Posts Tagged ‘american’

Cinco de Mayo: History and Misconceptions

May 3, 2010

So what’s the big deal about Cinco de Mayo?  Even the people of Mexico scratch their heads when they hear of the festivities taking place in the United States.  In order to understand the significance that Americans have placed on the fifth day of May, we must look to mid-19th century American and Mexican history.

Cinco de Mayo has many misconceptions, such as the history and the food. The origins of some "Mexican" food is also shrouded in mystery.The French began a period of occupation in Mexico following the end of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 in which the United States emerged victorious.  Mexico plunged into economic despair, and a Civil War only worsened matters.  President Benito Juarez’s moratorium suspending payment of all foreign debt, issued on July 17, 1861, drew the ire of Mexico’s creditors, namely, England, Spain, and France, and the three European nations invaded Mexico to get the payments owed to them.  The English and Spanish eventually withdrew, but not the French, who wanted to establish an empire under Napoleon III and, possibly, challenge the rise of the United States.  The following year, on May 5, 1862, despite a well-equipped French army, the ill-equipped Mexican army defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla.

The United States and the state of Puebla in Mexico make Cinco de Mayo a day of celebration, which typically includes lots of Mexican food and alcohol.  What, then, constitutes Mexican food?  While certain beer and hard liquor companies have roots planted firmly in Mexican soil, you may be surprised to find out that a number of food items thought to originate from Mexico have, in fact, originated elsewhere.

“Taquito”, or “little taco”

  • Restaurant/location: El Indio in San Diego, California
  • Creator: Ralph Pesqueira Sr.
  • Year introduced: 1940

The “Chimichanga”, or “Thingamajig”

  • Restaurant/location: El Charro Cafe in Tucson, Arizona
  • Creator: Monica Flin (by accident)
  • Year introduced: 1922

“Fajitas”, or “Tacos al Carbon”

  • Restaurant/location: The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation in Houston, Texas
  • Creator: Head chef at Ninfa’s (name unknown)
  • Year popularized: 1973

Margaritas

  • A number of stories lay claim to the mixed drink’s origins.  Spurious at best, I will only list that the years the margarita was “invented”: 1934, 1936, 1941, 1948, and 1971.

Does the United States have any reason at all for celebrating Cinco de Mayo?  Even though the loss at the Battle of Puebla was a minor setback before France’s eventual occupation, the United States did ask the French to leave and they complied.  The U.S. state of California, with a long history tied to Mexico, celebrated Cinco de Mayo since the 1860s in support of Mexico’s resistance to French rule.  Many people probably would not even think about California taking on a supportive role as a reason to hold a celebration.  Besides the “Mexican” food that people eat on Cinco de Mayo, the most persistent misconception about Cinco de Mayo is that it is Mexican Independence Day, which is itself celebrated on September 16.  Despite so many misconceptions that surround Cinco de Mayo, the United States and the state of Puebla in Mexico will continue celebrating the commercialized holiday.

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Francis M. Unson

Filipino food – Too slow to assimilate into the mainstream?

February 25, 2010

Filipino food has not assimilated into mainstream American cuisine.  Why not?Despite the high position of many of the top Los Angeles chefs, many of whom are Filipino and grew up on Filipino food, few traces of Filipino food can be found in the restaurants they work for or own.  The private kitchens of these chefs churn out dish after ethnic dish for their families or private company, but diners at the restaurants would find no such dishes.  Marvin Gapultos, a Filipino-American food blogger, cites the geography of the Philippines as a factor of the lack of a unifying dish, where “there are 7,000 ways to make [adobo]“.  The history of the Philippines offers glimpses into the foreign influences that shape what Filipino cuisine is today: Indonesian and Malaysian cultures brought biko and suman; the Chinese, lumpia and pancit, the Mexicans, tamarind, chiles, and chocolate; and the Americans, hot dogs, spaghetti, and Spam.  Read more

If Filipinos can assimilate into other dominant cultures (Spaniards brought Roman Catholicism and the Latin script; the Americans brought English), why has Filipino food not yet assimilated into mainstream American cuisine?

Related: Recipes for chicken adobo

Mom’s nilaga

Auntie Fe’s bichu-bichu

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Francis M. Unson

Did your personal income or spending go up in December?

February 1, 2010

Please retweetDecember produced modest gains in personal income and consumer spending, helping the economy recover from the worst recession in decades.  While the Commerce Department indicates that personal income rose 0.4 percent against analysts’ expectations of 0.3 percent growth, consumer spending rose 0.2 percent against analysts’ expectations of 0.3 percent growth.  Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of total economic activity.  The down economy has induced Americans to watch their spending more carefully as they saved 4.8 percent of their incomes in December, a sharp rise from spring of 2008, when the savings rate fell below 1 percent.  Read more

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Francis M. Unson

Has anybody ever seen Niagara Falls frozen?

January 12, 2010

Please retweetI went to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in October 2008, just after Maid of the Mist closed for the season.  I visited the falls twice: in the freezing night and the next morning when it was, well, also freezing.  The temperature above the Falls was very cold, but during Autumn visit, not yet cold enough to produce snowfall.  As I stared at the Falls, I wondered if it could get cold enough for the Falls to freeze and ice over.  In recent memory, the Falls have not turned to solid ice.

Or has it?  A photo in Snopes claims that the Falls became frozen solid in 1911.  I would like to know if Niagara Falls has, indeed, frozen over and if anybody has any photos of the Falls in this cold state.

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Francis M. Unson


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