How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Q&A: OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano on Mexican food, yellow cheese and 'Bro-Mex'

Photo by katieharbath/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano knows a thing or two about Mexican food, and not just the traditional stuff that is actually found in Mexico. In his by now legendary “¡Ask a Mexican!” column, Arellano routinely fielded inquiries like “I always wondered why Mexican restaurants en los Estados Unidos use queso amarillo (yellow cheese) on their food."

Lately, as he’s been researching a book on the history of Mexican food in the United States and its many variations, Arellano has given us a taste of a “Spanish” feast in the Orange County of the 1890s (served with a sauce that a newspaper reporter at the time called “sarsa”) and brought us the food-genre term “Bro-Mex.”

Along the way, he has encountered plenty of gooey yellow cheese. But American-style Mexican food is about much more than that, a point that Arellano makes in his forthcoming “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” set to be published in April of next year by Scribner.