First Advisor

Marc Rodriguez

Term of Graduation

Spring 2022

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Mexican cooking -- Social aspects, Ethnic food -- United States -- 20th century, White people -- United States -- Attitudes, Mexicans -- Health and hygiene -- Public opinion, Food writing -- Political aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 135 pages)


This thesis examines the connection between Mexican food and identity in the early to mid-twentieth century (1900-1950). Anglo-Americans created evolving racial/ethnic stereotypes during a period of intense Mexican immigration and nativism that used descriptions of food, hygiene habits, and health to reinforce boundaries of whiteness and citizenship.

By examining Americanization teaching manuals, food articles, as well as personal and corporate cookbooks, I seek to understand how Americanizers and other food writers used food to point to emphasize, unhygienic habits, excess use of spice and grease, as well as the "questionable" nature of immigrate food culture to separate them from Anglo-Americans. These qualities all emphasized a disgust with ethnic food, yet simultaneously, there were food writers and food companies that showed a growing taste for ethnic food. Those that hungered for ethnic food, grappled with the same set of questions about identity, immigration, health, and citizenship that those who disdained the food culture.

However, they also bound these sentiments with more nebulous concepts of "authenticity" and desire. Anglo-Americans desired "authentic" ethnic food as it became associated with cosmopolitanism, a concept that Anglo-Americans used to characterize themselves as sophisticated and well-travelled individuals. Pushed by food writers in the early twentieth century, cosmopolitanism served as both an expression of Anglo-American citizenship, as to desire ethnic food was to be a worldly citizen; and a worldly citizen knew what was and was not "authentic". Readers will find in this thesis that, "authenticity" was not a static concept, and that the changes this concept underwent had very real and tangible consequences to how Anglo-Americans perceived Mexicans and later Mexican Americans.


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