Sarah Portnoy | FOOD, HEALTH, AND CULTURE IN LATINO LOS ANGELES
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FOOD, HEALTH, AND CULTURE IN LATINO LOS ANGELES

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PRAISE FOR THE BOOK

 

“From the wonderful food diversity of Mexican Los Angeles; to the bitter street food battles over the tamale wagons and the loncheros; and into the food swamps of low income Latino neighborhoods where fast food and food marts (better known as liquor stores) prevail, Sarah Portnoy effectively takes us into the world of the Latino food environment.”

 Robert Gottlieb, author of Global Cities: Urban Environments in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and China

“A knowledgeable and humane portrait of the rich culinary cultures as well as the ongoing struggles for food justice and dietary health in Latino Los Angeles.”

 Jeffrey M. Pilcher, author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

“Portnoy gives us a beautifully written and nuanced account of food, health, and culture in Latina/o Los Angeles. She captures the wealth of Mexicana/o and Latina/o food knowledge and traditions as well as the creative ways communities are challenging the inequality that leads to food deserts in working-class communities.”

 Enrique C. Ochoa, author of Feeding Mexico and co-editor of Latino Los Angeles 

QUOTES

About Carlos Salgado and Tacos María:

“Carlos’ interest in ethical agricultural practices extend to the corn he uses for his tortillas, a food integral to the identity of Mexico’s indigenous population, but one that in the United States has not been highly valued…. His maize comes from a small family farm in the state of Mexico that has been growing corn for five generations.” (Chapter 2, p. 61)

From the Chapter, “Loncheras and Luxe-Loncheras: The Evolution of L.A.’s Mobile Street Food” “Attempts by those in power to control or obliterate Mexican street food reflect larger issues of discrimination toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans that are deeply rooted in California’s past….Today, thousands of loncheras operate around the city.”

 

About Mariscos Jalisco:

“His long-term success, however, stems from the unforgettable experience of eating one of his shrimp tacos: crunch and fried, yet fresh, a unique flavor profile that draws customers not only from the immediate area but from all over the city and the around the world.”

 

About Broken Spanish:

“García named his new restaurant Broken Spanish, a name that refers not only to his heritage as a third-generation Mexican-American, one who speaks “broken Spanish,” but also to his ability to update traditional Mexican cuisine with other culinary influences.

 

Street Vendors:

“In a city designed around the automobile, street vendors create a more vibrant street culture that “promotes cultural diversity and social connections.”18 In a car-centered landscape such as Los Angeles, the value of people congregating around a cart on a sidewalk while stopping to buy fruit or a taco as they walk home from work or an errand can be easily overlooked, but in low-income Latino neighborhoods these scenes are a vital part of everyday life.”

 

 

Urban Agriculture:

L.A. urban farmer Ron Finley proclaims that “growing your own food is like printing your own money.” Urban gardens and farms such as Roger That and the former South Central Farm are excellent examples of modern-day urban heterotopias:  contested spaces where the community comes together in opposition to powerful, wealthy forces such as real estate developers or city agencies. The story of the South Central Farm is one of struggle, pain, and loss, but is also one of community bonding, ritual, and defiance in the face of defeat.

The White House’s vegetable garden has also been a nationwide model for the school garden movement and has led to an increase in the number of school garden programs nationwide.

The multiple benefits of community gardening for the Latino community in Los Angeles can be seen in the efforts of a smaller-scale community garden such as Proyecto Jardín in Boyle Heights, a one-acre garden overflowing with plants, cactus, and beautiful tile mosaics and walls hand painted by local children. Director, Irene Peña, believes that Proyecto Jardín provides “food for the body and food for the soul,” especially given the difficult economic situation of many of the Latino immigrants who garden there.”

“With new urban farms, school gardens, community gardens, and parkways expanding across the city, the future of urban agriculture in Los Angeles seems brighter. As the city of Los Angeles improves public transportation and increases public housing options—the county supervisors voted in 2015 to set aside up to $100 million a year to construct and maintain affordable housing—urban agriculture will play an increasingly important role.”

“Food is symbolic of culture. Misunderstandings about taco bowls represent much bigger misunderstandings about Latinos and Latino food in the United States.”