Remember when everyone complained about fancy Asian fusion restaurants and how none of the food was particularly Asian? How the people running it were often not particularly Asian? How these restaurants would serve teeny bits of pork brushed with soy sauce and call it something like “savory moo shu pork ribs”? And now, in restaurants around the country, dishes like “miso-glazed salmon” and “orange ginger avocado salad” are normal. Bastardized Asian flavors are officially haute American flavors. (Some of it is pretty tasty.)
Has anyone else noticed this flavor-slash-food-culture-commodification happening to Mexican food as well? Nicely decorated, upscale restaurants serving rough approximations of Mexican (or Tex-Mex) dishes? A few have sprouted up in Boston, like Temezcal down by the waterfront. I went to one recently that had a section of the menu reserved for tacos, but also served macaroni and cheese, and hamburgers. Mexican? But still pretty tasty.
Should we complain about cultural appropriation, and people profiting off watered down versions of the real thing? Or go with the flow and call it cultural evolution? I don’t mind too much, as long as people don’t confuse fusion with the real thing. Nothing beats real Chinese food for $6 a plate in Chinatown. And if the food imitates badly instead of fuses, I’m sure it will go out of style. Who wants bland dumplings dressed up as a $12 appetizer that appear with 4 on a plate? Surely the same rule applies to Mexican food.