Mexican gastronomy is one of the most famous cuisines around the world, in fact, it was declared cultural heritage of humanity by the Unesco in 2010.
Of course, we are going to talk about food on this chapter, but we want to share with you the most intimate feeling between Mexicans and Food first.
It is not a coincidence that Mexican food is so tasty and flavory. Food in Mexico is so important that we keep inventing, innovating, and changing flavors; as part of our culture, our gastronomy also evolves every day, taking as a bases all the recipes transferred generation by generation.
However, Mexican gastronomy is not only food, is something else, something deeper and more powerful. The whole Mexican society is connected by food. Everywhere you are at any time, food is the main character.
In Mexican homes, the kitchen is the most common place for the family to gather around, before, during and after eating. All festivities have a particular dish, all regions have its own traditional dish and even families have their own secret recipes. The ritual of eating starts in the local market, that magic place where you can find the freshest fruit, vegetables, and meats; all locally growth and cut the same day you are buying them.
You start eating there, in the market, in Mexico is common to get samples from the vendors to prove that their fruit is the sweetest or their avocados the freshest. In between the shopping you can have breakfast in the middle of the market, you can choose from different options, all of them delicious. Barbacoa, Quesadillas, Menudo, Tlacoyos, Tacos just to name a few. After that, you go home and start cooking.
Let´s say it is a special celebration, then all the family is already in the Abulitos´s home. The kids are playing around and the adults sitting in the kitchen helping in the preparation of the feast. Everything surrounded by laughs and jokes the whole time. In this way, the family spent hours in the kitchen preparing everything together, some members chop, others cook, others just taste (steal food from the stove) and the Abulita is the boss, she says how, when and what. She knows everything and if she doesn’t remember, she has her recipe book made by hand and transferred from her mother with personal changes and new methods.
Thus, the festivity is the food preparation. Then when everything is ready and the table is set, the family enjoy the meal. But we almost forget to mention that our ritual cannot start if the whole family is not complete, because Mexican society is 100% family oriented and, when do you have the family together? You guessed it, during meals, therefore the table is not ready until all family members are there.
After the meal we have something we call “Sobremesa”, the literal translation would be “Over the table”, however there is no English world to translate this action. Sobremesa is the act of staying in the table after a meal. I remember when I was a kid that we, my siblings and my mother, enjoyed the sobremesa a lot. Sometimes we spent hours after lunch or dinner talking about anything. I remember that as a safety place to discuss ideas or theories that kids between 8 and 13 years old have.
During a festivity, the sobremesa is even longer, in my family we take the cards and start playing “Viuda”, this is a variant of poker that we have played with my father’s family since I have memory. Other families might just talk or maybe dance or playing dominos.
So, when we say we like sharing food, we are not talking about only food, we are talking about everything around it, the laughs, the stories and the atmosphere created after cooking and eating with our lovely family.
Now, talking particularly about food, the basis of the system is founded on corn, beans, and chili; Mexican food is mostly acid. I have not realized how much we like acidity until I watched the documentary “Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat” about Food. That acidity flavor is everywhere. All Mexican homes have key lemons and pepper (peppers are as acid as limes) no matter what. We add key lemon juice almost to everything, other ingredients in the Mexican cuisine are acid too.
This does not mean that everything is acid, but we like that balance between acidity, spiciness, and bitterness. Also, Mexican gastronomy is made of singular utensils including grinding stones and stone mortars. Native ingredients such as varieties of tomatoes, squashes, avocados, cocoa and vanilla augment the basic staples. Mexican cuisine is elaborate and symbol-laden, with everyday tortillas and tamales, both made of corn. Our knowledge and techniques express community identity, reinforce social bonds, and build stronger local, regional, and national identities. Those efforts in Mexico also underline the importance of traditional cuisine as a means of sustainable development.