As a Latino/Native American, I’m used to having things stolen from me: civil rights, land, elections…but one of the most egregious acts of theft that stings the most is when local gabacho writers like Greg Elwell take my hard-fought ideas and words and repurpose them and repackage them not only as their own, but with a Christopher Columbus-esque mind-frame that makes it look like they are Northside explorers discovering some sort of minority-based New World that is ripe for the plundering.
Typically I ignore it and go on about my day—the creatively bankrupt gonna be creatively bankrupt—but last week I started receiving messages from numerous people telling me to pick up that latest copy of the Oklahoma Gazette. From close friends to area civil rights leaders, people were letting me know that something was rotten in the state of NW 36 and Shartel.
Picking up a copy while taking my mom for lunch at Phő Cuòng (that’s a future story idea Greg, please don’t cover it this month!), I noticed the cover: an adorably cute taco—one which comically resembles a Taco Bell taco and not a taqueria taco, natch—driving a Volkswagen Beetle (a Mexican taco would never drive that!) throughout a barren, rural landscape that in no way resembles Capitol Hill...
While I was mostly surprised at first that the Gazette wasn’t running a cover story that isn’t a “beer guide” of some sort, my second thought was that the very same paper that declared Iron Star to be the best BBQ in Oklahoma City is now going to tell us where the best taquerias on the Southside are just a couple of weeks after we did the same thing? No mames, guey!
I have spent most of culinary journalism career—and, if you look at my waistline, most of my actual life—seeking out those places where real people eat real food made by real people; places where my abuela could be cooking in the back; places where you go to eat and not be seen; places that the Gazette very often fears to tread…
Or at least they did before I started writing for The Lost Ogle; Patrick has practically given me carte blanche to explore every facet of Oklahoma epicureanism from Indian Taco Festivals to area strip club snack bars to Grandy's—a food writer’s absolute crème dream—and I understand how that would not only inspire a little bit of jealously in some cabróns who are bound by as many rules as alt-weekly writers are, but possibly even a modest modicum of cultural anger.
It kind of explains how Trump got elected.
Since writing for The Lost Ogle (and yes, even my other gig at Red Dirt Report) on the regular however, I have noticed—well, I won’t say I’ve noticed because I don’t read the Gazette, but many people who do have pointed out to me quite frequently—that as soon as I write about a local establishment that has barely, if ever, been written about locally before, somehow and someway a review of the same place ends up in the Gazette a month or two later, give or take.
That’s all well and good—I’ll play cultural diplomat and say there’s room for everyone to write about everything—but at the very least, have the common gringo decency to leave a little notation at the bottom that gives The Lost Ogle and Louis Fowler credit for, using the most floral of adjectives, “inspiring” your well-earned facsimile. Maybe even kick down a few of your leftovers my way—them SNAP benefits don’t always make it to the end of the month, son.