Of the foods that become fashionable, they tell a story

The role of social networks in defining food trends is unquestionable. Two examples of Mexican foods that became a trend in the United States allow us to analyze this role to understand how a gastronomic preparation finds a boom among the public eager to try new flavors or presentations that until then were unknown to them.

The first case is that of the birria tacos, and the “quesabirrias” or birria quesadillas. Birria is a dish of Jalisco origin (more specifically, from the municipality of Cocula), a product of the need to eat other animals such as goats, and at the same time hide their smells with multiple spices. Birria is a typical dish not only in Jalisco, but in many parts of the country. In 2020, quesabirrias enjoyed a great boom among Americans, especially among those living in large cities. This does not mean that it was only a dish that attracted migrants, but rather that it became a phenomenon among people of different origins. In the midst of the pandemic, food trucks that offered birria tacos abounded, and Mexican inns that once offered enchiladas and pozole incorporated them into their menus. The recipe sections of the most important newspapers explained in detail where to find the best quesabirrias or detailed cooking recipes. It is interesting that these press articles, in addition to reviewing them, gave a brief history of the dish, locating its origin in the origin of the person who sells them in the United States. That is, if the migrant was of Pueblan origin, it was assumed that the quesabirrias, for example, came from Puebla. A common mistake, for two reasons: first, the generalized conception that Mexican food is generally uniform, which is far from the diversity of very specific dishes, techniques and ingredients. On the other hand, it is assumed that if a migrant brings the so-called dish, that dish probably comes from their place of origin, as if the culinary transmission responded exclusively to a market logic. With cuisines as ancient and complex as the Mexican, it is sometimes almost impossible to recount the entire history of its evolution to arrive at the “quesabirria” in the form and presentation in which it is consumed.

The quesabirria remained in permanence in many American menus. Many predict that the next new dish in fashion in the United States, thank you, will be carnitas tacos. And already in Texas cities it is observed as one of the great trends in the opening of new businesses, where once again the retelling of history refers to the preparation of carnitas by the inhabitants of the state of Texas when it still belonged to Mexican territory. It would be necessary to see if the Michoacans are more offended by the denial of the origin of the carnitas, or by the fact that many of the carnitas on the other side of the border are not prepared in a saucepan, since health regulations hinder their use in some cases. .

Beyond the ignorance about the specificities of the origin of the dishes, it is interesting to see how, in a country where Mexican food is already “incorporated” into the gastronomic repertoire of many people, foods considered as new irruptions still emerge, due in part to the high variety of Mexican dishes, but also how this variety bursts to create standardized dishes.

@lilianamtzlomel


Food and society columnist

POINT AND HOW

Food and society columnist. Gastronaut, observer and foodie. She is a researcher in sociology of food, nutritionist. She is president and founder of Funalid: Foundation for Food and Development.