They denounce that ethnic cuisine is a victim of discrimination and oppression in the United States

Mryna Castrejón/Chair and Director of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)
September 13, 2022

Experts ask to support ethnic restaurants.

*Encourage consumers to know the culinary history.

Los Angeles.- The history of the culinary industry in the United States to date has been impacted by politics, discrimination, appropriation, exclusion and oppression against the kitchen of the immigrant communities of Mexican Americans, African Americans and Asians Americans, according to different representatives of these ethnic groups.

The foregoing emerged during a press videoconference organized by the director of Ethnic Media Services Sandy Close and the executive producer of Feet in 2 Worlds, John Rudolph, last Friday, July 1, on how ethnic food from different communities is more popular than never and its influence on American cuisine, featuring chef, activist, and entrepreneur Silvana Salcido Esparza, award-winning reporter and food specialist Kayla Stewert, and Asian Americans podcast executive producer Quincy Surasmith.  

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza and owner of the Barrio Empire company in Phoenix, Arizona revealed that when her family started in the business the phrase was that food is fun, but in her case it has not only been that way due to her work as an activist helping to the immigrant community that works in the fields of California.

“I have received threats as a chef, they told me to change clothes and cook, basically not to make noise and just make good food, but the truth is that there are many policies in food,” she mentioned. “My experience having grown up in the Valley of California and working in my uncle's bakery, I found that our clients were farm workers and most of them Mexican immigrants who asked us for help to fill out forms for what went from being a small business to provide a service to the community”.

“In the bakery I had to have a sense of capitalism but also of humanity because I am the daughter of a church pastor, I remember that on Saturdays we would go in the truck to sell the bread and I would see that the agricultural workers brought boxes with tomatoes and peaches and made a barter for all that we sold”, he commented. “Then migration has to do with cooking and if we go back in history, Mexico has given important gifts to the world such as the domestication of corn, wheat, tomato, chili, beans, chocolate, its culture but Putting everything in perspective, there has been great discrimination, the 'Americas' were displaced and as a Mexican chef, a Latina, I realize that there is white supremacy and that the phenomenon of appropriation occurs in the culinary industry”.

Salcido Esparza explained that the Chichimeca indigenous community of Mexico taught the United States how to make asados.

"The whites did not make the barbecues, they did not know them because it was not part of their culture," he stressed. “But later they claimed them as their own and that is part of the ways of the kitchen and its history, and another example is how now as a result of capitalism there is the Taco Bell restaurant chain, but in reality authentic and quality tacos they are made by migrants of Mexican origin.”

For this reason, the activist also asked consumers to inform themselves before making a purchase, since knowledge is power and they will be able to better decide where they spend their money and support the culture of ethnic communities and their cuisine.

Award-winning reporter and food specialist Kayla Stewert mentioned that she is originally from Houston, Texas where the Juneteenth federal holiday marking the emancipation of enslaved African Americans originated, adding that there is a book that celebrates all forms of food from this group such as sweet potatoes and mac and cheese that come from West Africa but are used to make or impart stereotypes in the United States.

“There are many dishes that came from Africa to this country, in connection with different indigenous groups and also in combination with the whites that came to the United States, you can see a lot of Creole food and iconic dishes in New York, Texas and in other places that come of African Americans who were enslaved,” he stressed. “They lived in the worst conditions but even so they were able to create their own cuisine and flavors, however for a long time they have been left out of the history of this nation, they have also been oppressed by the culinary industry, by restaurants, now the chefs Whites are the ones who are cooking African-American food and we are giving them credit.”

“But now African-American communities in South Carolina, Georgia and North Florida and in other parts of the country have felt more free to take our traditional food and expand it, try different flavors and create their own models of what our cuisine can do. to be," Stewert said. "I used to be against fusion but African-American food is a combination of West African and European food so I feel it's important to open up our goals in a way that we can enjoy."

For his part, the producer of the Asian American podcast, which specializes in the culinary industry, Quincy Surasmith said that he has done many reports and research on Asian American food, culture, history in general, and the idea of ​​what is traditional. and the authentic.

“Many foods that come from all the immigrant communities of all kinds that are in the United States become part of the environment of what is the fabric of the United States, but they adapt, they change, we can talk about classic accents like Chop Suey they come from American Chinese restaurants but it is not a traditional Chinese food, fortune cookies are also something classic but you do not find them in China at all, traditionally they are a Japanese cookie that is only used on special occasions and other dishes have been transformed that way originating from Asian culture due to other influences as not all original ingredients are available in this country.”

"I want to tell you that all those dishes that have been transformed are real, authentic, but we need to separate that from our own history, our own culture, from traditional cuisine because that is something in particular and we want to respect that," he said. “I want to invite you to think about whose food it is and who are the people who make the food, for whom it is cooked, who has the benefit of it, because it can be successful and receive awards, for example Thai food has been for more 50 years in the United States but only certain chefs are going to be named ambassadors of that type of food, in our area in the Valley there are many Chinese restaurants that are disappearing ”.

John Rudolph, executive producer of Feet in 2 Worlds considered this a complicated matter.

"I don't think there is a direct line of how you can create a new American cuisine out of all these ethnic influences to counter the trend of fascism in this country," he said. "I think that the general food industry is in a moment of transition and reflection because many things are happening where there may be great opportunities."

Silvana Salcido Esparza, Chef, Activist, and Entrepreneur of Mexican Origin, Kayla Stewert, Award-Winning Reporter and Food Specialist, Quincy Surasmith, Executive Producer of Asian Americans Culinary Podcast, and John Rudolph, Executive Producer of Feet in 2 Worlds ( From left to right from top to bottom).