Monday, February 04, 2019

Where Angels Fear to Tread

First, this stuff looks dreadful.  Were it offered to me at a Super Bowl party (or anywhere else, for that matter), I would politely pass it by.

It gets worse when you know what's in it.

But the dumb part of this Vox article is assuming "queso" is some kind of "Latin" dish that only "Latinos" can make, or comment on.  Puh-leeze.

I have a recipe book full of queso recipes put together by a Texas expatriate who, from her pictures on her cookbooks (I have three of them), is as white as a white girl can be.  Her queso book includes recipes from as far "north" as Austin (she may have one from Dallas) and as far "south" as the Border.  Most are from Texas, and most are from restaurants large and small, renowned and unknown.  The variety of ingredients is impressive, the variety of styles is remarkable, but one simple truth abounds:  cheese melted together with hot peppers is not "Latin" or "Mexican" or even "Central American."  It's cheese dip.

Maybe it's called "queso" because it's spicy, and spicy means "Mexican" (except in southern Louisiana, but I don't know of any cheese dip associated with Cajun or even Creole cuisine).  We're actually into treacherous territory here.  I got a sample magazine from Christopher Kimball, the whitest male associated with food that I know of, and he acknowledged in its pages that his idea of cuisine was Vermont-centric and therefore Euro-centric, and what he had learned in his new venture ("Milk Street") is that we should no longer speak of "ethnic food," because the term is condescending and parochial.  "Ethnic food" in Asia, after all, would be hamburgers and french fries and Cokes, and while I might not see the appeal of a hamburger colored with squid ink, I'd never say the Asians should leave that dish to the "whites."  And saying "I made queso" is actually closer to saying "I made cerveza" than it is to saying "I made a casserole" (which should have cream of mushroom soup in it.  In fact, that's the only use of cream of mushroom soup I would countenace.  YMMV.).  At least in direct translation it is. This turns into a minefield once we start an argument about who is, and who is not, qualified to present a recipe on-line.

So let's get back to queso.  There's nothing really "Latin" about melting Velveeta and adding a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes to it, although it is delicious.  I have queso recipes that use Cheddar cheese, and one (at least) that uses Muenster and (IIRC) sour cream.  The varieties of ingredients in "good" queso can be quite surprising, and some would seem very "white" indeed (barbecue!).  Queso is a bit like chili:  some recipes are simple and basic (and usually the best), some include so much it stops being chili (at least by Texas standards).  Is chili "Latin"?  Can we even take that question seriously?  Making the cheese dip of my childhood (and adulthood; I have some in the fridge at home I'll be heating up this afternoon) into something only Latinos can write tweets about is...well, it's condescending and just a bit too precious.

And really, to her credit, Dana Perino noted the Vox article:

She gets a lot of credit for being such a good sport about this, especially on Twitter.  Vox, on the other hand, really needs to adjust their spectacles on how they view food and who can contribute a recipe about it.

We're all eating at the same table, ya know.  At least, we should be.


  1. I don't know of any cheese dip associated with Cajun or even Creole cuisine.

    You knew this was coming, right? ;-)

    Cajun Cheese Dip

    1. Seems like a terrible waste of boudin....😉

  2. :-)I've never had the dip, and I'm not tempted to try the recipe.

  3. Velveeta and canned soup, yech!

    Kimball on TV annoyed me, I like his radio show better. He's where I got the hint that a pinch of salt could make bad coffee tolerable. I'm indebted to him for that.