¡Ask a Mexican! tackles BurritoGate

Oh yeah, I used to live in Naperville is all. BTW, the place I am referring to is long gone, it was a little hole in the wall on Ogden Ave.

More recently I worked in Schaumburg (but no longer).

Now I’m convinced we ate at the same place.

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Hey, you can see my old house on that map!

My favorite were the Indian-Chinese restaurants. I’ve never had anything comparable since leaving.

I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Rick Bayless - his JAMES BEARD AWARD WINNING restaurants should be castigated for cultural misappropriation as well. (RIP Xoco)

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There’s a couple of distinctly non-Japanese dudes making really good sake in Boston (Dovetail if you’re curious). I don’t recall any bullshit cultural appropriation claims against them (thankfully). Personally I feel a bit of local pride really.


While it’s really tempting to make this into a ‘Portlandia’ riff, I think if you read the linked story, you’ll see that it’s not that they were unaware of tortillas or breakfast burritos, but that they were captivated by the particular fresh tortillas hechas a mano that they found on the beach in Puerto Nuevo.

It was that particular experience — the “thin, stretchy, buttery” handmade tortillas — that they wanted to replicate.

There’s a wide variation in tortillas, and freshly hand-made tortillas can produce effects that simply aren’t possible with reheating a packaged machine-made tortilla, even if you use an authentic comal to do do it.

(Though they’re still perfectly ‘authentic.’ This is about flavor, not ‘authenticity.’)

Portland is not ignorant of Mexican food - the article says that after they returned home, the first thing they did was go to “the Mexican market” for ingredients.

But thin, stretchy, buttery, freshly hand-made tortillas are a relative (and treasured!) rarity even here in SoCal, Land of the Burrito, where people were barbecuing beef and growing wheat long before the Americans arrived.

Indeed, I suspect ‘California Cuisine’ is just an elaboration of the long-standing Mexican tradition of adopting new ingredients and techniques from successive waves of immigrants, and stirring them up into yummy new food creations.

¡Viva el mestizaje!


What happened to Xoco?

I loved that place. One of the most authentic Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to, outside of Mexico.

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My folks said the best Cajun/Creole food they ever had was at a small, San Fernando Valley, CA restaurant (Les Sisters) that I had introduced them to… better than what they had in New Orleans on one of their trips. Food knows no boundaries (unless you try to make your own ‘authentic’ bouillabaisse as we tried awhile back; the kitchen was turned into a disaster area and the fish stew was only passable.)

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I have strong opinions on on this, but the thing that’s really bothering me is the writing,this bit is particularly egregious:

For their enthusiasm, the women have received all sorts of shade and have closed down their pop-up. To which I say: laughable. The gabachas knew exactly what they were doing, so didn’t they stand by it? Real gumption there, pendejas.

Clearly Gustavo Arellano reserves milder connotations for both gabachas and pendejas, but over here, gabacho is considered a pejorative term and the way pendejas is used here it is a gendered slur which basically is equivalent to the American terrible, terrible stupid slut

The tone of the article feels very passive aggressive with the vulgarity of the Spanish interjections.


That is pretty much the case everywhere you don’t have a significant Japanese immigrant or expat population (ie everywhere in the US except the West Coast and Hawaii). Chicago might have some authentic Japanese restaurants, if only to cater to overpaid expats. Japanese people who are sent to the US by their companies for 3-5 years to handle the markets there, and go back.

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Anti-SJW types managed to meme this into being a thing, here’s origin of the actual BurritoGate hashtag:

[quote]“On the drive back up to Oregon, we were still completely drooling over how good [the tortillas] were, and we decided we had to have something similar in Portland,” Connelly said to Willamette Week. “The day after we returned, I hit the Mexican market and bought ingredients and started testing it out. Every day I started making tortillas before and after work, trying to figure out the process, timing, refrigeration and how all of that works.”

Not surprisingly, the discussion has gotten pretty heated in the comments section of the Willamette Week. “Nice appropriation,” one person wrote. “You go to a place once and your first thought is to steal from and mock the people from there. This is gross, and the fact that you got media attention is even more cringey. But like, oh my God Becky, you like… TOTALLY spoke the most broken Spanish ever!”

Another added, “Everyone goes to Mexico to find ‘get rich quick’ ideas.”

But the women also have their supporters, who note that they shouldn’t be chastised for starting a business in a way that’s common in the foodie world. “Are you all suggesting that Andy Ricker close Pok Pok? Should John Gorham close Toro Bravo? … If learning how to make a food from another culture and selling it is now considered cultural appropriation, then why not take this issue up with the successful PDX businesses that have been doing this at a much larger scale for years, and stop harassing these two women struggling to start a small business.”

In less than six months, Wilgus and Connelly have managed to build a business. And, depending on how you look at it, their methods are either genius or the latest example of white folks profiting off the labor of people of color.[/quote]

[quote]This week in white nonsense, two white women—Kali Wilgus and Liz “LC” Connely—decided it would be cute to open a food truck after a fateful excursion to Mexico. There’s really nothing special about opening a Mexican restaurant—it’s probably something that happens everyday. But the owners of Kooks Burritos all but admitted in an interview with Willamette Week that they colonized this style of food when they decided to “pick the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever.”

“…You can eat $5 lobster on the beach,” Connelly said, “which they give you with this bucket of tortillas.” The “they” she was referring to were probably the Mexican “abuelitas” these two women preyed upon in order to appropriate the secrets of their livelihood. Suitably impressed, these tourists began asking the locals questions about how these tortillas were made. “They told us basic ingredients,” Connelly said, adding “[but] they wouldn’t tell us too much about technique.” Hmmm. Wonder why? This is where things go from quirky to predatory if you haven’t already guessed.

“…We were peeking into window of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look,” she said. So let’s recap the story thus far: These two white women went to Mexico, ate tacos, and then decided they would just take what the locals clearly didn’t want to give them. If that wasn’t bad enough, they decided to pack up all their stolen intellectual property and repackage it in one of the few places where such a business could plausibly work: Portland, Oregon.

Week after week people of color in Portland bear witness to the hijacking of their cultures, and an identifiable pattern of appropriation has been created. Several of the most successful businesses in this town have been birthed as a result of curious white people going to a foreign country, or an international venture, and poaching as many trade secrets, customs, recipes as possible, and then coming back to Portland to claim it as their own and score a tidy profit. Now don’t get me wrong: cultural customs are meant to be shared. However, that’s not what happens in this city.

Because of Portland’s underlying racism, the people who rightly own these traditions and cultures that exist are already treated poorly. These appropriating businesses are erasing and exploiting their already marginalized identities for the purpose of profit and praise.[/quote]
This was never a story about “white people can’t cook certain foods.” The story is literally framed around capitalizing on recipes taken by vacationing white people and turned into a successful business in Portland - and Portland has a lot of white people opening businesses based on a “gimmick” that originates from seeing something or eating something made by other cultures. Enough that it is a consistent conversation in the media from the area anyways.

I mean, the people challenging the stories are framing it as “white people can’t cook certain foods,” but that’s because the actual conversation about profiting on an experience you enjoyed in a poor area is a lot more difficult of a conversation so you better just meme about SJWs and set up a bunch of strawmen that are easier to address.


I feel torn because i am keenly aware that i have bias. If anyone wants to try their hand at mexican food or whatever, or do a fusion, i’m all for it. And as you said, if it’s no good then they won’t be in business long so that evens out in the long run.

However being Venezuelan, and i found out that someone was ripping off Venezuelan food i would definitely have a strong opinion on it.


My dad is big on hot sauce. Unfortunately with age he’s had to lay off it but he did go to india about a decade ago for work and he absolutely loved the food there. Never had a problem with the spice level. My mom on the other hand could not handle it, she ordered pizza and it came spicy, ordered a salad… was also spicy. By the end of it she was asking restaurants to bring her fruit.

Oh yeah. The lemonade is even spicy there.


Tamarind is my favorite fruit. My dad had bought me some tamarind pulp candies on his return from India and they were pretty spicy. Though i found it to be insanely delicious :slight_smile: i’m sure more than a few Indian dishes could kick my ass, but i do like heat.

Actually had indian food this friday from a new place <3 I was amused that the non-spicy dish i ordered was actually pretty hot.


agreed. and cops. if there’s locals and cops, it tends to be good.

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The difference is that what these women were doing was a pretty common practice in the food world. Studying can only get you so far and to research new techniques you go out and eat other people’s food and watch how they make it. After they did that it seems like the put a lot of time and effort into mastering the technique. They were so passionate about it that they opened a food stand. Neither of these things are particularly easy and running a pop-up burrito stall on the weekends isn’t a great way to make money. All of this sounds like people who were interested and passionate about a craft.

The Portland Mercury article make the insane claim that the fairly common practice of making tortillas can be “owned.” None of the women they were watching invented the tortilla. There is no reason a centuries old technique should be limited to a single part of the world.


actually I think they’ll come back to haunt you later.


The curious thing about this particular story is that i’m not fully getting why these women are catching so much flak for opening their food cart. Honestly i’ve seen more takes on mexican food here in Austin (and Texas) than anywhere else i’ve ever lived in. From authentic, to gourmet, to vegan, to expensive hipster restaurants. In all of that i never thought anyone was appropriating another culture, food is something that speaks to everyone.

Seems that these ladies are being criticized because of their whiteness. I suppose there’s a level of snark i would jump in on myself but i would never stop someone from doing something they are passionate about. The food business is not easy.


All of this sounds like a couple of trust funders who opened a hobby business after a vacation. They did not apprentice with tortillas makers - they snuck around and spied on people in their homes in order to steal methods. Passionate? Entitled.



Apprenticeship? It’s fucking tortillas, not cabinet making or silver smithing. I am pretty sure after being shown a couple times they would get it down on how to mix flour and water and roll it out. This isn’t state secrets. Let’s ease back on the hyperbole.