I decided I needed a breather before diving into Harrow the Ninth, so I looked at was very different and available on Audible. I chose JP Brammer’s Authentically Mexican: A Family History in Six Dishes. This is a food book, but not a food book. It is a family history and a cultural identity with food as a touchstone.
Brammer, writer of the excellent ¡Hola Papi! column (now on Substack), explores his feelings about his own cultural identity – fake Mexican, authentic Mexican, his own kind of Mexican American. At one hour and twenty-six minutes long, Brammer packs in a lot of memory, feeling, and context while also keeping the story tightly focused on his point – he is authentic because he is.
Brammer begins and ends reflecting on a regular visit to the local Taco Bueno with his sister, abuelo and abuela. He explores his relationship with his cultural identity, the tensions in his family, and the whole idea of identity and authenticity in six short sections around food. His abuela had stopped cooking before he was born, but she would still make tortillas. He wanted her to teach him, but she never did and he was left to cobble together a close approximation from white women on YouTube. All of his reflections are tinged with humor, anger, sorrow, and the kind of acceptance that comes from knowing that the broken thing wasn’t about you and you aren’t going to get any answers.
I would listen to Brammer talk about himself, food, his family, anything he wanted to talk about for hours.