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Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

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Planet Taco asks the question, "what is authentic Mexican food?" The burritos and taco shells that many people think of as Mexican were actually created in the United States, and Americanized foods have recently been carried around the world in tin cans and tourist restaurants. But the contemporary struggle between globalization and national sovereignty to determine the me Planet Taco asks the question, "what is authentic Mexican food?" The burritos and taco shells that many people think of as Mexican were actually created in the United States, and Americanized foods have recently been carried around the world in tin cans and tourist restaurants. But the contemporary struggle between globalization and national sovereignty to determine the meaning of Mexican food is far from new. In fact, Mexican food was the product of globalization from the very beginning -- the Spanish conquest -- when European and Native American influences blended to forge the mestizo or mixed culture of Mexico. The historic struggle between globalization and the nation continued in the nineteenth century, as Mexicans searching for a national cuisine were torn between nostalgic "Creole" Hispanic dishes of the past and French haute cuisine, the global food of the day. Indigenous foods, by contrast, were considered strictly d class . Yet another version of Mexican food was created in the U.S. Southwest by Mexican American cooks, including the "Chili Queens" of San Antonio and tamale vendors of Los Angeles. When Mexican American dishes were appropriated by the fast food industry and carried around the world, Mexican elites rediscovered the indigenous roots of their national cuisine among the ancient Aztecs and the Maya. Even this Nueva Cocina Mexicana was a transnational phenomenon, called "New Southwestern" by chefs in the United States. Rivalries within this present-day gourmet movement recalled the nineteenth-century struggles between Creole, Native, and French foods. Planet Taco also seeks to recover the history of people who have been ignored in the struggles to define authentic Mexican, especially those who are marginal to both nations: Indians and Mexican Americans.

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Planet Taco asks the question, "what is authentic Mexican food?" The burritos and taco shells that many people think of as Mexican were actually created in the United States, and Americanized foods have recently been carried around the world in tin cans and tourist restaurants. But the contemporary struggle between globalization and national sovereignty to determine the me Planet Taco asks the question, "what is authentic Mexican food?" The burritos and taco shells that many people think of as Mexican were actually created in the United States, and Americanized foods have recently been carried around the world in tin cans and tourist restaurants. But the contemporary struggle between globalization and national sovereignty to determine the meaning of Mexican food is far from new. In fact, Mexican food was the product of globalization from the very beginning -- the Spanish conquest -- when European and Native American influences blended to forge the mestizo or mixed culture of Mexico. The historic struggle between globalization and the nation continued in the nineteenth century, as Mexicans searching for a national cuisine were torn between nostalgic "Creole" Hispanic dishes of the past and French haute cuisine, the global food of the day. Indigenous foods, by contrast, were considered strictly d class . Yet another version of Mexican food was created in the U.S. Southwest by Mexican American cooks, including the "Chili Queens" of San Antonio and tamale vendors of Los Angeles. When Mexican American dishes were appropriated by the fast food industry and carried around the world, Mexican elites rediscovered the indigenous roots of their national cuisine among the ancient Aztecs and the Maya. Even this Nueva Cocina Mexicana was a transnational phenomenon, called "New Southwestern" by chefs in the United States. Rivalries within this present-day gourmet movement recalled the nineteenth-century struggles between Creole, Native, and French foods. Planet Taco also seeks to recover the history of people who have been ignored in the struggles to define authentic Mexican, especially those who are marginal to both nations: Indians and Mexican Americans.

30 review for Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

  1. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    Planet Taco is a scholarly exploration of Mexican food conducted by a trip through history. I am partial to Mexican history, Mexican food and societal analyses rooted in history. So Planet Taco hit on all my favorites. This book managed to maintain my interest through its disucssion of history and kept my hunger level at a constant high during my reading. Before reading this book, I had no idea that without human intervention corn would not have grown and existed, "maize florurished under human Planet Taco is a scholarly exploration of Mexican food conducted by a trip through history. I am partial to Mexican history, Mexican food and societal analyses rooted in history. So Planet Taco hit on all my favorites. This book managed to maintain my interest through its disucssion of history and kept my hunger level at a constant high during my reading. Before reading this book, I had no idea that without human intervention corn would not have grown and existed, "maize florurished under human protection and to this day, it cannot reproduce in the wild." How wild is that? Someone stumbled on a corn plant in the wild and changed the world. Pilcher proposes some interesting ideas about servant and female labor which make a lot of sense. Yes, he discusses the influence of coloinazation and immigraiton on cuisine -- but what about the folks preparing the food?: "Scholars have only begun to explore the connections between household labor and the fate of empires." The female labor it takes to grind corn and turn it in to a usable food (tortillas) is immense. "Spanish historical documents provide ample information about agricultural production, which was gendered male, but typically remain silent about the female labor properation." Planet Taco discusses the labor intensity of consuming corn and its likely influence on different evolutions and changes in Mexican food. Such as the introduction of flour tortillas in the north, which took much less labor. He notes that scholars are not in agreement as to whether this resulted from the missionary influence but he proposes that women and servants may have had a hand in the change of the type of tortillas eaten in this region due to the lesser work involved. Potatoes, tomatoes, chilis, chocolate, corn (and on and on and on) are examples of the foods discovered in Mexico. And then introduced into Mexico - -citrus, sugar, coffee, cinammon, cilantro (yes cilantro!), bananas, beef, pork. What an amazing marriage of food and flavors. "People have been confused about the nature of Mexican food for hundreds of years. Certainly there was no authentic Mexican food in pre-Hispanic times." Pilcher interestingly discusses the various influences in Mexico food, society and culture by discussing the Asian labor and immigrants, the African slaves, and the influence from Europe. Corn and tomatoes when exported to Europe were not immediately embraced. Unfortuantely, when corn was exported it was exported without the indegineous knowledge. "Although prolific and versatile, maize has significant nutritional defects, particularly the lack of niacin, a B-vitamin essential to human health." Somehow every native people in the Americas that consumed corn understood this and developed a technology of adding niacin to the corn. This is freaking amazing to me. But, when Europeans and North Africans began initially consuming corn -- they did so without this knowledge to disastorous results. Epidemics of lack of nutirion followed in European communities that relied solely on corn. I loved this trip th rough history but done through a dietary manner. It was brillaintly done and I also appreciated that Pilcher makes note of how recent political and economic changes are effecting Mexico (and thus the USA). Mexico in a bizarre twist, the birthplace of maize is now competing with the US in the market of corn, "NAFTA, implemented in 1994, allowed the free entry of subsidized Midwestern maize (corn) to Mexico, undermining (Mexican unsubsidized) family farms and forcing many to migrate north in search of work."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darren

    Ask a non-Mexican to name a typical Mexican dish and be possibly prepared for a long pause and a few incorrect guesses. Maybe they will strike lucky and say tacos without really knowing what a taco is. Through this book you can soon become a “pop up expert” about this Mexican fast food and learn just how versatile it may be. In this fairly weighty work, the author traces the origin and development of the taco over time and considers its metamorphosis into an Mexican-American fast food that many p Ask a non-Mexican to name a typical Mexican dish and be possibly prepared for a long pause and a few incorrect guesses. Maybe they will strike lucky and say tacos without really knowing what a taco is. Through this book you can soon become a “pop up expert” about this Mexican fast food and learn just how versatile it may be. In this fairly weighty work, the author traces the origin and development of the taco over time and considers its metamorphosis into an Mexican-American fast food that many people, in fact, think is a ‘Southern American’ dish in its own right. Prepare to be surprised when you note the author’s findings and consider how American influences have helped, or hindered, the dish in the name of globalisation and marketing. Described as a struggle between industrialised Tex-Mex foods and Mexican peasant cuisines and a battle between globalisation and national sovereignty, Pilcher suggests that things are even more tense due to American influences. Of course, nothing is ever that clear-cut and black and white, as there are even ‘strident discussions’ over the real nature and character of traditional Mexican food, the whys and wherefores to this situation and the various claims and counter-claims that lay behind it. Needless to say, there is not one single ‘authentic’ cuisine but rather multiple variations of Mexican food. A typical Mexican may, should he or she choose to eat an authentic national dish, look bemused at some of the offerings being presented as ‘true Mexican fare’. Of course, the enthusiastic foreigner might know no difference and munch on in blissful ignorance! Make no mistake. This is no lightweight tourist or gastronomic guide to Mexican food. It is quite academic, heavy-going reading due to the sheer level of research that stands behind it – but it is not beyond the scope of the interested lay-reader either. Without doing the author a disservice this is not a book for those who ‘just like tacos’ and want to know a bit more about them. However if you are a bit of a gastronome with a thirst for knowledge overall you may find this a book of worthy consideration as it is an interesting overall, general read too. From history to more modern day problems such as globalisation, marketing and even possible criminality through battles of warring Taco truck owners vying for business, you certainly do get it all with this book. Who would have thought that the humble taco could be so interesting? As befitting an academic book of this stature, at the end is a detailed glossary and a select bibliography (!) that goes on for 17 pages.. and this is before the pages upon pages of notes should you still be desirous of further reading and knowledge. The recommended price may sadly be a little too rich for the amateur lay-reader but when you consider the metaphorical blood, sweat and tears expended by the author it is not an unreasonable price. Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, written by Jeffrey M. Pilcher and published by Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199740062, 336 pages. Typical price: USD28. YYYY. // This review appeared in YUM.fi and is reproduced here in full with permission of YUM.fi. YUM.fi celebrates the worldwide diversity of food and drink, as presented through the humble book. Whether you call it a cookery book, cook book, recipe book or something else (in the language of your choice) YUM will provide you with news and reviews of the latest books on the marketplace. //

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Mathews

    What a shame; 38% of the book is taken up with notes, glossary, and bibliography. The two stars are for research. No stars for artistic ability - that great, invisible stuff that sets a fascinating historian apart from his peers. Any student could have written this book (which reads like a term paper) given access to the material. I learned some of what I wanted to know. Otherwise, there was a repetitiveness of available data; I wondered (more than once) how many times one should be told a thing. What a shame; 38% of the book is taken up with notes, glossary, and bibliography. The two stars are for research. No stars for artistic ability - that great, invisible stuff that sets a fascinating historian apart from his peers. Any student could have written this book (which reads like a term paper) given access to the material. I learned some of what I wanted to know. Otherwise, there was a repetitiveness of available data; I wondered (more than once) how many times one should be told a thing. I guess the mistake was in the title word "global." The author tried to digest and regurgitate everything that he could find that had ever been written on the subject of Mexican food. I was enlightened somewhat - bored, mostly - never enthused or amazed. The final chapter wrapped the whole thing up, tightly and concisely. I should have simply read that. Sorry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    El

    Why wasn't there a class like this when I was in college?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abraham

    La mejor historia de la comida mexicana que he leído. Esperaba algo más pop y es un estudio completísimo con un montón de fuentes. Académico pero ameno. Los verdaderos orígenes no sólo del taco, sino de todo lo que conocemos actualmente como "comida mexicana". Vaya que vale la lectura.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    In Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food author Jeffrey M. Pilcher shows beyond a doubt that: "The history of tacos, like eating tacos, is a messy business." (Location 373) He researches the question: what is authentic Mexican food? What is mainly viewed as Mexican fare globally is actually an Americanized version of the cuisine - and beyond that authentic food is difficult to precisely locate because there are a variety of dishes that all vary by region. Pilcher researches the globalizat In Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food author Jeffrey M. Pilcher shows beyond a doubt that: "The history of tacos, like eating tacos, is a messy business." (Location 373) He researches the question: what is authentic Mexican food? What is mainly viewed as Mexican fare globally is actually an Americanized version of the cuisine - and beyond that authentic food is difficult to precisely locate because there are a variety of dishes that all vary by region. Pilcher researches the globalization of Mexican food, as most of us know it today. Along the way he also shares many interesting stories and historical notes in this very interesting, accessible account. Much of what is viewed as Mexican food is really Tex-Mex. For example, Pilcher shows that: "Following the movement of three basic ingredients from the Mesoamerican kitchen, corn, chilies, and chocolate, can help to reveal the emergence of material and cultural patterns that later contributed to the global reputation of Mexican food. Already in the early modern era, these foods acquired vastly different images among elite and popular sectors. The importance of social distinctions can readily be seen in the case of yet another New World plant, the tomato." (Location 635-638) For those interested in the history of a cuisine and how trade influenced the spread of it, Pilcher is thorough. He exams the history of Mexican food and follows it to today. Along the way he discusses how the cuisine was changed and how it spread world wide. For all the nonfiction fans out there who appreciate documentation and sources as much as I do, Pilcher includes 46 photos as well as a glossary, select bibliography, notes, and an index. (Yes!) Warning: you will be craving Mexican/ Tex-Mex food while reading. (Thankfully the weather changed here and with a Fall chill in the air, I made a big pot of chili. I had been eyeing Taco Bell after work.) Very Highly Recommended, especially for foodies who love history. Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Oxford University Press and Netgalley for review purposes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    Think of Mexican food and tacos will invariably come to mind. But as late as the 1960s, this fast food - and Mexican food in general - was limited to Mexico and the American Southwest. Today, however, tacos are eaten around the world in places as far away as Australia and Mongolia. The question is, how did tacos become a global cuisine in 50 years? Read my full review at TheCelebrityCafe.com

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam Laughton

    More academic and global in scope than Taco USA by Gustavo Arrellano, which I read last year. Let's face it, though, both of them made me hungry for mole and tamales.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    also for school, BUT also a really fun history of food, economics, geography, and social and racial consequences. If you have academic access through a university it might be free to you too! (thats how i read it)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    Dense with historical fact, to the point that it's hard to find any type of narrative thread.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    The only thing that people like more than eating food is talking about food, and this history of the development of Mexican food offers plenty to talk about. It covers the story of what I consider to be one of the best cuisines in the world, from its various origins in pre-Colombian Mexico, through its struggles to gain respect in the 19th century, and up to the present day as it has been globalized and reinterpreted both by Mexicans and by other cultures. It also offers up plenty of interesting The only thing that people like more than eating food is talking about food, and this history of the development of Mexican food offers plenty to talk about. It covers the story of what I consider to be one of the best cuisines in the world, from its various origins in pre-Colombian Mexico, through its struggles to gain respect in the 19th century, and up to the present day as it has been globalized and reinterpreted both by Mexicans and by other cultures. It also offers up plenty of interesting analysis of the politics of food that will have you thinking about different cuisines in new ways. One of the main things this book should do is remind you of how fragile the concept of "authenticity" is when it comes to food. Mexico is not a monolith; different regions have entirely different traditions of cooking and relationships to what someone might think of as "real" Mexican food. Furthermore, many dishes were created at different periods in time by completely different people. Corn vs flour tortillas, beans vs no beans in chili, burritos vs tacos, hard vs soft shells, cheese vs no cheese, seafood vs red meat, etc., are all regional preferences, some of which result from the division of Mexico after the war in 1848. Are Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex styles not real Mexican just because they happen to have been created across an arbitrary line? What does it mean that iconic staples like tortas (created in the 19th century), fajitas (mid-20th century), or tacos al pastor (late-20th century), were innovated in large part by the French, Laredoans, and Lebanese immigrants respectively? What should Mexicans think about the fact that in Europe their cuisine is often seen as an American food, due to the fact that many restaurants were created by GIs after WW2? Questions like these have no right answer, but the answers we choose depend a great deal on our understanding of concepts like class and identity. Mexican food has never been a prestige food on the level of, say, French food, because Mexico has never been a prestige country, and some of the most interesting parts in the book concern the internal dialogues in Mexico about how to present "their food" to the world. Was their food an embarrassing relic of the impoverished Indians? A noble relic of the glorious Aztec past that represented the universalistic nature of La Raza Cósmica? A motley assortment of ingredients waiting to be Frenchified and thus made fit to be eaten by foreigners? The Maximiliano-era elite were the ones who set the tone by denigrating anything indigenous, while across the American border Mexican food was given the same contempt that poor Hispanic citizens were. While fetishizing poverty is silly, it's undeniable that people feel stronger emotional connections to what's seen as "food of the people" - thus some people's preference for things like corn tortillas, which you could just as easily could claim symbolize the (literally) grinding poverty of the rural women who had to spend countless hours pulverizing maize into masa by hand. The discrimination and harassment that Hispanic women faced in the US (see the section on the repression of female chili con carne vendors in Depression-era San Antonio) adds another dimension to the story. Modern capitalism and globalization has had ambiguous effects on Mexican food, which ties back into the question of authenticity. On the one hand, Mexican out-migration coupled with the rise of multinational corporations means that Mexican food has been able to reach a much wider audience than before. On the other hand, a lot of it bears a tenuous relationship to people's idea of Mexican food. Terrible food like Taco Bell, which sprang from the same Southern California soil as McDonalds, is an example of Mexican food blandified and homogenized, because the same agribusinesses that push out local businesses worldwide operate in Mexican food as well. However, who really wants to condemn Korean BBQ food trucks that offer tacos with kimchi or bulgogi quesadillas; aren't those an example of innovation and growth of both cuisines? The book also discusses the effects of trade agreements like NAFTA on farmers in poorer Mexican states like Oaxaca, who have often not done well; perhaps those farmers could follow the model of small-scale Italian or French food producers and try to get legal protections or economic assistance. Ultimately Mexican food does not and never really has "belonged" to Mexico or Mexicans, which in my mind is a net benefit to the world. The uncontrolled spread of New World crops like corn, chocolate, and chili peppers has benefited countless other cuisines, to the point where most people don't know how interesting it is that jalapeños end up in banh mi, or chocolate is seen as a Swiss specialty. That silent success may not give Mexican food the kind of cachet it really deserves, but I personally will be happy as long as I can continue to eat it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't. Trying to cover "global" leads to the neglect of the specifics, as when the author claimed, maybe correctly, that ceviche originated in Acapulco without addressing the fact that Peruvians also claim it as their own. I noticed a couple of improper translations as when the author claims El Naranjo means The Orange (it actually means the orange tree or orange grove). The book also contains either poor research or neglectful editing, as when he I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't. Trying to cover "global" leads to the neglect of the specifics, as when the author claimed, maybe correctly, that ceviche originated in Acapulco without addressing the fact that Peruvians also claim it as their own. I noticed a couple of improper translations as when the author claims El Naranjo means The Orange (it actually means the orange tree or orange grove). The book also contains either poor research or neglectful editing, as when he claims the Mexican version of a 7-11 is the Oxy when, in reality, it is Oxo. These simple errors that I caught because I know the subject make me weary of the ones I cannot catch, and eroded all confidence I had in the research. More than scholarly, I view the book as entertainment. The information also tends to be repetitive, which makes the book a bit boring, like something you want to finish because you already started it. I also don't buy that the Americanization of Mexican food is occurring from the United States towards Mexico. Yes, American food has taken root in Mexico, but 'traditional' Mexican food in Mexico remains Mexican. Not even in the northernmost Mexican city of Tijuana, which I am familiar with, will you find taco shell tacos with lettuce, ground beef, and 'Mexican' mix cheese. The book has taught me, however, that I must tone down my 'authentic' snobbery as there really isn't such a thing as authentic Mexican food. And how can there be when Mexico is a rich mixture of Arab, Jewish, Spanish, French, Asian, indigenous and (insert other groups) influences? I'm sure most 'Mexican' dishes are an adaptation of another culture's dish (e.g. mole or, if we believe the author, flour tortillas) and I cannot, with a straight face, criticize American adaptations of Mexican dishes. Professor Pitcher is a good writer; I just wish he would have provided a little bit more meat to his readers.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura (booksnob)

    Planet Taco. A Global History in Mexican Food by Jeffrey M. Pilcher Planet Taco is a scholarly look into the history of Mexican food. Pilcher dares to ask the question, What is authentic Mexican food? His research and travels take him into modern day Mexico and the Southwest of the United States. Pilcher examines the Spanish conquistadors influence on Mexican food, as well as the influence of the different indigenous populations, the African slaves, and the influx of the Chinese. Mexico doesn't s Planet Taco. A Global History in Mexican Food by Jeffrey M. Pilcher Planet Taco is a scholarly look into the history of Mexican food. Pilcher dares to ask the question, What is authentic Mexican food? His research and travels take him into modern day Mexico and the Southwest of the United States. Pilcher examines the Spanish conquistadors influence on Mexican food, as well as the influence of the different indigenous populations, the African slaves, and the influx of the Chinese. Mexico doesn't seem to have a National food because their history is so varied and represented by many cultures. Also the traditional food varies based on regional locations within Mexico and in the surrounding areas. Planet Taco is exceptionally detailed and packed full of educational information. Included in the book are pictures, maps and recipes. Pilcher details the history of maize and wheat and taught me that people in the region of Mexico viewed those who ate corn tortillas as lower class (these were primarily indigenous peoples) and wheat tortilla eaters tended to be Spanish or upper class. He details the rise of Chili Queens and Blue Corn and the American taco and so much more. Planet Taco is a great book for those willing to put in the time and a great name for a future Mexican restaurant. I can guarentee that you will learn a lot from reading this book. The writing style is intellectual and studious and some people will feel like they are reading a textbook on Mexican food. If you can put in the time to read Planet Taco, it is worth it. This book would make an excellent companion for those traveling to Mexico for a vacation. Caution: This book will make you hungry for Mexican food. I had three different Mexican style meals while reading this book. Yum!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Harry Brake

    Politics, nationalization, immigration, and more laws that tie food to various countries. I will never again take for granted the implications that foods can carry past the plate. Jeffrey M. Pilcher, along with making my mouth water, Pilcher delves into the implications of NAFTA, immigration, and how the idea of tacos and other foods originating in Mexico have caused exotic ideas of the country and history of Mexico. Also, terms such as terroir and Nixtamal aroused my interest, and the glossary Politics, nationalization, immigration, and more laws that tie food to various countries. I will never again take for granted the implications that foods can carry past the plate. Jeffrey M. Pilcher, along with making my mouth water, Pilcher delves into the implications of NAFTA, immigration, and how the idea of tacos and other foods originating in Mexico have caused exotic ideas of the country and history of Mexico. Also, terms such as terroir and Nixtamal aroused my interest, and the glossary at the back is very interesting that not only deals out info just of foods, but on a countries' history. Touching on the aspects of Walmart, americanization, monopolization, Taco Bell, mis represented images of what Mexico is through the way other countries have represented food, as well as the Aztecs, the depths that food delves into is explored. The chili Queens, the discovery of the health that various aspects of corn tortillas bring to a diet compared to the American diet, and much much more information is disseminated and helps bring up the history of Mexican roots that have ad could intimately tie other countries closer together than they are, thanks to the past hardships endured by martyrs of original recipes and contributions to recipes, many which can be found within this text. This is certainly a chance to add to the history of what you thought you knew about Mexico, the food that has created such a stir around the world, and well as discover the stereotypes that mostly are false!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    There was enough information in here to keep me reading, but ultimately it felt like an unsatisfying compromise between a theoretical academic study and a book about, well, "food." Pilcher announces his intention as "historicizing authenticity" and that's all well and good and accurate enough. He shows that the whole idea of "mexican" food is an invention at the service of various political and cultural agendas. He presents information about the ways in which "indigenous," "creole" and "French" There was enough information in here to keep me reading, but ultimately it felt like an unsatisfying compromise between a theoretical academic study and a book about, well, "food." Pilcher announces his intention as "historicizing authenticity" and that's all well and good and accurate enough. He shows that the whole idea of "mexican" food is an invention at the service of various political and cultural agendas. He presents information about the ways in which "indigenous," "creole" and "French" food had different meanings in the colonial era, about the exoticism, mostly stereotyped, surrounding the San Antonio "chili queens," the differences between regional cuisines inside Mexico and along the US border, and the connections between anti-immigrant hysteria and legal attacks on LA taco trucks. I didn't want him to leave that out, but I would have put the center of gravity a lot closer to the food itself. I don't remember any passages that made me smell the difference between habaneros and serranos. Cilantro, a major star in my Mexican food galaxy, receives almost no attention. It's basically the problem with a lot of academic writing; the abstractions, which can be switched from topic to topic without much change, take over. Not sorry I read it, but I was glad when it was finished.

  16. 4 out of 5

    ~Sara~

    I had to read this for a History of Food class and, although I found the overall story very interesting, it's easy to get bogged down in the details and miss the big picture. When we had a class discussion about the book after writing a essay based on it most of the class, myself included, struggled to explain what Pilcher's thesis was. I found I had to step back a lot while reading to figure out his point because the level of detail was so minute that I lost track of the narrative. This took me I had to read this for a History of Food class and, although I found the overall story very interesting, it's easy to get bogged down in the details and miss the big picture. When we had a class discussion about the book after writing a essay based on it most of the class, myself included, struggled to explain what Pilcher's thesis was. I found I had to step back a lot while reading to figure out his point because the level of detail was so minute that I lost track of the narrative. This took me out of the story rather than helping it along and the result was a very choppy understanding of its progression. That being said, I think the details are what really make this book unique and I loved learning a little bit about history through the lens of Mexican food. It gives a different perspective on things I had learned about previously, like the Columbian Exchange or McDonaldization, and I got more of a sense of the individual impact alongside the global impact of these forces. Also, it made me want a taco...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    So...much...information.... Seriously, so much information! I am leading a book discussion on this as part of our library's Big Read of Sun, Stone, and Shadows. Planet Taco was not quite what I expected. It never engaged me and there was so much history and detail. While I'm certain it was very well researched, I found it very hard to read. It was so dense, without any stories or anecdotes to pull me in. The most interesting things I read: Taco Bell offered just five selections, including a hambur So...much...information.... Seriously, so much information! I am leading a book discussion on this as part of our library's Big Read of Sun, Stone, and Shadows. Planet Taco was not quite what I expected. It never engaged me and there was so much history and detail. While I'm certain it was very well researched, I found it very hard to read. It was so dense, without any stories or anecdotes to pull me in. The most interesting things I read: Taco Bell offered just five selections, including a hamburger, until the 1980s. (p. 151). A 1980 survey based on telephone books revealed that 70% of ethnic restaurants in the U.S. were Chinese, Italian, and Mexican. (p. 202) I also found this amusing typo (I assume!): "Although the baklava-clad rebels demanded indigenous rights in particular...." (p. 217) Surely that was supposed to be balaclava-clad? Recommended to people who really love academic, detailed, dense nonfiction about Mexico and Mexican food.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Darrenglass

    If you know me, you know that I love Mexican food. In fact I read this book while in Oaxaca eating tamales and tortas and tacos every day. Also if you know me, there is a good chance you have heard me talk about another Pilcher book, Que Vivan Los Tamales, as it was an incredibly fascinating look at Mexican food and its history. This book deals more with what happens when Mexican food, and tacos in particular, start evolving over time and space. This book is both intelligent and easy to read, an If you know me, you know that I love Mexican food. In fact I read this book while in Oaxaca eating tamales and tortas and tacos every day. Also if you know me, there is a good chance you have heard me talk about another Pilcher book, Que Vivan Los Tamales, as it was an incredibly fascinating look at Mexican food and its history. This book deals more with what happens when Mexican food, and tacos in particular, start evolving over time and space. This book is both intelligent and easy to read, and really helps the reader think about the question of authenticity and what we mean when we talk about "authentic Mexican food." If you are interested in the history or culture of food, I highly recommend Pilcher's writing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rogue Reader

    Pilcher's Planet Taco is a comprehensive and masterful review of Mexican and pre-Hispanic culinary traditions and much more. He weaves cultural perspectives, agribusiness, politics, global supply chains and migration patterns together with food in an easily read work. Wonderful presentation on how regional foodways become a global norm, drawing in contemporary popular culture as promoted by network television, big business advertising and committed chefs and restaurateurs. Photos, extensive note Pilcher's Planet Taco is a comprehensive and masterful review of Mexican and pre-Hispanic culinary traditions and much more. He weaves cultural perspectives, agribusiness, politics, global supply chains and migration patterns together with food in an easily read work. Wonderful presentation on how regional foodways become a global norm, drawing in contemporary popular culture as promoted by network television, big business advertising and committed chefs and restaurateurs. Photos, extensive notes and a bibliography along with a glossary of terms. I'll look for Pilcher's other works. Thanks Oxford University Press for publishing this accomplished scholar. -- Ashland Mystery

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    As an agri-fan, I most enjoyed chapter 7, The Blue Corn Bonanza which dealt briefly with some modern debate over GMO corn sources as well as positions on international trade policy resulting from NAFTA. Overall the whole book was a fun read, and has a fresh, younger generational feel as Mexican food continues to spread and be enjoyed by many, especially by a professor from the University of Minnesota.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Parscale

    Planet Taco covers a lot of important ground and makes several strong points, including some convincing subjective conclusions. However despite offering a great deal in educational value, it frequently lacks the spark that leads to genuine interest in the reader. Informative, but often droll, Planet Taco ought to be a fun and informative read, but instead feels academic and lecturing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ted Anastopoulo

    Informative, the chapter on the Chili Queens of San Antonio is particularly interesting. Pitcher gives great commentary as to how maize was the "food of peasants" following the Spanish invasion of the Aztecs. Very dense, this book requires focus but gives an incredibly concise overview of a broad topic. I will never view Señor Tequila or Taco Boy the same way again!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Wow! This author needs a new editor. Pieces were brilliant but they were anchored by ponderous diatribes about...well it took me so much to get through that I forgot where it was going. But...I want a taco whether authentic or not as long as it's tasty. Garabaldi's for dinner! ( yeah for years I thought it was an Italian restaurant but it is some of the best Mexican in Orlando.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Sundarsingh

    I had never thought of Mexican food as a battle for self-determination, but having read Planet Taco, it is impossible to unsee the way globalization and American Imperialism shaped and continue to shape international ideas of this cuisine. The book is conversational, wide-ranging, thought provoking and hinger-inducing. Hands down recommended reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason S

    A fascinating look at the changing politics around Mexican food. Food history at its best.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    A bit unfocused and rambly at times, overall very enjoyable to read. How could you not love tacos....

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kalyani B.

    A fascinating review of hundreds of years of Mexican cultural history through the lens of the taco. Many startling insights, and so current as to be almost creepy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    boooring

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Miller

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sam Siegel

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