Is a $600 Mexican Pop-Up Dinner by a Dane Cultural Appropriation?
DEAR MEXICAN: Sooooo . . . your boy René Redzepi is moving to Mexico. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
DEAR LOCO: Unless the acclaimed Danish chef behind the world-acclaimed Noma is into tamborazo and Antonio Aguilar, he ain't my compa. But the Scandinavian very well could be nowadays: It was recently announced he's opening a pop-up Mexican restaurant in Yucatán, charging an extraordinary $600 per head. So much to unpack here, ¿qué no? Redzepi is the latest gabacho to fall in love with Mexican food—and the latest to gentrify and exotify it. He's the latest gaba chef to get media attention for his love of Mexican food, while Mexican chefs get ignored—when the fuck is the culinary press going to go on late-night pho runs with Carlos Salgado of Orange County's Taco María, which is only the most important Mexican-American restaurant in the United States? The gringo is even bringing his entire staff from Europe to man the restaurant. Local talent? According to The New York Times, the Mexi Noma will employ "four local cooks to produce fresh tortillas"—an attempt at "authenticity" that goes back to the earliest days of Mexican food in the United States and is as trite an ethnic marker as a shamrock tattoo on an Irish girl's nalga.
That's the Zapata in me. The Benito Juarez in me, however, takes the longer view: another gabacho Reconquista-ed by our cuisine. Redzepi has been promising to anyone who'll listen that he wanted to open a restaurant in Mexico, so entranced he is by nuestra cultura. And to his credit, Redzepi's partner in the Mexican safari is Rosio Sanchez, Noma's longtime pastry chef who runs a bona fide taquería in Copenhagen and is the child of Mexican immigrants. Sanchez was raised in Chicago's Little Village barrio, which gives her more cred than that pendejo Rick Bayless by a Mayan minute. So let Redzepi and Sanchez do their cosa! If you really want to yell at someone for Noma Mexico's appropriation, yell at foodies and food writers, who'll always focus more on gabachos doing Mexican food than Mexicans doing Mexican food—and guess what your letter did?
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DEAR MEXICAN: As a güero crossdresser, I'm jealous that the Mexican cha-chas are so hot. Are they hot for the same reasons Mexican women are hot? Most güeros look like middle-aged stockbrokers in dresses, probably because we are, but that's neither here nor there. . . . I'm talking about the mamacitas! In Mexican culture, are you either macho or the girlie-girl you've always wanted to be, with no in between?
La Dama Loca
DEAR CRAZY DAME: Transgendered, crossdressing, genderqueer and genderfucking Mexicans have historically looked better than their gabacho counterparts because we have better cisgen stereotypes to play with. Men who want to look like mujeres (whether transitioning or not) draw upon the spicy señorita archetype; many Chicanas I know who are fluid with their gender identity inevitably go the Pendleton or rockabilly look (all credit goes to Morrissey for the latter one). And you're right: Mexican society, despite its historical machismo, has also had a surprisingly tolerant streak for trans folks or flamboyantly LGBT mariposas. But that was the catch—you couldn't act "normal," or you'd risk getting brutalized (and even that Faustian bargain wasn't much protection against homo- and transphobia). I won't make the insult toward gabacho crossdressers you did, but I need to end with a joke here, so try this one: Rick Bayless.
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