I, Liliana Aguilar am a picky eater. It is something I am not proud of and have struggled with for years. I was the kid that picked as her food without ever touching anything because I thought it was “disgusting” even though I didn’t know for sure if it was or wasn’t. As I’ve gotten older I have tried to experiment with food and slowly I have started to try new things. Yet, as picky as I am, I might actually be the most adventurous eater in my family (yes, there are others worse than myself) and I owe this to two people. One, is my boyfriend Nelson, who convinces me into trying new things with promises of candy or ice cream after. The other is my best friend/former roommate Phoebe, whom I had the pleasure of meeting here at CSUF when we lived on campus. I think our friendship was solidified when we realized that the way I felt towards Taco Bell was the same way she felt about Panda Express, it wasn’t authentic. Below are both of their interviews that they were so kind to grant me.
Who was the best cook in your extended family?
Why your grandma?
I grew up with her, because as you know my mom was here in the United States and I was in El Salvador.
Do you miss her cooking?
Yes, certain dishes more than others. Her yucca sancochada, her pupusas, and oh my god her salpores!
What was your favorite meal growing up?
Pupusas, duh. What else?
Your grandma prepared them right?
Yes, but even the ones she bought somewhere else were good. They were authentic. Not even the ones my mom makes now taste the same?
What makes you say that? What is different about the ones here and in El Salvador?
Because of the dirty water! (laughs) No, I honestly think it’s a psychological thing. You are at home and the person preparing them is following tradition. Everyone has their own way of making things and it’s passed on from one person to another never changing. The portions are also different.
When was the first time you had food outside your culture?
I don’t actually remember. I can’t tell you the first time I had a hamburger in the US.
Well how about during the time you were immigrating to the US?
Well when we were in México with my stepdad’s family I remember waking up and they gave me goat milk. I had never seen that growing up. I remember it was in a vase and it was still warm.
Did you enjoy it?
It was a new experience; we can leave it at that. It’s not like I could say anything. It’s something that was necessary because it was milk and I was a child.
Where is your favorite restaurant?
That’s a tough one. There are so many different types.
Right, so let’s say you had to pick just one?
I’d say Famous Dave’s.
What makes it so special?
Well, obviously you know you’re not getting “authentic” ribs but they’re the next best thing. I don’t claim to know where to get the best authentic ribs because obviously I don’t know any better. I don’t have a grandma that makes ribs, but I do have a grandma that makes the best pupusas.
Why do you think Mexican food is so popular?
It’s so easy to copy, serve, prepare, and present it. It’s so easy to make a burrito or a taco and present it as Mexican.
Can you elaborate more on by what you mean about the easiness to copy?
I’m not saying all food can be imitated, just some food like burritos and tacos. Obviously things like mole or your grandma’s gorditas aren’t easily imitated.
How do you like your tacos?
Spicy, just like I like women. (laughs) That’s so cliché isn’t it? (more laughs) I actually like them plain and simple. Meat, salsa, with some rabanos on the side. Is that too much to ask for?
Not at all. Where do you get your tacos?
In LA at our infamous taco stand.
What has converted you to these tacos?
Other than the fact that they’re good? Because they use techniques from the homeland and they taste good.
Who was/is the best cook in your extended family?
My aunt cooks food I’ve only eaten in Taiwan. There aren’t a lot of
Taiwanese restaurants around, so when she’s in town and cooks meals
for my family. It’s a real treat.
What was your favorite meal growing up and who prepared it?
I don’t remember if it was my mom or dad, but it was this tomato
shrimp dish made with ketchup that I loved – before I realized I was
allergic to shrimp. I also like putting left over rice in my soup.
When was the first time you had food outside of your culture?
I remembered when I had Mexican food that wasn’t Taco Bell when I was
in middle school. It was at a taqueria called Gordo. It has the best
grilled chicken and Mexican rice.
What is your favorite restaurant?
This is too hard. I have too many. I can’t really think of any
specific place. Any place that serves meat large quantities of meat!
Why do you think Mexican Food is so popular?
I think meat wrapped in a tortilla makes an easy on-the-go lunch. A
messy burrito/taco is fun. I don’t live in Fullerton anymore,
so my favorite back up is a grilled chicken burrito at Gordo’s
Taqueria in San Francisco.
How do you like your tacos?
Onions, cilantro, hot sauce, and lime are a must on my tacos. I grew
up in San Francisco and never had a legit taco. Taqueria De Anda was
right around the corner from my apt when I was at CSUF. Let’s just say
those tacos were a regular occurrence in my life.