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Diversifying your palette, one tamale at a time


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Tamales, cookbooks, and healthy rural Mexican diets were the topics of the day as Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel, co-authors of a vegetable focused Chicano-Latino cookbook called “Decolonize Your Diet” spoke at De Anza college on Jan. 12.

The event was a collaborative effort between various campus groups and student clubs, according to Juan Antonio Gamboa Jr., professor of Chicano Latino studies in the intercultural studies Division at De Anza.

According to Dianna Argabrite, Director of the Euphrat, the presenters and dishes were sponsored and co-organized by the Euphrat Museum.

Audience members were interested in learning more about the book and how they could decolonize their diet, or eat a more Mesoamerican and natural diet.

“The Mexican diet that we’re advocating is actually the Mexican rural diet,” Calvo said. “If you go to Mexican markets, and I often do, I’m always checking out what people are buying. I see people buying a lot of vegetables and fruits, and smaller amounts
of meat.”

After the presentation event organizer Juan Gamboa Jr. said, “‘Decolonize Your Diet’ is a landmark book, the first book where we talked about diet health and nutrition from a Chicano-Latino perspective.”

Tamales, an example of a vegetable-based, meatless food option was on display at the followup meal hosted in the Euphrat building. Gamboa called them “energy bars.”

The students found the tamales tasty.

Carolina Flores, 18, child development major said, “The black bean and jalapeno tamales were really good.”

Daniella Garcia, 19, said the tamales were “hella good.”

“I’ve had some like this in Mexico,” she said.

The book also served as an answer to a serious health problem for Gamboa.

When he was 21, he came down with an autoimmune disease, resulting in a complete lifestyle change because there was no cure.

To cope, he turned to his family and other books for help. When Gamboa found out about “Decolonize your Diet,” he was taken by the connection the recipes had to his culture and family.

Esquibel, professor of race and resistance studies at San Francisco State and co-author of the book, said the title implies a less Eurocentric view of healthy food.

“When the mainstream food industry talks about eating healthy they’ll often say eat like the Italians or Greeks,” Esquibel said. “There’s a way in which everything we’re taught in university emphasizes Greek and Roman civilization.”

“We’re trying to say the traditional diet of Americans, Central Americans, the indigenous diet, is inherently healthy and at least as healthy as the Mediterranean diet,” Esquibel said.

To summarize the book’s purpose, Calvo said, “We’re calling on people to decolonize their diets as a way of taking back control over their bodies and their communities, to grow food when they can, to always cook with whole fresh ingredients, to not buy food in boxes and packages and to eat the food that their parents and their grandparents ate.”

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