What is Mexican Cuisine?

"The challenge of living in the United States is being able to reproduce the meals I was used to in Mexico".

After several years of living in this country I have encountered countless restaurants of mexican food that call themselves mexican because they feature the same arrangement of tex-mex fare that you can easily find in many places around the southwest: burritos, tacos, chile verde, chile colorado, chile relleno, menudo and pozole. While it is true that these foods are descendants of mexican roots it is also true that they have been deformed and adapted to suit the ingredients, the taste and the practicality of the american society.

Our food (in Mexico) is full of color, flavor, and aroma. The difference is in the freshness of the ingredients (sold in local markets) but also in the vast use of herbs and spices without falling in excesses like here, where I have seen that even tv chefs seem to think that Cominos (cumin) are to be used in industrial amounts. No. In Mexico we use spices scarcely compared to how they are used here. And that, my friends, makes a huge difference in flavor.

Another difference is that in Mexico many families are used to slow cooking their food. It is true that life is becoming more hectic everywhere but even so, mexican cooks (men and women alike) prefer to cook their food slowly to give the flavors an opportunity to mingle and create a definite and bigger impression on the palate.

Soups tend to be a staple in many mexican homes and not exactly from a can. That is a concept that I find very common and used here but in Mexico a good soup is so important for us that the flavor of a canned soup would never compare to the real deal. Even the most humble of soups, sopa de fideo (tomato and angel hair soup), needs to be created from scratch.

Mexican cuisine is based on its different climates, seasons and levels of income. Greatly influenced by french and spanish culture the food we produce in Mexico has a lot to do with fresh vegetables, fresly cut meats and varied spices and herbs. According to the region in Mexico is the level of meat that is consumed and also according to the region is the amount of spices and herbs used to condiment the food. But even in the poorest of villages and most distant towns you will always find someone who can make an exquisite stew or a warm pot of beans. 

Rather than using bread our diet is strongly sustained by corn tortillas in the center and south of Mexico and flour tortillas in the north. Their flavor is neutral but it complements beautifully many dishes. And they are relatively easy to get or make. 

So, when I try to cook a mexican dish, I have to go into the depths of memories filled with aromas, flavors and feelings associated with different dishes, the ones I was eating as a child, then as a teenager and later as an adult. It is fair to say that when I cook mexican food I am going back to my roots but also I am walking between different generations of cooks and their heritage. For mexicans food and flavor are sewn together in very intrinsic ways and as adults we cannot forget the sublime experiences of having a hot chocolate cup in the morning, or the bite of a freshly baked concha bread, the comforting flavor of the tomato mixed with chicken flavor in the fideo soup or the acidic flavor of the chiles en vinagre added to a tostada. If you call yourself mexican but you do not have these memories than you did not grow up in real Mexico.

Mexican cuisine is a myriad of ingredients from the earth used by devoted hands that do not forget the history of ancient practices in the kitchen and that rely on those practices to create dishes that soothe the soul and comfort the stomach, even if the prepared dish is only a humble plate of beans with some chile on top and warm tortillas on the side.

So, What are your thoughts?, Have you ever tried the real mexican food in Mexico? Share your experience with me, I would love to hear about it.