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Mexican Cooking

Mexican Cooking

Mexico's cuisine is one of the most important in the world and has a wide variety of dishes. Learn a bit more about the types of Mexican cuisine.

The United Mexican States, better known simply as Mexico, make up a country known for its vibrant cultural heritage including its cooking traditions. Many of us have tried guacamole or tacos, perhaps two of this country’s most famous food items on an international level. Mexican food however goes far beyond clichés and conventional cooking attitudes to offer a cuisine that serves up generous portions of flavors, emotions, rituals, and why not, magic.

Mexican historian Dr. Guadalupe Perez San Vicente asserts in her book Charlas sobre gastronomía Mexicana (discussions on Mexican cooking) that “if all the books about a culture disappeared, except its books on cooking, a good portion of that country’s profile could be reconstructed”. The historian goes on to point out that “Mexican cooking, a dynamic and flavorful aspect of our culture, […] is the result of the human spirit’s efforts to make the human race better, enriching life with joy and the inherent desire to share”.

Cooking traditions are reflections of deep-rooted customs in all cultures; Mexican cooking however is even more than that. It seems impossible to imagine the altar de los muertos without the dishes served with it that are so fundamental to the symbolic construction displayed for the Día de los muertos celebrations in the beginning of November. No fiesta de quinceañera would be acceptable without a table full of colorful and attractive dishes. The novel “Like Water for Chocolate” by Mexican writer Laura Esquivel, is an example of the importance of cooking in the daily life of Mexico.

Mexican cooking is one of the world’s five most influential cuisines along with Chinese, Indian, Italian, Spanish food. On November 16, 2010 UNESCO placed Mexican cooking on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

 The diverse cultural base that makes up today’s Mexico, with influences from the Mayans, the Aztecs, and many more cultures, has created surprisingly rich cooking traditions that incorporate Mesoamerican dining concepts with culinary elements introduced from Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The Guatemalan writer Miguel Angel Asturias explains in his book “Men of Maize” that according to Popol Vuh, the creation myth is one of the historical pillars of Mayan culture –the origin gods first attempted and failed to create human beings out of mud, then they tried using the Tzite tree but found people produced by this material were not very bright, so the gods finally used cooked corn which they found made such intelligent people that their capabilities had to be limited. The story may be why corn is most likely Mexican cooking’s most unifying ingredient, which has wonderful varieties such as those of Puebla, Oaxaca, and the Yucatan.

Exploring Mexican cooking will also enrich your vocabulary, with appetizing words like Guajolote, mescal, jitomate, nopales, chapulines, escamoles and jumiles, all of which will challenge you to experience a diverse range of aromas and flavors you may not be used to but which will pleasantly surprise you.

In Spanish, there’s an old saying: “a donde fueras, haz lo que vieres” (when you visit a different country, observe and imitate the local people and their customs). This is a proverb that must be remembered when visiting Mexico and enjoying its rich cooking traditions.

If you are lucky enough to visit this wonderful country, we suggest taking a look at the cooking page on Mexico’s official tourism website: www.visitmexico.com, where you can take a virtual tour of each one of the country’s 31 states (plus Mexico City).