How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

On Mexican food, farmers and NAFTA

Photo by April J. Gazmen/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Enchiladas en mole poblano, October 2007

Last week, when I was excitedly tweeting about UNESCO's designation of Mexican food as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” - right up there with French cooking - I didn't think too far beyond how this long-misunderstood underdog of the world's most sophisticated (and yes, delicious) cuisines was finally getting its due. But the chef of one popular L.A. Mexican eatery did, and what he wrote about it is worth noting.

In a recent guest post on the L.A. Forward site, Lotería! Grill's founder and executive chef Jimmy Shaw wrote:

Perhaps with the interest in discovering more of the beautiful flavors of Mexico there can be a healing of its agricultural community, which has been decimated post-NAFTA, with Mexican farmers being displaced by large agribusiness. With that growing industrialization, many of the indigenous ingredients and techniques that are the very roots of this special designation are being lost.

Sadly, Mexico now imports many of its basic ingredients such as corn and chiles, some from countries as far away as China. Chiles from China?  I hope with the growing interest we have seen in the past few years for the more complex flavors of Mexico, we also have an environment where we can protect the indigenous ingredients and customs of this great cuisine, and promote the cultivation of high-quality, native ingredients in Mexico, by Mexican farmers.

Read More...

Tamales mania in El Sereno

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Tamal vendors in action at the L.A. Tamale Throwdown, November 12, 2010

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Tamal vendors in action at the L.A. Tamale Throwdown, November 12, 2010

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Tamal vendors in action at the L.A. Tamale Throwdown, November 12, 2010


Tamales! What can be better this time of year? I ventured over to the L.A. Tamale Throwdown in El Sereno after it kicked off this afternoon to take a few photos and, well, eat tamales.

Like most other people who make tamales for the holidays, I make them once a year - just once, because it's hard work - and am usually sick of them by the day after Christmas. But it's been almost a year, as I'm sure it has for many tamalistas, so now is the time to start indulging again.

The event itself was a hoot: vendor stands selling tamales, aguas frescas, pupusas and other staples, great music, artesanias, and a trophy-laden table of lucky judges onstage, eating steaming plates submitted by the city's tamal purveyors. (Don't know what the grand prize is, but I'll bet it's not a year's supply of masa.) Best thing is that it runs through 10 p.m. Saturday.

Read More...