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Gustavo Arellano Talks Mexican Food

The author of the book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America shares the origin of Doritos and the best Mexican food in the West.

Author Gustavo Arellano offers a bite of a taco, image
Photo caption
The author of the syndicated column ¡Ask a Mexican! offers insight on Mexican food.

Ballpark nachos. Frozen margaritas. The enchilada combo plate. The U.S. love affair with Mexican food is only getting hotter, says Southern California writer Gustavo Arellano, author of the book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America and the syndicated column ¡Ask a Mexican!

Q What exactly is Mexican food?
Anything with ingredients that can be traced back to Mexico. Korean barbecue in a tortilla? That’s Mexican.

Q How did it get here?
It followed the migration not just of Mexicans but of Americans. Tamales were probably the first Mexican food to really enter the American mainstream, but before that there was chili con carne. We’ve been perfectly happy eating Mexican food over the past 125 years.

Q What’s authentic and what’s Taco Bell?
It’s all authentic. Who am I to tell people that their hard-shelled tacos with grated yellow cheese are not authentic?

Q Even Doritos?
They were created by a Mexican family that had a food contract at Disneyland.

Q Tips for finding great Mexican food when you’re on the road?
If you ask somebody for a recommendation, they’ll send you someplace they think is safe and comfortable for you. Instead, go to the places where there are a lot of people. The crowds know.

Q Where’s the West’s best Mexican food?
At the Los Angeles restaurant Guelaguetza. The mother ship is in Koreatown.

Photography by John Gilhooley

This article was first published in March 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.