’re also
American so we’re gonna create this food truck and we’re just gonna put all those
combos together.” And, so, you see their menu, there’s tacos
and burritos but it has like Thai fillings, Korean fillings, they just create, and the
great thing about them, they name it, they check, basically check off all the Asian enclaves
of Orange County so when they’re talking about the Bolsa Pork, they’re referring
to Bolsa Avenue, the heart of little Saigon where they’re talking about Irvine, no it’s
their Irvine Chipotle Pork. Irvine, we have a huge Chinese population
there so they’re referring to Chinese style roast pork, Korean taco, Garden Grove tacos,
that’s the huge Korean population Garden Grove and when they have their taco, their
lunch truck set up you have everyone going in there. Asians and Mexicans and everyone’s getting
along and under the auspices of great Mexican food. >>Michael Brown: How do you think the gourmet
taco truck scene has really affected the original luncherias and, you know, have they brought
more of a spotlight to them or have they kind of pushed them out of the way? >>Gustavo Arellano: What’s happened, I mean,
I have my own criticisms of what some people call the gourmet food truck, what I call the
lux luncheria scenes, some people might criticize them but I think it’s actually been the
opposite. What these trucks have done is legitimize
the traditional luncherias. It’s unfortunate that sometimes it has to
be that way but at the same time it’s great. So, of course, here in Southern California
we’ve had food trucks, in one way or another, since the 1880s, Mexican food trucks. The first food trucks they were tamale carts,
they would be these tamale vendors who would get their horse on a wagon, go all across
Southern California, set up their shop at the end of the day and just start selling
tamales. If you read the news accounts from like the
1890s and 1900s in Los Angeles Times, it reads exactly like the news accounts of these news
accounts of these food trucks today. “Wow, there’s all these food trucks and
the lines are long! But don’t eat at some of them because they’re
really nasty and they’re roach coaches and so forth.” So we’ve always had a, Americans just in
general, but specifically in Southern California, there’s always been that bifurcated response
where one part of the populati–, historically, one part of the population didn’t wanna
eat at them but they always were popular cause eventually people realized this is really
great food. So what’s happened with these gourmet food
trucks is that they’ve, they’ve told, they basically showed Americans, “Look,
you can have great Mexi, great food out of a food truck and it’ll be perfectly fine.” So those traditional luncherias, they’re
not losing their customers at all, if anything they’re getting more customers now. There’s this amazing food truck in Santa
Ana, on the corner of Main and Cubbon, it’s called Alebrije’s, just use your Google
Maps of course, just go Main and Cubbon, Santa Ana California. When you get there you’ll see this humongous
pink food truck, it’s pink, pink, pink, pink, like Cadillac pink. And now, half of the customers is traditional
Mexican working class space, the other half is everyone else who over the years have discovered
this is an amazing food truck. He’s become so, and this guy’s an immigrant
from Guanajuato in Mexico and he’s become so successful that now he has three of these
food trucks coming along. Again, eventually, what happened with American,
with Mexican food in this country, it eventually gets mainstream and then people, once they
realize, “Hey, this is great food. My neighbors are eating it, why shouldn’t
I?” Then they go and start digging in for more. >>Michael Brown: Right. You know, like you mentioned, the tamale that
was the original food from the history of Mexican cuisine that instead of tortillas
and stuff, it could travel. So that’s why a lot of people carried it
with them and it was a very popular food source. One of my favorite books is called, 'The Food
History in Mexico', and it talks about the staples, the food staples of the pre Hispanic
era and it was basically corn, beans, squash and >>Gustavo Arellano: Cactus. >>Michael Brown: Yeah, and cactus. And then, you know, the Spanish came in and
introduced dairy and cows and sheep and goats and stuff like that. What is your take on like how that’s evolved
and more specifically about Mole >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh, yeah. >>Michael Brown: And how Mole came in through
the mores in Spain and then brought all those spices and everything and kind of made this
hodge podge of flavors which is now one of the most famous dishes in upper Mexico. >>Gustavo Arellano: What we consider to be,
quote unquote, Mexican food, even, quote unquote, authentic Mexican food by definition is inauthentic. That’s, so talking about, talking about
Mexican food that’s just another bullet in the arguments of people who have this authenticity
debate because what we know as Mexican food, it’s a combination of everything. As you, you know, as you pointed out, corn,
squash, beans, cactus, that’s been part of, and chili peppers and tomatoes, that’s
been part of Mexican food since the Aztecs, since the Mayans, since the Olmecs. But everything else that we consider Mexican
food, carne asada, al pastor, Tequila, that only came into being cause the Spaniards came
in and brought the sheep and the pork and the chickens and the dairy and the distillation
that created all those dishes. All those great Mexican beers, Corona, well,
maybe not Corona [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: Tecate, Bohemia, for instance, you see those labels and you read the names
and you wonder, “Hmm, Bohemia beer, I wonder who made that?” It was Czech, German and Austrian immigrants
who came in during the, after the 1880s, 1890s, and they created the Mexican brews. For the Middle East, you have the Moors who
introduced to the Spaniards rice who then brought it to the new world. Al Pastor came from Lebanese immigrants who
were sheep herders, Al Pastor refers to sheep herders style, or shepherds style, and they
brought it to central Mexico during the turn of the 20th century. So all these traditions all get mixed up into
what’s Mexican food. One of the great ones, of course Mole. Mole being this impossibly rich, I guess technically
you would call it at stew, I think? >>Michael Brown: Yeah the cooking method would
be >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah, like a cooking method,
it’s an impossibly rich sauce and every state in Mexico has their own traditions and
that, of course, depending on what the tradition is, it’s gonna have other influences. Some of the best Moles, they have pomegranate,
pomegranate, which we call Granada, that came, again, from Spain from the Middle East. Oranges come from the Middle East. So, I think it’s wonderful. I think that’s why Mexican food has been
able to travel as far as it has because it morphs into whatever the regional traditions
are. Here in Southern California, right now, we’re
all gaga over the Korean taco as Kogi Korean Barbecue famously made. But, before that, the big ethnic fusion was
the, was something called the Kosher burrito which we now know as the pastrami burrito. The pastrami burrito came from East Los Angeles
in Boyle Heights during the 1950s because then Jews lived alongside Latinos, which Jews
like Pastrami, Latinos like burritos, they both like each other’s food, voilà, the
pastrami burrito. So it’s that mezclar, you know, we called
it in Mexico mestizaje, that mixing and matching of all that. That’s what makes food as great as it is. And you know, as a chef, you know that if
you make, if you cook the same dish again and again and again people are gonna get bored
of it. Humans when it comes to food, yeah we wanna
be satiated, we wanna be well off nutritionally but we also want our palates to dance and
Mexican food, it’s a perfect way to do it. >>Michael Brown: What is the street food scene
like in Mexico City? >>Gustavo Arellano: Mexico City is one of
the great cuisine, great food destinations in the world, Mexico City and Tijuana. Mexico City you basically have all these stalls
and a million, what do you call it, a million manifestations of Masa. Yeah, I’m trying to be alliterative here. So, basically you have, not just tacos, you’re
gonna have, not just sopas which you better get after this talk you better get the sopas
at the kitchen right now, but also you have Huaraches and Mulitas which is half gordita,
half quesadilla. You have something called the tlacoyos which
is basically an elongated gordita with fava beans inside of it. You have these; you have quesadillas that
are as long as my forearm, absolutely magnificent. But since you guys are here in Southern California,
the place to go eat right now is Tijuana. Don’t believe what the media says about
all these narco wars happening in Tijuana, right now the Tijuana food scene is one of
the best food scenes in the world. In fact, for the, shameless plug, for the
OC Weekly, we have a column called Tijuana Sí, every Thursday we review a new place
in Baja California where you have to go eat Mexican food. According to my food critic, they have the
best olive oil in the world right now in Baja California, they have amazing seafood, you
have amazing tacos going all over the place, it’s a place where, consider it a day trip. Go down there, it’s a two hour, well from
here two and a half hour drive, spend the day there just gorging yourself. That’s a place where you can go on a winery
estate and get a ten course meal for 50 du, for 50 dollars, that’s the place to go right
now. >>Michael Brown: Does it get your hide when
people pronounce it “Tiawana?” >>Gustavo Arellano: “Tiawana?” [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: Just like here in Long Beach you call it what? Juan Perro? Instead of Junipero or whatever? You know, as long as people try it’s okay. People sometimes mispronounce my name, like
Arellano or whatever, it’s okay, I tell them like this is how you pronounce it but
that’s fine. As long as it’s done with no malice, that’s
fine. But if you’re doing it on purpose then the
fist. [Laughter] >>Michael Brown: Talking about Masa and how
important was corn, originally, in Mexican society? I mean, it was cultivated from something that
looked like a wheat and then they grew and cultivated it, you know, dedicated, I mean
they had Xilonen which is the goddess of corn. I actually have a holy corn tattoo on my hand. >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh, that’s awesome. Right on his thumb. >>Michael Brown: you know, how important is
corn? >>Gustavo Arellano: Corn >>Michael Brown: In Mexican culture? >>Gustavo Arellano: Next to the Virgin of
Guadalupe, corn is the most important thing in Mexican society. You wouldn’t have Mexico or a Mexican people
without corn. More specifically than corn, though, is masa. And the invention that connects corn, when
you harvest corn, turning into masa is something called Nixtamalización which is essentially,
you get these corn kernels, you let it sit in a live foundation along with ash and then
all this, you know, and then you let it ferment. Some of the most important food discoveries
have come from people just letting food rot. Because if you eat corn that’s not processed
again and again and again, you’re gonna get poisoned, you’re gonna get poisoned
with something called Pellagra. But the process of Nixtamalización, what
that does it takes out the poisons from the corn kernels and also it releases from each
corn kernel, niacin and all these other nutritious, all this other nutritional value that was
locked there before. So next time [inaudible] and then from there
you can mix up the corn and make masa and from masa, of course, you get tortillas and
tamales. Corn and the virgin of Guadalupe that is Mexico,
without those two you would not have Mexico. >>Michael Brown: Right. I’ve noticed, not only in Mexico, but in
other countries, India, for example, that a lot of the population who live in the South
are, they have less money than people who live in the North. So the food is very, very different from the
South to the North and like in Mexico it’s a very, in the North like in Chihuahua and
the Charros and everything it’s basically a protein based meal, you know, lots of protein. >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah. >>Michael Brown: And in the South there’s
not a lot of money for proteins and stuff, you know, they’re using nuts and chilies
and spices and other things to kind of make these meals. I’ve noticed that, do you have any >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh yeah, yeah, this, a
lot of Americans, historically, they thought Mexican food is tacos, burritos, enchiladas,
you know, just very limited. But Mexico, like the United States, each region
has its own tradition. If you go down South all the way to Oaxaca,
one of the Southern most states in Mexico, there they’re eating grasshoppers. They dry grasshoppers, they put some salt,
chili and lime and they pop them like popcorn, it’s really good, they’re really, really
good. And there their tortillas, they’re as big
as basketball hoops and they’re called tlayudas but then you go up to Northern Mexico and
yeah, it’s very, it's beef. Beef is king there. Cheese, not yellow cheese, not processed cheese
but Queso Menonita made by Mennonites, Mennonite colonies in Chihuahua. Seafood in Baja California, of course, cause
you’re right next to the Sea of Cortez. Mexico City, you have all this great street
food. My parents were from Zacatecas so there we
like the stew called birria. Birria's a goat stew except we make it with
beef, we call it birria de res and we love gorditas and we love cactus, you know, one
question I always get in Ask a Mexican, “How can Mexicans eat cactus, don’t the spines
prick them?” [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: And I tell them, “No, we take them off.” But cactus is really, really good. So, yeah, that’s the great thing with Mexican
food right now in the United States, you have Mexican immigrants for all over Mexico, now,
historically most of them, historically most Mexican migration came from central Mexico,
from Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Mexico City, Sonora also, so what we considered Mexican
food, those are really the traditions of those regions, tacos, burritos from Northern Mexico,carne
asada from Northern Mexico, Manchaca, Sonora, those are the traditions that historically
came to the United States cause those were the Mexicans that were coming. Now that we have Mexicans from everywhere,
we can taste all these different traditions, especially here in Los Angeles you have such
a great food scene here with Mexico. >>Michael Brown: Yeah. I know in Chicago is probably the second largest
Mexican population in the country and then Los Angeles and it seems that, like in Chicago,
a lot of Mexicans from Michoacán have settled up there and a lot of the Mexicans here in
Southern California are from Oaxaca. >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah. >>Michael Brown: And I work with a ton of
Oaxacan guys in the kitchen and, by far, they are the hardest, most dedicated working group
of people from Mexico and yet they get ridiculed a lot because of their stature and stuff. Have you noticed any kind of, uh, has anyone
ever asked you about that in your column? >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh sure. And, actually, in the book I talk about this
famous restaurant here in Los Angeles called Guelaguetza, they’re the most famous Oaxacan
restaurant in the United States. And Oaxacan cuisine is acknowledged as the
best Mexican food from Mexico. That, restaurants, I think next year they’re
gonna cele–, no '94, they’re gonna celebrate their 20th anniversary. When they first opened here in Los Angeles
no one would eat at this place except two types of people; Oaxacan who wanted a taste
of home and their bosses who worked here and, you know, lived here in Santa Monica on the
Westside cause a lot of these Oaxacans, they worked in the kitchen, they worked as nannies,
they worked as janitors, they worked as gardeners and so, they would bring their food to their
bosses and say, “Hey, there’s this great Oaxacan restaurant you can eat the food of
my home, of my homeland down in Korea town. So the founder of Guelaguetza, or the owner
of Guelaguetza, Fernando Lopez, he would tell me, he told me the story for my book that
he would see, he would just bewildered, his tiny little restaurant was in Korea Town when
it was sketchier than it was today and he would just see this parade of BMWs and Audis
and Mercedes and I wondered, “Why are these people coming to my restaurant?” And they were the bosses. So those are the only two people who wanted
to eat there. Americans weren’t gonna eat at Guelaguetza
because they still didn’t know what Oaxaca, what Oaxacan food was. And Mexicans weren’t gonna eat at Guelaguetza
because, for them, Oaxacans were just dirty Indians because Oaxacans, the state of Oaxaca’s
always been different from the rest of Mexico number one because their mount–, there’s
a mountain range that basically isolates them from the rest of Mexico and as a result they’ve
kept on to their indigenous traditions. So a lot of Oaxacans have darker skin, they’re
of shorter stature, a lot of them, their first language isn’t even Spanish, it’s whatever
their indigenous language is. >>Michael Brown: Zapotec >>Gustavo Arellano: Zapotec or Trique or Mixtec
or whatever so they get made fun of in the rest of Mexico. So, again, this authenticity debate, these
Mexicans, they didn’t think Oaxacan food was authentically Mexican which is such bull
and to me that just shows that a God does exist and he has a great sense of humor because
now Oaxacan food, everyone knows Oaxacan food is the best Mexican food in Mexico and in
the rest of the world. And, yeah, Oaxacans are some of the hardest
working people and greatest people you’ll ever meet. >>Michael Brown: Yeah and I really regret
it, guys like, chefs like Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless, and, you know, Two Hot Tamales >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah. >>Michael Brown: And they really took Oaxacan
cuisine because I think it was so different from what they originally understood and brought
it to the forefront and put it in their books and put it on their television stations. What do you think of chefs like that or like
Rick Bayless who, you know, is a white boy from Oklahoma, worked in his parent’s barbecue
spot and then really just fell in love with Mexico and everything Mexican and now he is
basically the leader forefront of Mexican cuisine. >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah, he just got an award
from the Mexican government for his contributions to Mexican food, or to the promotion of Mexican
food. I have my problems with Rick Bayless but only
because of an incident that happened between me, him and Jonathon Gold the pulitz–, the
Pulitzer Prize winning food critic where he essentially called Jonathan Gold a liar because
we both criticized him for him insisting that there was, you know, he was coming into this,
he was gonna create this restaurant or he was gonna consult on a restaurant here in
Southern California called Red O where he was gonna say, “I’m gonna bring the real
flavors of Mexico to Southern California.” And we’re like, “Really, Rick? You’re really gonna introduce Mexican food
to Southern California? Come on, you’re a little bit full of yourself.” All that said, I’ve been to Frontera and
Topolobampo, they’re great foods, or they’re great restaurants. He is a great promoter of Mexico. I’m not, you know, I’m never gonna hold
it against him because he’s a white man who’s promoting Mexican food. A lot of people do have that problem against
him, that’s not my problem at all. And same thing, you know, with the other great
ambassadors, Diana Kennedy who also believes in this authenticity thing, the Two Hot Tamales
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, you know, they’re all promoters, they’re all very
strong promoters of Mexican food. America needs those ambassadors, I mean, really
this is sad to say but it’s true, Americans are more likely to pay attention to what a
white person’s gonna say about Mexican food then they would a Mexican chef who doesn’t
know how to speak English, it’s just the reality. Are you gonna hold it against Kennedy and
Bayless and the Two Hot Tamales? I’m not. And, frankly, it’s racist to hold that against
them. I mean, you can have your criticisms of people
for, say there business practices or their pronunciations, like Diana Kennedy, for instance,
despises Tex Mex food, she basically calls it glop, which I think it’s elitist in its
own way. I’ll criticize her on that but the fact
that she’s a British woman who loves Mexico and has done more to, you know, promote these
regional traditions and other folks, I’m not gonna hold that against her at all. And, again, more importantly for me it boils
down to the food. Kennedy never opened her own restaurant but
Bayless did, great food, never ate at Red O, though. Frontera Grill, uh, Border Grill, I love that
place. Too crowded for me most of the times but I
love it. >>Michael Brown: Yeah. You know, Diana Kennedy was, is very specific
on, you know, you eat this on this day and you serve it like this and really, like you
said, it’s a great educational tool because otherwise I would’ve never known those traditions
unless she wrote about them. >>Gustavo Arellano: Exactly. >>Michael Brown: Yeah, well I thank you very,
very much. I would like to open the floor up to anyone
who has a question for Gustavo. >>Gustavo Arellano: Don’t be shy. Yeah, and if you could go up to the mic so
the people at home could listen. >>male #1: How has the availability of produce
and other ingredients and, actually, particularly food regulations, how has that affected Mexican
food in America? >>Gustavo Arellano: A lot of, only until very
recently, a lot of Mexican food in this country was made in a certain way cause you didn’t
have all the ingredients that you had in Mexico. So, for instance, chili powder, chili powder
was actually created by a German immigrant by the name of William Gebhardt who wanted
to, he wanted to make, he wanted to make his chili with Mexican chil, uh, chili peppers
but he’d have to go all the way down to, uh, Mexico in the 1880s. So, instead of doing that he’s like, “Instead,
I’ll just buy all those chilies and they’ll rot on the way, instead I’ll just create
chili powder. It’s not gonna be the same flavor, it’s
not gonna be the exact same flavor but I’ll still get those instances.” Same thing with yellow cheese, you know, a
lot of people hate yellow cheese, they’re like, “That’s not real Mexican food if
it’s covered with yellow cheese. Mexicans don’t eat yellow cheese.” Historically, no, but I wasn’t the one that
did this research it was actually Robb Walsh who’s the dean of Tex-Mex or the dean of
Texan Cooking of food historians and so he interviewed these chefs in Texas who go back
to the '40 and '30 and he asked them, “Why do you use yellow cheese? Why do you guys use yellow cheese instead
of white cheese?” And he said, “Well, because we followed
what our customers wanted. They didn’t want white cheese they wanted
something that melted and yellow cheese has a faster burning, melting point than white
cheese does.” And as a result that changed the food. Again, that said, though, anyone who thinks
that food should stay in a bubble they’re deluded because that’s not how food has
ever operated. Why do we eat a lot of cactus in Zacatecas? Because there’s a lot of cactus, if we were
in, say, Mexico City, you’re not gonna find as many cactuses, cacti there as you would
in Zacatecas. So food is always evolving. In the present day nowadays, though, everything
has changed because now you have Mexican produce within a day if you went, “Hm, I want this
really exotic herb from Veracruz, well then, I’ll just go to my local Mexican market
who’s getting it now. Like, now there are no borders, now you can
cook just like Mexicans do in Mexico using their ingredients, anyone can do that now. I mean, some people still say, “Oh, well
you didn’t make it in Mexico so it’s the water.” [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: But it’s like that debate that Guinness tastes different in Ireland
than it does here in the United States and you do a blind taste test and no one could
tell the difference. Myths, a lot of myths. >>Michael Brown: Yeah. New York Pizza. >>Gustavo Arellano: New York Pizza, too. >>male #1: And you wouldn’t say that regulation
has affected much? >>Gustavo Arellano: No, regulation has historically
played a big role, also, in Mexican food. In a bad way in the sense that you can’t
get some food stuff like, for instance, if you try to, you can only take over so many
wheels of Mexican cheese right now across the border, I think. I think you have to declare three and then
after that you can only take like 10 and then you have to pay a tariff on it. So it does limit some of the food stuffs but,
again, what do Mexicans do? You get a whole bunch of them, hundreds of
these wheels and then you pay people, “Hey, be my cheese smuggler across the border.” [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: We do that so, sh. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: Or what happens is we have all this regulation then an underground
economy starts up. I actually just wrote about this for the OC
Weekly how in California, food is so regulated that you can’t have what’s called, you
know, cottage food. In other words, the small, small batch chefs
or producers of food who want to say, like they wanna make jams and jellies and they’re
not gonna make a huge, huge profit off of it but they do wanna sell it like at a craft
fair or whatever, under California law you cannot do that, you have to cook in a commercially
licensed kitchen, you have to get these permits this and that. Mexicans, we’ve never paid attention to
that. So we’ve been buying food and chorizo from
people who make it out of their own homes for decades. So people will say like, “Oh, can’t you
get poisoned off of it?” Well here I am and look at me I’m perfectly
fine. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah, so thank you. >>male #2: Um, thanks for coming, so actually
there’s a bill in committee on cottage industry >>Gustavo Arellano: Yes. >>male #2: You know about it? >>Gustavo Arellano: Absolutely. >>male #2: I don’t know the number. So I was gonna say I’m a native Californian
and other than several episodes with Chilies, Mexican food has really only brought tears
to my eyes twice. [Laughter]
>>male #2: Once was when I left in the late '90 to go to the Midwest to go to graduate
school and I went to Chi-Chi’s. >>Gustavo Arellano: Ugh. >>male #2: That brought tears to my eyes. [Laughter]
>>male #2: And I thought it’s gonna be a long dark time away from good quality fresh
food. >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah. >>male #2: The other was when I came back
to California and went to a Oaxacan Restaurant in Santa Monica. I don’t remember the name of it but it was
amazing and I just thought, “Wow!” It’s not just generic Mexican food but it’s
really, really good Mexican food. >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah. Thank you. Really quickly Chi-Chi’s was a competitor
to El Torito during the 1970s and '80s and it came from a guy from Minnesota. And you might wonder like what do Minnesotans
know about Mexican food? Well, they know a little bit, but not Chi-Chi’s. First of all, the name, which of course is
Spanish slang for a woman’s breast. Like, no way on earth could a Mexican restaurant
succeed with a name like that in California and it didn’t so that’s why it proliferated
in the Midwest and the East Coast. Now it no longer exists because the food was
atrocious and yeah, it was absolutely atrocious food. But that’s the great thing about Mexican
food, some people love Chi-Chi’s, some people love Taco Bell, I can’t stand Taco Bell,
I’ve tried to, I’ve given it so many chances in my life and it’s never worked. Del Taco, on the other hand, their burritos,
99 cent burritos, absolutely amazing, for what they are. But Oaxacan food, oh, it’s a whole other
level. So you could have all this, all these different
types of traditions within the panoply of Mexican food. >>male #2: For Chi-Chi’s, I’m glad that
you put it in the book. I was trying to figure out like the marketing
concept behind it. I thought, “Okay, a guy went to Taco Bell
and he thought let’s serve alcohol and have people sit down and there you go.” [Laughter]
>>male #2: Right, like that’s it. It was awful and there’s probably people
that had really good times there and I feel bad kind of like slamming on it but >>Gustavo Arellano: No, no. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: Chi-Chi’s will never be remembered for their food, where people
had the good time was because of all the margaritas that they drank. So in the 1970s you had Taco Bell and Del
Taco and all these other fast food taco chains gaining in popularity and teaching people
what Mexican food was or what Mexican food could offer. The next step was the sit down Mexican restaurants
like El Torito, El Coyote here, El Cholo Café, those types of restaurants where you have
a combo plate, you drink your margaritas and you eat out on the patio, that was a type
of Mexican restaurant, those restaurants have really gone, at least that genres no longer
as popular as, as, as they were. Chi-Chi’s no longer exists, El Torito, their
parent company declared bankruptcy last year and now there’s about 50 of those left. I predict within 10 years they’ll be completely
gone because people have evolved, now you’re going to go eat that great Oaxacan food, now
you’re going to those great food trucks, now you’re going to these hole in walls
or you’re going to these higher end Mexican restaurants like Frontera Grill in Chicago
or Rivera here in Los Angeles, there’s different traditions and different experiences where
people can get their Mexican food or you can just cook it at home. Yeah, thank you. >>male #2: Thank you. >> Michael Brown: Do you think the frozen
margarita’s gonna go anywhere? [Laughter] >>Gustavo Arellano: The frozen margarita’s
not gonna go anywhere cause in the book I talk about the creation of the frozen margarita
machine, so there’s always gonna be a market for people who just wanna get drunk and, you
know, drunk and frozen as fast as possible. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: But what’s happened, though, Americans, they haven’t gotten tired
of the frozen margarita but they’ve realized there’s better margaritas. Before, there only used to be two Tequila
companies that would serve, you know, sell Tequila here in the United States; Sauza and
Jose Quervo. In fact, the reason Tequila tastes the way
it tastes today was because during the 1960s you had all these Americans going on vacation
to Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and they would drink the margaritas there and then go back
home, bring bottles of Tequila as souvenir gifts and then try to drink it and they’re
like, “oh, it’s too harsh.” So these companies, they changed their recipe
of Tequila so it could be more palatable to the American palate, now you have hundreds
of Tequilas. My God, you have Michael Imperioli doing these
horrible commercials for 1800 Tequila like, you know, like Spider from Good Fellows knows
what good Tequila’s about. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: So there’s always gonna be different, there’s always gonna be different
levels of Mexican food. And that’s, I think that’s a great thing. >>male #3: Um, I really like Menudo and one
time when I was in Mexico I had a white Menudo, haven’t been able to find it here. [Laughter]
>>male #3: Do you know where I could find that? >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah, I laugh because
it’s amazing the fights people will get in over food. And so here I’m thinking of Mexican food,
so in Arizona, white Menudo, that’s actually, that’s a tradition, you have white Menudo
Posoles. So Andrew Zimmer in a Bizarre Foods, he went
to Tuscon and he didn’t like the white Menudo. He basically nearly started a riot for telling
people like, “I don’t like white menudo.” “Oh my gosh, how can you not like it?” Where can you find white menudo? Um, you are gonna have to find regional restaurants. One example, oh God, I wonder if you guys
have them here in Los Angeles, I don’t think you do, but you would try to go to restaurants
that serve the cuisine Guerrero, the Mexican state of Guerrero. In Santa Ana there’s a place called El Fogon
which is basically, yeah El Fogon, F-O-G-O-N, it’s off of Edinger and Standard, Edinger? Yes, Edinger and Standard in Santa Ana, El
Fogon is really good. So there they serve red Menudo, white menudo
and green menudo. Green menudo is the best menudo of them all,
it’s absolutely amazing. So, but, yeah, white menudo, you’ll find
it at household but in terms of restaurants, there are few and far in between because that’s,
the red menudo that’s much more popular. The reason being because that’s more of
a tradition of Jalisco which, again, govern most of what we know as Mexican food and still
does, to a certain extent, in this country. But go to Tuscon, white menudo all over the
place. >>female presenter: Um, Gustavo, so you talk
about, I think, I agree with you about food and cultural borders there should, there are
no borders. It’s very, we mix a lot and it’s a great
thing. So what do you think about our country’s
constant efforts to actually build a border? >>Gustavo Arellano: Uh-huh. >>female presenter: And then the recent legislation,
especially in states like Arizona, or Louisiana, or Alabama where it’s actually quite scary
to be a Mexican in those states. And then President Obama just signing the
Dream Act last week. >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh, so political and so
many questions. Starting off with Obama, Obama, what Obama
did in terms of basically allowing undocumented youth, in other words people who came to this
country illegally when they were children and not making them citizens but making sure
that they don’t get deported, it was a political ploy. I mean kudos to him for doing that but it’s
all politics cause he was getting criticized so much by Latino activists on it and he’s
gonna be in a very tough election, so he decided okay I’m gonna say this, they’re not gonna
be citizens but, you know, Latinos will support me now. But it was purely political, whatever, I’m
still voting for Alfred E Newman in the fall election. [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: That’s number one. When it comes to all this proposed, or all
this anti legislation, this country, it’s an amazing country, I love this country, but
we’ve always had this xenophobic streak in our minds that gets disproven again and
again and again. One of my all time favorite questions for
'Ask a Mexican', somebody asked me, and actually, 'why don’t Mexicans learn how to speak English? Why don’t they assimilate', blah, blah,
blah. So then I said, “You know what, the United
States government shares your concern, they just created this new study that’s showing
that this new wave of immigrants, that they’re absolutely dumb, that they don’t assimilate,
that all they wanna do is make money and send it back home, and we should really just clamp
down on these borders and not allow these immigrants in. They’re not like the immigrants in the past
that were absolutely awesome and did it the right way. The problem with that study is that it was
written in 1911, it was called the Dillingham report and the idiot immigrants at the time
were all Southern and Eastern Europeans; Italians, Jews, Czechs, Poles, Greeks, Bulgarians and
the lionized immigrants, the immigrants that did it the right way were the Swedes, the
Germans, the Irish, all those, you know, all those immigrants and, of course, those immigrants
were also trashed on. You had Ben Franklin, before there was even
a United States, Ben Franklin railing against German immigrants and going to Pennsylvania
saying, he used this really nas–, it’s not, it’s not a curse word now, but it’s
like this really nasty ethnic epithet against these Germans and saying, you know, within
a generation were all gonna speak German because all these Germans, they’re not assimilating. So, of course, Mexicans, all immigrants, they
all immigrate or they all assimilate and yet, at the same time we always have part of our
culture. That’s why China Towns have been around
for, gosh now, a hundred and fifty years or Little Italys and all that. So whenever you try to build borders, whenever
you try to keep a country static, when you don’t allow a country to breathe freely
and just allow people to mingle, you’re really spelling your demise. And, again, in this country we always get
proven wrong so I’m an optimist, we’ll get proven wrong all these, all this anti
immigrant legislation, it’ll be defeated one way or another and then we’ll move on
and then in 20 years we’ll do the same thing again. So, we always forget but we’re, our better
angels always win, eventually, it takes time but eventually we do. >>female presenter: Well, hopefully food will
help us all get along. >>Gustavo Arellano: And, again, what’s the
one, what’s the one language we all speak here in Southern California? Mexican food. What’s the one part of Mexican soci, Mexican
society that Americans accepted? Mexican food. And that’s really the great, that’s a
great indicator that yes Mexicans will eventually be fully considered Americans or blah, blah,
blah. Because Americans already love their Mexican
food, they always have and they always will and that’s a good thing. That is absolutely a good thing. >>female presenter : Last comment, I just
read your most recent 'Ask a Mexican' question and the question is, you know, are a lot of
Mexicans going to Canada now? >>Gustavo Arellano: Oh. Yeah. [Laughter] >>female presenter: And I just wanted say
No! Stay here! We love your food and we love the people. [Laughter] >>Gustavo Arellano: Yeah. More Mexicans are starting to go to Canada
because of that, first of all there’s no jobs here, in Canada it’s boom time and
Canadians are so damn nice of course we wanna go up to Canada. One of the weird things in my column, it has
a big Canadian audience and so I get a lot of questions from Canadians and one question
that I’ve been asked more than anything from those Canadians, they always go, “Us
Canadians, we’re nice. You Mexicans, you’re nice. Those Americans are a bunch of jerks.” [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: “Why don’t we get our countries together and take over the United
States?” [Laughter]
>>Gustavo Arellano: And these aren’t just random people. It’s a question that, or a concerted effort
by these Canadians. This has been asked of me again and again
and again. And Americans are nice, again, we go through
our fits and fits, our growing pains but we do grow out of it so I’m always an optimist,
again, when it comes to food, that shows the path, that shows the way, everyone will love
us one way or another. And no, we’re not going anywhere, trust
me. We’re not going anywhere. >>Michael Brown: Gustavo thank you very much. >>Gustavo Arellano: Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you all. [Applause]
>>Gustavo Arellano: And then, I guess, yeah I’ll be over at that table if you guys want
me to sign your books I’m more than happy to and, again, thank you so much for being
able to be here and I hope you guys like the Dos Chinos cause they’re one of my favorite


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