Burrito Rubrics, Sonora Dogs, and Taco USA

There are some updates on the class schedule for Assignment 2 and the next set of IG and WordPress posts. Assignment 2 has been pushed back to after Spring Break, and the next set of posts a week back after stated on the syllabus.

We started off class with discussion of Dr. Aja Martinez’s talk yesterday at SJU. We had a great turnout of folks:


Dr. Martinez spoke about counterstory as a method for doing critical race theory work. For those who could not attend the talk, you can make this up by going to the Yeh Art Gallery on campus. There, you should check out the exhibit, read about some of the artworks, and take in what you experience. As you exit, there is another room that has more information and some post-it notes. There you should make 5 notes about what you experienced in the exhibit. Please photograph these posts you make on Instagram, with the #tacoliteracy hashtag. Also be sure to include 5-6 sentences in the post about what your thoughts on the exhibit. Last, be sure to tag the location in your post.

Today we started off by following more folks on Instagram:







These are some of the folks mentioned in Taco USA, and also some folks doing food writing and journalism in different venues. Yigal Schleifer of Culinary Backstreets will be a class guest later in the semester, so check out Culinary Backstreets to see the type of work he’s doing as a food writer.

We focused in on some of the work of Anna Barry Jester and the burrito bracket (a return to the bracket!). This is the video of the rubric by which she rated the burritos:

Barry Jester’s burrito rubric is an interesting way of “dissecting” the burrito and coming up with an objective score. As was noted in a quick discussion about Yelp, we can’t always trust food reviewers, assuming that people’s senses of flavors are diverse, and what is good for someone may be not so good for someone else. But we can also look at Yelp as a way of evaluating the number of sources to read “trends” or patterns. In which case, we would be analyzing the sum of reviewers. This kind of data analysis that moves to objective reckoning is what Barry Jester employs in her burrito rubric. The question, though, is that what the rubric measures. The “science” of assessing burritos could overlook so much more about the experience of eating, the atmosphere, and more beyond what the rubric focuses on.

This analysis of rubrics, I asked, also was familiar. For so many students, the rubric is something they encountered in writing. And with rubrics, there can be ways of achieving fantastic scores, but also missing something. That is, turning back to Martinez’s talk yesterday, there might be ways were the content of something meaningful for students, where students use the pronouns “I” and “me” in essays that could be scored bad for not meeting the rubric’s standards. And it’s in those ideas of “standardization” where we should see flags, because “standard” in any form is always applicable to ideologies. Whose standard? Who makes the standards? Then, conversely what gets considered “non-standard” and whom determines that?

Great discussion about that, and from there, we moved back to Taco USA to speak about El Guero Canelo of Tucson, Arizona. Late in the book, Arellano gives his top five picks on his taco tour. He mentions El Guero Canelo for its Sonora Hotdog.

Arellano describes the story of El Guero Canelo himself, Daniel Contreras, and how he built a restaurant empire starting from a cart, where he sold tacos, quesadillas, and his famous hotdogs. The hotdogs have become an icon for Tucson, and for Contreras, he has become a celebrity. In fact, El Guero Canelo was awarded the prestigious James Beard Awards 2018 American Classic designation. The foundation wrote about the Sonoran hotodog:

The Sonoran hot dog evinces the flow of culinary and cultural influences from the U.S. to Mexico and back. Decades ago, elaborately dressed hot dogs began to appear as novelty imports on the streets of Hermosillo, the Sonoran capital. Today, Tucson is the American epicenter, and Daniel Contreras is the leading hotdoguero. A Sonoran native, Contreras was 33 in 1993 when he opened El Guero Canelo. The original stand is now a destination restaurant, outfitted with picnic tables and serviced by a walk-up order window. Fans converge for bacon-wrapped franks, stuffed into stubby bollilos, smothered with beans, onions, mustard, jalapeño sauce, and a squiggle of mayonnaise. Contreras operates three branches in Tucson, one in Phoenix, and a bakery to supply the split-top buns.

With the hotdog, we can see the collision of cultures at the border, where hotdogs, something folks in the US identify as “American food” makes its way into Mexico, and becomes Mexican food there, but also a new kind of hotdog, or a regional variation of the hotdog that emerges in the US Southwest.

If you make it to Tucson, definitely give them a try!

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