Friday, June 21, 2013


We sad, and guilty, Los Angeles monoglots tend to feel uneasy about the existence of Spanglish: vocabulary substitution and code-switching between English and Spanish - “No problemo” or “Hasta la vista, baby’ - that kind of thing.  Some have argued that these phrases are actually mock-Spanish which, they say, is a form of covert racism (and in some cases not very covert at all). Jane H. Hill of the University of Arizona crops up as an expert on the subject, see her article “Mock Spanish: A Site For The Indexical Reproduction Of Racism In American English.”  I think she has a point, though surely Bart Simpson is no racist, covert or otherwise.

And of course food is a place where cultures meet and mingle, and where people sometimes feel playful, and so we have, expressions such as “the whole enchilada,” or “a hot tamale,” and I suppose you could say the latter was both racist and sexist.  Still I found to hard to be offended by, and even harder not to snap up, these cheese flavored snacks, or “El Snack con sabor Hispano” as it says on the pack.

Mucho Cheese indeed: it doesn’t get much more Spanglish than that.  However, as far as I can tell these snacks are Mexican through and through, made by the Si Senor brand, part of the Bokados Company, whose website is certainly monoglot Spanish.  If anything the name seems to be mocking Anglos.  Or maybe they’re just having fun.

 In fact these things are essentially mock-Cheetos, though a bit subtler and less synthetic-tasting than the real thing, though I suspect fans of Cheetos actually want their snacks synthetic and unsubtle.  Not that there’s anything very natural-sounding in the Mucho Cheese: FD&C colorings Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6, and Red No. 40 (that’s the one with the bugs), loom large in the list of ingredients.  But hey, nobody ever looked at these things and thought they were going to be eating nature’s organic bounty.

At the same supermarket where I bought the Mucho Cheese, I also bought this bag of “premium salted dried fish.”  Open up the pack and they look like this:

Of course my Russian is even patchier that my Spanish, and largely limited to words such as agitprop and intelligentsia, food words like Beluga and samovar, and possibly beatnik, that last being mock-Russian, I suppose.  Anyway, there’s not much mistaking that this is a dried fish to be eaten with beer, though I gotta say that woman does not look like my idea of a Russian.  She looks pretty much like a St. Pauli Girl to me, who's German.

There’s printing in English on the back of the packet, listing the ingredients, which are needlefish and salt:  that’s it!   And yes they go great with beer, and I’m sure they’d go just as well with vodka.  But the best thing about them is that they’re translucent, and if you hold them up to the setting sun they look like x-rays!  Hell, they look like art!!! 

Ugosh'ajtyes'!” as I believe the Russian say: I think it means “Treat yourself.”

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