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in may of 2014, the late american celebrity chef anthony bourdain blogged (wrote on his blog) a love letter to mexico, mexicans and mexican food that also criticized several general beliefs that americans have about mexico.
anthony bourdain (reuters)
for example, bourdain pointed out that…
despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, and look after our children. as any chef will tell you, our entire service economy — the restaurant business as we know it — in most american cities, would collapse overnight without mexican workers.
despite means regardless of, even though. towards means about. demand means insist, require. lawn is grass in front and behind a house. mow means cut grass with a machine. the machine is called a lawn mower. look after means take care of. overnight in this context means immediately. as we know it means how it is understood at present–it’s used in the title of this famous track by r.e.m.
the stereotypes of americans in mexico are considerably different…
whether it’s dress up like fools and get pass-out drunk and sunburned on spring break in cancún, throw pesos at strippers in tijuana, or get toasted on mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in mexico. they have seen many of us at our worst. they know our darkest desires.
dress up means wear costumes. pass out means drink alcohol until falling asleep. it’s used as an adjective here, but it is a phrasal verb as well. sunburned is red skin that comes from too much (excessive) time in the sun. toasted means high, intoxicated. seldom means not often. behavior means conduct, how people act. have seen is present perfect–it indicates that this situation continues to be a reality. whether is similar to if and bourdain uses it to present five different examples of bad behavior by americans.
americans dressed up like mexicans (teen vogue)
in addition to the hypocrisy and condescension described above, bourdain detects a dismissive attitude by americans towards mexico that contributes to the awkward relationship…
mexico. our brother from another mother. a country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace.
brother from another mother means that we are not biological brothers but still closely related. whom is the equivalent of who: who is a subject, it performs an action. whom is an object, it receives an action. this is a tricky point that is made trickier by the verb involve in this example –is mexico performing or receiving involve? 😵💫 confusing! but don’t make yourself too crazy worrying about it. native speakers do not always pay attention to this difference. a lot of people just use who all the time.
the series friends had a running gag (joke that appeared in several episodes) about ross correcting (and annoying) the other friends when they didn’t apply whom correctly.
like it or not means americans might not like the situation, but it isn’t going to change. inexorably similarly means inevitably, it can’t be stopped. embrace means hug. the pronunciation of uncomfortable is not obvious–>un-KUMF-tur-bull. EVERY VOWEL IS A SHWUH SOUND 🙀!! listen to ithe pronunciation here
an embrace is a nice metaphor, but in many ways it feels more like the u.s. has mexico by the throat (getty)
bourdain is critical of americans’ misunderstanding and underestimation of mexican cuisine too:
as much as we think we know and love it, we have barely scratched the surface of what mexican food really is. it is NOT melted cheese over a tortilla chip. it is not simple, or easy… a true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make. [using] fresh (always fresh) ingredients, [it’s] painstakingly prepared by hand…the old school cooks of oaxaca make some of the more difficult and nuanced sauces in gastronomy. and some of the new generation…trained in the kitchens of america and europe have returned home to take mexican food to…thrilling new heights.
as much as in this context means even though, despite. barely means almost not. scratch the surface is an idiom that means americans understand very little about mexican cuisine. melted means liquefied by heat. mole sauce in mexico is usually just called mole. for instance is another way to say for example. painstakingly means with immense effort and attention to detail.
chicken in green mole with rice (wikipedia)
superlatives are usually used with the, i.e. (in other words) the most difficult, but sometimes u will hear a native speaker use a comparative with the, like anthony bourdain does here with the more difficult. on the other hand, the opposite is not true. u shouldn’t use the superlative most with than e.g. mole is more difficult to prepare than enchiladas, NOT
mole is most difficult to prepare than enchiladas.
anthony bourdain enjoying some street tacos in mexico city
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