This is a continuation of previous post.
I don’t think it is a generalization to say or think, most Americans exposure to Mexican food is limited to tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and enchiladas. Some have ventured a little more with pozole, carnitas, fish tacos and chiles rellanos.
My paternal roots are from Jalisco, the birthplace of mariachi, tequila and tortas ahogadas, pozole and birria. So, good food, tequila and mariachi music run through my veins, it’s in my DNA.
I recall I must have been about 12 years old, I was visiting my father in Guadalajara. I saw a man leading his donkey straddled with two rustic jugs on each side. Of course, I had to ask, “Papa, what does he have inside the jugs?” My Dad said, “pulque Mija, want to try it? I then said, “what is it?” By the time I knew it, I was tasting pulque. Pulque is made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant. I did not like the bitter milky taste. I scrunched my face! My Papa found my reaction, cute. Although, my family prepares a regional delicious dish named Bote, a stew made with beef, pork or chicken, with vegetables usually cooked in pulque and served in a thick sauce. I have never seen Bote anywhere else.
I wonder how many persons have had tongue, nopales, quelites, chapulines, cesos or buchis?
The best regional food came from “campestre” style restaurants. When visiting my Papa we would always gather at these restaurants. These are huge restaurants that seat hundreds, even thousands of people on Sundays for family dinners. Most cook in big open fire pits. My favorite food from these is birria. Birria is a pit-roasted version of goat or beef. I prefer the goat. It can be served wet (meat in a thick soup) or dry (with a consomme on the side). You also receive tortillas, refried beans, and some salsas. If you like, they’ll place a tequila bottle on your table. It will be marked where the previous table left off drinking, and you pay for how much you drink below the marked line.
How do you know if Mexican food is good? How do you measure or grade it. Typically it is based on what you were raised with, or many many years experience of cooking and eating. But, admittedly I am wary of the many non-Mexicans who have anointed themselves as ambassadors for Mexican food in the United States. I do not proclaim to be an expert, but it’s what I grew up with every day of my life for over 20 years. And once I left home, it didn’t stop there. I sought it out, I researched and studied it and I cook it. It runs deep in my blood! If you recommend a good Mexican restaurant to me, I need to know YOUR credentials! How do you know it’s good, what are you basing your answer on. Since I have been disappointed with most Mexican restaurant food. To the point, I rarely eat at Mexican restaurants any longer.
We all want to think our Mama’s were the best cooks. And you’re right, they were. I can honestly tell you my Mama could cook a mean meal, she was an excellent cook and not only Mexican food. Only other woman I can ever tell you matches up to her is my stepmother, Lupe. Who has an extensive repertoire of Mexican food. Which is kinda funny to me.
I recall having an acquaintance, whose favorite dish to prepare for her four children was to cook a pound of hamburger meat, add a cup or two of flour and water. She didn’t brown the flour, she didn’t add any spices, like onions or garlic. Nada! It was the nastiest play dough mixture with speckles of hamburger. Her kids seemed to like it! If that’s all you have, you will eat it with pleasure and love it.
I had posted this on a previous post.
Awhile back, Mi Corazon and I went into a surfer Mexican restaurant in Cambria. Which will remain unnamed. I ordered a chile verde burrito, which was in a red sauce with peas, diced carrots, potatoes and zucchini. I complained and said, ” I had gotten the wrong order. ” He responded that, ” I hadn’t.” That, that was their family recipe. Well no disrespect, “Mr. My Family’s Recipe!” If I add wieners to spaghetti, is it still spaghetti?”
Chile verde should be green! And, I have never had it with vegetables. Hamburger meat with vegetables is picadillio! If that’s what it is, then call it, what it is!
When I eat re-fried beans, I can tell if your manteca/grease was hot enough, I can taste it and I know my sisters are the same. Too much cumin in sopa de arroz and I want to eat it with a chapatis. All cooking is a dance of passion interwoven to a fine balance.
My Mama took such pride in serving her food, the placement of food on her dishes was important, also.
When my family slaughtered a pig, they made morcillo or moronga (blood sausage) and ate it on corn tortillas, I did not like it. I saw real carnitas made, which is truly an art. I also had the honor and pleasure of seeing birria made in a pit that cooked overnight. Now I hear that people make birria on the stove top. I have tasted it, it is good, just not the same. I grew up on pickled pigs feet. I recall as an adult having breaded pigs feet (not pickled). They were delicious, what a treat. Growing up we also ate tongue, tripas and menudo.
Needless to say, I will not be running to Taco Bell to taste their Doritos Locos tacos, anytime soon.