A Closer Look at Appraising Tacos

The study named ‘Appraising Tacos: Unraveling Value-Imbuing Processes and Narratives of Authenticity’ conducted by Samantha Duncan looks into Mexican foods, most specifically the taco, and examines the relationship between the idea of authenticity and commodity. It is an interesting concept of how authenticity itself is a factor which can be used to increase sales and add value to food. This often leads to the appropriation of food and tacos are no stranger to such treatment. While analyzing a restaurant dubbed ‘Supernova,’ Duncan records the relationship between one’s nationality to their job and how much of an impact each groups of employees have on the food.

“While Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans are involved in the business that creates and commodifies authenticity and in turn produce representations of Mexican-American identity, these back-of-the-house workers are not commonly involved in the creation of such representations … these groups do not create representations that are produced by these restaurants, even if they are involved in the physical fabrication of the food.” (12-13)

While Duncan had illustrated that the majority of individuals that run the front of the house are not Mexican, she did not interview any of the people who worked in the back. This is a curious choice as the study is contingent on the topic of authenticity in Mexican foods and it is obvious that the cooks who are often not seen in the kitchens are the ones who have the most to contribute on that matter. While many of the owners and those who run the front of the house are non-Mexican people, they are the ones who have more power. The information that the owners give would appear sufficient for the study, though it provides a rather superficial perspective on the creation of the food and the history behind it.



Duncan, Samantha. “Appraising Tacos: Unraveling Value-Imbuing Processes and Narratives of Authenticity.” Academia.edu, http://www.academia.edu/13546436/Appraising_tacos_Unraveling_value-imbuing_processes_and_narratives_of_authenticity.

One thought on “A Closer Look at Appraising Tacos

  1. Well, she does some cool stuff in terms of theorizing, but when it came down to the ethnographic part of her study, she left out the most important voices of the restaurant, which is a shame. I still give her credit, though, for thinking about how to “read” tacos. But, as the point of the class I stress over and over, we cannot disassociate the food from the people.


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