I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS SANDWICH

  1. This is a torta milanesa from Tortas Frontera, a sandwich kiosk with a few locations at O'Hare airport in Chicago.
  2. It's a Rick Bayless joint. The chicken is humanely raised, the peppers are pickled in-house, the breading is panko-adjacent. It costs $10. It's REALLY GOOD.
  3. But it's not the best torta milanesa in the world. The best requires a certain drunkenness, yellow streetlights, a little cash, a little confusion, a feeling of not knowing if the night is ending or beginning.
  4. It makes you think (if you're the kind of person who thinks about this kind of thing) (which I am) (for better or for worse) about the idea of authenticity, and what that means.
  5. Like: god, tortas are so great.
  6. Like: what does it mean that the tortas I most often eat are sold by a white guy at an airport in a city where I don't live.
  7. Like: I live in Brooklyn, a borough of tortas, in a neighborhood full of tortas.
  8. Like: why don't I buy tortas at home?
  9. But maybe the idea here is that Bayless is hoping that white people will eat his socially sanitized tortas in the safe space of an airport, and then go back to their homes and feel more comfortable buying tortas from their local Mexican-owned Mexican joint, to not feel married to the familiarity of tacos and burritos.
  10. Is that okay, though? Is it okay to translate & recontextualize & amplify? Can you ever really do that without slightly, just a little bit, or more than a little bit, taking ownership?
  11. Food is more than food. Food is identity and heritage and history.
  12. This is why food is so closely affiliated with the cliche of the grandma. Grandmas are identity and heritage and history.
  13. This torta tastes amazing. I've been eating it while I type this and seriously, god, it's so good.
  14. But food is more than how it tastes.
  15. Isn't it?
  16. Is it?
  17. My flight is boarding now. The sandwich still tastes great.
  18. Maybe I'll get another one from the bodega near my house, though. When I get home.