When Mexico’s leading writer, Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz, arrived in New Delhi in 1962 to take up his post as ambassador to India, he quickly ran across a culinary puzzle. Although Mexico and India were on opposite sides of the globe, the brown, spicy, aromatic curries that he was offered in India sparked memories of Mexico’s national dish, mole (pronounced MO-lay). Is mole, he wondered, “an ingenious Mexican version of curry, or is curry a Hindu adaptation of a Mexican sauce?” How could this seeming coincidence of “gastronomic geography” be explained? . . .
One of Mexico’s most famous dishes, mole poblano. Photo by Ignacio Urquiza with permission from SaudiAramco World
Some of my readers know my article “The Mexican Kitchen’s Islamic Connection.” If you don’t, you might enjoy reading about how Mexican cuisine is full of dishes like those of medieval Baghdad.
Some of the many ingredients in mole poblano. Photo Ignacio Urquiza with permission from SaudiAramco World
In another post, I will round up the links to further thoughts I have had on this issue, as well as talking about how I came to write this article in the first place.
Sorry, folks. I hit the publish on this before I meant to. In any case an interesting story in Slate. I’d actually put the beginnings of the Japanese move to wheat at the beginning of the twentieth century. That established the idea that wheat was good and strengthening, laying the foundations for the big increase in wheat eating following World War II.
How did Japan come to be a wheat-obsessed nation that needs gimmicks like the Gopan to eat rice disguised as wheat flour? The story of Japan’s conversion from rice to wheat involves a long, relentless campaign by the best propagandists in the business—the U.S. government, of course.
via Wheat in Japan: How the nation learned to love the American grain instead of rice. – Slate Magazine.
Linguists use the term loan words for terms borrowed from another language. Would this help clarify the discussion of what are popularly called “fusion cuisines?” The more I think about this term, the more it seems to me to obscure more than it clarifies. Cuisines are complex structures with culinary/social/political/aesthetic/economic/religious/health/even environmental goals, rules for achieving those goals, techniques (overlapping with rules), ingredients, raw materials, etc etc. Very rarely do two cuisines fuse, if by fuse we mean meld all those elements to make a new whole.
Much more often there is borrowing of bits and pieces. Could it not be argued that much of contemporary “fusion” cuisine actually involves only the borrowing of ingredients. Cooks use, say, Asian spices or condiments in dishes that remain Western in their basic structure.
And going back in history, would it not clarify discussions of events such as the Columbian exchange to distinguish exchange of cuisine (of which there was very little at least in the west-east direction), of technique (ditto), and of ingredients, that is stored or preserved or processed raw materials (ditto) and raw materials, that is plants and animals (of which there was a fair bit)? I’ve blogged about this before here and here.