Five Things You're Doing Wrong With Mexican Food

We love Mexican food 'round here, and not just because I'm doing a book on the history of Mexican food in the United States.
It's the native cuisine of Southern California, something many Americans have seamlessly assimilated into their day-to-day lives--and an easy subject to spark useless arguments. "Authentic" versus "inauthentic," añejo versus reposado, Tex-Mex versus alta cocina, Taco Bell versus Del Taco BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Mexican food is so varied that it's really futile to try and criticize someone for not eating it according to one's personal tastes--to be postmodern about it, there is no right or wrong way to eat Mexican food. However, the following five critiques are valid in that they speak to a particular essence involving Mexican food that unites all of its fans: simple, fundamental truths that any sinners must immediately rectify. Enjoy!

5. Using Hot Sauce More Often than Salsa

Five Things You're Doing Wrong With Mexican Food

There is nothing intrinsically wrong about hot sauce--all Mexicans stock a bottle of Tapatío, Cholula, Valentina's, El Yucateco, Huichol, or any combination of those and more (even Tabasco!) in their refrigerators. But Mexican households also always have fresh salsa on hand, because salsa is many times better than hot sauce--fresher, healthier, with more flavor and infinitely more varieties. Hot sauce in the Mexican household is used only if no salsa is available, or with soups--and even in the latter part, we prefer to put in whole chiles instead of hot sauces. Hot sauce? For lazy folks.

4. Ignoring Nopales

Mexicans don't eat cactus as much as you'd think, but there's a reason one part of our ancestry has revered the plant for millennia, or why it's on our flag: it's bueno, nourishing, nutritious, a poor man's beef. Fuck the haters who whine about sliminess, about unnecessary thorns--they're not eating it right. You really can't understand the Mexican soul unless you appreciate nopales--maybe that's what's lacking in our immigration debate?

3. Buying the Myth that Tequila is Mexico's National Alcoholic Spirit

Five Things You're Doing Wrong With Mexican Food

Tequila is the one alcoholic spirit all Americans associate with Mexico, and one many Mexicans feel is as much a part of Mexico as the Virgin of Guadalupe--but that's a pinche lie. The only reason tequila became so popular is because of its origins in the state of Jalisco, which also contributed mariachi (another nationalist lie) to the world's understanding of Mexico. I'll obviously study the matter a bit further in my book, but the short answer to tequila's overriding popularity is that the Mexican government during the 1930s pushed Jaliscan culture above all others in forming a national Mexican identity to export worldwide because they felt it was the most European.

Don't get me wrong: I love tequila as much as any pendejo, but the PRI's propaganda ensured Mexico's other indigenous alcohols like sotol, pulque, coconut beers, and wine made from cornstalks were forever relegated to the domains of the poor and wabby, which means many of them are endangered, if not already extinct. Buy into that cult, and you're no better than the people who patronize Taco Bell at the expense of mom-and-pop taquerías.

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