Tag Archives: Mexican

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Notes and Queries: Dishwasher (Human), Anglo-Saxon Spelt, Shave Ice, Plantain Recipes, Cricket Flour, and San Pascual.

 

Local, dishwasher, anger, containers, hands and more essays by Peter Hertzmann.  Fresh ideas, tight writing, three cheers and more. Enjoy the rest of his site too.

When the Romans left Britain, did the Anglo-Saxons reject spelt wheat in favor of bread wheat, beer in favor of bread?  Or was it archeologists’ methods and assumptions that created this impression?

“If I look at [shave ice]  through one side of the prism, I see the tourist economy and militarization of Hawaii,” [says Hi’i Hobart] “But if I look at another side, I’m a kid in Hawaii walking from the beach to get my shave ice, which is this beautiful delicious thing.” Kim Severson gets a crash course in the complexities of shave ice. And congratulations to Dr. Hobart, who’s pulled of the NYTimes and a special issue of Food Culture and Society on Hawaii as well as a Ph.D. this summer.

Plantains still haven’t really made it to the American table even though they are one of the world’s most important food crops. Erica Dinho of My Colombian Recipes has twenty recipes for plantains from snacks (chips) and soup, through main dishes (wrapped, stuffed, baked, in casserole), as vegetable, as arepas, and as a dessert with syrup, with guava and cheese, or in a cake. Tempted?

And while we are on foods coming to the American table, the retail price of cricket flour (as in insect) averages $40 a pound.  So unless cricket farming takes off in a big way, cricket crackers look like remaining a luxury. (Lots of good links to insects as food here by the way).

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Anonymous 20th-century ex-voto, oil on metal. Natalia Cabarga.

 

“My husband retired and to occupy himself he started cooking and he cooked dreadfully and gave us all stomach upsets. I was frightened he would poison us. At last he got bored of cooking and took up gardening, thanks to blessed San Pascual. ” From a twentieth century ex-voto (offering, in this case a painting, in fulfillment of a vow) to San Pascual Bailón (spelling varies), the patron saint of the kitchen.  The story of San San Pascual Baylón from colonial times to modern ex-votos by art historian Natalia Cabarga.  Even if you can’t read Spanish, enjoy the images.

 

Molli Chamoy Sauce

Molli Chamoy Sauce: Go Figure

 

Molli Chamoy Sauce

Sometimes in a recipe, or a menu, or a store, I run across something that makes me chuckle with glee because it is so telling.

That happened last week when I was shopping in Central Market, one of the upscale groceries of the Texas-based chain, HEB.

There sitting on the top shelf in front of me was a small jar of chamoy sauce produced by a company called Molli, though as you can see the label has two little dots over the ‘o’.

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Dining with the Dead

Every year I enjoy the Day of the Dead but can’t help feeling slightly tetchy about some of the widely-held assumptions about it.

The day after the Day of the Dead in Santa Ana in the foothills of the Sierra de Guanajuato, Mexico

The people gone, the food finished, just the flowers remain the day after the Day of the Dead in Santa Ana in the foothills of the Sierra de Guanajuato, Mexico

I have very happy memories of families going to the graveyard with their flowers and their food in rural towns in Mexico.

The custom, however, is not universally Mexican.  There are many groups at different social levels who do not celebrate the Day of the Dead, though more do every year.

For example, the apartment complex where we lived for several years in Mexico City always had a splendiferous altar at the security guards’ entry cabin. “Of course,” said Jorge Hernández, the security guard responsible, “we never celebrated the Day of the Dead in my part of the country. I didn’t learn about it until I came to Mexico City.”  But he was a dab hand at creating wonderful decorations from trash he collected around the buildings (Christmas was good too) and besides it livened up the tedium of raising and lowering the security bar hour after hour as people came and went.

Jorge Hernandez's Day of Dead Nov 4, 2011 1-33

Jorge Hernandez’s display for Day of the Dead, Mexico City, 2011. The main altar is facing left on the front of the security guards’ caseta. I’ve photographed it from this angle to show the location.

Nor is the custom of celebrating the dead with food in cemeteries exclusively Mexican as I am sure many of you know.

In Hawaii, where I lived for ten years, the American Japanese took food and drink (soda, beer, whiskey or sake depending on the taste of the deceased) to the tomb.

Mochi, nuts, fruit, and cup of sake on a grave in a cemetery on Nuuanu Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The American Chinese celebrated Ching Ming in May, flooding into the graveyards with firecrackers, paper money, and whole roast pigs.

A pig for the ancestors on the festival of Ching Ming in Manoa Valley, Honolulu, Hawaii

A roast pig (snout facing forward) for the ancestors on the festival of Ching Ming in Manoa Valley, Honolulu, Hawaii. Families picnicking in the background.

And in Britain and the United States in the late nineteenth century, cemeteries were created on the outskirts of towns with the idea that they would be parks as well as graveyards.

A gathering at Columbia Cemetery in Boulder in the late 1800s. (Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder Historical Society Collection / Courtesy Photo)

A gathering at Columbia Cemetery in Boulder in the late 1800s. (Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder Historical Society Collection / Courtesy Photo)

My mother, whose father died in the flu epidemic of 1918, happily reminisced about how her mother would pack a picnic and they would go off to spend an afternoon cleaning the grave, putting in new plants, and chatting to neighbors as they nibbled on their sandwiches and drank lemonade.

Teffont Church

View of Teffont Evias Church from the cemetery.  Although largely hidden by the angle from which the photograph is taken, the stream is just visible at the foot of the churchyard wall.

So if Mexicans have a “special relationship with death” as is often said, it’s not enough to just point to a day when families visit gravesites and remember the dead, often with food and flowers.  And it’s even less adequate to assume that this flows from some assumed national character.

If this is a subject that interests you, Death and the Idea of Mexico by the distinguished Mexican anthropologist and Columbia Professor, Claudio Lomnitz, is a wonderful read.  He offers a fascinating, nuanced account of the changing links between the state, nationalism, and death over the course of Mexican history.  And it makes you think about how such links work out in other nations.

Meantime, although I am no believer in the after life, I do think it is appropriate to remember the dead. So perhaps next time I am in England I will pack the sardine sandwiches, potato chips, and hard cider that we ate on outings with my parents.  And I will sit between their gravestones on the steep slope overlooking the stream that runs through the village and the footbridge that leads to the church.

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While I’m at it, here’s a post on the likely early-twentieth century Spanish origins of pan de muerto.

And another on the golden fruit tejocote that ripens around the Day of the Dead.

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