Monday, May 4, 2015

Comida de Cultural Appropriation

It's almost Cinco de Mayo.  That holiday that everyone loves because it means drinking and taquitos and the holiday that very few of us know the history of.  

As a white person who has lived in California for just about half of my life (San Diego for the first half of it and a weird little Central Valley stint in my mid-20's), I have my own perspective on Mexican food:  Either give it to me authentic, fresh from your tia's kitchen, or make it absurdly bastardized from a world where anything with Fritos is considered "authentico".

Here are my top recipes for a gringo-centered "Mexican" menu:

(Recipe makes one tailgating-sized vat)

There are endless versions of this, but this is what my Uncle Ken made at every San Diego Chargers game I can remember from my youth, so it's the official best version...

1 brick (2lbs) of Velveeta.  Good news, this cheese-product is shelf stable, so you can just always have one or two of these golden bricks on hand for any situations where you need deliciousness at a moment's notice.

2 15oz cans of chili without beans.  You can use chili with beans, but I mean, do you really want to add healthy fiber to this sort of thing?

2 small cans (or whatever math you want to do to buy a larger can) diced green chiles.  I personally buy whole chiles and dice them up.  Not because I think that's somehow a more valid form of cooking, but because I hate the seeds that come all mixed in with the diced cans.  So if you do it my way, rinse the whole chiles to get rid of the seeds and just dice them up fairly small.  Then you can pretend like you actually cooked instead of just dumped a bunch of stuff into a slow cooker.

Note:  I made this last night for a potluck and realized that I had forgotten to buy the green chiles.  I discovered that a couple of spoonfuls of chipotle in adobo make a tasty (and spicier) addition.


Step one:
Cube the Velveeta.  I don't know, into one inch pieces?  Enough that it melts a little faster and leaves little crevices for the chili to melt through.  

Step two:

Dump.  Dump everything else in a slow cooker.  4 quart sized seems to work best for this recipe since it will form a skin on the top of you leave the lid off (It's fine, just stir it in and no one will even know).  The 6-7 quart size leaves a little too much surface area.

Step three:

Wait.  This will melt in a few hours.  Maybe 2-3.  You can stir it a few times to help it along and make yourself feel like you have a purpose.  Stirring is great for that.

Step four: 

Eat.  Use tortilla chips.  Or Fritos Scoops if you're feeling like treating yo'self.

Chili Cream Cheese Dip

Another dip that will make you the favorite person at the party.  I find that the trashier the dip, the more everyone goes insane for it.  So my main advice is to stop trying to impress your "foodie" friends with recipes that have professionally styled pictures on Pinterest and embrace the fact that everyone loves chips dipped in cheesy salty preservatives.


1 package of cream cheese.  Full fat or light, pick your poison.

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

1 15 oz can of chili. Again, no bean chili works best, but use whatever is cheapest.


Step one:

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Spread cream cheese in an oven safe casserole dish. An 8 or 9 inch square dish works best.

Step two:

Spread the chili over the cream cheese.

Step three:

Sprinkle the cheddar all over the top.

Step four:

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until it's a bubbling lava pit of cheese and chili.  While I ordinarily love crispy brown bits on a cheese topping, you want this dip to stay soft on top, otherwise it's too hard to scoop with your chip of choice. 

Sour Cream Enchiladas

You will see a lot of variations on this recipe as well, but  I maintain that the way my mom makes these is the true, best way to make them.  This means that they are stuffed with cheese only.  Believe me, I have tried to bulk these up with chicken or fajita vegetables, and I will tell you that every single time I have regretted it.  Just embrace the unadulterated cheese covered in creamy white sauce.


8-10 soft taco sized flour tortillas

3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded.  Do not try to get fancy with another cheese. MAYBE a colby jack, but you're pushing it, mister.

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups chicken broth. Instant is perfectly fine.  "Better than Bouillon" is better.  Which makes sense, really.  

1 cup sour cream

1/2 - 3/4 cup of jarred salsa.  Use your favorite.  Our favorite is La Victoria, medium heat.  Don't bother using a delicious pico de gallo style salsa, you want this to be more saucy than chunky-and-fresh so that it melds better as a cream sauce.


Step one:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roll up the shredded cheese in the tortillas and place in a greased 9×13 pan.  I can usually get eight across and then two more along the long side in the space above the eight.  If you can't quite fit the last two in, just make the other eight cheesier.  Set aside.

Step two:

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.  Stir flour into butter and whisk for 1 minute over heat.  You're basically making a simple roux.  Add broth and whisk together. Cook until it’s thickened and bubbly. This is not unlike how gravy is made.

Step three:

Take the roux/broth mixture off heat and add in the sour cream and salsa. Make sure it isn't still screaming hot and boiling or the sour cream will do bad things.  Add enough salsa that the sauce is light pink.  You may find that you want more salsa flavor the next time you make it, but this is the way I like it.  

Step four:

Pour the sauce mixture over the enchiladas.  I also wiggle the sauce a little into the crevices between the  enchiladas with a spatula.  It helps them to not stick together so that you can actually get the number you want out of the pan when you're serving up.

Bake in oven for 15 mins covered in foil. Uncover 
and add any remaining cheese on top.  Or grate some more and add that, too. Bake for 5-10 more minutes until everything is bubbly and heated through.  You can then broil the top until the cheese is browned, but that's your call. 


Obviously, these recipes are nowhere close to anything in the traditional cuisine of Mexico.  In fact, they probably originated from a Mormon or Lutheran church cookbook (which is the best place to find recipes.  God loves terrible delicious food.).  

But since the holiday of Cinco de Mayo itself is a little suspect as celebrated among non-Latino folks, just embrace the fact that if you are white, you will always be a little lame and boring because of this and eat some bubbling cheese.  

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