Main Square of Acuitzio del Canje, Michoacán, Mexico. Fotos / Photos: Sara Komarnisky
Food Food that Travels
BY SARA KOMARNISKY
Uchepos. Fotos/Photos: Sara Komarnisky
In the Mexican villa of Acuitzio del Canje, Michoacán, Juana prepares her suitcase for the trip back to Anchorage. She packs bread in paper bags, large wheels of locally made cheese tightly wrapped in tin foil, mole paste sealed in two layers of plastic, and a large bag of crispy churritos with a bottle of chamoy chile sauce to eat them with.
I am a Canadian anthropologist who has been researching the Acuitzences (people from Acuitzio) in Anchorage and in their hometown in Michoacán since 2005. Many of these people are dual-citizens who travel regularly between Mexico and the United States. In my work, I found that feeling at home for these Acuitzences involves developing a sense of home in both places. One part of feeling at home means bringing food from Mexico to Alaska.
For this reason, when opening the suitcase of someone arriving in Anchorage from their hometown in Michoacán, it is likely to find clothing and personal items, but also mole, bread, cheese, candy, and other foods like gorditas, pinole, or even uchepos.
The way food tastes is linked to memories of particular places, so people traveling with food are trying to bring the flavors of their hometowns with them. Even though the basic ingredients for Mexican cooking are available in Anchorage, people still travel with food. They say they do this because “Mexican food in Anchorage does not taste the same.”
However, traveling with food means dealing with the regulations, bureaucracy, and legal force of United States’s Customs and Immigration services, which restrict the type of food items one is allowed to bring in the country. Some things, like fresh peppers, are denied.
Even so, people continue to travel with food, bringing the taste of Mexico to Alaska to enjoy whenever the meal calls for a little taste of home.
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