Thursday, October 14, 2010

FSF: Food, Space, and Feelings

Last week a friend and I decided to go La Cascada for lunch for their 50 percent burrito Wednesday. In waiting for our order, I began to really pay attention to the surrounding area of the restaurant. Nostalgic murals depicted what is assumed to set in Mexico open markets, rolling hills, women dressed in traditional Mexican garb. The smells of herbs, peppers, and grilling illuminating from the kitchen, bring a sense of old fashion, homemade. Bright splashes of reds, yellows, oranges, pinks, and greens decorate the walls to draw your eyes to the beauty of home. The figures depicted in the place even speak to the traditional concepts of family and unity. The sitting arrangement encourages togetherness I have never been to any country in Latin America or Spain but it the space in which La Cascada creates makes me feel like I am eating the foods straight from that country. It makes me wonder what the Latino/Mexican music I hear in the background is about and I wonder whose family recipe was used to prepare my salsa. The wanting to know more about where this place that is manifested here in this restaurant really is and what is like.
In stark contrast to “home country authentic” feeling I receive from dining at La Cascada, dining at Chipotle is entirely different. Serving relatively the same menu of burritos and tacos filled with meat, rice, beans, peppers, cheese, salsa, and or course guacamole or sour cream, Chipotle does not make me feel like I’m in a space of authenticity. I feel like I’m dining at a local McDonalds. Tell them your order and processed down line. Fancy modern furniture made of bleach wood and shiny sterling silver and steel glare. Solid red walls with few abstract pictures hanging and the sounds of the hustle and bustle. Eating there I am in a space I fully understand and recognize. The space is very much embedded in mainstream, popular fast food culture. Clean cut, simple, well known, and cheap; pretty much what I come to understand as my generational culture in terms of food places. Despite the specific culture the food served, I lack the curiosity of the where the traditions of this food preparation came from. Maybe because it is a part of what I know and feel that I do not have to further understand in any more depth. It is what it is.
Interestingly enough the name, Chipotle seeks more Latin than La Cascada. Perhaps this is a marketing ploy to consumers from every culture. Chipotle sounds sexier, spicier, younger, and more exotic than La Cascada which sounds older, wiser, and more traditional. Maybe to someone who is more familiar with Latino/Mexican cultures would argue neither of them, but since I can remember the things that stand out the most are the “excessive extras”. I am not sure if these differences in settings were designed to draw in certain customers or if that is just what the owners wanted, but it definitely has an effect on customer experience. Not to say that any one space is better than the other both equally have an experience that someone can enjoy, dislike, or ignore completely. Prior to today I had never really thought about the places I eat and how they make me feel. I just eat because it taste good, but I can’t escape the idea that I eat at particular rather than others because I like how the setting speaks to me and how it makes me feel.

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