Ethical Embodied Experience: Belonging through Tex-Mex Vegan Food
In this thesis I explored how belonging is experienced in the commercial production and consumption of plant-based Tex-Mex food in South Texas, a region and cuisine largely associated with animal-based food traditions. Through multi-sensory ethnography, semi-structured interviews, and autoethnography I examined the experience of food actualized through all sensory avenues in two Tex-Mex vegan restaurants in San Antonio. Participants included both the producers and consumers of vegan Tex-Mex food. Interviews and observations paid close attention to senses including sight, taste, smell, texture, and sound. Chefs, kitchen staff, and consumers in plant-based Tex-Mex restaurants: 1) intentionally elicited a multilayered sense of belonging to place and community through food; 2) validated their sense of belonging through multiple senses, including taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound; and 3) justified the omission of animal products in the food in terms of community-related health, animal rights, and environmental concerns.