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MAR CITLALI

posted
in kitchens, down the block, unos a otros

film by
an + ev

Mar Citlali holds specific and detailed relationships to different mediums of expression, his approach to sharing food has varied sources of inspiration, fluidities, transparencies and pronounced philosophies. His pace and rhythm in the kitchen felt familiar in its confidence, comfort, but it isn’t lackadaisical. Watching him prep, cook, plate, the way Mar moves made us long dancing again. 

Periodically he points out his mom’s voice, muffled in his mixes, he says she’s never had his recontextualization of her Pozole,

“mostly because she likes to make the food when I’m around, not me.”

She makes Mexican food when she feels proud, Mar tells us, and he feels joy in filling his home with the same aromas – semblances of his childhood. He loves his mom’s particularity in taste, a decision in time effective brand use, enlatada enchilada sauce basing her Pozole. It’s not a flavor that thickens, it finds a way to be light once out the can but immediately sets, rich. Traditions shift realizing we culturally pivot creatively out of necessity. 

An expansive palette, or good taste, or personable charm or innovative methods or whatever words are given when work is given its due praise. With new piquancies, the basis of his menus is that “homestyle mexican-american multigenerational convenience capitalist shit.“ 

With most of his family from South Central, Mar came back to Los Angeles at 19 and grew up in Victorville most of his young life. Living in Los Angeles again is special to him. Mar has always cooked but first stepped into the industry in the back of the house at a Vietnamese restaurant, with a few places in between and at Rose Bakery at Dover Street Market, until recently. Mar knows he’s an artist, an art maker.

“Emerging”, “up and rising”, “discovered”, it feels wrong to give these misnomers to an artist immersed in a legacy of practice. Who qualifies emerging? It is in that language, Pozole may not be considered cuisine until “validated” by exotified flavors, so it too might be discovered or made relevant (however many centuries later). The presence of the pineapple vinegar curtido and pipicha only amplifies this food as an extension of a pallet shared through generations. 

Mar’s capsule and menu’d dinners show an interconnectedness with central american, sichuan and vietnamese aspects that happen sincerely, maybe because he’s magnetized to pungencies he finds in the food from the kitchens he’s worked in, Macarthur Park on a weekend or Mexicali where his grandmother now lives. Mar describes a threshold he’s allowed to push depending on the space, but his ideology doesn’t change. He’s excited to be challenged with co-creating ecosystems of exchange, adaptively.

Mar uses participatory language when he speaks,  in his words and interactions; there doesn’t seem to be a finite line between the two. There’s an intentional and living conversation between Mar’s approach to the flavors, abundance of his dishes and the people eating them. In his friends’ kitchens, hopefully one day his own, in the back of his Yukon, open trunk, fold out table with housed and unhoused neighbors. It quiets the nostalgia we hold for a functioning industry, at times briefly allowing us to forget it ever existed. 

A produce packing warehouse once lived where DSM now stands, Mar mentioned. It feels like an important fact when considering proximity and its reality. 

“LA is crazy” a neighbor agrees as we pack Pozole, the different extremities of money and wealth existing visibly within blocks of each other.

He’s vocal in the way people are conditioned to maneuver through and around small, private, public, and commercial statuses, for upward mobility but he is not negligent of himself as a resource to those around him. In the many trials of resource sharing popping up there is an innate feeling to donate or work, but effectively redistributing is being acute to cracks. Pull from them. Identifying as a skill. As some deepen into realities of what it takes for efforts to last, note that redistribution as a trending curation is inadequate. Mar feeds people, on and off the clock. There is no anticipation of sharing food or knowing how to. Not anyone will pull up with food to their block on a Sunday and not everyone should. Part of Mar’s approach to sharing food is asking for help by meeting people where they’re at when he knows people want to participate. 

It was hot all day. A layer of smoke, Mar’s broth was light and warm, coating throats, complemented by the freshness of the Agua de Melon. 

In an exchange, mouthfulled, someone said “the glory is the sky!”

Does the public yearn for healthy industries at the expense of communities curb your appetite? Does it parallel the gustoral experience of cumin in crema, a protrusive sharpness on blank background? Flirting more with the identity of dessert than side, Mar would describe cumin as it appears, that 

tempered grip of cloying flavors. 

Food maintains its own position as an influence and informant. We wish to explore the nuances of chefs in the context of their own worlds, flavors, styles and communities while also navigating the world of cuisine during a time of world crisis’. Mar, in many ways, speaks to and often revolves around amor, identity and modulating honest transactions. 

Back in January [2020] we partook in indulging sequences of eating and ideation, meals that had us thinking about friends and artists, their approach to cooking without an official title, allure to distinct ingredients, presentation of dishes, and real curiosity of knowing who’s in front and behind them. Initially it was a specific mimicry of opulence in eating that we first reacted to. The curiosity of how the eater, the cook and the plate lived in our projections of luxury; a mulling of labor and artistry in cooking, outside and inbetween industries (sometimes in spite of them). Where artist constructs environment and honors the relationship to them in order to reimagine ways we eat. It’s now October and we are navigating the world of cuisine during a time of world crisis, ie: pandemic, disasters, fracasos. This all tastes different now, well intentioned visceralities of plated dishes and artists' stakes carried realities more than being precepts of old attachments, we’re excited they’re more than that, they are actually just new.