Gringos making tacos? Maybe chauvinism is getting the best of me, but I seriously can’t help the cultural shock at the sight of seeing a non-Latino concocting so-called “authentic Mexican food” out of a truck. Am I being guilty of reverse stereotyping? What should be considered authentic?
It’s ridiculous how many times we dine out and the people making the food aren’t natives from the country advertised in the restaurant’s sign — yet we consider those dishes authentic homemade meals. We think, “¡Qué rico!” and keep going back to the same place. Nevertheless, a gringo making tacos is still shocking. I shouldn’t be so surprised, though: After all, this is New York City, one of the many spots in America where cultures and traditions blend at a faster-than-usual pace. So, putting aside my notions of culinary authenticity, I decided to give the gringo taco truck a try.
Hood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Location: North 6th and Bedford Avenue – El Chuzo de la Esquina
Place: Endless Summer Tacos – a.k.a. The Gringo Taco Truck
“Notions” is probably where I went wrong — I saw tacos and instantly assumed that a Mexican would be making the food, the same way I would assume a Colombian would be behind a bandeja paisa. I could even tolerate, no shock involved, to see Chinese cooks making tacos — let’s admit it, that’s a common sight in Brooklyn–, but this was a first. This is the curse of being an American-born Latino: You constantly discover Latin American cultures with a bit of globalization already thrown in.
But back to Endless Summer. I ordered a beef burrito, and lo and behold, it turned out to be good. (Even after a beans incident following the meal, I’m still alive, am I not?) Yet according to friends who visited the place, it’s nothing compared to Los Angeles tacos. And that made me wonder, am I missing out on something? But still, even if I didn’t get a fully authentic experience, it was a reminder of how food and people connect; that the hands that prepare, cook and serve it can come from any walk of life. As strange as it was to see a white American behind the counter while country rock music balsted on the radio and an ever-expanding line of hipsters forming around the truck, the food was decent. If you’re looking for that quick, cheap bite after drinks, it’s an OK choice. If you’re looking for the whole package, then I would reconsider.
The bottom line is that authenticity can mean many things, but I’m starting to think that it involves the feeling of being able to relate. To feel a sense of belonging, a connection that involves past and present. And judging by the couple of years Endless Summer has been around, it seems that the Bedford Avenue community has put its seal of approval on this spot.
I still wonder whether the gringo in the truck had an interest in the food or it was strictly business. If it was up to me, I would throw him in a Latin American country for a while, and then bring him back, just to make sure he’s authentic enough. But I would probably do the same thing with myself, though. Here at Remezcla we have mixed feelings about Endless Summer, but we love the fact that the Latino influence keeps growing.
So we leave you with one question and a challenge. What do you consider to be “authentic” Latin food? Speak of your own experience, your own food, your views on veritable native cooking. And the challenge? Go check out the Gringo Taco Truck and give us your take on it.