The easiest way to sell an ethnic cuisine is to make a claim to authenticity. Authentic street tacos on authentic hand made tortillas, made by authentic people. But my question is, who and what determines that authenticity?
Making tortillas, something deeply rooted in Mexican history and culture, is still very much a part of the people, but so is taking out a warm, soft, pliable corn tortilla from its bag before leaving the tortillería and sprinkling it with coarse salt before rolling it and eating it while getting on with more pressing matters than tortilla making. If the tortilla is made of wheat flour, rather than corn, the scene plays out only slightly differently, perhaps with a rushed trip home to spread butter on the still-warm disk.
Of all the thoughts crossing the mind of the average Mexican, the authenticity of this act, purchasing and eating a perfect, machine-made tortilla — made of nothing more than maíz, sal, y agua or harina, manteca, agua, y sal — is not one of them.
Read the rest of my piece The Authenticity Trap of Mexican Food in America for the Phoenix New Times.
And in case you thought I hold anything against the tortilla, read my post The Tortilla Ratio.