Mayan ruin in Mexico

Mexican - Cooking and Food Edit

Overview of Mexican Cuisine HistoryEdit

Mexican meals consist mainly of sauces, stews and soups, and most recipes are prepared anywhere between a quick-fry to a slow roast. Mexico represents a melding of cultures: Spanish, French, Mediterranean influences are felt and combined into a mestizaje (mixing), as Mexicans defy their own cuisine. Almost every region has its own legends regarding food background. In Puebla, the legend says that some nuns were asked to prepare a dish for a dignitary visit. Because they were not sure what a stylish meal meant, the nuns innovated a mixture of herbs, chocolate and spices. This recipe is the base of mole, a thick sauce, used at the old royal feasts and highly popular nowadays.

The Mexican diet is based on some very specific aliments: beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies and exotic fruits. The most important aliment and the oldest one is the corn, as it has been consumed for over 4000 years. Corn is used for the famous tortillas, tacos, tamales and nachos and beans are prepared as kidney beans and fava (in soups or stews), served as refrito, or de la olla. The tomatoes are essential for the salsas and the dips, used for the fish meals or the beef ones. Chilies are used both dried and fresh and they are found in a wide range: chipotle, haberano, mulato, cascabel or serrano. The exotic fruits are used for garnishes, sauces or desserts: the coconuts, papayas, pineapples or bananas.

Corn, chilies, beans, tomatoes and fruit make up the Mexican diet. Corn is used for tortillas, which are usually used for tacos and tamales. Chilies, on the other hand, are used both fresh and dried. Mexicans prefer their food hot and flavorful thus, they use a variety of chilies in their dishes – jalapeno, serrano, guajillo, pasilla, ancho, poblano, habanero and mulato to name a few. Beans range from lentils to kidney beans and these are the usually used in many Mexican soups and stews. Of course, a truly Mexican salsa is never complete without tomatoes. Tomatoes, too, are used to make sauces for meat and fish dishes. Fresh mangoes, pineapples, papayas and coconuts are usually served for dessert. However, they are also used for sauces.

Long before Spain set foot on Mexican soil, corn was an important and revered crop by the Aztec Indians. It was the Aztec’s staple food and corn was eaten a number of ways – raw, roasted, boiled or made into corn meal. Tortilla, which comes from the Spanish word “torta” meaning “round cake”, was born when the Spanish brought grain with them and mixed it with corn. Similar to rice, corn tortillas are versatile – they can be eaten plain, with beans or meat, with sauces, and served hot or cold. Many Mexicans consider tortillas as an alternative to bread.

Mexico is abundant in exceptional and famous cuisine. Here are a few of them from selected Mexican regions:

  • Veracruz: Located near the sea, most cuisine in this area features fish. Any Veracruzana dish is topped with sauce made from tomatoes, capers and chilies. If you’re hankering for a taco or enchilada, you’ll find that if you get them here at Veracruz, they’d be stuffed with fish.
  • Yucatan: Had enough of chilies and hot food? This region is a place where they make sauces out of fruit flavored with oranges, cumin and garlic. Here, chicken or pork is baked wrapped in banana leaf and lathered generously with Yucateco sauce.
  • Puebla: This is where the first mole sauce was created. Mole is Mexico’s most popular sauce and consists of about 30 ingredients – from spices to herbs to chocolate. It is served over turkey and chicken.

Cuisines of MexicoEdit

Map of Mexico

Map of Mexico - Click to enlarge

There are 4 main regions in Mexican, which provide different types of meals or variations of aroma, texture and flavor of traditional Mexican meals: Puebla, Oaxaca, Yucatan and Veracruz, but also, a more general division is: Central Mexico, Southern Mexico and the Pacific coast. Puebla is situated not far from Mexico City and its cuisine it’s represented by the mole sauce that covers chicken, camotes desserts with potatoes and many pastries. Oaxaca is famous for the Oaxaqueno mole that also contains bananas, for a sweeter flavor. Yucatan has many sauces with fruits, spread over chicken, (pollo pibil), or pork (cochinita pibil). In Veracruz, like on all the Pacific coast, the main dish is fish, like the fish dish a la Vareacruzana, which is topped with a local sauce, made of tomatoes, olives and chilies. The best assortments for the fish are the fruits, especially the exotic ones: memey, guanabana or cherimoya. Generally, in central Mexico, there is a mixture of Spanish and Aztec cuisines: nuts, different spices, cocoa and seeds are very much used. In the south, peppers are mostly used dry, especially in stews and toppings. The best sauce for the seafood, famous on the Pacific coast, is the achiote sauce, which is also added to chicken or pork.

Mexican Food GlossaryEdit

Finding the ingredients for a Mexican Recipe is not so easy when you do not know the names of the ingredients. Take time to make a list of ingredients and the name they may be found under at the Local Markets.

Preparation Methods for Mexican Cooking Edit

The preparation of different local sauces, salsas and mixtures of spices and herbs requires time and technique. The technique refers to the cooking procedure: fresh or uncooked fruits, boiled veggies, mashed aliments for the dips, oil fried nachos and meat, chopped greens and cubed or minced meat. These are usually done separately, as the same meal includes a number of 3 or more cooking techniques, due to all the mixtures and combinations between aliments. There is the need for banana leafs, like in many other exotic cuisines: to prepare the chicken pollo pibil, or pork cochinita pibil, the meat is wrapped in a banana leaf and then cooked. Time is also a must when preparing a traditional Mexican meal and also, when making the Mexican coffee, which is left to rest for hours. Mexican dishes are served both cold and warm: the Coastal area, based on seafood, mostly has cold meals and in Central or southern Mexico, the bean based meals are served warm.

Special Equipment for Mexican Cooking Edit

Pottery and special equipments differ in color and ornaments from one Mexican region to another. In Puebla, there are some traditional beautiful potteries named azulejos; these are blue and white colored with tiles. In Oaxaca, the regional equipment is represented by the artesania, which includes hand crafted wooden figures and black pottery San Bartolomeo de Coatepec. Bowls are very much used, especially due to the dips, sauces and salsas. These are decorated with flowers and olive green motifs. The Mexican traditional plates are made of lead glazed ceramic and they are almost never plain white, as food must be appealing, besides tasty. The consumers use regular cutlery, but many traditional Mexican meals are eaten with the bare hand, like nachos and tortilla chips, which are individually dipped in salsas. The steel processing craft is popular in Mexico and traditionally, every knife should be shaped by hand to get the finest and sharpest aspect.

Mexican Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

In Mexico, people celebrate the dead ones in November in a celebration which is called Los Dias de los Muertos. The celebration refers especially to life and death and the spirits that return from the graves are served with ofertas, as altars are build and covered with food and decor.

On Christmas, there is a party on Christmas morning, called posada. On this occasion, piñata is offered, which contain prizes and candy. The traditional Mexican meal at the Christmas dinner is the cod with cholli gravy, cranberry-chili sauce with mashed potatoes, buttered veggies and turkey soup. Punch is also served on Christmas day, especially punch with marshmallows.

On traditional Mexican weddings, Mexicans eat breakfast at the bride’s home and after the reception, pinole (sweetened cornmeal) or rice are thrown on the newlyweds to keep the evil spirits far. Other Mexican celebrations include El Grito de Independencia (Independence Day) with the biggest Mexican fiesta (party) and Cinco de Mayo (fifth of May), which celebrates the Mexican victory at Puebla, when confronting the French army; today the celebrations was embraced by USA, too and it symbolizes freedom and liberty, so Mexicans have great family feasts on this day. Among the most traditional meals served on these special days, there are the sweet tamales, usually served at the end of Mexican-themed feasts.

People in Mexican Food Edit

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Mexicans eat the comida (lunch) and sena (dinner) and the middle day meal is the most important one. Since very old times, Mexicans considered food to be a ritual and they perceived food as more than something mandatory for the body. Food brings people together and family is very important in the Latin culture; food means gathering and sharing, values that Mexicans cherish. Many chefs have concentrated on this aspect of food, which has a deeper meaning. Patricia Quintana is a famous Mexican publisher, who has written a dozen books on Mexican cuisine, such as “Mexico’s Feasts of Life”. She considers that the Mexican people are trying very hard to preserve their traditional cuisine, by working with many ingredients and the stories behind them. The regional influences and ethnic heritage affected the Mexican cuisine and lifestyle of the people, too: European influences, like Spanish and French or Mediterranean ones are combined by the gifted cooks and transformed into authentic Mexican cuisine.

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