Is Barrio Cafe's Take on Mexican Food Authentic? And Does It Matter?
Fifty years ago I lived in Mexico City with a Mexican family while attending the University of Mexico. Our cook, because in those days everyone had a cook, was a young woman from rural Mexico who could neither read nor write. She was someone who had never seen television until she came to work at the house. She'd never read a cookbook and most certainly never had any formal culinary training. I don't recall her food being "rustic", though. In fact, her moles were extraordinarily complex. I've never had tortillas like the ones she prepared daily for the family. I begged every day for her thick sweet flan. Every meal she prepared for us was a memorable gem of intricate flavors. I would never describe her food as rustic, though.
Yes, Alex, I know what you're thinking. She was cooking for upper class people. So maybe when she was in the privacy of her own home, her cooking was less refined. But does that mean that the food she prepared for us was not authentically Mexican?
I take particular umbrage when a writer compares one restaurant to another in a review. I love La Condesa. Eat there all the time. But you cannot compare the two restaurants.
Barrio Café is a white tablecloth upscale restaurant. It's also a neighborhood joint for those of us who live close by but for most people, Barrio is a place to go for a special meal. No beans. No rice. No chimichangas. No chips. No comparison to anything in the Valley. In fact, it's the uniqueness of Barrio that has helped to make it popular. Barrio brought many "firsts" to the Valley.
Alex, since you brought La Condesa into the discussion, I have to ask if you consider their strawberry salsa (which is my favorite) to be authentic. Is it typically traditional to add fruits and nuts to horchata? I'm not sure. Is it? It should be if it's not!
So, yes, Alex ruffled my feathers. I allow that she can have an opinion and certainly has the right to share that opinion. She lost credibility with me when she sneered at the James Beard Foundation. To most of us in the food world, it's an honor to be nominated. I believe Ms. Rodriguez made an error in judgment and left me wondering about her motives. I felt like she was saying, "Go ahead, Chef. Show me what you got! I dare you."
In any case, I propose that it's time to stop talking about authentic or traditional or genuine ethnic food in this age of kimchee tacos and bacon wrapped matzoh balls. And that's all I really wanted to say.
Sharon Salomon was awarded certificates from La Varenne Cooking School and Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. She is a former instructor at Scottsdale Culinary Institute and a food and nutrition writer. Salomon is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier, Association of Healthcare Journalists, International Association of Culinary Professionals and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The rest of Eating 16th Street:
Eating 16th Street: Let's Begin at Pollo Sabroso
La Frontera Taco Truck: A Hit and a Run
Asadero Norte de Sonora: Family Friendly and Fit for a King
Mariscos Playa Hermosa: From the Shores of Mexico to a Colorful Central Phoenix Restaurant
Salsitas: Blame it on the Alcohol
Pro's Ranch Market: Contents of a Fiesta Under One Roof
Filiberto's: My Burrito of Sorrow
La Cocina Economica: Bringing Familia from the Kitchen to the Table
Hacienda El Bar-Ril: Central Phoenix Home to Diamond Tacos de Cabeza
Dulceria Mayra's Y Mas: Small Place Packs a Huge Party
La Condesa: Great Eats, but that Wait is Rough
Mariscos Ensenada: Hold On to Your Margarita to Escape the Hyper Tension
Tortas El Guero: Life-Changing Mexican Sandwiches
Realeza Michoacana Paleteria and Neveria: The Ice Palace of Confection
La Nueva Pico Rico Dulceria is a One-Stop-Shop for Pachangas and Herbs