By Eloy Santa Cruz
Food is one of the most essential items a human being requires, next to clothing and shelter. In today’s day and age, food has become as diverse as the word itself. From eel to hotdogs and even goat brains, food has always been an outlet in which individuals are able to showcase their creativeness and provide a window into their cultural backgrounds. In many cases, making food is considered an art, and many use this art platform to fur fill their goals. Whether it’s to build a multi-million-dollar corporation or establish a mom and pop’s type of restaurant, the use of food to accomplish something has been done for generations. One accomplishment that seems to be present with any type of food is the ability to provide a cultural experience through the taste palettes.
From McDonald’s all-American burgers to Paulita’s Mexican mariachis, culture is always a component with any food. As a city located in a state known for its southern hospitality and barbecue, many Laredoans take very great pride in showcasing their culture by producing some of the best barbecue and burgers on this side of the border. Whenever plate sales or cookouts occur in Laredo, one of the staple dishes that is always present is carne asada. This type of cooking requires large amounts of seasoning, whether wet or dry, a sharp eye and an open fire. When all three of these factors come together, the end result is not only salivating mouths but one of the best ways to cook just about any cut of meat.
Unfortunately, whenever on TAMIU campus, the more common food items seen are sandwiches, pizza slices, and the occasional handheld snacks, such as granola bars and trail mix. Food that is mobile is preferred on a university campus with everybody having somewhere to go or something to do, but this shouldn’t deter the ability to provide hearty meals for those who want something different. This diversity in food has been a lagging problem present in TAMIU, especially within the lunchroom. Given, there is the occasional carne asada and hearty meals that are provided on TAMIU campus whenever an event occurs, but this shouldn’t be the only occasion in which TAMIU students are able to enjoy what many Laredoans consider comfort food.
With direction focused towards the lunchroom, a more diverse choice of what to eat would not only be enjoyed, but would also be beneficial. Those that attend TAMIU and are not natives of Laredo, or even Texas for that matter, begin to experience the diversity present on TAMIU campus the second they step foot onto the university. Through learning the slang and experiencing the weather, those who are new to Laredo always acknowledge two factors; Laredo is outrageously hot and carne asada is life (also, arrogant driving is considered aggressive driving). Of course, there are those who are unable to experience the food and therefore lack a view into the culture of Laredo through one bite. As Andrew Zimmerman once said, the best way to experience someone else’s culture is through their food, and that is exactly the reason why more variety should be available in the TAMIU lunchroom.
Of course, this isn’t an ill attempt to banish the greatly loved Chick-Fil-A sandwich or do away with meatball subs, but more of an eye opener to what Laredo, and the Hispanic culture, is all about. The possibility of locally owned restaurants providing TAMIU students with their food is not only attainable, but a pathway for more diversified options to become present in the lunchroom. This pathway would open the doors to other cultures being able to showcase their cooking abilities and therefore further establish why TAMIU is called an international university.
One option would be to have every week or month serve food from a different cultures and therefore provide excitement and anticipation to what each culture will serve. Another route would be to serve each culture’s food under one roof that would be possible through building expansion. Of course, either option, or any others, may take quite some time before they begin to mold into reality, but planting the seed is the most important part in blossoming a wider view of the human horizon in the form of an attainable item, and in this case food. One may listen to the explanations and stories of someone else’s culture, but can experience it better through food.