Casa de Colores School of Traditional Mexican Cooking

A Unique Culinary Adventure in Cabo

Cooking With the Angels: Diana Kennedy

I feel truly blessed not to believe in death as an ending. To be sure, we always miss our beloved departed souls’ physical forms, but it comforts me to no end to believe that they have passed into dimensions to which we currently have no access but which are no less real, and certainly a great deal more astounding than our comforting four dimensional reality. One day we shall all join the party.

Still I learned of the passing of the legendary Diana Kennedy at age 99 with a certain sadness, and even regret that I never managed to meet her in the flesh, the same regret I felt when the equally legendary Julia Child went to that great test kitchen in the sky.

And here I include a photo of another much loved and legendary cook from Manuel’s home region, the Lower Mixtec in the northern part of Oaxaca. This is Doña Fili, taken in her kitchen workshop not long before her passing. She was a great Oaxacan cook and the foremost expert on the local homemade, whole grain, stone ground giant paper thin nixtamal travel bread, the totopo, nothing to do with the stale fried chips you might find plunked onto your table with a bowl of mediocre salsa. But that’s another story.

And I begin my message with these three amazing cooks foremost in my third eye, with which I hope to channel them as I continue my own culinary quest in my beloved Mexico.

Diana Kennedy survived WWII, fell in love with Mexico in the late 50s, established herself in Michoacan in 1980 and through all these years she traveled and traversed Mexico in all kinds of transport from burro to four wheel in order to arrive in the remotest corners in order to sit with families, taking copious notes on whatever it was they were having for dinner, which she eventually translated into around nine intensive tomes in vivid detail based on what she called “proper reporting contextualizing recipes”. Proper meant a lot to Diana Kennedy. She was British. She always credited the cooks who were her source.

I am blessed to have a copy of Diana’s amazing and comprehensive book, Oaxaca al Gusto, with a full chapter dedicated to Manuel’s home town, Tezoatlan, well known for its fine cooks. The chapter features a picture of Doña Fili in her workshop making totopos, and of her work-worn brown hand from 30 years prior, across which she scrawled an autograph for me on one memorable visit.

Diana would deny the comparison of herself with Julia Child, but I always describe her that way to those who come to cook with me. She was the Julia Child of Mexico, and she made traditional Mexican cooking accessible to the modern OTM (Other Than Mexican) cook, just as Julia did with Cordon Bleu. They were both culinary goddesses, and we can worship them through our every day cooking.

When she was 96 Julia loaded up her personal archives of antique Mexican cookbooks and envelopes stuffed with her notes and menus painstakingly categorized by year and Mexican State. With the help of trusted friends she traveled by car the 800 arduous miles from Michoacan to San Antonio, Texas, where she saw the collection installed at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where it will remain accessible to the public. Complaining nonstop about the bad road food and her artificial hips she returned to Michoacan where she continued to live the life of what I have heard described as an “obsessive pop anthropologist”.

The archives include her correspondence with Julia Child.

She will be much remembered and greatly missed.

My love to all of you out there COOKING MEXICAN!

Donna

KEY LIME CURD

Warm Cabo greetings to all of you out there cooking in our crazy new world! Here I am, still cooking and blessed to have brave, fully vaccinated hard core foodies still making their way to my kitchen. In good times and bad, food keeps us together, gives us strength and joy and warms us from the inside out.

As always I ask your patience and understanding for sticking around even though I am admittedly the world’s worst blogger! I have been away so long I can’t even figure out how the heck to add a photo, WordPress has gone all high tech!! Just know that I am here, thinking of all of you who mean so much to me, and as always, cooking. I want to share a comfort recipe that is a staple for me–we always need just a little sweetness, particularly these days, and this really does the trick. Let’s whomp up a batch of Key Lime Curd!

I love its sweet buttery tartness, its texture, its durable nature (it keeps nicely for a week or two in the fridge, though it doesn’t tend to last that long). Versatile! Eat it straight from the spoon, or put a dollop on a bed of simple wafer cookie crumbs like the Maria wafer of Mexico fried golden in butter, in a pretty teacup… If you can work up some whipped cream, so much the better. Garnish it with extra buttery cookie crumbs, even if it’s just you.

Of course you can always throw together a good crumb crust, preferably made with chocolate wafer cookies, add the curd, pile on the whipped cream and microplane some lime zest on top and wow your people every time!

And so simple. Get a bunch of Mexican key limes, the little guys rather than the bigger seedless Persians have the true flavor of Mexico. Squeeze 1/2 cup plus as much zest as you like, avoiding the bitter white pith. Mexican lime squeezers are made for the job, pick one up on your next trip south of the border!

In a saucepan, mix the juice and zest with 1/2 cup of good sugar (Mexican preferably), melting the sugar over medium heat. Beat four beautiful large eggs and temper them by adding your hot mixture little at a time while whisking frantically to avoid the lemony scrambled egg syndrome, then return all to the saucepan and continue whisking frantically over medium heat to avoid burning the bottom until bubbles just begin to form. The curd will begin to thicken at this point and take on a beautiful glossy golden color. Even though it is lime curd it will be yellow due to the yolks of the beautiful eggs, and some cooks like to add a teensy bit of green coloring for the fun factor. Turn off the heat, cut a stick of good butter, either salted or not as you like, into the hot mixture and continue to whisk until melted, combined and silky.

I really like to run this through a sieve to catch any stray eggy bits, as you get extra points for truly velvet texture. When it’s completely cooled, store in a glass canning jar and start making plans to have your way with it!

My love and thoughts go to all of you our there cooking Mexican, some of you stuck in place like my beloved Frequent Fryer Rohan, dedicatedly cooking traditional Mexican in Queensland, his corn tortillas perfectly puffing on his comal over wood fire… He is chomping at the bit to get back to Mexico to continue his personal investigation of traditional Mexican food and culture. !Mi heroe!

Muchos saludos a todos, y !buen provecho!

Donna

MANUEL

There never was a more dedicated traditional Mexican foodie than my beloved partner, and it now falls upon me to dedicate this post, and indeed this blog, with deepest love and admiration to Manuel Luna. In August of the trying year of 2020 he went up a ladder to trim a palm, fell and passed away from a fatal head wound the same day. My life and my kitchen will never be the same.

We had the privilege of cooking together with so many of you for 13 years, during which time we traveled and ate our way through southern Mexico and several Latin American countries, never missing a market or hole in the wall food stall that presented itself. There was never a better guide to Mexico City, Oaxaca and the south of our amazing country generally than Manuel, who preferred to walk so as never to miss a detail, and who loved nothing more than sharing his passion for Mexican food and culture with others.

He left me abundantly blessed with a highly food focused Oaxacan family, and my plan is to continue walking Mexico City and southern Mexico along with the rest of the country and more of Latin America, always with his memory present, always exploring and collecting recipes from traditional cooks to continue sharing with you all here in our Cabo kitchen.

Please know how much the time he spent with all of you meant to Manuel, and how you enriched his life. Let us all keep cooking and eating MEXICAN, as he would have us do!

Be well, all of you, take care and let us hope to cook together again soon!

¡Buen provecho!

Donna

CHILEAJO

¡Muchos saludos a todos!

We send warm Mexican greetings to all, and hope you are well and safe as things get rolling once again.  Presuming most everyone is still at home cooking, I figure I may as well throw another Mexican classic recipe at you all.

The epicenter of Mexico’s World Heritage cuisine is, of course, Oaxaca and my guy Manuel is, of course, Oaxacan.  It has been my privilege and delight to spend the last several years cooking and eating with Manuel and his very foodie tribe, spending time with them in their hometown in the Lower Mixtec region in the northern part of the state, which is justly fabled for its fine cooks.

When Diana Kennedy produced her epic tome, OAXACA AL GUSTO, she crawled through the entire state collecting recipes and amazing photos to inspire good cooks to do the same, and she spent considerable time in Manuel’s home town, Tezoatlan de Segura y Luna.  One of the first things you learn about the Mixtec when you spend any time there is that EVERYONE eats Chileajo.  Chileajo, chile-garlic sauce, is the national dish of the Mixtec, and their beloved every day mole.  Everyone makes Chileajo at home, and if they go out to one of the few restaurants in the area, they will surely be offered Chileajo and, if not, they are likely to be shocked at the omission.

Chileajo is inevitably included as an integral part of any marryin’s and buryin’s in the area.  When Manuel’s Tia Cata passed, they made Chileajo.  When his sister Marta sadly passed a couple of years back, his sister Mirna, an especially fine Oaxacan cook, whomped up a huge vat of Chileajo and transported it to Mexico City where attendees from all around the country at first eyed it with suspicion, but after just one taste quickly disappeared the Chileajo!  Luckily Manuel foresaw this conclusion and served himself generously before the crowd closed in.  Clever Oaxacan diner.

So here we are hunkering down with the Tecatevirus, as it is known in Mexico, and what do we have to do but cook?  So what does Manuel choose to cook, but his most loved comfort food,

CHILEAJO

Chile-Garlic Sauce from Oaxaca’s Mixtec Region

2 lbs. pork, half ribs or riblets and half pork leg, cut into stew sized chunks

Cover the meat with cold water in a saucepan, adding a chunk of white onion and a garlic clove cut in half, along with a tablespoon of sea salt. A whole allspice berry is nice if you have it. Bring the meat to a simmer, reduce the heat and partially cover. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, then remove to a colander and allow to drain well, reserving the broth.

9 guajillo chiles

1 large ancho chile

1-2 arbol chiles for heat, if desired

Toast chiles lightly on a hot comal until fragrant. Remove stems, seeds and membranes and put the chiles in a blender jar. Cover with a cup or two of hot stock from the pork and allow to stand and soften.

8 medium sized tomatillos

4 medium Roma tomatoes

Char tomatillos and Romas on the comal until blackened and slightly soft, and set them aside.

Cut 3 large potatoes into good sized chunks and pre-cook al dente in the microwave, or boil them if you prefer. Don’t overcook! Reserve.

Add to the chiles in the blender:

4 large cloves of garlic

1 tsp. whole Mexican oregano

½ tsp. whole cumin seed

4 whole cloves

1” piece of a thin cinnamon stick

Blend the chiles and spice blend very, very well. You may want to press this mixture through a sieve, as guajillo tends to have a tough skin that does not break down. This step is optional but makes a much nicer sauce.

Blend the reserved tomatoes and tomatillos and add to chile mixture, or blend all together if you prefer.

Heat some good quality pork lard or good oil (not olive) in a large skillet, adding the reserved pork. Fry and stir until lightly browned, remove and reserve the meat.

Add blended mixtures to the hot skillet, rinsing the blender with pork stock as needed, and “fry” the sauce, seasoning to taste with sea salt. Allow to fry and reduce until thickened and well seasoned.

Throw the meat, potatoes and sauce into a large pot, rinsing the skillet with more pork stock to get all the goodies. Mix everything together and simmer gently an additional 20 minutes or so to combine flavors. Pass a plate of finely slivered white onion and flat leaf parsley, plus steamed rice and stewed black beans and everybody chow down!

¡Buen Provecho!

Donna y Manuel

COOKING IN CRISIS

¡Muchos saludos a todos desde Cabo San Lucas!

Yes, I freely admit to being the world’s worst blogger.  I cannot believe how long it’s been since last I posted, but there you have it…

Let’s get cooking!  What better way to survive and thrive in trying times?  What with all this free time, everyone I talk to is cooking up something comforting, nourishing and beautiful.  I would like to share one of my favorite recipes, something I can always count on to satisfy–a truly versatile Mexican delight!

First, whip up a batch of beans, preferably black beans.  I did a post on how we do it, and we always have a batch bagged down into weekly portions in the freezer.  Now, this is how you make beans into an irresistible Oaxacan style bean soup, bean dip, refried bean as a side dish, or even that ultimate Mexican comfort dish, enfrijoladas , which are made like enchiladas, but with a bean sauce.

Have about four cups of well stewed black beans at the ready.  Coat the bottom of a saucepan with good oil.  I like cold pressed avocado–olive oil makes your Mexican food taste Greek or Italian.  Heat over a medium flame and add two thick slices of white onion.  Proceed to caramelize the living stuffing out of the onions until they are almost black!  This will be the foundation flavor of the dish.  You will know they are ready when you have to fight the urge to pile the onions on a burger with some blue cheese and disappear them.  Be strong.

As the onions brown, throw in whole garlic cloves to your heart’s content.  I use about five big ones, because I love garlic.  Let the cloves caramelize along with the onion, fishing them out as they turn sweet, soft and deep golden.

Once you have removed all the garlic and onions, throw four or five chiles de arbol (the beautiful little hot red ones you get in your General Tso’s Chicken) into the remaining oil and fry until lightly browned and fragrant.  Keep the flavor infused oil and your saucepan handy.

If you can get one, toast a dried avocado leaf over your gas burner or on a comal until very dark.

Plunk your beans, caramelized goodies, crumbled avocado leaf and at least three of the chiles into a blender jar and whiz away!  Taste for heat, adding more chile as desired.  Don’t despair if you are short on dried avocado leaves, but they really do add amazing Oaxacan flavor to many dishes if you can score them over the Internet, or from your backyard if you happen to have a tree around!

Pour the pureed beans back into the hot oil and fry, stirring frequently, until they turn very dark and the flavors concentrate.  They will thicken, but can be thinned with water or chicken stock to create the world’s most wonderful black bean soup garnished with sour cream and some crispy fried tortilla strips, or a quick batch of the enfrijoladas we crave for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Just thin to sauce consistency and make like enchiladas stuffed with cheese or shredded chicken, and go crazy with your garnishes!  Leave the beans thick and serve as a refried bean side, or make a fabulous bean dip, adding cream cheese, top it with salsa… use your imagination and serve with hot tortilla chips and crudites for a seriously satisfying snack.

Oh!  Did I forget to mention black bean quesadillas and burritos?  Once you make this recipe you will find lots of ways to yummy it up, and may find yourself making another batch sooner than you might have imagined.

Getting hungry here.  Luckily I have a batch made!  Manuel and I send our very best out to all of you in this hunkering phase of the crisis.  Keep on cooking MEXICAN, and we will look forward to having you back in the kitchen in the New Normal, whatever that may be.  Stay well, and stay in touch!

¡BUEN PROVECHO!

Donna

OF CORNEAS AND COMIDA CORRIDA

 

Warm greetings from the cool city of Mexico!

A bit of an odd post, I just had the pleasure and privilege of receiving a much needed corneal transplant here in this amazing place–the magical Colonia Roma to be specific.  After the surgery we installed ourselves in the Hotel California on Baja California street in the Roma, which we considered to be quite propitious, coming from Cabo…

How does all of this fit into a cooking blog?  Ah, FOOD!  Mexico City is one of the foodiest places on the planet, and after I came to, ravenously hungry in the hotel, Manuel appeared bearing a classic comida corrida, the beloved three part set priced meal of Mexico from the hole in the wall eatery on the corner, Las Cazuelitas (since 1949!).  I started with hot chicken consome with tender vegetables, and went on to devour a good red Mexican market rice with a small side of beans, and the main, fresh spinach cakes in a red salsa.  The best meal of my life after a long day of surgery!  Cost?  $50 pesos, about $2.50 US.  Warm cozy tummy?  Priceless!

!Que viva Mexico y que viva la comida corrida!  Cornea surgery has a long recovery, about a year and a half, which will mean monthly flights from Cabo for checkups in the Roma with my amazing surgeon.  Not only is he a certified Cornea God, but also a passionate foodie who proceeded to write up a long list of his favorite holes in the wall eateries on the prescription after my first checkup next morning, including several spots in Oaxaca City!  Great news too, he says the eye is settling in nicely and we should be able to do our market tour of Oaxaca in early September.  Wahoo!

We will be looking forward to eating our way through the Roma many times over the next year.  La vida es buena.

Salud y provecho a todos,

Donna

ARIZONA CHIMICHANGAS AND NAVAJO FRY BREAD TACOS

Warm greetings from Cabo!

Manuel and I just took a trip north of the border to my home state of Arizona.  I tend to forget how beautiful it is, and how good the Mexican food can be.  My mom is living in Globe, which means I have to get up that way a couple of times a year now.  This turns out not to be a bad thing.

Globe is a genuine Arizona wild west mountain mining town, right on the edge of the San Carlos Apache rez, and there are numerous Arizona-style Mexican food establishments.  I am told folks come all the way from Phoenix to partake.

We got all fired up and went to Irene’s, which is always packed with happy diners including about half of the Apache nation, all chowing happily down on one of my oldest and best loved comfort foods, green chile chimichangas.

Chimichangas are popular pretty much all through the northern parts of Mexico and the southwest US, and there are many variations.  The one I love best is pure Arizona–a gigantic freshly made flour tortilla spread with slow simmered roasted green chile stew, preferably made with pork though beef will do–folded in from the ends and rolled up to create a ginormous, supremely satisfying burrito.

In Arizona you may face several crucial decisions when ordering your chimi.  Natural is just as it comes, with or without toppings.  Natural enchilada style has the sauce that’s in it generously ladled over it.  French fried, as the name would indicate, is puffed and golden and crisp, hot from the fryer with toppings like shredded lettuce, guacamole, sour cream and salsa layered on, unless you ordered French fried enchilada style, in which case the sauce will be ladled on prior to the toppings.

It’s well worth all these tough decisions, and Irene is turning out great grub at very reasonable prices.  I hear pretty much all the many Mexican eateries in Globe are doing the same.  Irene serves her chimi with Mexican rice and refried beans with way too much melted cheese on top.  Go Globe!

A visit to Arizona is not complete without running down a good fry bread taco.  Many call them Navajo tacos, but pretty much all tribes make their own version, and the recipe varies from family to family within tribes.

I was privileged to cook with Hopi women up on the mesas as a girl because my high school boyfriend was Laguna Pueblo/Hopi.  I also got to go to Gallup for the ceremonials three years in a row, and could be found in the kitchens, cooking with the ladies.  Some of the best Mexican food on the planet comes out of the indigenous Southwest, and fry bread tacos are the epicenter of native comfort foods.

Mostly the dough is simply made with flour, salt, baking powder and warm water or milk, just blended into a soft dough and allowed to rest for a couple of hours.  Pat or roll into circles and fry in deep or shallow oil until puffed and golden, and load on toppings.  Traditional tacos are made with taco seasoned ground beef, beans or chile with beans, shredded cheese and lettuce, chopped onion and tomato, and of course sour cream.  Not neat to eat but mmmm-mmmm good!!

In New Mexico they cut the circles into wedges or rectangles and fry until puffed and golden, and serve either sweet, by biting off a corner and drizzling honey inside, or savory stuffed with red chile stew or other delights. These are called sopaipillas, a very weird name for a very wonderful treat.

So go to Arizona, and don’t hesitate to indulge.  The trip is as good as the food!

!Buen provecho!

Donna

 

YOU SPEAK NAHUATL!

WARM CABO GREETINGS!
Here’s a cool image of Xochimilco, the canals in the very southernmost part of Mexico City, all that remain of the lake once filled with islands including the location of the current city center with it’s famous zocalo.  These ladies are operating a floating kitchen…

Xochimilco is, of course, not a Spanish word.  As I tell my cooks every day, if you live in the southern part of Mexico, YOU SPEAK NAHUATL!  That’s the old Aztec language, and it is still alive and well.  It’s our national language!

If you’d like to find out how much Nahuatl you know, click on the link to hear the fabulous Gonzalo Ceja perform this incredible, highly fun tune.  Here are the lyrics in the meantime–I’ve highlighted a few words some of which you really ought to recognize, especially if you’ve been to my kitchen.  If you live in southern Mexico, pretty much all of this is familiar to you.  !Buen provecho!

Gonzalo Ceja La Lengua

Tú que vives con estrés y tu porte muy francés
y le mascas al inglés, haces giros japonés
y de la alta sociedad.
Tú te sientes el campeón, estudias computación,
muy de origen español
compras todo en Nueva York, mira que eres un galán.
Tú hablas Náhuatl y ahora te lo voy a demostrar

Elementos de cocina:
Molcajete, tecomate, tejolote, malacate, papalote, ahuehuete,
tepetate, y comal, metate y petate, sincolote, itacate, chicote,
tepalcate, huazontle y nixtmal, cuate, amate, pizcatl, tameme,
temascal.  Empacho, pepenar, mecate, mecapal, memela, mezquital, pachichi y
tamal, tianguis y copal, tocayo, Juchitán, olote, ameyal, esquites,
Mazatlán (Jojutla), jilote, jumiles, jícara, jicote y jacal.

Frutas y verduras:
Aguacates y camotes, jitomates y chayotes, cacahuates, tejocotes,
capulines, jícamas, xoconochtle, huitlacoche, epazote y quelites,
elotes y zapotes, tomates y nopal, frutas y verduras, todo acomodado
en su huacal.

Dónde está tu chante, díme
Tlalnepantla, Metepec, Xochimilco, Tepoztlán, Calacuaye, Oaxtepec,
Texcoco y Cuautitlán, Mixcoac, Coatepec, Tlalpan, Coyoacán, Coacalco,
Tuxtepec, Huehuetoca y Pantitlán, Jalisco, Tlaxcala, Oaxaca,
Zacatecas, Michoacán.
.
Chipote, chacualal, Chiluca, chitamal, chipotle, chapulín, chapopote,
Chichonal, chileatole, chilaquil, chocolate, chiltepin, chachalaca,
chicohual, chilpayate, chalchihuitl, no te quedes chitón, chicle,
chompiate, chahuistle, chiquihuite, chipilin.

Cempasúchil, tonamil, Xicoténcatl, acocil, ocote, quintonil, atole y
topil, Iztaccíhuatl, Zapotlán, Cuauhtémoc, Zacatlán, Cuitláhuac,
Meztitlán, Pozóle y Tultitlán; milpa, mixiotes, mole, mazacuata y
Ahuatlán, Cihuatl.  Tonantzin, Nicuipil, Citlali, chinicuil, nonantzin, jinicuil,
pilinqui y otomi, jiquelite, jinipin, toloache, nipiquin,
tlachiquero, matlochin, Xochitl, quesquemitl, tejio, tescuino,
tezontle, totopoztle, tejamanil.

No se me achicopalen, vamos.
Matatena, pa jugar, talacha, huascahuar, alcahuete, apapachar, no me
vayan a chotear? paliacate, Tizapan, tlacoyo, huizachal, pinole,
tinacal, totopo y mezcal, ráscale al tololoche, vente pal? mitote,
que ya van a empezar a chincualear, mexicatl teahui no te huihui.
Ve que lenguaje qué rica es nuestra forma de hablar.
No te hagas huaje,sigue hablando pues lo nacional.

CAJETA, A MEXICAN ADDICTION!

Candy Store

All of Latin America shares a passion for dulce de leche, a sweet, gooey caramel made from sweetened condensed milk.

Cajeta is Mexican.  This addictive caramel had its humble beginnings in the Bajio region that includes Guanajuato, Queretaro and Aguascalientes.  Production began in Celaya, Gunajuato in colonial times from an old Spanish recipe, but since the Bajio favors goats, an important change took place in the original version of this much loved Mexican sweet as it was made from their  rich, spicy milk.  Cajeta means “little box”, and it was originally packaged in little handmade wooden boxes.

Mexico’s cry for independence began in Guanajuato, and cajeta is inextricably linked with the war that ensued, as it was part of the rations issued to troops to give them the stamina to fight.  In September 2010 cajeta was declared the official Mexican Bicentennial Dessert to honor its long, sweet history.  We take our caramel very seriously!

Today cajeta is still made from goat’s milk, but it comes in the handy squeeze bottle.  The three main presentations are Vainilla, with vanilla added of course, Envinada, with a little alcohol added for richness, and the very best, Quemada.  This is burnt caramel, extra dark, and is without a doubt the favorite of most Mexican families.  It also comes in many forms including hard candies and suckers, or spread between colorful wafers as seen in the candy shop above.

You’ll find cajeta in supermarkets wherever there is a Mexican population.  Pick up a bottle and start squeezing right away–onto fresh fruit slices, over pound cake with peaches, into a cup of coffee or hot chocolate… anywhere you want that rich, dark caramel flavor.  I love to squeeze some into a buttercream for a banana layer cake…

Join in the Mexican celebration of sweetness!

!Buen provecho!

Donna

 

 

FIRE MAKES IT GOOD

Campfire

!FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!

Warm New Year greetings to all!  Another year of growth for Cabo, and a marked increase in the number of traditional Southern Mexican cooks and eaters happily shopping, cooking and eating at Land’s End.  I have never been happier to live here, and FOOD is one of the major reasons!

The South and South Central sections of Mexico are home to deeply traditional regional cuisines, and nowhere else do you see these Southerners transplanted to the geographic north of Mexico as they have done and continue to do here.  Traditional foods are found fresh and well priced in all of our big box markets which stand in for ancient traditional markets down south–even Walmart has professional nopaleros, careful, quick and kind men removing spines from the nopal, our national vegetable, to make eating traditionally easier for the busy Cabo cook.

IMG_1083

Cactus Heaven

One of the major differences in the Southern Traditional cooks is the direct application of fire.  My friend Rufina from Guerrero goes into her courtyard and builds a fire when she makes her pozole, or handmade nixtamal tortillas… because she has always cooked these and many other foods over fire, which gives her direct control over the heat when she uses clay baking vessels, comales and so forth, and adds distinctive flavors to her dishes.

Indigenous cooks down south often cook foods directly in the coals of a fire, as they have done for hundreds or even thousands of years.  These tamales from Tlaxcala are a fine example–lake fish stuffed with tiny lake fish, wrapped in the inner membrane of the sword-shaped leaf of the agave from which we make tequila, called mixiote, then charred right in the coals… and the flavors are astounding!

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To quote the immortal Homer Simpson, “Fire makes it good!”

FullSizeRender (5),

My deep love and respect to the women of Mexico, particularly the Southern women who have transplanted themselves here to the North, who continue to cook in the ways taught to them by mothers and grandmothers, back a thousand years to a time when food was basic, and so much better.

¡Buen provecho!

Donna

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North of the Border