About maleman

Capricorn. Loves long walks by the beach…

Wait! before you roll your eyes…

My name is Melky Aleman.  I served as an active-duty Marine from 1998-2002.  In 2013 I obtained my Associate Degree in Sociology from East Los Angeles College.  Currently, I am a Senior at California State University Dominguez Hills and I will be graduating in May 2017.  I am proud to be a Labor Studies major.  Organized Labor has been at the forefront of all major social change in the United States.  In relation to this class, the poor (aka the laborer) is responsible for the world’s famous, and over priced, cuisine.  My goal in this class was to help everyone appreciate that.

I. love. to. cook.  I am the main meal-maker in the home.  I especially love to try new things and try to recreate them, at home.  My wife and I have three kids and so we are busy and on a budget.  Recreating restaurant quality food at home saves us a lot of money.  My favorite food this week, is the classic Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.  But wait!  before you roll your eyes, picture this:  A classic PB & J, but once put together, cook it like you would a grilled cheese with butter.  Seriously, you will never look at another PB&J the same.  You are welcome.

My mother is from El Salvador, so I grew up eating all things Salvi.  Growing up in L.A. however, I was surrounded food from all over the planet.  I grew up in the mid-city area filled with Black Americans, Filipinos, Koreanos and all dark skinned folks from all Spanish speaking countries!  I married into a Mexican family and am still learning. My wife and I have ate our way through many countries on the planet.  Food is everything.

 

The Tostada

Melky Aleman

Dr. A. Perez

Food and Culture

Food Analysis: The Tostada

                My tostada recipe is an homage to my Mother who’s resilience and social improvisation made me who I am today.  Not wanting to burden me with her adult problems, she ensure I got what I needed, a warm meal every day.  Not having much, she would “figure it out”.  She would cook a full chicken and make it last a week.  The first meal was a regular chicken dish with traditional Latino sides.  The second was a variation derived from the plucked chicken meat.  It would sometimes be taquitos or a quesadilla.  But, when we were really lucky, it would be the tostada!  The fourth meal would be a vegetable soup, based from the bone broth.  And Friday, well, whatever was left over from the week! It might be one tostada with a side of vegetable soup.

Nutritional Analysis

The Tostada contains anywhere from 170 – 330 calories, depending on how the actual fried tortilla, meat and beans are prepared and cooked.  Using lard at any point will exponentially grow the caloric intake. Sodium will also fluctuate.  Pre-made, store bought, products will always be higher in sodium because it is used as a preservative.  Store bought salsa, tostadas and canned beans will have 300% more sodium than home made.  Tostada toppings can help balance some of the bad.  Many people will mix their lettuce with kale and finely chopped celery.  Others, will use reduced fat yogurt instead of sour cream.

Political-Economic Analysis

 The world’s cuisine, served at restaurants and sometimes as the main headliner of a festival, comes from the poor and is inspired by necessity!  Working class folks who’s first survival instinct is flexibility.  That flexibility is challenged exponentially as the family grows and more sacrifices have to be made.  It is off these people’s backs that entrepreneurs can mass produce their food, exploit it, and charge 400% more than what it cost to make.  This is Capitalism at work; and, Capitalism absolutely needs an exploited workforce for it to thrive.   The Tostada cost approx $.80 to make, but you can get one at Broken Spanish in DTLA, for $13.

The Burrito.  $12.87 for the Quesarito Burrito (Chipotle secret menu). The burrito is a product of the labor force.  Poor workers would wrap meat and whatever other leftovers they had into a large tortilla (also made at home) to-go.  Without access to refrigeration and too far from the farm house for a quick trip back for lunch, the Burrito became the most efficient way to “take your lunch” with you.

Fried Chicken.  Fried chicken was introduced to the Southern States by Scottish-Irish Immigrants and that’s when African slaves made it their own.  History aside, how do you feed an entire family with one chicken?  You bread it– Increasing the calorie count and obviously flavor.  The same recipe was given to Catfish, creating a separate famous southern dish.  Chicken is one of the cheapest meats available.  Drumsticks are frequently put on sale at $.70 a pound.  At Ad Hoc,a restaurant in Yountville, CA, a full fried chicken family meal runs you up to $200—something about the “special batter”, yeah whatever.

Gumbo. The modern version of Gumbo is a result of the poor getting together trying to have a good time with everybody bringing a little something to the party and throwing it “in the pot”.  Everybody eats. This hodgepodge of a dish may include chicken, ham, bacon, oysters, crab, shrimp and beef. Again, EVERYBODY eats! Harold and Belle’s will gladly feed your entire family, at $18 a bowl.

Lobster.  Seafood is supposed to be a poorman’s food.  So as long as you have a hook and some string, you can catch and cook your own seafood.  During peak season, Lobster was approximately $3.69 a pound, in Maine. You can pay up to $16.29 for one Maine Lobster TAIL (just the tail) at Red Lobster.

 

 

 

From the Folks Who Brought You Overpriced Cuisine

As a kid, I knew it.  We. Were. Poor.  How poor?  Rationed-milk poor; Rationed-everything, poor.  Sometimes, our meals were comprised entirely from government issued food products.  And, for some odd reason, we didn’t qualify for food stamps or any other social assistance.  But, my Mom figured it out; She had to.  Sometimes, for dinner, we’d have an avocado and two tortillas each, period.  I remember one Christmas, the only reason we had any type of holiday dinner is because the Police dropped off a box of food—some sort of neighbor outreach program.  We were thankful, but I remember sitting there with my immigrant mother, wondering what you could POSSIBLY use cranberry sauce or stuffing for; it just made no sense, why not send a bag of beans instead?

It is from this struggle that my mother’s tostadas were born.  Like all overpriced cuisine, it was born from desperation and brought to you by the poor.  My Mother could make a meal out of nothing.  I don’t remember the specific date, but the memory always starts the same:  I was hungry and all we had in the refrigerator was a take-home-plate from a party we had attended over the weekend.  The plate was composed of two or three pieces of chicken, rice, salad and some hardened tortillas.  For Latinos growing up in Los Angeles, this was a common food given at parties, because it was cheap to make.  Other times, it could have been what looked like a bare-bone chicken on a plate.  Whatever the set up, my mother would pluck the remaining poultry meat from the bones, and add whatever veggies she could.  She would deep fry the tortillas, once crisp, she would smother a teaspoon of fried beans over them.  The chicken layer would be next, and it would all be topped with shredded lettuce, chile and a sprinkle of cheese.  The result:  The world famous Crenshaw Tostada.  It was perfect.  It was warm.  The flavors of freshness would explode in your mouth.  If we were doing well, it would include Guacamole.  The tostada is perfect, no matter what the occasion.  As I bit through the warm crunchy awesomeness, using my hand to hold it together as my teeth created a cracked fault line through the middle of the deep fried tortilla, I knew we would be okay.  I have continued the tradition of the Tostada and have renamed it the Bell Gardens tostada.  It costs about .80 cents to make, but you can get one at Broken Spanish in Downtown L.A. for $13.00.

Overpriced cuisine, inspired by necessity

The Burrito.  $12.87 for the Quesarito Burrito (Chipotle secret menu).  Neither Taco Bell or El Cholo are responsible for the Burrito’s creation.  Though there are cultural references of the Burrito since 1848, it made the Oxford English Dictionary in 1934.  The visual we get of a Burrito is a modern model, it is the “Mission style” burrito.  Though people have been putting food inside a tortilla since the creation of the tortilla, we understand that the burrito is a product of the labor force.  Poor workers would wrap meat and whatever other leftovers they had into a large tortilla to-go, only to unwrap it many miles later, perhaps while sitting under a tree.  Without access to refrigeration and too far from the farm house for a quick trip back for lunch, the Burrito became the most efficient way to “take your lunch” with you.

Fried Chicken.  $200 for a fried chicken meal, Ad Hoc, Yountville, CA.  Scottish-Irish Immigrants to the United States introduced their motherland cooking tricks to the Southern States, where African slaves were able to incorporate American seasonings to make it, well, American.  Think about it, how do you feed an entire family with one chicken?  You bread it.  Increasing the calorie count and obviously flavor.  The same recipe was given to Catfish, creating a separate famous southern dish.

 

Gumbo. $18 a bowl, Harold and Belle’s.  According to Dr. Carl A. Brasseaux, expert on all things Cajun, the first documented references to gumbo appeared in the 19th century. In 1803, gumbo was served at a Gubernatorial reception in New Orleans, and in 1804 gumbo was served at a Cajun gathering on the Acadian Coast.  Today’s Gumbo however, is very different from what was served in the 1800’s.  Most people associate Gumbo with seafood gumbo; it isn’t rare for it to also include chicken, ham, bacon, oysters, crab, shrimp and beef.  The modern version of Gumbo is a result of the poor getting together trying to have a good time with everybody bringing a little something to the party and throwing it “in the pot”.  Everybody eats.

Chile con Carne.  International Chili Cookoff First-place prize: $25,000.  Historians agree that J.C. Clopper, from Texas, was the first to document the phenomenon. In his visit to San Antonio in 1828, he documented his observations and wrote “When they [poor families of San Antonio] have to lay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for the family; it is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat–this is all stewed together.”  Like most things in Texas (cowboys, spurs and music) Chili con Carne is Mexican influenced.  Before the dividing lines of border politics, poor Mexican and poor American cowboys met along what is now the border, to discuss topography and ranching.  It was not rare for a witch’s plot full of hash meat, chili peppers and beans to be sitting over a fire.

 Lobster.  $16.29 for one Maine Lobster Tail, Red Lobster.  Seafood is supposed to be a poorman’s food.  So as long as you have a hook and some string, you can catch and cook your own seafood.  During peak season, Lobster was approximately $3.69 a pound, in Maine.

Modern day Tostada Ingridients:

6 crunchy Tostadas

Two boiled chicken breast

Frozen Vegetables

1 can of tomato sauce

1 garlic clove

Half a chopped onion

Half a head of lettuce

One chopped tomato

Shredded Parmesan cheese

1 can of beans (any color of beans)

Sour Cream

Avocado

The Bell Gardens Tostada Ingredients:

Chicken.  Restaurant left-over chicken is the best.  It is seasoned differently than you would.  The local food bank would provide us with a box of produce occasionally.  This allowed for my mother to sautee the chicken meat with carrots, onion, potatoes, carrots, celery and tomato.

Beans.  We always had boiled beans in the house.  Tostadas require the beans be mashed and fried; with pork fat, or Manteca.  Throwing in a little chile and/or Cotija cheese in the frying process was always an option.

Side Sauce.  Tomatoes are blended and poured into a deep, hot pan, where garlic and onion have been caramelized.  This is your topping sauce.

Tostadas.  Tostadas must be served hot, so they are the last to be prepared.  Day-old tortillas are preferred.  Once you decide if you will be dipping them in enchilada sauce or not, put them in hot oil until crispy.

Please reference paragraph two for preparation instructions.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

“The Mexican Food Revolution.” National Museum of American History. N.p., 30 May 2014.

Web. 26 Nov. 2016. <http://americanhistory.si.edu/food/resetting-table/mexican-food-revolution>.

 

“Four Big Facts The Daily Got Wrong In Its History of the Burrito.” OC Weekly. N.p., 27 May

  1. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <http://www.ocweekly.com/restaurants/four-big-facts-the-daily-got-wrong-in-its-history-of-the-burrito-6627691>.

 

“History of Fried Chicken & Spotlight on Chef Duff Goldman…” Ergo Chef Blog. N.p., 15 July

  1. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. <http://ergochef.com/blog/history-of-fried-chicken-spotlight-on-chef-duff-goldman/>.

 

“Where Did Southern Fried Chicken Come From?” United States – Where Did Southern Fried

Chicken Come From? – History Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange, 28 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. http://history.stackexchange.com/questions/15364/where-did-southern-fried-chicken-come-from.

 

“Chili History.” National Chili Day. ICS, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

<http://www.nationalchiliday.com/chili-history.html#.WERORtIrJdg>.