The Price of Tacos

Rob Tibbetts said something quite remarkable during his eulogy for his daughter, Mollie, whose body was discovered in an Iowa cornfield last week. Instead of the quiet, seething rage one might expect from a Midwesterner whose daughter was murdered and quite possibly raped by an illegal alien, Tibbetts instead expressed not just tolerance, but celebration of the immigrant community of which his daughter’s killer was a part.

“The Hispanic community are Iowans,” Tibbetts said. “They have the same values as Iowans . . . As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”

While some might see Christian forgiveness and magnanimity in these sentiments, his comments strike me as bizarre. I see a suicidal philosophy, one that prioritizes virtue signaling against intolerance, when the most natural thing on earth would be fury at the man who killed your daughter, the lax law enforcement that allowed him to be in the country, and the imported machismo culture that has spawned horrifying levels of violence against women in places like Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and, now, Brooklyn, Iowa.

For Love of Food
A love of exotic food figures prominently among defenders of mass immigration. David Sax wrote in the New Yorker, “Adventurous taste buds don’t happen without immigrants and their knowledge of cuts of meat, pickling spices, and the delicious combinations thereof. Cuisine flourishes by feeding other immigrants, creating mini economies of restaurants, suppliers, and specialties in communities. The more immigrants, the better the food.”

Whether it’s Los Angeles Sushi, Washington D.C.’s famous Ethiopian restaurants, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, or the ubiquitous Mexican joints in every city in America, immigration undoubtedly has done much to diversify and, in some measures, improve the culinary habits of Americans, particularly in large, cosmopolitan cities. All this food tastes great. I know, I’ve tried it all. But, whether for countries or individuals, are these pleasures worth the cost of losing your soul?

There is a great deal of sophistry in the claim that a diet worth eating hinges upon massive immigration from the most alien cultures on earth. Americans ate before the 1965 immigration expansion, and we will eat again after it. Things will change, but none of these pleasures are the stuff of survival.

Indeed, even culinary diversity does not really depend on immigration. Native-born Americans are capable of eating, appreciating, cooking, and peddling the food of others. Julia Child did a great deal to elevate American cooking by popularizing high-brow, continental cuisine. Certain foods have become popular worldwide simply because they’re good: Italian, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, and Sushi. These can be found even in places with few ethnic Mexicans, Chinese, or Japanese. Other foods—bland Irish stews, Lithuanian Zeppelini, Nigerian bushmeat—have not caught on, even where a great number of such people may be found.

The inherent possibilities of a cuisine, as well as the interest of professionals in improving it, seems to have at least as much to do with its availability, as does the continuous importation of immigrants. Here at home, for example, there has been relative stagnation in Thai cuisine, and this stems in part from the standardization efforts undertaken by the Thai government. At the same time, there has been continuous improvement of Italian cuisine, even though there has not been large scale Italian immigration in over 100 years. In other words, you don’t need millions of immigrants when you can read a cookbook and have the skills to cook.

All the talk of fostering a spiritual experience by exposing our palates to diverse foods is cover for the main driver of the food industry’s immigration enthusiasm: immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, are a continuous source of low wage labor for restaurants, whose presence increases profits and lowers prices. As the late Anthony Bourdain observed, “As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers.”

Does this enhance the diversity of cuisine? Or does it simply mean Americans won’t work in restaurants when low pay, intolerable conditions, and the need to know Spanish are de facto requirements, even when the restaurant is “Japanese” or whatever?

Coastal Bobo Elites Particularly Value the Exotic
David Brooks wrote about this very serious concern with one’s tastes, including one’s literal taste in food, in his cheeky best-seller about the emerging elite of bourgeois bohemians, Bobos in Paradise.

The rise of exotic food tracks the coastal elites’ more general cosmopolitanism, as reflected by more international travel, smaller families, and relative indifference to traditional religion. In spite of the massive influx of newcomers and their symbiotic relationship with adventurous Bobo foodies, outside the coasts eating habits remain traditional, unhealthy even. While you might find a cool Afghan joint or Moroccan cuisine in a large, coastal city, a night at Applebee’s or Pizza Hut still qualifies as a big night out in Trump country.

It seems very little can unite a nation where, in exchange for having available every type of cuisine, one feels all the unity of an international airport lounge while strolling through our largest cities. Like loud music and other forms of sensory overload, a kaleidoscope world, where massive numbers of newcomers are required to sustain the quest of constant stimulation, does not seem particularly stable. After all, each of these immigrant groups, the constituent vectors of diversity, emerged from some monoculture or another, where local conditions, regional flora and fauna, coupled with deliberate separation from others over periods of hundreds of years, contributed to the creation of these exotic cultures and cuisine. Even America, while almost exclusively European and heavily English, itself developed regional cuisines, cultures, modes of speech, dress, and, yes, food.

Food is necessity for life. The rituals and contents of food are a core part of culture. The traditional American culture was a WASP culture, and in that regard it was concerned with self-restraint above all; its food reflected that concern with avoiding excess and excitement. The modern, cosmopolitan, and diverse urban dweller, by contrast, is concerned above all with new, intense, and educated sensuality.

In this sense, the cosmopolitan is not merely pretentious, but he is also base and self-destructive. As the great C.S. Lewis wrote, “There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.” In other words, we should be more concerned with the ways the centrifugal forces unleashed by mass immigration have altered our economy, our culture, and our family life, than we should lament the possibility that we won’t get to eat monkey brains or bird’s nest soup.

Gluttony Is a Deadly Sin for Individuals and Nations, Too
When we think of sin, sex figures most prominently, and perhaps appropriately so. But for Christians past, others loomed large as potential obstacles: wrath, envy, and, most relevant here, gluttony.

Gluttony is an inordinate attachment to food, a failure to put a necessary and good thing in its proper place and under the dominion of reason. Wikipedia’s entry on Dante’s Inferno contained a surprisingly elegant summation of his third level of hell devoted to gluttony: “The gluttons grovel in the mud by themselves, sightless and heedless of their neighbors, symbolizing the cold, selfish, and empty sensuality of their lives.”

This is a perfect metaphor for cosmopolitan globalism and its inordinate love of food. It is ever changing, ever stimulated, never settled, divorced from connection to a people and its common destiny. Indeed, it rejects that a nation like ours can even contain a single people with common songs, heroes, language, history, as well as, cuisine.

But we once had these things. And that America of hot dogs, soda fountains, New England clam chowder, Buffalo wings, barbecue brisket, cornbread, and chicken-fried steak still exists. It was the America Mollie Tibbetts grew up in and perhaps imagined herself to be living in still, right until she learned it had become something entirely more sinister and foreign.

Photo Credit: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

About Christopher Roach

Christopher Roach is an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, The Journal of Property Rights in Transition, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.

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