Dear Hipsters: It's OK to Sell Mexican Food. Just Don't Be Columbusing Dicks About It
Paletas at Nevería La Flor de México: natural AF
Photo by John Gilhooley
True story: about a year ago, a restauranteur (NOT in Orange County) asked me what I thought about their store selling raspados (Mexican shave ice) and paletas (Mexican popsicles) at their restaurant as dessert. I asked if it didn't make better sense to just buy them wholesale from a local nevería. "No," the chef said, "because we're going to make them better." They then proceeded to say how...and their only real innovation was making everything with fresh fruit, and making everything fresh daily.
"Stop right there," I told them, before explaining that they were Columbusing, bruh. I then explained that all the independent Mexican ice cream stores I know do EVERYTHING fresh and with fresh ingredients. When they tried to protest that they would have unique flavors, I defied them to tell me what guanabana, mamey, chamoy, tuna, and blackberry mixed with goat cheese was...and they shut up and ended up buying their frozen treats from the local nevería.
I bring this up after the latest incident of hipster chefs coming under fire for being dicks about their Mexican food. This one comes from Dallas, a city that you'd expect to know better but doesn't since it prides itself as a city where elotes are as ubiquitous as Tony Romo injuries. Seems a hipster elotero (what the hell is THAT?) put up an Instagram post boasting that their corn cart was better than the "roachin’ ass cart in front of Home Depot.” Did we mention that the company is called Corn Connection, and that their logo is a mockup of the Chanel logo? PENDEJOS!
Corn Connection deserves all the mocking in the world. But as it usually happens when white people try to make ethnic food, many critics had a problem with the very act of gabachos making ethnic food—as if this woke era demands that whites just stick to pot roast and the occasional cottage cheese. And when it comes to the issue of Mexican food, there's still the unfortunate tendency among raza to demand that Mexican food stay as plebeian and cheap as possible, a subject I already discussed with the rise of Mexican-American chefs.
Photo from the OC Weekly archives
The best elote in Orange County is at Los Reyes del Elote Asado in SanTana, a food trailer run by folks from Oaxaca. But I had even better elote this summer at Proof on Main, an awesome restaurant in Louisville. I must admit I was taken aback at seeing it on the menu of a high-end Southern restaurant, but then I ate it: amazing. Even more importantly, the chefs were't pretending that they had discovered anything new, or improving anything, or talking trash on others who make it.
That's how to do it, hipsters: respect the raza who'll do it better in their sleep than you can ever dream of doing even if you pull a Glenn Bell for the next decade. And that's how you do it, armchair Aztecs: let those funny hipsters make our food, since that just means the Reconquista lives, locos.
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