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4.0 out of 5 stars Too comprehensive for the average reader?, 1 Feb 2013
I. Darren (Fi) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Ask a non-Mexican to name a typical Mexican dish and be possibly prepared for a long pause and a few incorrect guesses. Maybe they will strike lucky and say tacos without really knowing what a taco is. Through this book you can soon become a "pop up expert" about this Mexican fast food and learn just how versatile it may be.
In this fairly weighty work, the author traces the origin and development of the taco over time and considers its metamorphosis into an Mexican-American fast food that many people, in fact, think is a `Southern American' dish in its own right. Prepare to be surprised when you note the author's findings and consider how American influences have helped, or hindered, the dish in the name of globalisation and marketing.
Described as a struggle between industrialised Tex-Mex foods and Mexican peasant cuisines and a battle between globalisation and national sovereignty, Pilcher suggests that things are even more tense due to American influences. Of course, nothing is ever that clear-cut and black and white, as there are even `strident discussions' over the real nature and character of traditional Mexican food, the whys and wherefores to this situation and the various claims and counter-claims that lay behind it. Needless to say, there is not one single `authentic' cuisine but rather multiple variations of Mexican food. A typical Mexican may, should he or she choose to eat an authentic national dish, look bemused at some of the offerings being presented as `true Mexican fare'. Of course, the enthusiastic foreigner might know no difference and munch on in blissful ignorance!
Make no mistake. This is no lightweight tourist or gastronomic guide to Mexican food. It is quite academic, heavy-going reading due to the sheer level of research that stands behind it - but it is not beyond the scope of the interested lay-reader either. Without doing the author a disservice this is not a book for those who `just like tacos' and want to know a bit more about them. However if you are a bit of a gastronome with a thirst for knowledge overall you may find this a book of worthy consideration as it is an interesting overall, general read too. From history to more modern day problems such as globalisation, marketing and even possible criminality through battles of warring Taco truck owners vying for business, you certainly do get it all with this book. Who would have thought that the humble taco could be so interesting?
As befitting an academic book of this stature, at the end is a detailed glossary and a select bibliography (!) that goes on for 17 pages.. and this is before the pages upon pages of notes should you still be desirous of further reading and knowledge. The recommended price may sadly be a little too rich for the amateur lay-reader but when you consider the metaphorical blood, sweat and tears expended by the author it is not an unreasonable price.
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