Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

NY 10010. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Adapon. UK 175 Fifth Avenue. p. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berg. WI. Food habits—Mexico—Milpa Alta. Cookery. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) 1. Culinary art and anthropology / Joy Adapon.bergpublishers. I. Joy. Berg is the imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd. Oxford. Cookery—Social aspects—Mexico—Milpa Alta.com . cm. Cookery—Mexico—Milpa Alta. USA Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd. 81 St Clements Street. Includes bibliographical references and index. Madison. USA © Joy Adapon 2008 All rights reserved. 2. Angel Court. 3. New York. Title. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) Typeset by Apex CoVantage. Mexican. King’s Lynn www.M4A35 2008 394. TX716.First published in 2008 by Berg Editorial offices: 1st Floor. 4.1'20972—dc22 2008017019 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. OX4 1AW.

How to Achieve a Perfect capeado 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice Food and Culinary Art in Anthropology Gell’s Theory of Art A Meal as an Object of Art On Edibility. DF Organization of the book 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine The Cultural Significance of Chiles The Range of Mexican Foods Home Cooking by Profession Cooking Tradition On Learning Techniques Food and Love Recipes Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato. Milpa Alta Conclusion Recipes 29 29 32 36 39 43 47 49 49 50 54 66 68 vii ix 1 4 5 7 7 8 11 12 15 18 22 3 –v– .Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta. How to Peel chiles poblanos. Hospitality and Exchange Flavour and Value Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Barbacoa in Milpa Alta Eating barbacoa Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta The Process of Preparing barbacoa in Barrio San Mateo.

Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo. Home Cooking and Street Food Appetite. Batter for Coating Fish.vi • Contents Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa. Salsa pasilla—‘la buena’— for Eating barbacoa on Special Occasions at Home. Carnitas Mole and Fiestas Compadrazgo and the mayodomía Hospitality and Food Mole and mole poblano Mole and Celebration The Development of a Tradition Fiesta Food The Presence or Absence of Mole in Fiestas Recipes Tamales de nopales for the Barrio Fiesta. Taco placero. Buñuelos de lujo.’ Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela. Morality and Taste Recipes: Variations on a Theme 71 71 75 76 78 82 85 5 89 90 93 97 98 102 106 108 109 6 113 113 115 118 120 122 124 127 137 149 159 Notes Works Cited Index . Chiles and albur Daily Meals. Commercial Red Salsa for barbacoa. Motherhood and Virtue Suffering. Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal Culinary Agency Recipes Huevos a la mexicana. Barbacoa 4 Women as Culinary Agents The Value of Cooking and Other Work Marriage and Cooking Work. Torrejas The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life The Function of Flavour The Importance of Cooking in Social Life Fiesta Food in the Culinary Art Corpus Food and Love.

1 Terminology Employed by Gell.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes.2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus 5.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole 5. Shown as Families 103 104 34 35 100 – vii – .Illustrations Tables 2. and Corresponding Food Terms 2. Arranged According to Type of Celebration Figures 5.1 Feast Food in Milpa Alta.

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that they all eventually arrive at their destination and that the different routes are equally valid. guide. So I went off to read up on Mexico and Mexican food before deciding for myself. nor would I have even thought of going to Mexico. Back in London. This book is dedicated to the memory of Alfred Gell.’ Despite my hesitation. I visited Alfred Gell in his office and told him. His advice to enjoy fieldwork and take note of any ‘interesting trivia’ kept me going and looking forward. In Alfred’s absence. She gave me my first opportunity for fieldwork and supported my initial shaky steps into anthropology. if I can focus it on peppers. Charles Stafford was consistently most reliable. supervisor and. I wish I could thank him personally for all his understanding and encouragement.Preface I love to eat. most of all. several more people helped me to bring this project to completion with incomparable patience. Fenella Cannell was especially helpful in grounding me during the period immediately following Alfred Gell’s death.’ he said. thorough and frank. She shares her and Alfred’s love for life with all those who are fortunate to know her. Maurice Bloch was always inspiring and warm. kindness and academic rigour. Sally Engle Merry first introduced me to anthropology and instilled in me an immediate devotion to the subject during my undergraduate years. who taught me that there are ‘tram-line’ people and ‘zigzag’ people. I was fortunate to be one of his last students before his untimely death in 1997. I am grateful to Peter Loizos. then Mexico was the place to go to. Peter Gow always provided timely encouragement and helped me to learn how to see. Without him I would never have begun this investigation. he repeated that if I was interested in chile peppers. He was my inspiration. Through her patience and understanding I discovered a new field of study as well as a different direction for my academic life. Their sensitive comments and insight were invaluable as I waded through the process of writing my dissertation on which this book is based. So I had to learn to cook. ‘Go to Mexico. thoughtful. Looking back. especially for taking me seriously whenever I came up with odd ideas.’ ‘Of course you can. friend. Even just thinking of her is always encouraging and reminds me time and again to live in the present. ‘I’m thinking of maybe doing a PhD. – ix – . I am grateful for the continued friendship and support of Simeran Gell. particularly important to me before my fieldwork. During a period of culinary experimentation when I was into peppers of all colours and types.

constant moral support and generous interest in me and my work. She introduced me to José Luis Curiel in the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. in Manila. Iván Gomezcésar shared with me thoughtful insight about Milpa Alta as well as several texts. who offered me valuable friendship and a link into Milpa Alta. Janet Long-Solís generously shared her books and her contacts with me. I was eager to learn all I could about Mexican cooking and to taste everything. It was through him that I met other scholars of Mexican cuisine who influenced my understanding of Mexican gastronomy. Other friends of his who were also chefs repeatedly told me that with my interest in traditional Mexican food. Juan Manuel Horta and the rest of the staff of the Executive Dining Room in the UNAM—opened their hearts and homes to me. With his warmth. Even before my tiny flat in Coyoacán became flooded and unliveable. took a strange foreigner into their homes and shared much more than their lives. He was the first person to really understand what I was getting at when I arrived in Mexico for the first time. He in turn allowed me to sit in some classes of the gastronomy program and get to know the students and faculty. . he helped me to eventually find my way during fieldwork. Their friendship and thoughtful conversations constantly provided me with security and fruitful ideas. It was he who introduced me to Luz del Valle. He is now internationally acknowledged as an authority on Mexican cookery and has published five books of renown. including José Luis Juárez and Ricardo Muñoz. ‘Now I guess you have to move in with me. I didn’t know how lucky I was to have met him. homes and food with me.’ he said. Berlin or wherever I may be. Ileana Bonilla. Primitiva Bermejo. Andrés Medina welcomed me to the Institute of Anthropological Research (IIA) in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) with a sense of humour. He welcomed me into both his professional and personal lives and was a constant friend even during the most awkward of times and strove to accommodate my every possible need. Abdiel Cervántes. Ricardo was my ‘Muchona the Hornet’ of Mexican food. and I have missed her ever since. Alejandro Enriquez and Guille Arenas. we had become inseparable friends. Ma. Gabriel Gutierrez. which I would have not found on my own. I was in Mexico City for 24 months from 1995 to 1998 and within a few weeks of my arrival. The people with whom I lived in Milpa Alta. Her premature death in 1996 was one of the great shocks that I encountered in Mexico. Conmigo siempre tienen su casa. Leticia Méndez was the second person I met in the UNAM who understood me both academically and emotionally. Ricardo Bonilla. especially Yadira Arenas and Luis Enrique Nápoles.x • Preface In Mexico I owe a great debt to many whose generosity and presence made my stay both pleasant and stimulating. Fabiola Alcántara. Doña Margarita Salazar. Antonio Rivera. I met Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita. Other friends in Mexico—Patricia Salero and her family. Juan Carlos López. he was eager to share with someone his favourite eateries and his love for the cuisines of Mexico. I wish for the time when they can come stay with me.

Marilya and Scott Reese supplied me with timely stocks of Mexican ingredients and new cookbooks. and for permission to reuse my material published previously in Petits Propos Culinaires 67. Thank you! Uta Raina read through a chapter at a critical time and. Michael Schutz provided valuable technical support at short notice. . for all the reasons mentioned above and more. providing much constructive criticism and tipping me onto certain crucial references that have helped me improve this book immensely. and for his astounding commitment to my work and to me. who showed humanity and equanimity at every blip along the way. enthusiastic and supportive. as well as willing eaters of all my culinary experiments. like Liese Hoffmann. My survival and sanity depended on their constant presence and love. My family. Anonymous readers of an earlier draft of my manuscript gave me something to chew on. critical when necessary. Saskia filled my days with such happiness that working at night seemed a fair enough exchange. Anja’s editorial eagle eye never failed to impress and amuse me. even when they did not understand what I was doing. and the Proceedings of the Oxford Food Symposium 2001. keeping up my interest in Mexican food when I was distracted by other things. Without his belief in my work this book would not have been published. His openness and offers to help encouraged me in the academic path that he himself chose not to take. And of course many thanks to Hannah Shakespeare at Berg. David Sutton was endlessly patient. Thank you also to Simon Lord at Oxford University Press for granting unhesitating permission to use and modify Gell’s table of the Art Nexus.Preface • xi My occasional meetings with Chef Rick Bayless were always inspiring. especially my parents and sister. I would also like to thank Tom Jaine at Prospect Books for his always quick and witty responses to queries. especially Yuehping Yen and Anja Timm. have supported me in all possible ways. helped me to reach bibliographic sources that I had difficulty accessing. Yuehping was the first and staunchest supporter of my using Alfred’s theory of art in my analysis. much love and gratitude to Kai Kresse. And finally. commented on drafts of this manuscript at various stages and were immeasurably helpful and intellectually stimulating. Good friends and peers. Most importantly.

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In a pot Ricardo had boiled green tomatoes (tomates verdes. Chef Ricardo Muñoz. experiencing chilaquiles. he tossed in the totopos. . was a key ethnographic moment. He told me that he sometimes liked to put a bit of fresh coriander on top but that it was not really necessary. It is made of fried pieces of day-old tortillas bathed in a chile-tomato sauce and garnished with mildly soured cream. and that individual dishes could be as meaningful as symbolic ingredients. ignoring the fact that food had flavour and was enjoyed and relished by those who ate and prepared it. When I began this research. –1– . not just preparing or eating it.) One morning I arrived early at the kitchen of my friend. but I am still compelled to begin with chilaquiles. The day before he had cut up leftover tortillas into eight wedges each and left them to dry overnight. . quickly coating them evenly and warming them up. One dish that was personally meaningful for me during my time in Mexico was chilaquiles. tasting. exploring. He arranged a mound of chilaquiles onto each plate. ‘I like to keep them crispy. for I have my own story to tell . topping them with thin slices of white onion. reading. experimenting. He poured this into a blender with some of the cooking liquid. like crème fraîche). even artistic process. a bit of onion and garlic. I had never tasted or cooked anything like it. When the salsa was ready. tomatillos). So for me. ‘This is a typical Mexican breakfast. and it also looked beautiful.’ he told me. crumbled white cheese (queso fresco or de canasto) and a dollop of thick cream (crema de rancho.’ he said. where she begins metaphorically with her mother’s chilaquiles. I was struck by the fact that many ethnographies of food failed to take into account that cooking was a creative. white cheese and onions. The salsa sizzled for some moments. and then he lowered the heat for it to simmer with some salt.Introduction As a once aspiring chef. With or without. Chilaquiles is typical Mexican breakfast food.1 I will discuss Abarca’s work elsewhere. liquefied the mixture thoroughly and strained it into hot oil. (Some readers may be aware of Meredith Abarca’s (2006) recent book on Mexican and Mexican American women and cooking. that spices were as important as staples. Before going to Mexico. That morning he deep-fried them till crisp to make totopos and set them aside for the excess oil to drain. My interest in and knowledge of cooking came mostly from my own research. serrano chiles and epazote. I had always believed that anthropological studies of food were overly concerned with staple crops. it was delicious.

my first attempt at making chilaquiles at home was barely edible. Many families had their chilaquiles with extra side dishes as well—beans. and I had not had it or practised enough times to really know what to do. I thought. I realized that it was true. to use up leftover tortillas or simply for the pleasure of eating. This was Mexican home cooking. Clearly I lacked the skill and knowledge to prepare chilaquiles properly. from my perspective. I also felt that I developed deep relationships with people because of my interest in their food and my respect for their expertise in matters including but not limited to cooking. in my body as well as in my mind. My introduction to Mexican cuisine was inevitably by way of recipes and cookbooks. p. 2006. and his entire kitchen staff laughed with him. Ricardo was a well-known chef who specialized in traditional Mexican cooking. high gastronomic standards. I found it hard to believe that something so complex and laborious could be typical for breakfast. Since I did not have the benefit of growing up in a Mexican home. when I watched or helped people cook I was naturally impressed with the methods of preparation that were so foreign to me and therefore often difficult for me to emulate. Variations of chilaquiles were normal everyday fare. I began to absorb culinary and gastronomic knowledge.2 • Culinary Art and Anthropology My immediate reaction was to say. letting the totopos go soggy. Perhaps. bread. and it certainly seemed easier. this was food for restaurants or for special occasions. after asking several people and later living in different Mexican households.’ he said (‘The Chinese girl [as he affectionately called me] doesn’t believe me’). Eventually. I learned to feel the . Abarca’s mother is quoted referring to it as the food of the poor (‘la comida de uno de pobre’. and no one thought twice about it or found it particularly difficult to make. They all agreed with him that this was a commonly prepared dish that any family might have on a regular day throughout Mexico. even if done to the letter. Though it looked easy. They were only cooking the kind of food that they always ate. ‘La china no me cree. even if there was little time to linger over them. among professional chefs in the centre as well as among barbacoieros in Milpa Alta at the outskirts. 71). meat. However. The salsa was too thick and not smooth enough. Living in Mexico City. This event reflected my worries—would I ever be able to acquire any true knowledge of or expertise in Mexican cookery. ‘No way!’ and this set him off laughing. learning the culinary techniques needed to make Mexican food did not work as simply as following a recipe. and even insisted on.2 I felt that my cooking improved. chicken. eggs. if that were indeed possible? Would learning to make chilaquiles teach me something about Mexico? Or did I need to learn about Mexico to be able to make chilaquiles? The answer was yes on all counts. The textures and flavours were wrong. and I worked too slowly. Busy families made it a point to have delectable dishes for daily meals. Conversely. and it looked like a sorry heap of nicely garnished mush. the more I got to know Mexico and the more I understood about the culture and cuisine. the food that women prepare for their families on any given day. Even those who were not culinary professionals delighted in.

so I specifically use the word ‘flavour’. reading cookbooks convinced me that Mexican cooking could be thought of as a form of art. What can be inferred from this is that any good cook is a ‘specialist’. Alfred Gell’s theory of the art nexus is the theoretical basis of this book. France. or. a ‘differentiated’ or ‘high’ cuisine (1982. 1990. My discussion of the art of Mexican cooking is based on the gastronomic . 510. Sahagún. 1994. If we think of cookery as art. is the regional food of peasants and the cooking of exotic foreigners’ (1982. Rather. From what I read. Though my analysis is based on ethnographic practice. 2005. Mexican cuisine was also considered a particularly fine art in relation to other cuisines. 514). Goody counts Mexican cuisine among other ‘haute cuisines’ such as those found in China. my aim is to explore how we can use a theory of art to analyze food anthropologically. Cowal. which I prefer to emphasize (see Howes. 2006. Stoller.3 Food-as-art easily rolls off the tongue. development and innovation of culinary techniques. enriching the cuisine through the sharing of culinary and cultural knowledge. Approaching cooking as artistic activity is most salient when what is under scrutiny can be defined as an elaborate cuisine. Even before my first visit to Mexico. ‘The imagination at work in the use of local ingredients means that eating is not the domain of the rich in Mexico. and that this art was to be found in everyday home cooking rather than in restaurants. we recognize the creative skill needed to produce good food. 1981. 1950–1982). Such a situation is what has existed in Mexico since before the Spanish arrived (see Coe. on food as a form of art. for thinking as well as for cooking and eating. more often throughout this book. 104–5).Introduction • 3 point of readiness when something was cooked ‘until it’s done’ or to discern how much water or broth to put into the rice pot until it was ‘enough’. Korsmeyer. Chiles could not be examined without the context of the whole cuisine. pp.4 Food in Mexico is a richly satisfying topic. 1997). in Jack Goody’s terms. pp. But by no means entirely. 2003. but what might it mean to take this idea seriously analytically? This study focuses on cooking as a deeply meaningful social activity. pp. a ‘high’ cuisine depends on ‘a variety of dishes which are largely the inventions of specialists. 1990. For the higher cuisine also incorporates and transforms what. My concern with Mexico is secondary to this consideration of a cuisine as an art form. As he defines it. In fact. new foodstuffs have been introduced and incorporated. The people we study care about the flavour of the food that they eat. Italy. this is not intended as ethnography of Mexican foodways. 97–9). Corcuera. pp. Flavour has more sensual than sociological connotations. there has been continuous adjustment. from the national standpoint. Turkey and India (Goody. in the first instance. Since then. rather than ‘taste’. Using Gell’s notion of art as a technical practice highlights the social as well as gastronomic virtuosity that is embodied in skilful cooking. 1–2). I had come to Mexico interested primarily in chiles but found that there was so much more to consider. Culinary tradition here is really peasant food raised to the level of high and sophisticated art’ (Cowal. throughout Mexico’s history.

4 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
life I experienced in Mexico City, mostly in the homes of barbacoa makers and other families in the district of Milpa Alta. With this perspective, I address questions such as these: why is it that no one cooks better than my mother? Or, in other words, why does food taste better when it comes from home? Also, why—seemingly contradictorily—does street food have such an appeal? Why are fiestas incomplete without mole? And so why is barbacoa, pit-roast meat, served instead?

Milpa Alta, DF
Milpa Alta is the smallest municipality of Mexico City (Federal District), in the southeastern edge, adjacent to Xochimilco.5 Yet Milpaltenses talked of Mexico City as a separate entity, and they were self-consciously attached to their land and traditions. Milpa Alta is a semi-rural, mountainous area spoken of as the ‘province of Mexico City’. The name literally translates as ‘Highland Cornfield’ in that it is a region of high elevation, formerly dedicated to maize and maguey (agave/century plant) production.6 The word milpa refers to a maize plantation, whose borders were traditionally delineated with a border of magueys. The maize was planted in rows and intercropped with beans, chiles, squash and sometimes tomatoes. Plantations were organized like this since before the Spanish came to Mexico, and Milpa Alta began to produce less maize only since the latter half of the twentieth century. The population was fairly young; 79.8 per cent under 40, and those in the most active productive ages made up 61.9 per cent of the population (Departamento de Distrito Federal (DDF), 1997, pp. 15–64). According to the figures for 1990, among the 45,233 who were over the age of 12, 43.4 per cent were economically active. Among them, three-quarters were men and a quarter were women (p. 77). Three-quarters of the economically inactive were women, more than half of whom were classified as housewives (dedicated to housework; p. 83). As I later explain, a large proportion of these people may actually contribute their labour to the family business, although they did not officially represent themselves as wage earners, consciously choosing to define themselves as dedicated to their homes and families rather than as businesswomen (comerciantes).7 Around half the inhabitants of Milpa Alta lived in Villa Milpa Alta, the municipal capital. Villa Milpa Alta has seven barrios called San Mateo (the site of this research), La Concepción, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Agustín, Santa Martha and La Luz. Barrio San Mateo is one of the largest barrios, with around 1,000 families residing there. Following the census of 1990, each household contained an average of 5.2 occupants (as opposed to 4.6 for the whole Federal District; DDF, 1997, p. 83), making the population of Barrio San Mateo an estimated 5,000–6,000.8 Milpa Alta’s barrios are each dedicated to a particular trade. In Barrio San Mateo, most people prepare barbacoa de borrego, pit-roast lamb, for a living. Barbacoa is usually eaten on special occasions since it is a dish made in large amounts because

Introduction • 5
whole sheep or goats are cooked overnight in an earth oven. There are restaurants in Mexico City which serve only barbacoa, but it is more commonly prepared like a cottage industry by families called barbacoieros. Unofficially, barbacoieros earned an estimated Mx$3,000 per week (equivalent then, in the mid-1990s, to around £214 per week). Several families earned more, because the barbacoa business can be very lucrative, but since all transactions were in cash, they needed not declare all their earnings. This meant that though they enjoyed considerable economic comfort, at least on paper they were consistently portrayed as among the poorest of Mexico City.

Organization of the Book
Chapter 1 focuses on Mexican cuisine and how it is commonly thought of as art in published material as well as in casual conversation. I also discuss the issues of skill and learning techniques and the key notions of sazón and love. In Chapter 2 I describe the theoretical framework of this book. I outline my perspective that cooking is an artistic and technical practice and therefore Mexican cuisine can be analyzed as a body of art. Gell’s theory of art premisses that almost anything can be defined as an art object, anthropologically speaking. Indeed, I am not the only one who has been inspired to use his theory in areas that we normally think of as non-art (Pinney and Thomas, 2001; Reed, 2005). The next three chapters provide perspectives of how people in Milpa Alta cook and eat informally, at home, in the street and during private or local fiestas. I describe the process of preparing barbacoa in detail in Chapter 3. The work is shared between husband and wife and is one demonstration of how culinary practices are a means by which actors construct their social world (cf. Munn, 1986). Weekly and daily life is structured by the rhythms of the kitchen, and the production of barbacoa as a trade also dictates the spatio-temporal forms of barbacoiero social interaction and relative status in Milpa Alta. In Chapter 4 I explore the notion of culinary agency as powerful and meaningful by looking at women’s social and physical boundaries. Women do most of the cooking in the household, and in some ways it seems that a proper woman is thought of as one who knows how to cook, especially if she cooks well. Because of this ideal of womanhood, there is a saying about marriage and cooking in Mexico which takes the form of a criticism: No saben ni cocinar y ya se quieren casar (‘They don’t even know how to cook and yet they already want to marry’). I describe society’s expectations of women to assess how food and cooking are related to marriage and to a woman’s sense of identity and morality in Milpa Alta. This chapter demonstrates how the agency that effectuates social interaction and change is a culinary agency. As any book about Mexican food should do, I also discuss mole, the famous sauce that combines chile and chocolate, which is complex in both preparation

6 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
and meanings. Chapter 5 is about feast food, the coerciveness of hospitality and the static or dynamic nature of cuisine. Although fiestas are releases from daily routine (Brandes, 1988, p. 1; cf. Paz, 1967) and recipes of fiesta dishes are more elaborate than any everyday meal, the food consumed during festivities is actually controlled and bound by a set of rules. For fiestas, a strict menu needs to be followed (i.e. mole, tamales, rice, beans); otherwise the meal is not properly perceived as festive. I use the example of mole to illustrate how food can have meanings which transcend time (cf. Mintz, 1979). Festive dishes can easily be thought of as culinary works of art, but if artistry is determined by action (see Chapter 2; Gell, 1998), then the greatest culinary artistry characterizes the domestic or quotidian sphere. Though much work goes into the preparation of food for fiestas, women cook relatively elaborately every day in Milpa Alta for their regular family meals. Daily domestic culinary activities can be thought of as preparatory sketches or training in the culinary arts, without which the production of culinary works of art would not be possible. Thus the artistic nature of cooking is embedded in domestic activity, in food preparation, and is appreciated in its consumption.9 Chapter 6 concludes this study with a discussion of the difference between snacks and home-cooked meals, the centrality of gastronomy to social life and thus the power of cooks as culinary agents.

A very complex dish begins by roasting and/or grinding chiles. largely drawing from what I learned from reading food history and cookbooks and from my early fieldwork in the centre of Mexico City among chefs. The most culturally meaningful of the three is the chile. The Mexican Stove (1973. It is in Mexico where the most extensive variety of chiles is used. The Cultural Significance of Chiles After the usual introductions. the first thing asked about me when I was brought to anyone’s home in Mexico was invariably. —Richard Condon. starting with the all-important chile. In what follows I describe some of the ways that people think of and write about the cuisines of Mexico. ‘And does she eat tortillas?’ Complemented with beans. This served as thorough preparation for the culinary life that I encountered later in Milpa Alta. and ours has been and continues to be characterized by our daily and widespread consumption of chiles’ (Muñoz. 13) This chapter introduces the cuisines of Mexico in general. ripe or dried states they have different flavours which are cooked or combined for different effects. my translation). ‘Food and cuisine can characterize a culture. 1996. chiles are used primarily for their distinct flavours and not only for their heat. ‘Does she eat chile?’ The second question was usually. In Mexico. To each broth or stew that does not contain chile. I became enamoured of Mexican cooking from what I had read prior to my first visit. on which most of this book is focused. and it is the chile that gives the peculiar and definitive accent to –7– . foreword. chile and corn (most often in the form of tortillas) are the main ingredients of Mexican cuisine. we add some hot salsa at the table. In their green. p.–1– Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine Mexican cuisine is something like a historical novel which has a gorgeously wanton redhead on its dust jacket. The chile is the heart and soul of Mexican food. and in my case. Food writing colours our perceptions of other cuisines. students and researchers of Mexican gastronomy.

. The power of the chile in this Mexican ‘culinary triangle’ is wonderfully described by Zarela Martínez. beans and squash. 460). and we know that even then they were prepared in a number of ways to make them palatable or even edible. 218. 1989. none of the three would be what it is. a New York restaurateur. The Aztecs of central Mexico had . The image of a basic culinary triad is tempting. it fails to adequately describe Mexican cuisine. The combination of the three makes a nutritionally balanced meal. The Range of Mexican Foods Since pre-Hispanic times. It also provides the vitamins they lack. literally . who wrote in the sixteenth century that without chiles Mexicans did not believe they were eating. 38–9) asserts that ‘[t]his triad was invented by foreigners and imposed on the high cultures of the New World. 1996. Clearly these three crops are basic foodstuffs in the Mexican diet. p. except that with the exclusion of the chile.8 • Culinary Art and Anthropology many meals.’ The possible reason that squash was included is because of the traditional style of planting milpas. It has outlasted religions and governments in Mexico. beans and chiles. without which food was a penance. too numerous to list here.1 but even a brief perusal of Mexican cookbooks indicates that chiles are significant in Mexican life. (1992. It belongs to the holy trinity that has always been the basis of our diet: corn. (Muñoz. the cuisines of Mexico have been based on corn. pp. p. ‘Indeed the chile has played such an important role in the economic and social life of the country that many Mexicans feel their national identity would be in danger of extinction without it’ (Kennedy. Together they would be good basic sustenance. emphasis added) Mexican cuisine uses many kinds of chiles in diverse ways.. Without each other. especially vitamins A and C. but any Mexican interested in eating would place the chile above the squash in a list of priorities for the dining table. but hopelessly monotonous. Food historian Sophie Coe (1994. Corn is an incomplete protein.2 Diana Kennedy echoes Bartolomé de las Casas. cornfields. with beans and squash. beans. who enthuses that Chile is history. which the outsiders viewed as a mere condiment. and chile. there was agricultural abundance. It’s magic. my translation) Some writings on Mexican cooking state that the ancient Mesoamerican victuals were based on a ‘holy triad’ of corn. and the proof of this is to be found in the omission of chile peppers. p.3 In the sixteenth century when the Spanish first arrived. while the original inhabitants considered them a dietary cornerstone. Chile makes the gastric juices run for a dinner of beans and tortillas. beans are difficult to digest. 10. and not just in their use as flavouring for food. It is the ingredient that can determine the flavour of a dish. It is part of the landscape.

and culinary artistry (Corcuera. further shows how the Spanish who came during the Conquest were only partially forced to adjust to the foods of Mexico (pp. lentils and a few vegetables. Food in the History of Central Mexico (1990). and culinary knowledge and expertise grow. 93).Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 9 sophisticated farming techniques (chinampas4 and milpas) and more sophisticated gastronomy. beans and chiles. insects and a wide variety of fruits. and also of the feasts that the emperor Moctezuma offered to them and ate himself. imagination. where all sorts of plants. mainly of foods. partly out of necessity and somewhat because of taste choice’ (p. Those flavours which are favourable are repeated and remembered. Sahagún recorded that along with maize and beans. As the Spanish established themselves in what they called New Spain. tubers. tasted and tested during meals. 1981. seeds. and it is through their writings that we have any knowledge of the social and culinary systems of the precolonial period. animals and insects were being sold for food as supplements to the basic diet of corn. and this notion is reiterated by writers until today. Cowal’s unpublished study. 90–9). which added variety and breadth to their diet with comestibles that they did not grow themselves. mutton. including everything that they ate. The Spanish friars were the first to learn the local languages for the purposes of evangelization. fish. Not all indigenous groups were equally affluent. 30).5 The foods still boiled down to being variations of chiles. plants and herbs that they collected or domesticated for food use. but the availability of various foods impressed the conquistadors who came and saw the great markets of Tlatelolco. Spanish sources of the period attest to gastronomic abundance. p. vegetables. wild mushrooms. a Franciscan friar who came to Mexico in the sixteenth century. tortillas and tamales. Cuisines evolve as cooks experiment with ingredients and learn new ways to process and combine their raw materials for different occasions and effects. There are various accounts of how the Spaniards were impressed with the beauty and abundance of the Valley of Mexico. Food historians assert that Aztec cooking was developed to high art. the ancient Aztecs ate turkey. pulses. adapted to the Mexican diet. so the variety of foods recorded by Sahagún was actually a result of culinary expertise. used to a modest. bland diet of bread. meticulously collected material to describe the Aztec (Náhuatl) way of life. though there is some disagreement amongst researchers and cookbook writers. Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1950–82 [1590]). but Sonia Corcuera (1981) points out that the basic ingredients were still limited. The settlers eventually accommodated themselves within the existing culture. small game. She states that ‘at first the civilization was too highly developed and the populace too numerous for the Spaniards to ignore the native cooking. They also had military and political power over other groups in the region from whom they demanded tribute. New foods and cooking techniques are incorporated. Soldiers. Without question there was creativity. they also established firm roots for the Catholic church. The repertory of Mexican cuisine expanded with the addition of ingredients and cooking methods which were introduced during the Spanish colonial .

milk and its products were unknown. What exists in Mexico is what food historian Rachel Laudan defines as a local cuisine. have all had much more impact than the usual indigenous/colonial story would lead one to believe. cloves and many other herbs and spices that are widely used in Mexican cookery today. Before the arrival of the Spaniards. (Rachel Laudan. made up of different components that have now blended together to form . Eight centuries of Arab influence had left their mark’ (1990. the process of mestizaje is not a simple fusion of Indian and Spanish. That is.’9 She asserts that the indigenous cuisines of Mexico did not undergo the miscegenation that most people claim. p. not by the gradual evolution of some original cuisine rooted in the soil (though that does happen) but by the shocks and changes of immigrants . cows. Yet in spite of this.7 Given the sophistication of both the native and foreign colonial cuisines. a new and coherent cuisine . 62) or of ‘baroque cuisine’ comes directly from the convents. The Spaniards introduced pigs. above all. cinnamon.. therefore. which integrated the new flavours and foodstuffs. The idea of an ‘emerging mestizo cuisine’ (Valle and Valle. the power and wealth of its religious orders’ (Valle and Valle. the Lebanese. garlic. These popular traditions partly consist in the culinary techniques and gastronomic knowledge that have been passed down the generations through the family kitchen. such as frying.10 • Culinary Art and Anthropology period.. Historian Cristina Barros states that contemporary Mexican cuisine is 90 per cent indigenous and 10 per cent other influences. 113). They also brought onions.6 ‘But among the Aztec elite maize appeared in so many forms that it is hard to imagine them suffering from the monotony which we envisage when told of a culture which has a single staple food and eats it every meal of every day’ (Coe. and though they did influence the local cuisines. the bases remained Mexican.8 Cowal points out that ‘Spanish cooking was already a mixture when it got to the Americas.. 1994. Not just the Spanish but the French. Mexican cooks sought the essence of their art in popular traditions rather than in formalized techniques (Pilcher. the later Spanish refugees from the Civil War. At the same time. chickens and sheep to Mexico. coriander. 1995. as much of what they were used to cooking could not all be imported from Spain. Spanish nuns had to learn to use the local products. as were cooking methods using fats.. within the convents. and. p. 63). p. beans and chiles. the omnivorous appetites of its inhabitants. On the other hand.. 90). the Germans. Juárez López (2000) argues that the bases of much contemporary . ‘The most delicious cuisines [in Mexico] are those with more indigenous influence. There were few Spanish who arrived during the Conquest.. personal communication) By the nineteenth century. The convents were wealthy laboratories of gastronomic experimentation where the sharing of culinary influences flourished during the colonial period. p. 1998). ‘The excesses and inventiveness of convent cooking reflected Mexico’s diverse flora and fauna. the Italians. the Mennonites. the basis of Mexican cuisine remained the same as it had always been—corn. 1995.

p. and he had already devoted seven years to travel. xiii). There were two thousand single-spaced pages describing what people cooked. Ricardo was not yet 30 years old. He was teaching a class on beans in traditional Mexican cookery. techniques and customs related to food from all over the country. About thirty different recipes were covered. as well as culinary tools. research and writing for this book. Much later Ricardo told me that he was miffed that I did not seem too impressed. the most well known writer on Mexican cookery. This was because I expected there to be dozens of beans and ways to prepare them in Mexico. who is an excellent . many restaurants in Mexico offer home cooking as their specialities. after having read so much about Mexican food before my trip. 1995).g. There are subtle as well as forceful flavours. Regardless of a recipe’s origins. Muñoz. a fascinating and many-faceted world’ (1989. Kennedy. Gabilondo. and this was only a sampling. 2005. Gilliland and Ravago. hunted. many non-Mexican (e. planted. Zaslavsky. 1987.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 11 Mexican cuisine are European. Ricardo had had a modest upbringing in southern Mexico in Tabasco and Veracruz. have worked hard to dispel the idea that the foods of Mexico are anything like the food of popular Tex-Mex restaurants abroad. What did impress me. Home Cooking by Profession Soon after I arrived in Mexico for the first time I met Chef Ricardo Muñoz. and Laudan (2004) makes a strong case for Persian influences. 1996. and collected and what they ate at home. 1986. ranging from the simplicity of ingredients best eaten raw (like pápaloquelite or small avocados criollos. Indeed. a look at the recently published books on Mexican cooking suggests that the contemporary popular Mexican cuisine is as complex and sophisticated as those cuisines that are better known internationally. 2000). such as the Chinese. All of them draw this conclusion from their exposure to regional home cooking rather than to restaurant food. Diana Kennedy. was when we next met and Ricardo showed me the first draft of the Mexican gastronomic dictionary he had written (now published. Middle Eastern and French. in restaurants and on regular days or during fiestas. Aficionados travel to Mexico just to discover the richness and variety of the local cuisines. Bayless and Bayless. as well as other cookbook authors. out at street stalls. in small eateries. states that ‘[t]he foods of regional Mexico are in a gastronomic world of their own. At the time. because Ricardo believed that there was so much about Mexican gastronomy that people in Mexico and abroad should be aware of. very much. He grew up with a passion for food because of his mother. The project was a self-motivated labour of love. encompassing all kinds of flowers (like flor de izote) and local vegetables (like huauzontle). whose edible skin tastes subtly of anise) to complex stews or preparations made of dozens of ingredients (like moles and stuffed chiles). Kraig and Nieto.

she set up a fonda. he has been actively influencing others to share his appreciation of Mexican gastronomy. often shopping for their supplies. One friend of Ricardo’s was a chef at a sophisticated Mexico City restaurant serving nueva cocina mexicana. What the cooking school taught as Mexican cuisine was nothing like the cuisines that he knew from growing up and living in different regions of Mexico. where one of his sisters had migrated. then in turn is re-reproduced in people’s homes. he was continually drawn back to the flavours and culinary cultures of home. Recording food customs and recipes (lest they fall into disuse) is an active part of cultural revival given that the books where they are recorded influence readers’ activities. he asked Ricardo for advice. Dissatisfied with a complex green sauce that he intended to serve with duck. watching his mother cook. For a couple of years he lived in California. By the time he moved to Mexico City as a young adult and began formal culinary training. Despite his training as a chef that taught him the basics of French cuisine. sometimes home cooking is reproduced in restaurants. redefining or refining the cuisine. An example is a traditional soup from central Mexico known as squash blossom or milpa plantation soup. But even without books. discovery or rediscovery of these things. ‘I just told you how to make a traditional green mole!’ was Ricardo’s response. Ricardo grew up hanging out in the fonda. a small local eatery selling popular home-style dishes. The latter suggested adding a bit of this and that. To be able to afford to send her seven children to school.12 • Culinary Art and Anthropology cook.11 To me it seems he is like a contemporary Sahagún. He had had a relatively affluent urban upbringing. He recognized that many delicacies of Mexican gastronomy are wild ingredients or dishes produced only in people’s homes. in his data collection and awe of the foods of Mexico. he was attuned to the subtleties and diversity of Mexican regional cooking. on such a small scale that they remain local and unknown even in other areas of the country. After following these suggestions. Mexican nouvelle cuisine. Cooking Tradition Ricardo is one among many other researchers whose passion for traditional Mexican food inspired an investigation that to some extent is like ‘salvage ethnography’. and with his delicious cooking. recommending other cooking tips. and later also his teaching and publications. occasionally lending a hand. without the experience of growing up in a pueblo as Ricardo had done. ultimately expanding. Ricardo became recognized for his knowledge of traditional Mexican cookery. The soup . This was part of what instigated him to embark on his intense research of what and how people eat and cook in all the pueblos10 of Mexico that he could visit. the resulting sauce was so much better that he called up Ricardo right away to thank him and to ask him how he knew what to do. sopa de flor de calabaza or sopa de milpa. and there he took a course on international cookery.

The cooking schools in Mexico City were growing. and it was even possible to obtain a university degree in gastronomy. p. which included international cooking skills and culinary history among other subjects.14 Hountondji (1983) reminds us that the root word of ‘tradition’ is the Latin word tradere. directly related to the growing interest in reclaiming a sense of what is Mexican. of recuperating and renovating (or even reinventing) ‘traditional’ foods and practices. they often talked about Mexican food. recovering the recipes of their grandparents. which may seem very personal and ephemeral. There were many more Mexican food festivals aimed at wealthy urban mestizos than ever before. but it is now also served in posh restaurants serving nueva cocina mexicana. with fresh maize kernels. culinary traditions were self-consciously being revived (p. that is. and more and more books were being published about ‘real’ Mexican food. still under way. Long and Vargas suggest that the tendency to focus more on traditional cookery in restaurants and other gastronomic arenas arose from a recognition of traditions being lost. dough for making tortillas. and huitlacoche (corn fungus). which implies movement. However. A great cocktail party could turn into a brilliant party if there were a few dishes of quesadillitas or taquitos (mini quesadillas or tacos) amongst the other hors d’oeuvres. courgettes. the herb epazote. As a nationalistic reaction to foreign influences on Mexican food. to transmit. and the remote (‘authentic’12) recipes of the provincial towns. then. In relation to gastronomy and flavours. they still had great appreciation for what they sometimes called the ‘simple’ food. 139). Traditions are the ‘habits and values [of a culture that are transmitted] from one generation to another’ (p. squash blossoms. the food of the pueblo or of the market. Ricardo’s work slots into this movement. flavourful. some of whom had trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris or the Culinary Institute of America in New York. traditions should not be thought of as static or frozen in the past. and an awareness that their cuisines are unique. the greatest interest amongst young student chefs was in studying traditional Mexican cookery. . The soup may be thickened with masa (nixtamal ). was formed in Mexico City. Moreover. In the 1990s professional cookery had become as fashionable and prestigious as it was in the USA and UK. poblano chiles and sometimes nopales. and of the new and exciting Mexican cookery that was emerging. green beans.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 13 is made from the products of the milpa.13 Long and Vargas (2005. 138). This soup is home cooking (comida casera). The number of restaurants in Mexico serving Mexican cuisine has been rising in the past twenty-five years. something to be proud of. 113) trace the initial interest in preserving and promoting ‘traditional’ and fine regional and local Mexican food to 1981 when the Mexican Culinary Circle (Círculo Mexicano de Arte Culinario). I had considerable contact with professional chefs in Mexico City. of the pueblos. Whether they were specialists of French cuisine or California cooking. in spite of their support of experimentation and fusion.15 Etymologically. This was set up by a group of women who were distinguished chefs or otherwise specialists in Mexican culinary culture.

‘it is so that we can use up what is in the fridge’. and these dishes are often thought of simply as being ‘traditional’. Miguel proceeded to relate how his mother would slaughter the hens. 2006.d. This kind of knowledge and skill required to reproduce such ‘tradition’ is something that grows with the cook as he or she matures and gains dexterity.16 Unlike artefacts in an ethnographic museum. in a physiological. She herself had never tasted or cooked it before. 2006. social and/or professional sense. the curds made from the colustrum of a cow. if they are labelled at all. Doña Margarita and Primy told me how they would usually make tamales with them. We learn gastronomic habits and values by growing up within the contexts that give rise to what we later define as ‘traditional’. Knowing how to make certain dishes or how to combine foods is learnt by repeated observation and practice. pp.14 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it is difficult to pin down what precisely is transmitted. n. hearts. chile and epazote. not usually articulated. from the experience of growing up within a particular gastronomic culture. but her friend who had given it to her told her to prepare it with onions. These habits and values. La Merced. saving the blood and tripe to cook with the huevera. Rather than strictly following a recipe. noses and mouths. p. culinary knowledge and skill. My friend Yadira. p. Sutton. traditions are dynamic living practices that are ‘infinitely adaptable’ (Sutton. I had seen egg-laying hens for sale.). in Milpa Alta. tomatoes. Certainly most people’s vast culinary knowledge is never written down. fellow cooks are expected to be able to draw upon a ‘stock of knowledge’ (Keller and Dixon Keller. quoted and discussed in Sutton. These unlain eggs are called the huevera and my friends were able to tell me about different ways of preparing them. and they ordered an egg-laying hen from the butcher and prepared the tamales de huevera for my next visit. I will return to a discussion of culinary skill below and to the mutability of so-called traditional cooking in Chapter 5. 106). As with any other sort of skill. combined with creativity. hands. came home one day with calostros de vaca. will affect the outcome of the dishes cooked. it is enough to be aware that the multiple origins of each component or technique used in a dish are easily overlooked or forgotten in everyday life. 128–30) that is stored in their heads. it was explained to me. Rather. or as Ingold describes other kinds of skill. from consulting with others. it ‘develops with the growth of the organism’ (2000. ‘It is not because we want to stop following traditions’. in addition to gleaning what we can from books and other means or media (cf. cooking is something that is enacted and embodied. 2001. This is how culinary knowledge is often passed on— without recipes or precise measurements. . For now. Once I mentioned to friends in Milpa Alta that in the main market of Mexico City. They were cut open down the middle and their unlain eggs were on display. they improvise with the food they have at hand. when people need to do things quickly. 361).17 A surprise gift or passing comment might spark off a memory from which a cook can recreate or reproduce a dish that may be or become part of ‘tradition’. with a little imagination. the recipe for which he described in detail.

Most people I came across in Mexico would still insist that a salsa made in the molcajete tastes better than one made in a blender.18 Sauces had to be prepared with the stone mortar and pestle called the molcajete and tejolote. On Learning Techniques Before my first visit to Mexico. in the flavours.to 7-ounce red snapper fillets. but in fact they were full of parenthetical references to other recipes or basic techniques. Often recipes looked deceptively simple. The rice and beans would be the most common accompaniments for this fish in the Yucatán where the recipe originates. skinned Achiote Rub (see recipe for Cochinita Pibil) Cebollas Rojas en Escabeche (see separate recipe) (Gilliland and Ravago. they recommend serving the fish with arroz blanco (white rice) and frijoles negros (black beans). The grinding action of the stones produces a more even. the ingredients. even more so if such a thing were possible. then grinding them on a metate. p. Inspired by a recipe from Diana Kennedy. This is one reason that a sincere interest in cooking. recipes for which are found on other pages of the book. so it is good advice to follow. making a choppy and more watery sauce. rather than grinds. in some households. but this does not compare with having the experience of cooking and eating in Mexico with Mexican people to give you a feeling for the cuisine. textured salsa than an electric blender. and much effort and time are needed to prepare almost anything that people eat daily. or with chipotle mayonnaise. a metal or clay griddle. for people who like to cook’ (Condon and Bennet. It was intimidating.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 15 Some traditional Mexican cooking techniques are complex or involve long processes. the raw materials and the finished dishes. Here is an example from the cookbook of a well-known restaurant in Texas that has been known for serving ‘authentic Mexican food of the interior’. hoping to try out some recipes. 134) In addition. 1973. ‘The pervasive fact about Mexican food is that it is not only for people who like to eat. 2005. flat round cakes. to say the least. in spite of industrialization). it is. these are the three ingredients of their recipe for Pescado Tikin Xik: 6 6. Some cookbooks suggest sample menus or traditional accompaniments. p. Some restaurants even serve salsas from molcajetes whether or not they actually make the sauces in them. I bought or read a number of Mexican cookbooks. or basalt grinding stone. and baking them one by one on a comal. 16). is necessary to cook well. Fonda San Miguel. (Thank goodness we can ask the fishmonger to fillet and skin the fish for us!) . which are helpful. to make a soft dough before patting them out into tortillas. Before industrialization (and now. As one cookbook aptly expresses. which slices. women had to spend several hours a day boiling dried maize kernels.

A cook needs to make myriad decisions before finally producing not just a dish. which are. tasted and savoured. or were side dishes or basic preparations that ultimately constituted an ingredient for another recipe. broiled (see page 450) 5 chiles serranos. I recognized that I needed to reach a comfortable level of self-confidence when I thought of chiles or of making a Mexican salsa. gastronomic. p. after all. It took me several months of living in Mexico before I could look at a typical recipe such as the above and not need to take a deep breath before beginning. touched and manipulated. But home cooks surely did not think in terms of recipes. 338) What appeared straightforward at first glance seemed actually more like the endless subordinate clauses of a German sentence. it lists the following ingredients: 2 garlic cloves. 1989. cocida (page 337). 1989.16 • Culinary Art and Anthropology For another example. an artefact (or . and it is this type of discernment that also needs to be learnt. Once in a material or physical state. assessed by sight. or 1⅓ cups salsa de tomate verde. peeled and roughly chopped 2 pounds (about 4 large) tomatoes. broiled (see page 472) 2 tablespoons safflower oil 2 heaped tablespoons finely chopped white onion ½ teaspoon (or to taste) sea salt (Kennedy. kept hot. Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs). approximately. 318) Turning then to her recipe for salsa ranchera on page 338. abstract formulae that need to be selfconsciously recorded. Note that this dish must be prepared at the last moment and served immediately: safflower oil for frying 4 5-inch corn tortillas 4 extra large eggs 1⅓ cups salsa ranchera (page 338). Ingredients are chosen. approximately. According to Ingold (2000). expertise is enacted as a symbiosis between a skilled practitioner and his or her environment within a system of relations (in our case social. along with the culinary techniques. and material). They were only some of the essential components of a complete or proper meal. but a full meal. kept hot rajas of 1 large chile poblano (see page 471) 4 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco or añejo (Kennedy. p. A recipe is merely an intellectual prototype like a blueprint of the dish that eventually is prepared by a cook according to his or her skill or mood. My impression was that short recipes were either composites of several others. texture and smell. these are the ingredients of Diana Kennedy’s recipe for one of the most well-known dishes outside of Mexico.

food. even though I comprehended the words individually. Though she did not set out to teach him to cook. and he noticed how she respected food. Even watching my friends cook on occasion was not enough for me to pick up the skills in a short time. following a Mexican recipe required learning culinary skills to which I had had no prior exposure. 345). Another friend. He said that he learned to cook by watching his sister cooking as he grew up. rather than use too little oil and sacrifice the flavour and texture. I did not dare to put a chile directly on the gas flame of the cooker to blister the skin before steaming and peeling it. Because of these very individual actions. boiled beans. 2000. I rarely cooked on my own. and that it is important to allow foods to take their own time to reach their optimum points. This is because ‘the artefact engages its maker in a pattern of skilled activity’ (p. preferably by demonstration and practice. Sutton (2001) notes that written recipes are ‘memory jogs’ that cannot actually teach someone how to cook. showed me how he makes refried beans. frijoles refritos. I garnered knowledge of technical terminology and processes much more systematically than I did from women in Milpa Alta. meal) is as much a part of the creative process as its pre-conceptualisation. That is not to say that the techniques of one group were any more or less sophisticated than the other’s. 2006). I stopped thinking twice about it. The women of Milpa Alta and the chefs of the centre differed in social class and social context. In all my time in Mexico. and to my understanding each group held the other in great respect for their presumed culinary mastery. I had to confess that I did not know what that meant. practise and articulate my questions about Mexican culinary techniques so that some of the cooking skill could grow within me. In my case. Yadira insisted that it is better to use too much oil to fry rice well before adding water or broth. They serve as reminders so that a cook can prepare a dish using previously learnt skills acquired through experience (see also Sutton. even if you must drain off the excess oil. Making raw salsas and different kinds of cooked or part-cooked salsas with fresh chiles or dried chiles requires different methods. they used a very similar discourse. he loved to watch her. The hands of the cook and other bodily sensory factors play a role in the outcome.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 17 in our case. . It took him almost forty-five minutes to fry and mash onions with the frijoles de olla. When a Mexican friend told me that to make enchiladas I had to ‘pass the tortilla through hot oil’. p. When two cooks prepare food following the same recipe the food comes out differently. Among chefs who specialized in Mexican cuisine. Before going to Mexico for the first time. After some weeks watching and helping people cook in Mexico. participate. but I had plenty of opportunities to observe. 343). too. a dish or meal) does not actually come into being in the exact way that it was previously imagined (Ingold. who used to cook for a fonda in Veracruz. To prepare basic Mexican dishes some unique culinary techniques need to be learned. the coming-into-being of any product (artefact. Toño. Yet when it came to the way in which they talked about Mexican cuisine.

18 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Food and Love There is a rhetoric of food and love in Mexico. At some point I wondered whether this might be a clever culturally sanctioned means of hiding culinary secrets. ‘What’s your secret?’. ‘La cocina mexicana es para él que siente. when I complimented people on their cooking. but when we talked about Mexican cuisine. but after further experience I decided that attributing their success in cooking to ‘love’ was a deliberate and apt conceptualization of producing good flavour in their food. and the gastronomical—and these three are encapsulated in mole. and I was unable to elicit a clear explanation from him. which I did often. This comment may sound exaggerated. I never asked anyone directly. but oftentimes. which is exemplified by novels such as Like Water for Chocolate (Esquivel. But my banker friend was not the only person I met who talked of food in this manner. of course. There are three types of orgasms. saying. This was a phrase they volunteered. the spiritual. It may also be that a good cook cares about following a recipe or doing a technique properly. It involves understanding the history of a dish or an ingredient. he who loves’). Professional chefs have a technical language in which to express themselves about gastronomic matters. good cooks from any culture might say that the reason they cook well is because of some kind of love. he told me—the carnal. they almost always took up this popular discourse of love and gave an emotional value to the topic. The latter often added that love was the ‘secret ingredient’ that made their dishes special. When people talk of love (amor). Friends from different backgrounds have told me their culinary secret. what ‘marries well’ or not. A young banker once tried to explain to me his relationship to food. The rhetoric of love is not something that is unique to Mexico. It may be that a good cook treats ingredients in a particular. This love may be interpreted as an affection for the people who will be eating or as the desire to eat well. Throughout my fieldwork I was confronted with these statements—both from trained chefs and from home cooks. It also appears that you need not be born Mexican in order to feel so strongly about their cuisine. knowing how or why certain things are used together. Relating food to love in Mexico may not be unique. because of a love of cooking. including the attention and care that goes into cooking well. Richard Condon . saying. 1992). they refer to many facets of love. the cook sometimes dictated me a recipe. ‘I cook with love’ (‘Yo cocino con amor’ ). and sometimes said that her secret was ‘love’. but I believe the prevalence and variety of its expression is pertinent. loving way to bring out each ingredient’s best qualities. Different kinds of culinary specialists subscribe to this popular discourse on the connection between love and cooking. él que ama’ (‘Mexican cuisine is for he who feels. And of course there is the correlation between food and romance. Wooing couples of different cultures often practise courtship or romance with private meals (out or in) as preludes to other things. If pressed. Knowing how to develop the flavours of a food depends on an interest in understanding it and how it reacts with other foods.

Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 19
(Condon and Bennet, 1973, p. 3), possibly the most effusive writer on Mexican cuisine, described it as
the most exalted food ever to appear in the Western Hemisphere, ... it becomes evident, when the glorious plunge is taken, that to cook and eat Mexican food is to celebrate sensuality in every great chamber of this textured, perfumed, delicious, beautiful, and memorable gastronomic antiquity. Mexican food is an aphrodisiac which excites the passion for living. It courts, seduces, ravishes, then cherishes all five senses (as well as the sense of most worthy accomplishment) by treating each as if it existed alone, as if all satisfaction were dependent upon this one sense, while it orchestrates all five into complex permutations of sensation.

Some professional chefs ascribed the source of their success to things other than ‘love’. They talked of having a passion for food, in general, but they were also likely to relate their cooking skills to ‘art’ or to their being ‘professional’. Ricardo says that he cooks with love, and also with passion. Chef Abdiel Cervantes says he is a lover of Mexican cuisine (‘Soy un amante de la cocina mexicana’), and his success is because of his genuine fondness (cariño) for Mexican cuisine. Chefs like Ricardo and Abdiel, who were singled out as specialists in Mexican cuisine, each had profound childhood memories or training that influenced their cooking. They grew up cooking Mexican food, helping their mothers, who sold local food commercially or who often prepared food for large parties. In fact, Abdiel was a self-taught chef who became successful in Mexico City without any formal culinary training. Ricardo tried to explain to me his idea of love when cooking Mexican food: ‘You don’t cook just for the hell of it; there’s something to transmit through the food. It is something very very personal, so hard to explain that the only way to express your feelings is through action.’ He continued, ‘Every single thing you do in the pot, you do because it has a reason.’ When a salsa comes out very hot (muy picosa), the explanation often given is that the cook was angry or that she lacked love. When the salsa is watery, the cook was feeling lethargic, lazy or dispirited ( flojera, sin ánimo, sin amor). As Ricardo always emphasized, the emotional state of mind of the cook is always revealed in the outcome of the cooking. Cooking with love was Ricardo’s favourite topic of discussion. ‘La comida es una verdadera manifestación del amor,’ he said (‘Food is a true manifestation of love).’ He explained that when you truly love someone, not necessarily in a romantic sense, with pleasure you might say, ‘Te voy a cocinar un mole para tu cumpleaños’ (‘I will make you a mole for your birthday’). It is a way to assure your friend that you will provide the best for him or her. Saying, ‘Te voy a cocinarte algo’ (‘I will cook something for you’) means ‘Te quiero mucho’ (‘I love you very much’), but not necessarily in a sexual sense. Ricardo emphasized the Mexican saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, un hombre se enamora por el estómago, or un hombre se conquista por el estómago. A cook invests many hours in preparing food for others, he added (his emphasis). It is a way of expressing how much you

20 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
love someone, because all dishes denoted as special take a very long time to prepare. This is why the time it takes to prepare food is an ‘investment’; it is an investment in the social relationship between the cook and the intended eater(s). Cooking with love combines the pleasure of cooking with the pride of culinary knowledge and the sentiments that are transmitted to the eaters. Several others stressed to me that this personal aspect is vital to understanding Mexican cuisine, both for cooking and for eating. A student of gastronomy told me that her greatest complaint about many publications on Mexican cuisine is that they are recipe books with few explanations. Descriptions of how and why the recipe came about or is used in this way for a particular occasion or in a particular place, or the feelings and choices that are involved in the preparation, or the positioning of the people who are cooking and eating, are all part of Mexican cookery and ought not to be edited out. What Mexican people eat signifies much more than filling their stomachs (Fabiola Alcántara, personal communication). Aída Gabilondo (1986), a Mexican cookbook writer, wrote about the importance of love for good cooking. She recalled the teachings of her mother, who
was a loving cook: no rough stirring or pouring. She insisted that food resented being rudely handled and that finished dishes would show any mistreatment ... Years later when I started teaching cooking in my home town, I remembered her words, and when I wrote a recipe on the blackboard or dictated it to my students, I always ended the list of ingredients with the words, ‘Sal, pimienta, y amor’. Salt, pepper, and love. (p. 5)

Another student of Mexican gastronomy explained to me that Mexican cuisine could never truly be accurately or well transferred to a professional restaurant kitchen. Mexican cuisine requires an emotional investment from the cook, and casual observation reveals that careless cooks produce careless results. ‘Mexican cuisine is very personal, very human. [When cooking] you are always thinking of your family or of the person for whom you’re cooking. When you remove the personal aspect from Mexican cuisine its flavour changes; it cannot be commercialized’ (Ricardo Bonilla, personal communication). One Mexican chef who herself does not specialize in Mexican cuisine says that you need to be born with it in order to cook it properly, to understand and to reproduce it. This is why there are few good Mexican restaurants in Mexico and abroad, she said, ‘because they are just chefs; they learn to reproduce the food—but not from home—without love’. Ricardo Muñoz says, ‘You have to love la tierra [the land]. You have to be involved with the culture.’ In a way, the same can be said if you wish to cook well in any cuisine. You need to care enough to find out about proper techniques, as well as about the history and culture of the dish and the people. The most well-known US chef who specializes in Mexican cooking, Chef Rick Bayless, takes his restaurant staff to Mexico every year so that they can experience the cuisine first-hand. Out of respect for Mexican culture and cuisine, he considers

Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 21
it necessary to stay in touch with the country to be able to better reproduce the traditional cooking back in Chicago. For him, as discussed further below, this attention is how a restaurant can compensate to approximate the love that emanates from home cooking. Bayless was invited as a keynote speaker at a festival of Mexican cuisine held at the Ambrosia cookery school in Mexico City (2 September 1997). His talk was on his ideas about Mexican cuisine and how to ‘translate’ it for use in restaurants outside of Mexico. He said that to properly cook ‘authentic’ Mexican food, it is necessary to cook with the passion, security (confianza) and generous spirit of Mexican cuisine. In his speech, exalting the traditional regional cuisines of Mexico, he also mentioned the impossibility of making real Mexican food in restaurants. The flavours of Mexico cannot be fully achieved unless the human factor is there, but failing that, attention to top-quality ingredients and meticulous workmanship may compensate. He said,
Home cooking must be transferred to the restaurant kitchen, and it must be part of the curriculum in cooking schools, the way it is, instead of trying to copy the European model. It must be prepared properly from the beginning, as it is done in your grandmother’s home; but in restaurants, of course, without the sazón of love. Therefore, the best ingredients must be used. To imitate other more famous cuisines will not do.19

When Bayless mentioned love, he called it a sazón, referring to the impossibility of restaurant chefs having the kind of personal connection to their customers as home cooks have to their families. The word sazón literally means seasoning or flavour but is used to connote a special personal flavour which individual cooks contribute to the food to make it come out well. This word is used to explain why no two cooks ever produce the same flavour, although they may follow the same recipe or were taught to cook by the same person. ‘Cada persona tiene su sazón,’ every person has his own personal touch. Someone can have good sazón or none. ‘Está en la mano,’ it is in the hand, people also say. A person’s sazón is something inexplicable that cannot be learnt but must arise from within, from a person’s heart. It is a talent or knack for cooking, and this particular kind of personal touch that is necessary for good Mexican cooking is love. Both Ricardo and Primy, who makes barbacoa (see Chapter 3), have curiously noticed that when they personally get involved in the cooking, using their hands (mano, sazón), their diners/customers somehow notice the difference. Each told me that when they merely supervise the cooking but do not have direct contact with the food, diners may still think the outcome is very good, but when they are in direct contact, diners sometimes comment on just how good the food turned out that day. The central importance of sazón is examined in depth by Abarca (2006), who considers it to represent a ‘culinary epistemology’. She very accurately describes it as being ‘like a gardener’s green thumb’ (p. 51). The women she interviewed, whom she calls ‘grassroots theorists’, provide several examples where they demonstrate

it separates artists from craftspeople. it is not only a recognition of their culinary knowledge.20 Drawing from the work of Giard (2002). but in a fonda or at home. I would hesitate to connect sazón too much to ‘traditional’ kitchen equipment. For my part. Abarca further suggests that modern kitchen appliances such as electric blenders interfere with a cook’s sazón because they reduce the need to use all one’s senses. Because of his training as a chef. though in sazón they are not mutually exclusive. un don. When cooks are singled out for their ability. They are guided by their memories. All kinds of chiles are stuffed and are served in people’s homes. I hope that Ricardo’s detailed explanations will compensate for the lack of his presence. caldillo. but what is most commonly found in Mexico City. I have heard people describe sazón as something like a blessing or a gift. The recipes and cooking tips in this chapter are taken from Ricardo’s first book. and to this I now turn in the chapter that follows. Similar to what Abarca notes. that is. Sazón.22 • Culinary Art and Anthropology their sazón in their ability to prepare particularly delicious food. stuffed chiles would be served with a thin tomato sauce. without recipes. or cheese. instead. frijoles de olla. 54). Her grassroots theorists tend to cook without measuring. my working title was Chiles rellenos a la mexicana. to more challenging dishes such as pipián verde. Abarca writes. personal histories and taste. When someone has sazón. Recipes Though I have just explained at length that it is difficult to reproduce Mexican cooking without demonstration and practice. Los chiles rellenos en México (1996). I suggest. ‘captures the notion of saber rather than conocer’ (p. From reading cookbooks I was charmed with the idea of stuffing chiles and on my first visit to Mexico I was naturally most eager to taste this very special. ‘Stuffed Chiles a la Mexicana’. This can range from something as common as boiled beans in their broth. instructions are meticulously written. as well as by their internal embodied knowledge. yet also very humble and everyday dish. that someone is rarely able to pinpoint what her actual trick might be. The picadillo filling for the chile recipes . When I first began my own research. I have abridged it only a little as I translated it. are poblano chiles stuffed with chopped or minced meat ( picadillo). In other words. I provide recipes throughout this book to give readers an idea of Mexican home cooking (comida casera). She describes women who have good sazón who avoid pressure cookers and grind their moles on their metates. embodied or otherwise. or sazón. It is precisely this inexplicable quality that sets some cooks apart from others. In the market the chiles are sold wrapped in a tortilla like a taco. ‘to know’ at a sensory epistemological level rather than ‘to know’ in a technical way. and in market stands and fondas. that the sazón is what differentiates a good cook from a particularly finely talented one. and it is possible to have sazón even when cooking with modern appliances.

peeled and cut into ½-cm (⅛-inch) cubes ½ cup corn or canola oil 1 cup white onions. to taste • Blanch the potatoes in water and set them aside. pp.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 23 here can be substituted with cheese. 51–2) Serves 15 María Elena Trujillo This is a typical home-style preparation of chiles stuffed with picadillo that is served in any house on any day of the year in Mexico City. especially the kinds that melt. Chiles 15 chiles poblanos. finely chopped 300 g (11 oz) minced beef 350 g (12 oz) minced pork sea salt to taste black pepper. . Add the garlic and as soon as it is fried. 1996. but a mother or mother-in-law knows that her daughter or daughter-in-law should someday inherit her culinary secrets. They should be cooked but not very soft. María Elena was born in Coahuila. but she came to live in the capital when she was very young. ready for stuffing • See ‘How to Peel chiles poblanos’. stirring from time to time to separate the lumps and to avoid it sticking to the pan. freshly ground. and everyone learns to cook according to the regional style. Few families have recipe collections. stir in the beef and pork. Cook until the meat is crispy. Chiles rellenos de picadillo sencillo con papa Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato (Muñoz. Oaxaca and Chihuahua cheeses are commonly used. • Heat the oil until it smokes lightly and fry the onions until soft and golden. Picadillo 3 cups potatoes. just by watching. below. Formal classes of authentic Mexican cooking are never taken. Panela. and she soon learned to make local dishes. finely chopped 1 tablespoon garlic.

chopped ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds sea salt to taste black pepper to taste • Heat the oil in a pan until it smokes lightly. as necessary ¼ cup corn oil sugar to taste . tomato and cumin. Munoz. 53) 2 kg (4½ lb) tomatoes ½ cup white onions. accompanied with white rice and/or brothy beans and corn tortillas or bread. Adjust the salt. Capeado 8 eggs at room temperature. and season with salt and pepper to taste. • In a blender. as necessary corn or canola oil for frying • See ‘How to Achieve a Perfect capeado’. 1996. and fry the onion until golden. peeled 6 black peppercorns sea salt to taste chicken broth or water. separated sea salt to taste flour. p. Strain the mixture and pour it over the onions. sliced into thin segments 4 cloves garlic. Caldillo ¼ cup corn oil 2 cups white onions.24 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Add the potatoes and pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes. • Serve the chiles with this sauce. liquefy the garlic. peeled 1 cup tomato. below. • Leave to cool and stuff the chiles. • Allow the caldillo to cook for about 15 minutes. chopped roughly 6 cloves garlic. Alternative caldillo ( from picadillo especial recipe.

It is necessary to dry the chiles with a dry cloth or to drain them very well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. so it is good to roast and peel a few extra chiles. with their respective differences. How to Peel chiles poblanos (pp. and the skin will slip off more easily. Many people find it easier to remove the seeds under cold running water. starting 2 centimetres (¾ inch) from the stem. add a little sugar. Leave the chiles to rest for around 15 minutes so that they can sweat. 48–9) Almost every family has their own technique for peeling and cleaning chiles. turning them with tongs from time to time until they are roasted and the skin bubbles and lightly burns (the skin will first turn white and then dark brown). Cook until the tomatoes are totally cooked. Set aside to serve with stuffed chiles. • Place the chiles directly over the flame on the stove. . Try to peel the chiles just before stuffing and coating them in batter. • Place the chiles on a chopping board. garlic. but this makes the chile lose some flavor. With the tip of a knife cut a slit down the length of each chile. you may return them to the flame to burn off any remaining skin. and salt in enough broth or water to completely cover them. making the chiles hotter. It is at this stage when the chiles are most easily broken. almost falling apart. heat the oil until it smokes lightly. pepper. immediately transfer the chiles to a plastic bag and close it. If they will be coated in capeado it is all right if some bits of skin remain. If the cut is made from end to end it may be difficult to stuff and then close the chiles. • Pour it all into a blender jar and liquefy to form a smooth sauce. keeping the stem facing upward. and chiles ixcatic. • In a deep pot. This is best done with your fingers. Strain it. because if they are peeled too far in advance they may become too soft and lose their texture and visual appeal. If it is a bit sour or tart. This can also be done on a griddle (comal ). Pour the sauce into the oil and let it cook about 10 minutes. and stopping at least 1 centimetre (⅓ inch) before you reach the bottom tip. When the skin is charred well and evenly. • It is unnecessary to scrape the chiles. These are the most common ways.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 25 • Boil the tomatoes with the onion. • This same technique may be used for other fresh chiles like the de agua of Oaxaca. or over hot coals or a wood fire. The inside of the chiles should be cleaned with a damp cloth. If they are not to be battered. because they may break. but if you have very sensitive skin you may wish to wear rubber gloves. • Remove all the veins and seeds from the chiles. jalapeños. Check that the part attached to the stem is completely clean because some veins and seeds often remain.

• Do not stuff the chiles too far in advance since the juices of the filling may spill out. • Before placing the chiles in the oil. 1996. • When placing the chile in oil. • As soon as the whites have been beaten to the required point. • Coat the chiles in the batter quickly. and with a spatula.21 A copper bowl is ideal. • Never beat egg whites in plastic bowls. Add one or two tablespoons of sifted flour if you wish to have a thicker batter. just stiff ). 112–3) • For the egg to stick well to the chiles. • The stuffing should be cold or at room temperature. • Beat the egg whites only until they form soft peaks ( punto de nieve. It is very difficult to beat many egg whites stiff at the same time. incorporate the yolks one by one with folding movements. Metal or glass bowls will also give good results. lay it with the opening facing up. since it helps the whites to reach the required or ideal point. Do not heat it too much or the batter may burn. it should smoke lightly. if not. because they are difficult to handle if they are too heavy.26 • Culinary Art and Anthropology How to Achieve a Perfect capeado (Muñoz. the chiles should be totally dry inside and outside. If the eggs have been in the refrigerator it is necessary to remove them two hours before using them. overturn the bowl. because these bowls retain flavors and odors and often cause the egg whites to collapse. They very easily collapse or separate. the batter will separate. if the egg whites move or slip. though copper bowls are expensive and difficult to find. prepare the batter in small amounts. . but not too much because it is easy to overbeat them. they are not yet ready and should be beaten some more. splash the oil over the top of the chile to seal it. • When stuffing the chiles. make sure that the oil is hot enough. • The eggs must always be at room temperature because cold egg whites do not rise sufficiently. • If you need to coat large amounts of chiles. in stages. • The flour should be sifted because lumps remain raw and give a bad taste to the capeado. It should also be dry so that no liquid will spill out. avoid overstuffing them. At this stage you may add salt. Afterward. This also helps the egg to adhere to the chile and not slip off when you fry it. To determine whether they have reached this point. Pay special attention to drying the inside very well. pp. turn the chile to cook the other side. • If the batter spreads beyond the sides of the chile. moisture will deflate the stiffly beaten eggs. even if it has previously been strained. • Roll the chiles in sifted flour (make sure to shake off the excess). use a spatula to push it back to stick to the chile so that it remains uniform and without drips.

• Once you remove the chiles from the pan. you can splash the top of the chile constantly with oil so that it will no longer be necessary to turn the chile to fry the other side. You may need to change the paper towels two or more times as you continue frying.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 27 • With practice. • The batter should cook until it is lightly golden (never brown). Yes. place them on paper towels to absorb excess oil. it is possible! • When frying small chiles and those that do not have a heavy filling. you can hold them by the stem to turn them without using a spatula. though the bottom part will always be a little darker. • If you are inexperienced. . though it may be better to turn them by holding the stem. you may need two spatulas to turn the chiles without breaking the egg coating.

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by taking into account the production. 1997a. and second. who focused primarily on class distinction and social hierarchy. Food and Culinary Art in Anthropology Chefs and gastronomes talk passionately about food. and a point of departure. for my approach to food differs from that of Bourdieu and Goody. in the sensual/social relations (Howes. and often in the context of ritual occasions (e.–2– Cooking as an Artistic Practice Recognizing the cuisines of Mexico as culinary art is in fact a recognition of the technical virtuosity entailed in their production. In this chapter I put forth the argument that we should think of food as art in order to analyze it productively anthropologically. consumption and exchange of foods within social networks. identity or symbolic staple foods. including culinary professionals. the ‘technology of enchantment’ and his notion of the ‘art nexus’. I then move on to examine Gell’s broadly defined notion of art. Caplan. see Brown and Mussell. I use Gell’s theory of art as a model. often find it difficult to articulate their reasons for preferring some foods over others. or to describe and discuss flavours.1 This may be why there are few attempts to analyze flavours anthropologically. which ultimately results in their producing food (artwork/artefact) that is successful in its rendition (that is. creativity and agency. 1985. memorable). I develop these ideas by first establishing how food has been treated previously. delicious. poverty. there has been more focus on issues such as gender. Though the results are comparable. Counihan – 29 – . Yet many people. Chefs and home cooks both perceive and appreciate the knowledge acquisition of each other. meaningful.g. This is because of the perceived skill involved in its execution. 2003) of life in Milpa Alta. for a fruitful anthropological examination of food and flavour. home cooks acquire skill by growing up under certain conditions considered ‘traditional’ and also by working with masters who are other home cooks known for their buen sazón. Chefs acquire skill by professional training in schools or working with masters.2 Though much has been written about food in anthropology. the means by which each of these groups acquires this skill are completely different. cookery and cuisine. I propose that we can better get at the meaningfulness of food in everyday life first by considering cooking as an artistic practice (and recipes as artworks).

. which are deemed of higher theoretical relevance. or were ceremonialized. 1997. anthropologists are not used to thinking of it as art. and not food as a means of defining what else it can be used for in the social order (e. Whilst we may subconsciously appreciate very good food as superior craft. arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially. The distinction between art and craft is a question of skill. using this label without questioning its meaning. taste in terms of flavour seems to be particularly resistant to sociological analysis. it is considered to be subjective and too personal for scrutiny. 1999. p. Without the consideration of such related areas. by locating their interpretation only at the ‘deeper’ level. 2002). But his interest is in comparative analysis over a broad historical. perhaps because. Yet thinking of a cook/chef as an artist.3 The topic of food in anthropology has historically been subsumed into these other areas and contexts. . discussed further below. comparison and contrast within and between cuisines lacks an essential dimension. like aesthetics. or. 3). than if they simply pleased those who were doing the cooking and eating’ (1996. Mintz encourages anthropologists to study food in its social context as a ‘cuisine’. In fact. The same could be said about flavour in food. 1998. Lupton. he discusses ‘the art of cooking’. is a connection that is so easily made in societies where most anthropologists come from. Instead. especially in areas as closely tied to the whole domestic domain as that of cooking. it has flavour and the taste is important to the people who eat and cook the foods. Macbeth. Lentz. analysing cooking in its domestic quotidian context is as important as studying food in ritual contexts. However. Yet it cannot be denied that whether food is discussed in ritual or quotidian occasions. albeit lightly. which is largely a matter of privileging the ‘symbolic’ at the expense of the more immediately communicable dimensions of social action … a neglect of the ‘surface’ in favour of the ‘depths’.30 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and Kaplan. 1996). see Sutton. 1997. anti-art’ (1996. 25) Strangely enough. not only in food studies (e.g. It is what matters most immediately to us when we eat and is difficult to isolate as a subaspect of food. baffled him. 1996. Wiessner and Schiefenhövel. (p. Malinowski. especially from the perspective of the anthropology of art. the artistic aspect of food production has often been ignored in favour of its shock value.4 In other words. 40). little is written about cooking as a form of art. as Sidney Mintz put it. food and eating ‘were more interesting [to anthropologists] if they offended the observer. 1998) but also more generally in anthropology and sociology (see Highmore.g. sex and sacrifice. he supports the observation and study of cooking at the domestic level. constitutionally. In Goody’s (1982) analysis of hierarchy and the development of elaborate cuisines. stating that there is a tendency to spirit away the more concrete aspects of human life. p. 1935). There is a growing trend to consider the everyday.5 Gell observes that ‘the neglect of art in modern social anthropology is necessary and intentional. Counihan and van Esterik. even food.

It is the active element in food preparation. As Sidney Mintz says. which are powerful enough to lead to social changes in other levels in the matrix of cultural forms. Although I do not contest the analytical advantages of a structural framework. p. Some cookery writers. The active agency of art is the conveyor or mediator of social meanings. myself. 30).8 an artistic approach may provide greater scope for an analysis of an elaborate cuisine. . Having succumbed. within the complex of intentionalities that Gell talks about in his work (1998.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 31 political and economic framework. The communicative aspects of cooking and eating lie in the meanings that actors (or agents. fully trapped under some kind of gastronomic spell. When I first went to Mexico. ‘Because people act in terms of understood meanings. within the constraints of a cook’s daily life.7 Goody (1982) and Mintz (1979) each insist that meaning (in food) is salient beyond the immediate place and time of its production and consumption. p. that make good food meaningful and thus give cooks greater social value. He argues for the need to contextualize social theory in ‘the total process of production.6 Nevertheless. there is no ‘language of food’ which can be learnt via a grammar of eating habits or cooking techniques. 1982. 2). At least from my findings in Mexican cuisine. Furthermore. It allows women to change their social spaces and thereby expand their social network outside of the home. from his topic of enquiry it seems logical to observe ‘the art of cooking’ itself in the context of its social dimensions. meaning can be said to effectuate behaviors of certain kinds. therefore. both professional cooks and women in Milpa Alta. preparation and consumption of food’ ( p. It makes more sense. like the Mexican. I was surprised to find that real Mexican people. both cooks and eaters) place in the food within their social context. simply did not have a clue about what I was getting at when I talked about culinary manipulations of chiles and other foodstuffs. illuminating their structure may lead us no further than etiquette when it is also possible to observe complex and varied culinary techniques which inform cooks and eaters about other social meanings. 30). an example from my fieldwork is helpful. 1999b). And power and meaning are always connected’ (1996. that is. hence power. ‘[N]either social relations nor social structure “express” or “symbolise” the acts of individuals because the former are necessarily derived from and totally encompass the latter’ (Goody. to talk about a body of knowledge—a culinary corpus or art corpus. combined with the fact that raw materials need to be bought or collected from different places and then prepared and combined well. describe Mexican culinary mastery as analogous to the control required to manipulate poetic language or magic. to this ‘enchantment’. meaning is temporally extended and extendable. the creative activity. if you wish—or a socially developed system which is employed in the preparation of foods for consumption. While it is true that Mexican eating habits can be placed into classifications and then encoded. yet in his own work he neglected the aspect of preparation. I was interested in learning the ‘language of chiles’ that I had been led to expect existed from reading Mexican cookbooks. To illustrate this point.

the social meanings or meaningfulness of foods can be better understood if we analyze cuisine as a whole. women’s domestic and extradomestic roles. Gell’s Theory of Art Gell (1996) suggests thinking of art as a ‘vast and often unrecognized technical system. Rather than direct metonymic expressions of foodstuffs standing for other social structures. and the cuisine demands a certain discipline and lifestyle which partly structures the daily. The anthropological analysis of cultural meaning requires explication of cultural forms—a working through or unfolding of these culturally specific definitions and connectivities in order to disclose both the relational nature of the forms and the significance that derives from this relationality. Instead. and therefore meaning ful.32 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Technical mastery is what defines the art object. pp. Thus I avoid analysis of semiotic relations such as corn with blood or chiles with penises (in the wordplay albur). p. (1986. I am taking cuisine as art in the way that Gell sees art. but also acknowledge the artistic quality of the act of cooking. focusing on culinary practice. So. Thinking of food as art which is based on action (Gell. or repository of social meaning. my position with specific regard to food is to locate the source of meaning in the social relations between cooks and eaters and in culinary agency. 43. Another way of looking at it is Munn’s definition of meaning. rather than trying to explain why one foodstuff may ‘stand for’ something else. p. then.g. and social interaction and hospitality in fiesta and quotidian occasions. and yearly timetables of women as well as men. weekly. 1999b). and my approach attempts to respond to such a gap. essential to the reproduction of human societies’ (p. 1998) allows for using Nancy Munn’s conception of ‘meaning’ that is not static: ‘actors construct this meaningful order in the process of being constructed in its terms’ (1986. If foods are full of meaning. which is the efficacious aspect. my research focuses on the meanings of interrelating cultural forms—the corpus of cuisine. the perspective of food as art may help us understand some of the meanings that foods carry. intended to change the world rather than encode symbolic propositions about it’ (1998. I mainly draw upon Alfred Gell’s theory of art. Thus. therefore. 6). 6 –7) Put into context. the cultural meanings of culinary activity as part of women’s work is different from a semiotic analysis of foodstuffs. To help in thinking about food anthropologically. as he developed it in several publications (e. monthly. 1998. What Mexican cooking actually appears to ‘mean’ is a harmonious family and socio-cosmological life. These are important points which could lead to further investigation. as being the relational nexus that enters into any given sociocultural form or practice (of whatever order of complexity) and defines that practice. 6). Women do the cooking. ‘as a system of action. emphasis added) which . and recognizing this puts due emphasis on the flavour of food.

Put very simply for visual art. including art-objects. or (eventually) the development of personhood. for instance. produced by an ‘artist’. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’. Gell uses the simple symbol of an arrow to indicate the direction in which agency is ‘abducted’ or the direction of the flow of agency. gastronomic bliss. original emphasis). It is art as an activity. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency.1). or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. p. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. 68ff). The agency of the artist. based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. the artwork is an ‘index’. which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. p. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. as products of techniques’ (p. sometimes through art-objects. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. sometimes via the index/artwork. The solution to this problem. whether from the position of producer. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. what Gell calls captivation (1998. upon which/whom agency is exerted.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. or made beautiful’ (p. consumer. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. p. Gell emphasizes action.10 David Parkin (2006. therefore. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. They also are thought of as having higher value. in particular. 43). or as a social actor. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . become personified and persons become objectified. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. in Gell’s terms. meal or dish. But aesthetics is as abstract as taste and cannot easily be put into context anthropologically unless we consider the social relations of the actors who perform these judgements of taste or aesthetics. or both. we may think of the artist as cook. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. the prototype as recipe. sometimes directly. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. 43. and recipient as eater (see Table 2. Likewise.9 Art objects. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. the index as the food.

Of course. The perception that ‘Life is wonderful’ would be something that eaters would experience through their senses. in the way that I use the term ‘culinary artistry’. p. which belongs to families. and these interpretations can change with time or the position we take in relation to the social actors involved. however. dish. Food prepared by a culinary artist makes diners feel that ‘Life is wonderful’ rather than ‘That was delicious. Thinking of it in this way. the artist’s technical mastery gives the object of art this social ability. This is because. which will become clearer as this book progresses. This allows us to construct a table based on his (see Table 2. and their effects. but also to inform the spectator’s relationship with the represented image (or the artist himself ) as a node of the relation between the two. ‘accomplished chefs’ or ‘culinary artists’. which chefs/culinary artists are able to manipulate to make the eater’s experience transcend the moment. an object has the power (agency) to act. replacing the corresponding terms that Gell uses with food-related ones. In effect.’ Therefore we recognize culinary artistry by the power of the food to perform a perceptual change in the eaters. It is an extension of a person whose biography can be traced via the whole body of art. hearing and that extra-special something (sazón?). texture. What is important to keep . Gell constructs a table (1998. They categorize cooks as ‘burger-flippers’. food) are the primary transactions. an art object can be thought of as equivalent to a person. An artwork has the power not only to inspire awe. the notion of culinary artistry remains elusive. patron Cook Food. to produce social effects on or conduct social relations with other social beings (patients). 153).1 Artist Index Prototype Recipient Terminology Employed by Gell. 29) of what he calls the ‘art nexus’. physically enhancing their experience of life. a social agent. By its artistic nature. p.2). following Gell (1998. The relations directly involving the index (in our case.11 It is helpful to use Gell’s terms to understand the active nature of bringing out the flavour in food. It is the flavour of the food. we can think of the art nexus as a food nexus. smell. Our interpretation of a food event depends on the perspective we take.34 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Table 2. and Corresponding Food Terms Artist Artwork Object or person depicted by artwork Spectator. For my purposes. that means that the construction of an artwork is like the construction of a person. encompassing taste. the art corpus (its family. wherein he demonstrates the differing relations among the previously mentioned four entities. I am not expecting a perfect fit between the terms of this table and the tangle of relations that make up Mexican cuisine or Milpaltense social life. its lineage). sight. Crudely put. meal Recipe Eater the food consumed. even extra-sensorially. difficult to describe. depending on which is the primary agent (with the suffix ‘-A’) and which is the primary patient (with the suffix ‘-P’). though examples can be given for the other instances of when agency is abducted via the index. lineages and so on.

e. meal ‘tamales needing special care Recipe dictates form taken by not to anger them so dish/food that they can cook’.a made thing’. e. avocado. barbacoa/mole as feast food Recipe-A→Eater-P Concept of mole controls eaters’ experience. dish.g. makes/defines meal as special 35 Prototype Recipe Cook-A→ Recipe-P Cook ‘invents’ recipe Recipient Eater Cook-A→Eater-P Captivation by cook’s skill. e. . following tradition Index Food. chile Food-A→Eater-P Eater response dictated by food’s magic power (not primarily by power of external cook) recipe-A→recipe-P Recipe as cause of food.‘Life is wonderful’ effect by chef. By permission of Oxford University Press. as witness to act of preparing food Cook-A→Food-P Basic act of cook making/preparing dishes. e. Modified/Adapted.2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus Agent→ Patient↓ Artist Cook Artist Cook Cook-A→Cook-P Cook shares meal. controls cook’s action Recipe-A→Food-P Recipient Eater Eater-A→Cook-P Hired cook prepares food. meal Food-A→Cook-P Food dictates cook’s action with it. eats own cooking. host eating food prepared on his/her behalf Source: Table 1 from Gell (1998). making barbacoa bestows prestige Food-A→Food-P Prototype Recipe Recipe-A→Cook-P Recipe dictates what cook does. and affected by food/ingredient. diner in awe eater-A→recipe-P Rejection of food. food-A→recipe-P Recipe constrained by physical characteristics of food/ingredient. © Oxford University Press. ‘tamal as. eater dislikes food or does not finish what is served Eater-A→Eater-P Hiring a cook. food is ordered in restaurant or at street stand Eater-A→Food-P Ordering food or asking cook to make particular dishes Index Food.g.g.Table 2.g. dish.

For our purposes it is sufficient to focus on the simplest and most direct relations of agency and intention. and close women friends. In Milpa Alta and other parts of Mexico City. although those who stand out as particularly talented are given recognition. hence the focus on the agent-patient relationship. and their daughters and daughters-in-law. food is often the subject of conversation among all kinds of people. Part of the requirement for a proper wedding is a proper feast. try to learn their craft by proximity. Working with or for a ‘master’ (or culinary artist). in public feasts such as weddings. cookery is commonly spoken of in terms of artistic practice. and a particularly skilful cook is casually thought of as an artist. In fact. and the hired cook is overlooked (recipient/eater-A→ artist/cook-P). Culinary knowledge or skill. Gell details how each relationship occurs. is based on practice which can be learnt. cooking is an ‘art’. we are in a patient position in relation to the cook-agent (cook-A→eater-P). Such women gain fame in the community. ‘[T]echnical virtuosity is intrinsic to the efficacy of works of art in their social context’ (Gell.12 When we as eaters perceive of food as art. The spectator’s perception of the person whom the image represents is directly related to perception inspired by the artistic quality of the art object. but put simply. he poses the example of the work of an (anonymous) artist commissioned to produce a likeness of a ruler or a religious figure. ingests. The practice in itself is not restricted to publicly acknowledged culinary masters. p. Without a sufficiently elaborate or festive dish. to explain the mediation performed by an artwork. the agency of the artwork can be mobilized by another person for social relational influences. This can also be observed in Milpa Alta. though within this relationship there may be several subrelationships of action. 52). and employs those skills on her own.36 • Culinary Art and Anthropology in mind is that objects and persons are connected in a nexus of intentionality. and many times I found myself listening to grandmothers telling stories about other women. it is offered to guests in abundance. Whether the special meal is prepared at home or not. I am not assuming this only for the purposes of analysis. and this directly affects the families of the bride and groom (food-A→eater-P). who were legendary cooks. Learning to cook is actually part . therefore. Mexico. and being known as a good cook is socially valued in Mexico. now dead. 1996. A Meal as an Object of Art So far I have assumed that a food or a particular dish can be taken for granted as a work of art. a woman hopes that some of her magic/skill will rub off on her as she observes. Regardless of who actually did the physical labour. A similar effect occurs when a person hosts a catered dinner party gets the credit for the quality of the food. So. the celebration loses some of its meaning. enhancing his or her social relations by means of the occasion and its success. whose renditions of classic recipes were equivalent to art.

can be developed with practice. individual to society. She begins to learn by observing her mother. the flavour of love. is attributed to the hand of the cook. But from an anthropological standpoint. Although cooking can be conceived of as artistic practice from a native point of view. between art and craft. the artistic nature of food when it is served as a meal comes about partly because of the coming together of a community of people. But the learning process is not simply a matter of imitation and reproduction of the same. who are usually other women in the community. since he considers eating and drinking as unfortunately necessary lowly activities that ultimately culminate in ‘society’. but it also causes the togetherness of the social actors. via the ‘aesthetic’ that comes from meal sharing. and later also from her mother-in-law and other women. ‘High’ qualities such as culture or society can almost only develop out of the ‘low’ ones. ritual and economic dimensions. 1999). The ‘egoistic’ and individual act of eating in fact unites people when they come together to share a meal. Another way of looking at this is by thinking of Simmel’s notion of the ‘sociology of the meal’ (1994). Also. or anthropomorphic figure. an aesthetic satisfaction is also expected from eating. (I will return to this idea below. even the simplest naming of an object—as mask. food is not necessarily thought of as art in the same sense as Mexicans or Milpaltenses would think of visual arts. within an artistic dimension of their own (within an ‘art world’. Nevertheless. cf. ‘Socialization’ of food consists of cooking it into a delicious meal enjoyed by a discerning group of . art objects are produced within social.) As he puts it. Like any other type of skill. Thus. in addition to the satisfying of the appetite. the difference between great food and good food. When food is transformed (artistically. Gow. It is a talent or flair which is physically exhibited but not copied. this signifies a transformation of the carnal to spiritual. not only can a community of several afford more easily the necessary effort than the individual. but also the former [the community] rather than the latter [the individual] is its [the aesthetic level’s] rightful carrier’ (p. but what is learnt is a bodily discipline like other artistic skills (cf. or the sazón. In trying to define what art is anthropologically. and economic matrix in which the object has been produced.’ In other words. la mano. 347). ‘This is because when. Becker. thinking of food as art makes it easier to understand why it is that flavour and cooking mean so much to Mexican people. a sazón that works to produce spectacular flavours is commonly called un sazón de amor. With a change of the hand that prepares the dish. the flavour changes.13 Not all of a master’s apprentices produce equivalent works. Firth’s (1996. 1982). ritual. such as the works of Diego Rivera or Frida Kahlo. substance to art. all of which interrelate to make up the texture of social life. p. good cooking is learnt by training and imitation of masters. such as food.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 37 of every girl’s domestic training as she develops into a grown woman. Culinary knowledge. Simmel describes what in his terms would be a gastronomic paradox. or funeral song— indicates an awareness of a social. the formal qualities of a piece of sculpture or music are significant. I might add) into the meal shared. 15) characterization of art can lead one to interpret food as a form of art: ‘To an anthropologist. In other words. then.

He or she may or may not be a member of the family. green salsa or mole. at the same time. typical sayings with culinary themes. Second. the hunter constructed this particular trap for that particular animal. must also . hospitality. Like Water for Chocolate (1992). potentially. and are also made for nearly every fiesta. p. and the food itself is the outcome of the cook’s intentions to provide nourishment. In Milpa Alta I learned certain rules which must be followed so that the tamales will cook properly. but what is important is his or her presence in the house. the person who arranges the tamales in the earthenware pot or aluminium steamer may not leave the house until the tamales are cooked. 1998. and unverbalized intentionalities are infused in her cooking and later are literally embodied in those who eat her food. The meal presents a subset of the cook’s culinary knowledge. flavour. history. nopales. food does not have quite the same powers. and there is no doubt that complex belief systems surround matters of cooking and eating. on any occasion. Socialization is ‘mediated’ by eating a meal together (p. or with strips of roasted chile. Gell’s anthropology of art does not focus solely on analyzing works of art as defined by an art public per se. though it can be personified. Tamales are eaten for breakfast or as a snack for supper. A tamal is a steamed bun made of coarse maize meal beaten with lard and enveloped in corn husks (or. It has no “intrinsic” nature. There are many kinds of tamales: sweet ones.38 • Culinary Art and Anthropology members of society. they are called tamalates and are a traditional accompaniment to mole. ‘The nature of the art object is a function of the social-relational matrix in which it is embedded. beans or fish. with sometimes alarming physical effects. At the same time. flavoured with fruits. Esquivel’s novel constructs a Mexican world in which the heroine’s emotions. called a tamalera. such as the mediation that a work of art performs in Gell’s terms among social beings. as the hunter’s intentions and ingenuity are present in his handiwork. First. Gell’s definition of an art object is perhaps easier to grasp from his essay ‘Vogel’s Net’ (1999b [1996]). with red salsa. In real-life Mexico. and the food as a social meal both has more ‘aesthetic worth’ and is more meaningful because of it. using the knowledge he possesses about his victim’s habits and sociality. convictions. 350). where he convincingly argues that traps can be artworks and. banana leaves). family warmth and. and many others. for example.14 Confronting a trap is like confronting a person. savoury ones. empowerment. and other kinds of intentionalities. onions and cheese. depending on her relationship to the people she cooks for. and recipes. 7). Without a filling. filled with meat. confronting a meal can also be thought of as confronting a person. independent of the relational context’ (Gell. Using folk remedies. artworks act as traps to the viewers/victims. People in Milpa Alta continue to believe that ‘angry’ tamales will never cook (food-A→food-P). If we think in terms of food. Potentially almost anything can be considered as an art object. in other areas. so long as it fulfils certain prerequisites. the pot or steamer. This is the sort of play of ideas that Laura Esquivel used in her successful novel and film.

as the smoke emitted removes anger. An angry tamal opens up or the lard drips out of the wrapping. the angered person has to spank the tamalera and then dance around it to make the tamales happy again. Without it the tamales will not cook. which seems to lie in the realm of aesthetic pleasure. 211). (Gell. A food. Hospitality. like other art objects in theory. p.16 Some people also told me that certain foods cause stomach upsets (food-A→ eater-P). hard to bring off. 211)18 He also wrote. On Edibility. a social nexus embedded within a culinary system. and so on. can be owned and exchanged. demanding of attention and perhaps difficult to reconstruct fully. Food that is considered as artwork happens to have two fundamental qualities—it has (superior) flavour (as opposed to bland or mediocre). ‘Artworks can also trap eels … or grow yams. I would define as a candidate artwork any object or performance that potentially rewards such scrutiny because it embodies intentionalities that are complex. difficult. For the purposes of this analysis. teleras). Gell’s insight into decoration is pertinent at . salsa) in order to fully enjoy eating (also food-A→eater-P). as well. The flavour aspect is analogous to artistic decoration. such as too much rice or the soft centres (migajón) of crusty bread rolls (bolillos. intended to achieve or mean something interesting.17 For this reason. These ideas and beliefs that inform social practice relate to what some Milpaltenses perceive as being ‘traditional’ or ‘truly Mexican’ or even coming from Milpa Alta. The “interpretation” of such “practically” embedded artworks is intrinsically conjoined to their characteristics as instruments fulfilling purposes other than the embodiment of autonomous “meaning” ’ (1999b. because I witnessed these rules followed whenever we made tamales in Milpa Alta. many said that they are never full unless they have eaten tortillas. a meal or a special dish can be thought of as an art object.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 39 have its bow. of course. 1999b. allusive. In a similar way. that food is eaten. like other works of art. and. and Exchange One of the main differences between food and visual art is. although no one could give me an explanation for them. I think Gell would agree that his theory could be applied to Mexican food. which is in itself a social system within a matrix of other interrelated social systems. People swore that these methods were true. that means that artworks can also satisfy hunger or fulfil gastronomic desires.15 I never saw an angry tamal myself. This is a piece of corn husk which needs to be tied on the handle of the tamalera. p. or that they need their chilito (chile. If anyone in the house loses his or her temper the tamales will not set because they will be angry. since his anthropological definition of an object of art is as follows: objects that are scrutinized as vehicles of complicated ideas. Third. it is a physical thing which. To remedy this. Another option would be to throw dried chiles into the fire so that their seeds burn. no one in the house must get angry.

If we account for that. the functional and ‘decorative’ aspect is its flavour. Eaters remember who prepares superior flavours in certain dishes and return to those cooks. for the family or for non-family members who are guests. which the eater recognizes (as art) by experiencing its flavour. and in the case of food. then. which will be reciprocated in some unspecified way at an unspecified time in the other direction (that is. So the captivation described above that an eater experiences when confronted with spectacular food (food-A→eater-P) manifests the expertise of a talented cook/chef (cook-A→eater-P). a crucial element of sharing is involved. to be owned. from eater to artist). This product is then materially ingested by the recipient. these decorations perform an important function. p. 346) from which its aesthetic and meaning arise. Food has particular physical and sensual qualities which differ from other types of objects which are exchanged. does this mean? The eating of the food implies that the ‘spirit of the gift’ that Mauss describes is ingested as well. which is what makes it analogous to a work of art. then it is an extension of a person. and also sometimes socially. although Mauss argues that they are all homologous. They depend on them sometimes gastronomically. Display and food presentation (how it appears on the plate) can be seen as equivalent. reveals to us. . 113. food is cooked for more than one person. it contains his or her ‘essence’ or ‘spirit’ by nature of being the product of a cook’s invested and creative labour. and tying this with its artistic nature. but the ownership needs further explanation.21 What. This is not to say that the decorations are not important. But I think that food is not merely an object of exchange in the same sense. resulting in a literal communion of persons. it is precisely the communal ingestion of food that ‘releases a tremendous socializing power’ (1994. then we can think of ingesting food as equivalent to the consumption/acceptance/possession of a work of art. but vehicles of personhood. In hospitality. This aspect of food giving and receiving implies an element of exchange. This is its (the food’s) necessity of having a good flavour and being made with culinary technical mastery. although there is a different quality to commensality that seems not to fit with art ownership and display. Following Simmel. there are always at least two people involved in the transaction—a donor (the cook/artist) and a recipient (the eater)—and the object being offered or transacted is the food. Recognizing the sensory aspect of food. It is rather as if they were the agents of their own circulation’ (2003. as David Howes explains for kula shells. Abstracting the process of food hospitality ignores another fundamental aspect of food that is offered to others. p. 81). that ‘they are no mere “objects” of exchange.19 Generally. in fact. and the temporary possession of the ‘spirit’ which must be reciprocated is not enough to explain the kind of social contexts in which food is shared.20 If it is an object of exchange in a Maussian sense. It must also be remembered that when it comes to food and eating. original emphasis).40 • Culinary Art and Anthropology this point: ‘[Decorated objects] are not self-sufficient sources of delight. exchanged and displayed’ (1998. p.

then not sharing (that is.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 41 What the eater also recognizes is the socially meaningful network of intentionalities surrounding the meal. Simmel perceives of eating as negative and ‘low’). some of which is the same as home cooking. p. unless one is sharing the food. Mauss’s time lag). As Nancy Munn describes for kula exchange in Gawa. prepared by vendors (señoras) to serve commercially. positive extension of the agent’s ‘spacetime. the act of eating) can be thought of as a negative act (cf. If we further accept that these things are extensions of the agent’s personhood. The skill that the cook reveals through the food likewise reveals other things of social salience. So cooking is an inherently social act. 56. ‘[T]he exchange of comestibles in hospitality is the dynamic base. Food is exchanged for money. shared and distributed to others. The . how to make tortillas and salsas. If we think of the things (artworks.’ which transforms the patient’s relationship with the agent. whether it is a special fiesta. original emphasis). or the warmth of home cooking. p. and so. though. and as mentioned previously. whereas eating is socially static and self-collapsing. with the expectation of future reciprocity of a similar or different kind (e.g. ‘[T]he shared meal lifts an event of physiological primitivity and inescapable commonality into the sphere of social interaction and thereby suprapersonal meaning’ (Simmel. dishes) that a person makes as the products of her agency. knowing how to cook. In this case. customer). which are given. just as neglecting to offer food when hospitality is pertinent is considered to be selfish and greedy (envidioso/a). and thus also ensures community viability. vendor) and a patient (eater. Food is shared with specific others as a means of exhibiting respect for an existing or future relationship of reciprocity. Munn explains that in Gawa. this infers that corresponding to the agent (donor) there must be a patient (recipient). ensuring an ongoing relationship which may be based on exchange at another level of social interaction. there is an immediate exchange between the social actors. a girl is said to be ready for marriage when she demonstrates culinary mastery. and condition which underlies kula shell exchange between partners’ (1986. Food sharing is dynamic and self-extending. is the opposite of sharing food with others (cook-A→cook-P). If sharing is a positive act. eating what one cooks oneself is antisocial. 1986. As in food hospitality. 346). This notion of cooking and eating also explains why a lone person in Mexico almost never cooks for oneself to eat alone. The offering of a meal is a spatiotemporal event transacted by the host to the guest with an underlying intention of reciprocity at another level within the nexus of transactions that make up social life. Eating food on one’s own. therefore. This is food which follows the logic that it should be prepared for an other.22 Within the corpus of Mexican culinary culture exists a vast subset of street food and market food. Munn. In this vein I must emphasize that food giving is a basic form of generosity in Milpa Alta. the act of sharing is a value-enhancing. since food transactions are inherently social activities. For example. a meal at a restaurant. they are material repositories of that person and that person’s intentions. conversely. there is an agent (cook. 1994.

and therefore it can never be truly owned. With this perspective. once the dish is produced. the eating of it makes it disappear. for example. and who solely produces these dishes within the family sphere (cook-A→food-P). A heightened awareness of artistic or culinary expertise does not in itself constitute possession or ownership of the work. neither does the memory of the flavours of a particular gastronomic occasion which was somehow touching or marked in the eater’s life experience (food-A→eater-P). the cook prepares food to the taste of the eater/customer. we can think of food as both a work of art as well as an object of exchange. remains the owner of that dish (cook-A→recipe-P). and this can in turn affect the kind of product that the cook produces (eater-A→cook-P). 80–1). and perhaps also having the possibility (or controlling this possibility) of eating it again. In one sense. it can never truly be completely consumed. which provides the cook with an agency that contains the powerful potential to demand social reciprocity. its true possession can be thought of as possession of the know-how to be able to reproduce it (to know how to cook). 1986). But this is only a perspective among many possible ways of interpreting this situation. makes it seem ludicrous to try to pinpoint any ‘owner’ of a dish. but it does not carry the fundamental persuasiveness of food giving. with his name labelling the cuisine he produces. 1990. It also is inapplicable to the anonymous cook who cooks ‘traditional’ foods. a cook or chef. Having eaten something once or twice. yet it can be reproduced ad infinitum.42 • Culinary Art and Anthropology transaction begins and ends there. nor is it like the intellectual possession of a famous painting beyond a consumer’s (financial) capacity to take it home and own it. even temporarily.23 Also. Parallel to this. Possession is a more complex issue because the dish can be reproduced. and having enjoyed it very much. pp. Perhaps it is also possible to say that the ‘inventor’ of a dish. but it may not necessarily be reproducible in exactly the same way or in the same context. Not only this. On two levels. We remember once more that as soon as the supply of the food is depleted it can be constantly renewed. Possession of food-as-art is not anything like the possession of an object which sits on the mantelpiece for personal admiration. Munn. an index of . 1998. so the agency actually lies with the customer. The fact that most women in the community know how to prepare similar dishes following similar recipes (with the same ‘index’). or its reproduction may depend on the actions of a specific cook. The possession of food-as-art seems to take the form of having eaten it. therefore. or at least to know where to go in order to reproduce it (to know how or where or with whom to eat). opening an exchange relationship by offering food to a guest or family member likewise opens the possibility for reciprocity in some form (Mauss. food hospitality consists of ‘unfinished business’ which is the essence of the endurance of social relations (Gell. As the outcome of a recipe. does not really make an eater the ‘owner’ of that dish. either. Food selling is a social activity. Now the final problematic issue to explain is its possession. as Gell has described (1996). or within the same transactive nexus. rather than self-consciously ‘invents’.

it ‘is never fully possessed at all. a part of habitus. cooking and eating certain foodstuffs. but is always in the process of becoming possessed’ (p. I turn to Pierre Bourdieu’s (1984) analysis of taste judgements. Taste is a subconscious kind of knowledge. should be thought of primarily as a technical system. for example. whether a purposely made work of art or not. and yet it can be cooked again and regenerated. What distinguishes an extraordinary cook from an ordinary one is perceived as technical skill which can be judged by its flavour. This would explain why an element of prestige and (class) distinction is involved in the choices of serving. I mentioned that art. and technical mastery appears to be more objective or scientific. education and upbringing. To begin. Taste is a sociological phenomenon rather than a question of a person’s passion or individual discernment. that a preference for red wine rather than beer is really a matter of class (and education) and ultimately is not an issue of personal taste. 7). or wrapping tamales does not necessarily mean that the results are always uniform from cook to cook. food is an object of exchange. Along with this cultural capital. possession of food-as-art is a dynamic of eating that is dependent upon the social relational matrix in which it is embedded. Cooking techniques are learned by apprenticeships to masters. Although judgement of flavour seems to be an aesthetic judgement. Knowing the proper techniques for peeling chiles. This is the capacity to recognize artistic characteristics in anything. . This means. What we learn to discern as valuable is due to our accumulating ‘economic capital’ and ‘cultural capital’ which is learnt via social class. ‘[A]rt and cultural consumption are predisposed consciously and deliberately or not. In other words. ‘history turned into nature’. making tortillas. A person’s taste becomes the mark of distinction between social classes and is revealed by an individual’s possession of an ‘aesthetic disposition’.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 43 the dish/work of art. here cuisine. he can be distinguished among others of different classes who would value other things. 81). 6). The starting point of Bourdieu’s argument is that our perceptions of taste have little to do with the inherent qualities of the things on which we place value. Flavour and Value This brings us back to flavour. a person learns the kind of taste that he needs for social belonging. to fulfil a social function of legitimating social differences’ (p. since food is eaten and virtually disappears. I would like to explain how the two can in fact be thought of as one and the same. At the beginning of my discussion of Gell. and it classifies the classifier’ (p. ‘[T]aste classifies. Recall that the artistic quality of an object is not inherent in the thing. so by his choices of what deserves value. As Bourdieu puts it. which in Milpa Alta translates as girls learning to cook from their mothers and other women. However. its social value is derived from its social use.

190) Thus. 5). and as Goody has argued. which it manifests in several ways. Perhaps this is better explained with Gell’s method of analyzing art. how it comes about that a society places value on an object and judges one thing to be in better taste. at least in Milpa Alta (food-A→cook-P). physiologically and psychologically. Taste. This can be explained more fully after an examination of the social dynamics surrounding the cuisine. he does not analyze particular ‘works of art’ in relation to their own ‘art world’. Because of his defined concern with judgement. He explains. helps to shape the class body. Following Gell. that is. In an analysis of taste and aesthetics. rather than beginning with social classifications. therefore. I argue that form is necessarily related to function. class and hierarchy. It is an incorporated principle of classification which governs all forms of incorporation. But the cooking is crucial to the achievement of its artistic status. and ‘life’ with function (and necessity). as he approaches art from another perspective. a class culture turned into nature. and also for the homologous . The skill required in culinary labour is the kind of technical mastery which Gell refers to as necessary for the production of an artwork. choosing and modifying everything that the body ingests and digests and assimilates. Bourdieu approaches artworks by arguing that value is allocated through the ‘stylization of life’ or ‘the primacy of forms over functions’ (p. Focusing exclusively on classifications. which he describes as a dimension of habitus and systematic choices produced in practice. (p. it also has limitations. and if the topic is an ‘art world’. aware that he deliberately ignores the cooking aspect of cuisine. and not just the isolated dishes (see Chapter 5). In contrast. or to taste better. I suggest focusing primarily on the art world (cuisine) and the artists. cooking). form and function are merged when externally exhibited in bodily action via the ‘aesthetic’. then some constituting artworks should be discussed as well. that is embodied. if form is constituted by flavour. So in the case of food. having observed its widespread use I found that its acceptance is related to the prestige attached to barbacoieros. in other words. and then considering the audience and how this informs an artist to modify an artwork. So although Bourdieu’s perspective can be applied convincingly to the context in Milpa Alta. judgement of something cannot be separated from an understanding of the process of its production (for food. the link between form and function can also be concluded from Bourdieu’s own concept of habitus and self-presentation. this should also be observed. he is. then flavour is socially functional.44 • Culinary Art and Anthropology To some extent this perspective helps to explain why barbacoa began to be accepted as feast food in Milpa Alta (recipe-A→recipe-P). than another. It follows that the body is the most indisputable materialization of class taste.24 Although I cannot determine exactly where or when it began to be served during fiestas. in fact.25 He separates form from function by associating ‘art’ with form (and luxury). In a sense.

The social efficacy of an elaborately prepared meal performs a similar function. her children and. friends). ultimately. Preparing what is considered a proper meal is analogous to proper nurturing. this used to be mole. but at least she has the intention to provide good food somehow. a complex-flavoured sauce made of up to two dozen or more ingredients. however. 1996). André. Invariably. She does not have to cook herself. her own satisfaction. for example. With regard to Mexico. As I will discuss further in chapters 4 and 6. spouse. such as a birthday. culinary artistry or agency may be a source of women’s power over men (see Abarca. there are marked dishes. wedding or funeral.28 Mole may be considered one of the culinary treasures or works of art of Mexican cuisine. This is . Control over feeding the family becomes the nexus of meaning regarding women’s social and moral values. therefore. A good wife would then strive to cook well for the sake of her husband. and this is empowering in the sense that family ties are tightened when food is shared. many everyday dishes are complex to prepare. which may have wider significance at other social levels. this is very much like what is considered to be men’s restrictions on women. If cooking is artistic practice. Thus. The trap. and at the same time is the source of the eel’s power. often glossed as machismo. In Mexico. which are served when there is a special occasion. then a cook has the creative freedom to make decisions at this level. Related to this. at first glance. Strict regulations of women’s movements. tying women to home when they would rather be out (also cf. the requirements to cook dishes from an elaborate cuisine may appear oppressive. 2001). In fact. which is also complex to prepare. It thus appears as if the motivations for producing good flavours are as simple as personal satisfaction combined with the desire to satisfy others (family. actually reveal the high value placed on women’s chastity. Serving an elaborate dish commemorates an occasion as special by transferring its value (recipe-A→recipe-P). and they are defined by the sauce rather than by the meat or vegetable which is in it. different from the daily fare. Mintz.26 This is illustrated by his example of the Anga eel traps (1999b). reveals the Anga belief that the eel is so powerful that its trap must be particularly clever. which has been suggested to be a means of containing and curbing women’s power over men (Melhuus and Stølen. These traps are constructed to be far more sturdy and complicated than is actually necessary to trap an eel. Women as well as men value flavourful food and what they consider to be ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ methods of preparing it. In Chapter 4 I discuss how women talk of their skill in cooking in social situations where their power and value are questioned. 2006. The correlation between a woman’s desire to cook food with good flavour and her love for her family is not such a simple thing.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 45 technical systems which bring about the (re)production of society.27 Skilful cooking does not lead to social empowerment so directly. but the principle of applying the highest standards of technical mastery and excellence of flavour is in practice when a person interested in good cooking prepares any food. the trap is a repository of eel-power. 1996). her in-laws.

highly valued. Also. meat). or ingredients which are grown or bred on local land.29 A famous quote is: ‘Without chile.31 In particular. but in fact. which results directly from the culinary mastery that a skilful cook possesses. 1986). food that is thought of as ‘very Mexican’ are usually dishes which use autochthonous utensils or ingredients. both men and her children (Melhuus. Chile is equivalent to salsa. one is eating a meal prepared by someone caring or is eating a meal with particular social significance. and one of my informants also spontaneously told me the same: ‘Sin chile no come uno. the efforts of her labours (her cooking) are also highly valued. and its nutritive benefits are secondary. 5 and 6).32 In a way. For all meals in general. which is also equivalent to mole (see Chapter 5).’ Good food means good flavours. In Mexico. It is also expressed in the importance and the forcefulness of hospitality in Mexico (or in Milpa Alta. the logic of love and lovers symbolically makes street food an illicit delight. these dishes are considered to have the best flavour. Mexican street food is another highly valued part of Mexican cuisine and is also considered to be flavourful. good food fixes the eater’s mind to the cook (or host). 1992). What I hope to have conveyed here now is the idea that flavour is actually the most functional aspect of food. There must be a salsa or at least some chile on the table for people to enjoy their food (tortillas. there are no cinemas. vegetables. The preceding discussion should help as a guideline for thinking about the social processes which revolve around food preparation and food sharing. We can say that the flavour performs a sensory trick which makes the eater believe that he is attached to the maker of the food. elaborate sauce (mole) rather than a regular salsa.’ This appears to contradict the value placed on home cooking. If it has superior flavour. Rather than being fed. beans. and in many ways this depends on women (good cooks) who make good sauces.46 • Culinary Art and Anthropology why salsas are the most important part of a Mexican meal. because it lies within another social dimension of family eating (see Chapter 6). and also the family sphere which is based on love (discussed further in chapters 4. theatres or any other public venue of entertainment other than the market. the ideal food is a meal cooked by a woman (wife and mother) for her husband and children. In Milpa Alta. it is not enough for the food to provide nutrition and to be edible. the power of the cook is highlighted by chefs or non-professional individuals who become known for their cooking and who make a living or make a social life (respectively) out of this fame (cf. Mexicans do not believe that they are eating’. I describe in Chapter 4 how in Mexico the ideal relationship between a man and a woman is that between husband and wife. flavour. in . the culinary matrix of intentionalities involves the planes of social organizations such as the mayordomía and compadrazgo. Since women’s virtue and moral value are also attached to her ability to suffer for her loved ones. by extension. This. It is also important for it to be palatable. makes eating tacos in the market a major source of fun: ‘La mayor diversión es ir a comer tacos en el mercado. Munn. for there to be salsa. I was told. that is.30 This is why a special occasion meal is served with a flavourful.

if it must be received regardless of personal taste. [the spectator] is obliged to posit a creative agency which transcends his own and. indicating that the food had poor or no flavour and was therefore inedible (eater-A→ cook-P). the cook continues to aim for the ideals of flavour. An eater’s appreciation of a masterfully prepared dish can be summed up once more with a quote from Gell (1996) which describes how the ultimate meanings of a work of art may be embedded deeper in social processes than the initial aesthetic effects: ‘In reconstructing the processes which brought the work of art into existence. a concept which is taken to be the opposite of loving in Milpa Alta (see Chapter 6). the emotional outcome of keeping culinary tricks or recipes secret is that a cook would be considered to be ‘greedy’ (envidiosa). if a guest comes without warning. Accepting food offered to you. making social relations between persons via the meal. however.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 47 particular). I follow Gell’s theory ‘to explore a domain in which “objects” merge with “people” by virtue of the existence of social relations between persons and things. so that they can take home whatever is served to them that they are unable to eat. The relevance of flavour is evident because whether or not a cook is successful. p. and with the food literally ‘merging’ with these persons as they eat it. and what is served at home also is prepared with technical mastery and love. prestige is allocated to a cook and her family when she is known to be an extraordinary cook. that is. neither the artwork and the ideas and meanings surrounding . some good cooks hide their culinary secrets viciously. whether you like it or not. In this book I aim to illuminate some of the deeply symbolic meanings of food by focusing on cooking and cuisine rather than on direct metaphorical connections between foodstuffs standing for other things. By thinking of cooking as an artistic practice. p. and persons and persons via things’ (1998. it is an insult to the host. the power of the collectivity on whose behalf the artist exercised his technical mastery’ (pp. The food transaction takes precedence over the particular food served. but in fact it is most relevant. 347) of the meal manifest in flavour is part of the social nature of food transactions. that the ‘aesthetic stylization’ (1994. a cook tries to serve only foods of superior flavour to a guest. and foodstuffs can be social or cultural symbols. original emphasis). Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Food carries meaning. Food and eating constitute such a domain wherein social settings exist for people to eat together. Furthermore. 51–2). This actually recalls Simmel’s gastronomic paradox mentioned earlier. Failing that. 12. If a guest leaves food. a host/cook serves what there is at home. hovering in the background. In turn. This suggests that flavour is irrelevant to proper social behaviour. For this reason. foods prepared with the highest technical skill possible. that is. is so important in Milpa Alta that many people attend parties with a plastic bag or piece of Tupperware hidden in their handbags.

‘[T]he anthropology of art cannot be the study of the aesthetic principles of this or that culture. nor the social relations that are generated. A work of culinary art can act as a trap. cooking is an activity which depends upon creative liberty. in this case. 4). Mexican. women also have license to move beyond their restricted spaces. women (and culinary professionals. With this in mind. it is possible to explore a cuisine. Or it may seem to be too much effort for a woman to spend two days preparing maize and fillings to make a few hundred tamales for the family when it is also possible to buy the dough for tamales already prepared. In pursuit of culinary ideals. herself. but of the mobilization of aesthetic principles (or something like them) in the course of social interaction’ (p. . By nature of being artistic. It may seem irrational for a family to hold large-scale fiestas when there is not enough money to finish building the house. securing a husband. It is controlled. In short. Thus. with the perspective of cooking as an artistic practice. Easier or cheaper alternatives seem to be unacceptable when superior flavours are the goal and this goal is attainable. we can effectively investigate the social relational matrix surrounding the achievement of flavour and the development of cuisine. actively mediating between social members to make (proper) social interaction possible. women exert power over their men. or the cook. externally controlled activity. In pursuit of this goal. their communities. but the one in control is the artist. their families.48 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it. and they have the autonomy to make important decisions for their family’s social life. are ignored. with their (proper) cooking. through the technical processes of cooking as well as the technical processes of social life and social reproduction. This means that it is not a predetermined. Thus. cooking is creative. attracting others to the food and to the cook. society. and this liberty extends beyond the walls of the kitchen. including barbacoieros) are willing to make sacrifices which others may not understand.

Urban families who avoid eating in the marketplace frequent these restaurants for family celebrations such as birthdays or anniversaries. labour-intensive preparation and cooking process (described below).or brick-lined oven. typically eaten in the streets. pork or goat (kid). pit-barbecued in a cylindrical clay. It is common to start with a bowl of the consomé de barbacoa. herbs and spices. Depending on the region and tradition. A cultural show with dancing and singing of ranchera music gives the place the festive air of a cantina or countryside fiesta. Since the whole animal is used. Eating barbacoa Whilst it is more commonly prepared as a cottage industry by families called barbacoieros. Ordering them would be indulgent. and because of its long. Barbacoa refers to a preparation of pit-roast meat which has been used in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. but the corresponding cooking methods used all over Mexico are based on the Mayan pib or earth oven. restaurants offer them because a large part of their clientele rarely eat street food. there also are restaurants in Mexico City which exclusively serve barbacoa with its traditional accompaniments. Although these are antojitos. Customers can order traditional snacks such as gorditas or chalupitas as their starters. a flavourful broth consisting of the meat drippings which have amalgamated with herbs and spices – 49 – .or 2-year-old sheep). The meat typically used is lamb (borrego. although smaller parties are welcome. I wish to portray the daily pursuit of gastronomic quality in ordinary life by describing how a typical week might pass in the lives of barbacoa makers in Milpa Alta. however. The word barbacoa is of Caribbean origin.–3– Barbacoa in Milpa Alta In this chapter. beef. In the central states the meat is flavoured with the fleshy leaves of the maguey. there are also barbacoas of other meats such as rabbit. There is usually space for at least 400 diners. it is considered to be festive food. chicken. usually 1. These barbacoa restaurants offer a complete celebration with the meal. because barbacoa is tasty and complete enough the way it is normally served and requires little more to be satisfying. turkey. reserved for special celebrations or weekends. It is a method of slow cooking whole animals by burying them for several hours or overnight in a pit lined with aromatic leaves and filled with hot coals. including the head.

meaning ‘drunken sauce’. the main provider of barbacoa (as served in the markets) is Milpa Alta. but they regularly prepare several animals to sell in markets every weekend. or sliced avocado may be served). Others order the meat to take home with a small plastic bag of the accompaniments. Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta Many Milpaltenses have middle-class professional jobs or higher education. This is served with boiled rice and chickpeas stirred in. a mildly fermented drink made of maguey sap. crema espesa. many families prepare barbacoa de borrego for a living. usually a red and a green one (often either a typical guacamole or one made with avocado and green tomatoes. 22). as the main meal at lunchtime or as dinner. is a black sauce whose colour comes from pasilla chiles. The salsa borracha. Customers find a space in front of the stalls and order consomé de barbacoa and tacos or flautas. Villa Milpa Alta. the particular trades in Barrio San Mateo. chopped onions and coriander. and salsa borracha made especially for barbacoa. although the livestock are raised elsewhere (Departamento de Distrito Federal. The meal is served with warm corn tortillas and can be eaten as a late breakfast (almuerzo). are nopal . as I have already mentioned. but the methods are basically the same. the busiest time of day is the late morning. Stalls typically offer bowls of both red and green salsas (but not the black salsa borracha). sliced limes. cooked prickly pear cactus paddles dressed with onions. As already mentioned. Salsas are offered on the side.50 • Culinary Art and Anthropology during the long cooking process in the pit. For the Federal District of Mexico. Barbacoieros can be commissioned to slaughter and cook the lambs that another family has bought or reared. coriander leaves and salsa to mitigate the richness of this intense soup. 1997. and sometimes dried oregano. Sometimes there is also a side dish of nopales compuestos. Other areas in the region famous for making barbacoa are Texcoco in the state of Mexico and parts of the state of Hidalgo. Around three thousand sheep are slaughtered and prepared in Milpa Alta each week. The soup is followed or accompanied by tacos or flautas of the succulent meat. and it is drunken because it is traditionally made with pulque. oregano or coriander leaves. which are ordered by the piece. Cooking styles and flavourings vary regionally. and a sprinkling of grated white cheese. and the eater has the option of squeezing in a little lime juice and adding chopped onions. tomatoes. salt and vinegar or lime juice. Flautas are long tacos that are rolled closed and fried. For eating barbacoa in the market. p. Some customers order their favourite cuts of barbacoa by the kilo instead of by the taco and are given a stack of warm corn tortillas on the side. but the vast majority of residents are still somehow involved in the family trade. In Milpa Alta. usually served with a drizzle of green salsa. The salsa is served in a bowl decorated with crumbled fresh white cheese and green olives.

a barbacoiera with whom I lived. sometimes quite large. Because of this. The first family in Milpa Alta to produce barbacoa for a living in the 1930s was the Jurado family. (This is an example of Gell’s ‘halo effect of technical difficulty’. [1996. although locals know which families live in which houses and what their trades are. where they did most of the actual cooking.) Barbacoa became the trade of highest honour (above butchery and nopal farming). The smell begins to fade as the sun rises and the barbacoa is transported to markets in all reaches of Mexico City. pork butchery (tocinería) and especially the cooking and selling of barbacoa de borrego. . told me that they raised their own sheep which they would leave to graze in the mountainous pastures of Milpa Alta. the greater the difficulty of access to an object [of art]. to accommodate an extended family.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 51 farming. Now that few people cultivated maize and fewer still reared their own sheep. the dung could be easily collected for use as fertilizer. In those days there was no running water in the houses. The barrio appears almost deserted as most people are busiest during the weekend. The modern stoves were used more for heating up food and tortillas. In Milpa Alta over the decades the barbacoa business boomed. this practice has died out. but also because of the financial prosperity associated with its sales. Since most of the houses are surrounded by walls. the higher its value. as running water has become normal in most homes. when water was needed for the fields. and those who remain behind are at home preparing for the sales of the following day. pp. Economically. The barbacoieros built corrals around these watering taps so that their sheep could graze there and leave their droppings. Almost all nopal growers now use cow dung to fertilize their fields. carnitas and barbacoa grew in popularity as typical fiesta favourites.1 Doña Margarita. it is impossible to see what is going on behind the gates. barbacoiero families could afford to build their own houses. They had modern kitchen appliances but often had an extra outdoor kitchen with simple industrial gas hobs. but most people looked up to barbacoieros. Milpa Alta began to blossom and its residents began to send their children to school to become professionals in other careers rather than stay home to help with the family business. They scattered the whole street with salt from one end to the other and fed the animals with salt and water. and thus is valued higher.2 Preparing barbacoa is more laborious and also has more flavourings. As mole became more and more expensive to prepare for large fiestas. Pork butchers (sometimes referred to using the derogatory word chiteros) continued to earn a good living both selling raw meat and chicharrón (crisp fried pork crackling) and making carnitas. 46–9]. She had memories from the 1940s of how the Jurados brought their flock down from the mountains once a week. not only because of the value of the product. and barbacoa ranked higher in prestige than carnitas. This way. and at every corner and in areas where maize was grown there were taps so that water could be collected for home or agricultural use. On Friday nights the streets of the barrio are infused with the aromas of the meat and spices which manage to escape from the sealed pit ovens in the backyards of barbacoiero families.

When women married. After Mario’s father died. whilst others bought a new plot of land in another area of Milpa Alta. some men learn the trade of their wife’s family if it is more lucrative. Though there used to be a lot of land in the family. He tried to supplement the family earnings by getting a part-time job in accounting but had to give this up. at least to the husband’s family. they usually moved to their husbands’ house and lived there until they could afford to build their own.4 Families remain close nonetheless and visit often. but his priority was his barbacoa. It was not that they no longer belonged to their natal households.’ Elena was a similar case in point. for a woman to give up her job and dedicate herself to housework and children or to change her profession to match her husband’s. but on Saturdays she sold the barbacoa in the market because he had to stay home to prepare the meat to sell on Sundays. ‘A woman always changes her profession or trade (oficio) to that of her husband. The office often wanted him to come in on Fridays. By this time Mario’s older brothers had married and set up their own households in land that their father had given to them. He told me that he earned more working in barbacoa than by being an accountant. She added. Also. but he had time for other work on Tuesday. Mario. studying to be a teacher. Since he chose to dedicate himself to the barbacoa. Doña Margarita said. such as barbacoa. women were expected to loosen their ties with their natal families. although many young couples aspired to build their own houses separately from their parents or in-laws. An elderly lady told me. Although she had not wanted to get married until she finished her studies. although they might resettle in a different barrio or town. Upon marriage. but rather that they must try their best to assimilate to and prioritize their husbands’. Mario was left to take over the business. Despite having her own profession. but she had no regrets. ‘I don’t know if it was because I did not take care or if I don’t know much about these things.3 Some built their houses adjacent to the husband’s parents’.52 • Culinary Art and Anthropology It was still common in Milpa Alta for three generations to live in one household. It was rare for Milpaltenses to buy land outside of Milpa Alta. it is acceptable and even expected. the business was his main inheritance. as some women are already working in a similar sort of business as their husband’s before they marry. but when his father took ill he decided to help with the family barbacoa business. la mujer tiene que ayudar a su esposo. She met her husband.5 Doña Margarita’s compadre was a barbacoiero and his wife was a primary school teacher.’ This is not exactly true. he was occupied from Friday to Monday. for example. he did. and they eventually married when she was 22. Wednesday and Thursday (see detailed description of barbacoa work below). as the generations passed the pieces of land inherited became smaller and smaller. Whatever the precise statistics may be. Elena got a job in a primary school and Mario continued studying accounting. when she was 18. she was expected to help her husband in his line of work: ‘Siendo profesionista. at times. but oh! surprise—I was pregnant!’ She never finished her degree because of the baby. Mario’s father decided to divide his share of .

thus beginning the tradition in their family. Their new wives then begin apprenticing themselves to their mothers-in-law. he left the house.6 In other words. children learn the process of preparing barbacoa from their parents. however. Already as children. barbacoa market stall and business. Elena worked doubly hard so that they could save up enough money to invest in land. As soon as they reach puberty (from around 12 years of age) they begin to help with the preparation work as part of their family chores. but not to slaughter. He was illiterate. This arrangement worked reasonably well. but they also wanted land so Mario could work on it during his free days midweek. when she did housework and laundry (although I suspect that she hired help for this as well). She taught two shifts at the primary school and also helped with the barbacoa when she was at home. and so he taught his younger brothers the process. although I know that she could do the same work and sometimes helped Mario with the oven when necessary. Single men do not make barbacoa for a living. children are taken to the market to help in the sales. though not unheard of. Until then she did not want more children. Typically. At 15 or 16 they begin to cut the raw meat. In his own family. Not only was land of high value in Milpa Alta.7 After marriage. Boys learn by helping their fathers to remove and clean the entrails (despanzar). Until they marry. Until they marry into the family. The trade has been described to me as ‘a tradition that one passes down to the new generations’. On Sunday she helped to sell because it was the busiest day in the market and they had a second stand on this day of the week. but with his business he maintained a comfortable lifestyle. From the age of about 5 or 6. She had most of her free time on Saturdays. and a few years later they learn to kill. but Elena and Mario truly desired a plot of land of their own. but they usually go to university or might take on another job elsewhere. This was men’s work. the youngest. the business (or technical skill) is left to one’s children as an ‘inheritance’. As the girlfriend of the son of a barbacoiero. as in the case of Mario. these women never get involved. She rarely had anything to do with the meat or with stacking or unloading the oven. it is not uncommon for young men to set up their own barbacoa business apart from their parents’. she told me. a woman might sit with her future mother-in-law as she . Alejandro told me that he taught his compadre how to prepare barbacoa when he was 39. but few men start out in a new business like this at an older age. buying more tortillas when they have run out or helping to wash up the plates and cookware at the end of the workday. and to Mario. and she chopped vegetables for the business. for men to learn the trade from non-family members. boys are trained to help their fathers with the meat and girls are trained to help their mothers with the vegetables and salsas. Their skills are built from a young age.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 53 land among the older siblings when they married. Apart from inheriting the barbacoa profession. however. young men might help their parents with the family business. To reach this goal. so they become knowledgeable specialists early on. Alejandro’s grandfather’s brother first learned to make barbacoa. it is rare.

they began to help with the barbacoa to carry on the family business. but nothing is expected of her. as well as for many other culinary techniques. the rastro. With Primy and Alejandro. ‘¡Este es como empezar con el postre y terminar con la sopa!’ (‘This is like starting with the dessert and finishing with the . This. but also how daily meals can still be rather elaborate. Should a barbacoiero wife become widowed or abandoned. and Primy embarked on a detailed description of the salsas that she made to serve with barbacoa. depending on availability and price of ingredients. The matador-workers are in charge of the matanza. It illustrates some of the compromises that might be made for the sake of the business. The Process of Preparing barbacoa in Barrio San Mateo. but a few years before the death of Alejandro’s father in the early 1990s. but they tended to always return to the traditional. and she might lend a hand. this was all wrong. elicited a positive response. There are men who dedicate themselves solely to slaughtering animals. Yadira introduced me to them as a foreigner who had come to Mexico to study chiles and who was fascinated with Mexican food in general. different dishes that can be made with barbacoa meat. The description that follows is based on the first time that I witnessed the entire process. but it is representative of how families make barbacoa at home. the slaughter. The following section is a rundown of how barbacoa is prepared at home by professionals in the trade. the traditional means of food preparation are generally preferred over modern shortcuts in spite of modern conveniences and new regulations. even if she has no sons. ‘What would you like to know?’ she asked me. As soon as she is married. as always. she can still carry on with the business. She continued explaining the cooking process before she interrupted herself and said that no. though. In barbacoa preparation. These men may also be hired if a barbacoiero has little space in his backyard or if he routinely prepares large amounts and has no sons to help him. I learned to prepare barbacoa in what they considered the traditional manner. Milpa Alta Primy and Alejandro used to farm nopales. They are also responsible for washing the entrails and chopping them. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to live with a family who took pride in the flavour of their product. She described different forms of service. This is the same work that is done in the official slaughterhouse. she must take over as much of her mother-in-law’s work as she can.54 • Culinary Art and Anthropology is busy cleaning or chopping vegetables. playfully called matadores or otherwise referred to as trabajadores (workers). but many barbacoieros prefer to do the slaughtering at home where they can control how the meat is cut and how well it is cleaned. They sometimes varied their methods of preparation. and then invited me to watch her remove the meat from the oven the next morning. ‘¿la comercial o la buena?’ (‘the commercial sauce or the good one?’).

It bucked its hind legs once in a while in silent protest. He sharpened his knife once more and after feeling for a soft spot in the neck joint. Alejandro placed a large aluminium basin in the centre of the space. allowing it to bleed into the basin. la matanza could also be interpreted to refer to all the proceedings of the day. its head resting on the stool. Beside this he positioned a rough-hewn wooden stool. allowing all the remaining blood and whatever may be left in the oesophagus to drip out onto the ground. scraping away the fur to reveal the bone with its characteristic hole. and along one wall there was a low concrete-lined drain. They were prepared for a physically demanding and dirty job. in one corner there was a water tap with a long hose attached. The slaughter area was separated from the rest of the patio by a low wall reaching halfway up toward its roof. I must come. Then she cut . Hanging the carcass this way makes it easier to clean the whole animal. He then proceeded to saw off one lower hind leg. The ground was paved in concrete. Alejandro and Primy dressed in old jeans. he sawed off its head and set it aside. since most people are up and working by 5 a. Thursday: La matanza (The Slaughter) For the family whose trade is to make and sell barbacoa.m. She cut off the other three feet and tossed them toward the drain. While Alejandro continued to slaughter the rest of the livestock. she continued. From the ceiling hung eight large hooks fastened to a wooden beam with thick twine. so Alejandro held its body still until it stopped bleeding and lay limp. she insisted. Only after I have seen it all can we talk about salsas and chiles. One cannot learn about barbacoa without seeing everything from beginning to end. She scraped away the fur of the other hind legs so that the carcasses could be hooked through and hung by both legs. and the process was repeated. Alejandro led a young sheep to the centre of the covered concrete and brick slaughter yard behind the house. The space was about 3 by 6 metres in area. Alejandro then went to get another lamb among the group huddled at the far end of the slaughter area. It must have been around 10 degrees Celsius outside but they knew they would not feel cold. Holding its muzzle shut. he deftly punctured its throat with the tip of his knife. Primy took the steel and sharpened her own knife. For about five minutes he squatted by the lamb. work which is shared between husband and wife. Although the actual killing was finished.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 55 soup!’) she exclaimed. short-sleeved shirts and long rubber boots. and then he hung the body by the leg bone on one of the ceiling hooks. Apart from the slaughter. starting from la matanza. This is almost considered a late start by Milpa Alta standards. it consisted of taking apart and cleaning the animals. He then sharpened his knife with his sharpening steel and lay the lamb on its side. the workweek begins at seven o’clock every Thursday morning. She stood by the decapitated animal and felt for the soft cartilage in the joint of the other hind leg. and stay with them to observe the whole process.

the blood and bile that may remain in the throat attract large flies which enter the pescuezo and may become embedded there. From the pail she pulled out a rectangle of gauze and wrung out the excess water. she proceeded to slice a long vertical hole through the centre of the skinned carcass. about half a metre long and 20 centimetres wide. swaying from side to side. Then she squeezed out any waste that may have remained before tossing them into the aluminium tub with the panzas. These were at least 12 metres long. la tripa delgada. It is tied closed and cooked in the pit oven along with the meat to be later served in tacos. but Primy and Alejandro told me that this job was not for me and recommended I keep my distance to protect my clothes. He slung each hide on the low wall and carried on with the slaughtering. Primy hosed the panza inside and out and tossed it into another aluminium tub before returning to the carcass. It was covered with a layer of fat. She could not explain why they tended to enter the small neck hole rather than the large opening she made through the abdominal area when she gutted them. el redaño. . The odour was rancid and repulsive as the contents of the panza splashed onto the ground. ‘como una telita de grasa’. There she emptied the stomach. but in any case the pescuezo must be protected with gauze. el pescuezo. This can ruin the meat. A soft popping noise was made as the body separated from its skin at the neck. Having clarified this. It is cleaned and later stuffed with the tripe and other innards mixed with herbs and spices. and she carried the panza to the far corner of the slaughter area where there was a large metal rubbish bin. catching each arms’ length in either hand. despanzar. the caul. The panza is one of the most important parts of the sheep. She tore off about a half metre’s length and carefully wrapped the pescuezo with the gauze. and in fact it looked like a square of pale pink lace8 and could be peeled off the stomach in one piece. Primy warned me to get out of the way. This is the start of the real cleaning process. which Primy described as being like a cloth. pulling it inside out with all his strength and using his body weight for the final yank. First Primy pulled out the stomach. When Alejandro was ready he tugged the coat off each animal. She knotted them together at the centre. The hide is heavy and toughly attached to the flesh. squeezing out the part-digested fodder and gastric juices. and it was a grey-green colour. and she began to pull out the entrails. thus holding the centre of several separate lengths of intestine.56 • Culinary Art and Anthropology more of the fur and peeled it down so that it hung in a thick fold just below the hip. securing them to keep them under control lest they slip away and get tangled and lost amongst the rest of the innards. so she stood aside and waited for her husband. As soon as she had all the tripe looped in her hands she cut one end. Primy brought a small plastic pail of water toward each animal and washed the blood from the neck. la panza. She explained how important this was because when the meat is still fresh. covering the hole and tying it well. The panza was much bigger than I expected it to be. giving it a bitter flavour. and she pulled them out as if she were measuring yarn. Primy proceeded to unravel the small intestines. keeping grip of the other end. I offered to help.

it is not sold for slaughter as it will eventually provide young (i. dirt. otherwise it is impossible to reach the inner folds of the meat. and one stuffed with a developed uterus tastes much better than one with an undeveloped uterus (each of the entrails is chopped up and used to stuff the panza). now referred to as being en canal. pulmones. la vejiga. cleaning must be done with bare hands. While Primy was completing this process. which went straight through the intestine and flushed out most of the suciedad.e.. The heads are left to soak and the panzas must be blanched so that the bitter stomach lining can be removed. unappetizing colour and although this does not affect the flavour of the meat.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 57 Next to remove was the large intestine. Each part of the animal was systematically removed in its turn—the uterus. because pregnancy causes the uterus to develop. Primy then cut it off and dropped it into the pail with the rest of the offal. Alejandro carried the cleaned carcasses. After saving the foetus Primy rinsed the uterus inside and out and then threw it into the tub of entrails. Primy positioned the pail in front of the animal and pointed the large intestine toward the pail. Pregnant sheep are particularly special because usually when the stockbreeder knows that a sheep is pregnant. Only then were we free to sit in front of the television to watch the football. where he hung each by one leg to dry the meat overnight. the liver. Later each offal meat was cleaned thoroughly with cold water to remove all traces of dirt. then it was time for breakfast. but when we got to the last lamb slaughtered I witnessed the discovery of a pregnant one. heart. the gall bladder. and so must be expunged. Such a find is considered lucky. it may put customers off. Primy stressed to me that each section must be well cleaned individually. to an airing room. about the size of the palm of my hand. The developed uterus forms nutritious pink bolitas (these ‘little balls’ actually look like tiny pink donuts). Any dirt that remains gives an unpleasant bitter flavour to the meat and panza when cooked. They are attached to its inner lining and make the stuffed panza tastier and juicier. Furthermore. lungs. la matriz. telling me that she used to collect them in jars of alcohol whenever she came across them because a friend of hers used them for the science class she taught at a local school. Primy rinsed everything quickly. The foetus was fully formed and floated in its amniotic gel which could be removed like a little ball and preserved in alcohol or formalin. Without this gush of running water it is more difficult to extract the waste products from the intestine. The uterus was quite small. el hígado. The meat needed hanging so that it matures a little and can be cut cleanly. la vesícula billar. corazón. This is extremely important because when blood is cooked it becomes a dark. Alejandro placed the hose in the anal passage at the top of the animal and sprayed a strong stream of water. business). . Primy slit open the uterus to show me the foetus. la tripa gorda. the bladder. Cold water must be used even if the weather is freezing because using warm water risks spoilage. The final step was to slice open the hearts and lungs to remove all traces of blood from the veins and arteries.

but Primy was in charge. We were having chilaquiles verdes for breakfast that day. the maize dough used to make tortillas. green tomatoes. (I do not think he did much else that day. and almost all of this work was done by Primy. Indeed it is the most labour-intensive because all the preparations for the cooking and serving of the meat are done on Fridays. After baking them on . We roasted green poblano chiles over coals to peel and slice them for rajas con crema (strips of roasted chiles with crème fraîche and onions). as usual. Alejandro asked Primy to prepare them for me so that I could taste as much typical Mexican food as time allowed. Doña Margarita made a green salsa with the chiles and green husk tomatoes (tomates or tomates verdes) that are also used for the barbacoa. carrots. She brought out three little painted wooden chairs with wicker seats for me. I arrived at their house before 7 a. where a simple industrial gas cooker was set up. Primy and her mother-in-law began to prepare lunch. The day began early. As we walked home from the school we passed by a tortillería. we made thick tortillas. Primy returned from her shopping with sacks of white onions. her mother-in-law and herself. When this was done it was time to pick up the children from school.m. removing stems from the fresh and dried chiles and just chatting away. Meanwhile. sancochando la carne (Pre-cooking the Meat) Alejandro told me that Friday is the heaviest day for women in the barbacoa trade. Alejandro was at his butcher block chopping all the menudencias. and Primy was already away at the market while her mother-in-law was at home preparing breakfast. the other two for the green and red salsas that she would make. The cooker was like those found in food stalls in the market. made of a metal frame.) Primy rinsed out the coriander and epazote and left the herbs to soak in water. For green chilaquiles. a small shop selling machine-made tortillas. Her mother-in-law helped as well. Primy separated them into the three containers. Primy went to the market to buy vegetables. I stayed and helped make breakfast in the airing room. so that we could make gorditas pellizcadas when we got home. At the same time. After breakfasting on the chilaquiles with teleras (a type of bread roll) and hot milk with coffee or chocolate stirred in. we got back to work. These gorditas (also called sopes) are a type of snack food that is often eaten in the street. the innards. about waist height. that the women had cleaned so thoroughly the day before. that supports two large gas rings that can accommodate very large pots and pans.58 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Friday: Mise en Place (Preparations). We carried on preparing the vegetables. Primy put all the tomatoes to soak in a plastic basin to soften the husks for easier removal. Primy kneaded the dough and with the help of a tortilla press and her two small sons. coriander and various other foods. chiles and herbs for the cooking process and also to make the salsas that would accompany the meat. chiles. one for the panzas. chopping onions and carrots. There we bought a kilo of masa. We all sat outside in the patio with the tomatoes and three plastic strainers and set to peeling off the husks as we rinsed them.

she would use it. chopped coriander and combined them with the green tomatoes. and topped them with refried beans. green salsa and crumbled white cheese. She then proceeded to make the red salsa in which she used three types of dried chiles—chile morita. She used saltine crackers instead of bread because. water flavoured with a variety of sweet lime that they picked off the tree in the garden. a short walk away. there were tortillas and a lovely tomato-chile-based salsa to accompany. She told me that for small tasks. there was a lot of work to be done after eating. árbol seco. especially in cities. as well as filling and unloading the oven.9 The red salsa was more popular than the green in the stand where they sold barbacoa. she said. Since she needed to make a larger amount. and rajas con crema. they used an electric blender for making sauces and for larger tasks. Otherwise. We returned to the vegetables we had been cleaning and divided the tomatoes and chiles for the salsas. crisply cooked crumbled longaniza (a type of sausage). This was our starter for lunch on that day. garlic and salt. rubbed them with melted lard. Women look after the softer and more complex cooking. Alejandro pounded chicken breasts to make milanesas and his mother hauled out the heavy stone metate to make breadcrumbs for the chicken. We had gorditas to start. For the green salsa we peeled avocados. chiles serranos. onions. Although I would have the tendency to linger over such exquisite food. unless there was a power failure. Lunch was a feast for me. she preferred the effect of crushed crackers to that of breadcrumbs. then breaded chicken with boiled carrots with cream.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 59 a hot comal. Primy processed them in the blender in stages because she was making large amounts for the business. far beyond the capacity of a domestic blender. as are chopping and cleaning vegetables and herbs. Men in the barbacoa trade are responsible for the slaughter and preparing the meat. She knelt on the ground behind the grinding stone and in a matter of seconds reduced the crackers to fine crumbs. She boiled green tomatoes and put the toasted chiles to soak in the cooking water. She filled the pail with the tomatoes and chiles along with salt and other ingredients. although it was standard fare for them. so Primy had a 30-litre pail for this. She also had procured some pork fat to add to the filling mixture so that the panza would not get too dry during . I asked her if she always used the metate. molino de salsas. we took the pail to a salsa mill. such as grinding these crackers. When we returned home Primy had to prepare the stuffing for the panzas. a tool that dates to pre-Hispanic times. and beans in their broth at the end. The meal was washed down with an agua fresca de limón. She toasted these on a hot comal and warned me to keep clear of the smoke since the chiles always made her cough and sneeze. and pulla or guajillo angosto. As always. like making the panza filling and the salsas. we pinched them several times on one side ( pellizcar means to pinch). but nowadays. few people did so because of the effort and physical force that was required. in a busy barbacoiero household such as this one. I had heard that some people still used it. Preparing the panza is always the women’s responsibility. Primy approached the now-dried carcasses (canales) and cut off the udders and kidneys to chop up and add to the rest of the menudencias.

Saturday: Prendiendo y llenando el horno (Lighting and Stacking the Oven) At four o’clock on Saturday mornings it was very important for Primy to get up and check the meat in the perol. In the perol the meat is steamed. most people these days finish cooking the barbacoa in the perol rather than use the traditional pit in the ground or brick oven (horno). On Saturdays they sold barbacoa de perol. but on Sundays. Whilst Primy was doing all of this detailed work. To save firewood. the panzas are set down. espaldilla. and she beat all of these together with her forearm (in the same way that one beats lard for making tamales). mixing the grains. ribs. the shoulder. to parboil the meat).60 • Culinary Art and Anthropology the cooking. For the sake of ease. a notable difference in flavour between the barbacoa de perol and barbacoa de horno. espinazo or lomo. since these all take longest to cook and need to be nearest to the heat source. and the perol is closed and left over a strong gas fire for about twelve hours. Alejandro pulled out his chainsaw and cut the lamb into pieces—the leg. Then she stacked the perol. one for Saturday’s sales and another for Sunday’s. the backbone or loin. When these were well incorporated she added powdered chile guajillo and salt and beat it some more. The perol is a large aluminium bin. The panzas were now ready to be stuffed. At the same time she had been boiling rice and chickpeas. She drained and separated them into two containers. Mondays and special occasions they prepared the barbacoa de horno. She also prepared the herbs and spices that go in the tub for the consomé. There is. a method developed because of the shortage of firewood in recent years. sancochar la carne (literally. and which for Monday. however. He lay these out on the work table in the middle of the room and decided which pieces would be cooked for Saturday. pierna. She checked that there was sufficient consomé and that . then the heads and necks. Next. and she commented to me as she filled them that to her each one looks like a human foetus since it is shaped like a head and body. so water is added to the basin at the bottom. and the neck. which for Sunday. epazote and onions. Then an iron grille is positioned above the tub with some special cooking film to prevent bits of meat from falling through.5 metres tall. around 75 centimetres in diameter and 1. costilla. The pieces of meat must be arranged in a specific order so that they cook properly. Primy and Alejandro part-cooked the meat in the perol and then finished the process in the oven so that the meat obtained the smoky flavour of the coals. pescuezo. Into the mixture she threw chopped green tomatoes. The rest of the parts are stacked in accordingly. Primy marked them with string which she tied around small bones so that she would be able to distinguish amongst them when the meat was already cooked. This is used to steam the meat over a gas flame. First the tub for the consomé is placed at the bottom so that the juices drip down into the herbs and spices. which are traditionally served with the consomé de barbacoa.

and different varieties are used for tequila and mezcal ). avocado and pickled jalapeño chiles. Doña Margarita lit the coals that had remained in the pit with scraps of cardboard and burnt pencas. as well as add flavour and help to seal in moisture. a (red) tomato-based stew with chicken.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 61 it had not overflowed and the meat was cooking nicely. which she made of sliced bread ( pan bimbo) spread with cream and filled with ham. turning them and even hanging them halfway into the oven so that they roasted evenly. have been used extensively and have been exploited all over Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. We had sopa casera de tallarines con crema. can reach up to 2 metres in length and about 30 centimetres wide at the base. for preparing food. This time it was less elaborate than on the Friday before. When a bright fire was smoking in the oven we laid the fresh pencas across the top. This step took a good hour or so. They are essential in the preparation of this type of barbacoa as they both protect the meat from burning. Primy and Doña Margarita were not the first to comment that it was so nice to feed me because I ate everything without trouble and I obviously truly enjoyed the food (‘Come de todo. if available. we attended to the oven. crude sugar. Then they must be toasted to mellow their flavour and bitterness. They are thick and spiny at the edges. however. coffee boiled with abundant water and flavoured with cinnamon and. tapering to a fine point like a needle. and meanwhile we carried on with other household chores. Each of these leaves. This last point seemed particularly impressive to them. By five o’clock the meat should be ready. served with a swirl of cream. because Mexican food was thought to be notoriously difficult for foreigners . I helped Doña Margarita wash the dishes from Friday and we went to buy food with which to prepare lunch. Primy came home and prepared the comida quickly. The pencas must first be shaved at the base so that they are evenly thick and pliable. All of this was served with warm corn tortillas. or pencas. weaving cloth. Alejandro had long gone to the centre of Mexico City to sell and Primy had gone with her two sons to watch their football match in their playing field nearby. Saturday morning may be spent doing any sort of tasks and chores. y además come ¡con gusto!’). a typical homestyle soup with short noodles in (red) tomato broth. While waiting for Primy and the boys to return home. Then she asked me to accompany her to do her errands. and even making alcoholic drinks (like pulque. Before all this. and there were beans to follow if anyone wanted some. By the time I got up at seven o’clock. courgettes and strips of roasted and peeled poblano chiles. Alejandro had brought home pencas de maguey. piloncillo. Alejandro’s mother gave me a sandwich for breakfast and a pint of hot milk in which I stirred some café de olla. She accompanied me with a sandwich of her own. In fact. She removed what would be sold by her husband in the town that morning and put in more meat to pre-cook for the barbacoa de horno to be sold on Sunday and Monday. So we proceeded to light the oven by the side of the house. the succulent leaves of the maguey plant. To follow was a guisado de jitomate. all parts of different varieties of maguey plants. For women in the barbacoa trade. both pencas and sap.

30 p. only this time the sides of the oven were lined with pencas. She picked the meat from between the neck bones . Primy lit the pit-oven with firewood. Alejandro’s stall had been in the family for three generations. no cooking film was necessary and no water was added for the consomé. The sides are folded inward and the lot is tied with string with the edges turned in so that none of the panza is exposed. now full of consomé. they were on their way to their barbacoa stall in a market near the centre of Mexico City. Primy was already unloading everything. while Primy made and sold tacos and consomé and also usually acted as cashier. otherwise the meat would fail to cook properly. It was 5. but he told me that he was dying to go.m. or at least hoped.62 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to eat.10 Already they took their 7-year-old son with them to sell.30 a. They spread the sand evenly to block any cracks so that absolutely no steam escaped the oven. Their second son was still too young to accompany them. made me seem less foreign to them and more easily assimilated. that both of their sons would maintain it when they came of age. heads and panzas by the kilo. They loaded everything into the back of their truck and by 5. She filled the cavity with dry logs. she waited for Alejandro to come and reach into the oven for the tub of drippings. and he and his wife expected. On a Sunday the children considered this to be a special treat. Both Alejandro and Primy would go to the market together as it was always their busiest day. we unloaded the meat. la pura brasa. and by now the logs were reduced to red-hot embers. and with old newspaper she grabbed a fistful of tallow that she collected every week from the meat. When all the meat was properly arranged. Sunday: Sacando la carne (Taking Out the Meat) At five in the morning I was awakened for the final stage of preparing barbacoa. She placed the heads and pescuezos into separate pails and when she finished pulling out the panzas. With this she ignited the wood and left it to burn while we ate. Alejandro sold meat. la carne sancochada. and therefore understand the flavours. Each panza is placed individually in the centre of a toasted penca. an old cover and empty basins were arranged on the edges to secure it and weigh it down.m. which had been pre-cooking in the perol for a few hours. Primy showed me how to wrap the panzas in pencas of maguey to protect them from burning as they cook. and then they slid the heavy steel cover over the opening. Then we checked the oven. My ability to enjoy their food. Last. separating the meat into plastic crates lined with wax paper and the toasted maguey pencas from the oven. Afterward. Just before lunch. It was time to stack the oven. Primy and Doña Margarita did this in the same order as in stacking the perol. The two women pulled out a square of canvas filled with sand to shroud the cover. more toasted pencas were lain. Primy lay the caul on top to cover all the meat so the fat could drip down as it melted and keep the meat moist. Finally. Then we left the barbacoa to stew in its own juices all night.

Sometimes she gave them slightly larger tacos. could not increase at similar speed because wages failed to keep up with the falling peso. Since barbacoa is a heavy dish and is expensive. Discussing the vendor-client relationship with me. like other wives of barbacoieros. The best days for selling barbacoa are Saturday and Sunday. or if they ordered to take away. the price of livestock multiplied. another opportunity to sell or eat barbacoa midweek is to go to a nearby tianguis (roving market) on the day when it is designated in a certain area. In the mid-1990s. because of the unstable Mexican economy (la crisis). Sunday and Monday: A vender (to sell)—How Lucrative is barbacoa? Monday is usually a fairly light day for selling in the market. When they did come. barbacoieros find themselves in a competition of flavour. particularly since much of it is imported live from Australia and New Zealand or from the US. Otherwise.11 In this way. To increase their sales. Whilst the supply of barbacoa might remain the same. however. the price increase affected sales. So if barbacoieros charged a fair price for their product. Primy explained that certain people become regular clients and thus are given special treatment. To improve the quality of their product. however. few people eat it in the market midweek. she noticed that some of her regular clients no longer came every week as they used to. she would give them a pint of salsa without charge. however. though. might or might not accompany her husband on these lighter sales days. Thus customer spending reduced and luxury goods such as special foods became less frequent expenses. they retained the same consumption pattern as before. They stayed in the market all day until all their products were sold and sometimes returned home only at seven or eight o’clock at night. taking into account the rising prices of their raw materials. economic constraints weigh heavily. Saturday. all the barbacoa stalls open. This depends on her mood and other commitments. as the value of the Mexican peso fell to a fraction of its worth against the US dollar. She would recognize them and know what they usually ordered or consumed at one sitting. Primy. the demand would decrease considerably in that fewer would be able to afford .Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 63 and used any other loose meat to fill tacos. These are the days when most people decide not to cook at home. but several barbacoieros sell nevertheless. but rather it decreased the frequency of their visits. The increasing price of her product did not make customers buy or consume a smaller amount of barbacoa each time they came to eat at her stall. and there is good business for barbacoieros. If a holiday such as Christmas or Easter happened to fall on a weekday. The market price of barbacoa. After the economic crash in 1994. Preparing it every day would be too much work to be worth the earnings. their selling price would be beyond the reach of their customers’ spending power.

as it is their trade and means of livelihood.or two-room dwellings (Madsen. the husbands go to the ganadería. In the meantime. During my last visit to Milpa Alta. there are many big houses in San Mateo. as well as all the work areas and utensils used. they were not willing to compromise anymore and go back to making barbacoa de perol. but it was Alejandro who insisted that they switch to the pit oven because the resulting flavour is so much better. but by the 1980s many families began to build larger houses as they became more prosperous from selling nopales and barbacoa. did not make the most sense financially. although it was likely that newer clients would not mind the difference. they were unwilling to produce an inferior product. Though using the perol would greatly increase their profit margin. Tuesday is dedicated to cleaning and returning everything to normal. to sell barbacoa was very lucrative and many men in Milpa Alta and especially in San Mateo learned the trade in order to better support their families. hired another woman to help. several houses were left unfinished. as did many others. the ranch where the livestock is sold. to choose and mark the sheep that they will later buy for slaughter. Most of the money they needed to build their houses came from high barbacoa profits. Primy explained to me her perception of how household spending had changed since the crisis of December 1994. Until the eighties. Sometimes Primy. thus reducing the profit margin for producers and forcing them to tighten their belts. Still. she pointed out. as that would be lowering their standards. This is why. Few raise their own livestock since land and labour have become more scarce in recent . Barbacoieros will not stop making their product. naturally. Doña Margarita told me that her husband used to make barbacoa in the perol.64 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it. This has forced the price of barbacoa to remain low despite higher production costs. They did so despite the increased physical labour and expense required when using firewood rather than gas. On the other hand. This attitude. more of a luxury good and of course more expensive. Their greater investment of work and money increased the quality of their product. Some later found themselves unable to buy all the materials necessary to complete building because of the economic crisis which upset their financial planning and expected earnings. Tuesday: La limpieza (Cleaning) and a marcar el ganado (Marking Livestock) Tuesday is when women do the major cleaning of the oven ( perol ) and all containers. making it less commercial. In the 1950s most families lived in simple one. They might lose some of their regular clients who were accustomed to a superior product. Primy and Alejandro stopped using the perol altogether and tended to buy slightly younger sheep so that they could cook exclusively in the oven. 1960).

and later scrubbing down the work areas and the regular weekly cleaning indicate how essential this step is. Also. Other women married to barbacoieros emphasized this to me as well. It becomes too dry and does not look good. as Doña Margarita described it) even after cooking in the perol. It is also cheaper to buy the animals that are brought over live from the US or Australia. Since they are much smaller. Whilst both male and female goats and sheep may be used. vendors prefer sheep. These graze freely and eat what they wish instead of enriched industrial feed. For the sake of business. The local sheep are smaller and leaner than foreign livestock and also have better flavour because of how they are raised. For the sake of flavour. This is indisputably the tastiest and best-quality barbacoa that can be made. Otherwise they are free . If they are too fat there will be a huge lump of fat behind the kidney or distributed throughout the meat. sometimes male goats retain their odour (‘the smell of a man’. resulting in less kilos of meat to sell. and they must be neither too fat nor too thin. But if the lambs are too thin. some barbacoieros are willing to pay a little more to buy borregos criollos. all barbacoieros prefer pit-roast borregos criollos. clients prefer meat to be less fatty. When I talked with Primy about the desirable qualities of barbacoa. The meticulous elimination of all the suciedad from the entrails of the animals. with a similar preparation process. most barbacoieros find goats more difficult to work with. Up to five kilos of fat can be extracted. but all barbacoieros agree that they are worth it. which remains if the meat is steamed in the perol. locally reared sheep. she always stressed how the meat must be physically appealing. They are more difficult to prepare because of their size and expense. This is spent like a typical Sunday for anyone else. They also have a singular odour. and they render less cooked meat per kilo of raw. Thus. splinters of bone or irregular cuts. During the cooking much of it melts away.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 65 years. Wednesday: Rest Wednesday is the day of rest for barbacoiero families. For personal consumption. She also insisted on absolute cleanliness. however. although it disappears when it is cooked in the oven. in which case they would prepare more barbacoa to sell on these special days. many families in San Mateo slaughtered their own livestock themselves in a walled area in their yards rather than at the rastro (slaughterhouse). The quality of the meat depends on the quality and cleanliness of the ingredients. they need to be treated more gently. some compromises are necessary to increase the profit margin. without unappetizing dark spots. Although goat meat can be used as successfully as lamb. To uphold this value and control quality. unless there is a major holiday midweek. meaning five kilos less profit. the meat does not come out well after cooking.

Those from San Mateo are said to be much less friendly than those of other barrios. The sheepskins are sold to make into jackets and rugs. After slaughtering. There was a distinct division of labour between men and women. barbacoieros seem to be both more attractive as well as more cautious when dealing with others. cleanliness and frugality are necessary to perform the culinary technique. Whatever the weather. disciplined hours to continue to earn a living and not disappoint their customers. It is uncommon to borrow ingredients from the neighbours as they are expected to pay for whatever foodstuff they require. it was evident that this was an industry that had significant social effects. with the main responsibility lying with the marital couple. even if it is only a bit of sugar or a few tortillas. As indicated in this chapter. Conclusion From the first time that I observed and participated in the preparation of barbacoa I was fascinated with the process. When I later learned. particularly the wife. The fact that they are concentrated in Barrio San Mateo gives the barrio a reputation of being excessively proud and stingy. Since Milpa Alta is officially an area of Mexico City of relative poverty. whilst single men and women only helped their parents but had separate careers. that only married couples prepare barbacoa for a living. . and wealth in the area is attached to barbacoa. Having the opportunity to socialize at the same times. But I had not realized how much the preparation of the dish affected the way that barbacoieros interacted socially with others. they commit themselves to working excessively hard during weekends and having free time in the middle of the week. discipline.66 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to relax and hold their own or attend other fiestas which mark life cycle events in the family. they have to work long. so unsurprisingly. Women who married into San Mateo often commented to me that they had not been used to how people in San Mateo rarely greet one another in the streets. order. Nothing is wasted. The recent prosperity associated with barbacoa has made the wealth of barbacoieros a new value to protect. as mentioned earlier. and the tallow is sold to make soap. Their work rhythm dictates some of their values as well as their timetables. all parts of the animal are used either in the cooking or for other purposes. This proximity to one another also encourages competition. issues of trust and envy are highly relevant in the community of all those who are involved in the same business. When a couple decides to dedicate themselves to barbacoa. All other parts of the animal are eaten. the bones are sold to make detergents. This behaviour is attributed to wealth. Families carefully protect their belongings and social standing. it makes sense that people of similar occupation should group together. nor do they share with each other unless there is a particular fiesta. when most people are very busy working.

‘is inherently social in a way in which the merely beautiful or mysterious object is not: it is a physical entity which mediates between two beings. The technical activity of. 52). because preparing barbacoa is not a ritual. references to motherhood seem related to the achievement of better flavours. As Gell has argued in differentiating between decorated objects and non-decorated objects. and vice versa.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 67 The production of the dish encompasses all aspects of their lives. So it is tempting. For example. ‘The work of art. economic constraints and technical capabilities. motherhood is a well-known value in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. This is why it is a dish typically eaten at special occasions or weekends.12 A living animal changes from a natural state to a controlled. p. which in turn provides a channel for further social relations and influences’ (1996. it can be thought of as a work of art. and therefore creates a social relation between them.13 Even so. to analyze the preparation of barbacoa as if it illustrates a process of social conversion and acculturation. Since barbacoa is an elaborately prepared dish. a craft whose product depends on physical labour. The matanza seems more than a slaughter. another ingredient. in this case. Social values and behaviour seem encapsulated in the process of cooking or making barbacoa. It was precisely the complexity of the flavours and the preparation which made it more than just meat. edible object. Making barbacoa is both a source of livelihood and a pursuit of culinary excellence. On small scale. The animals are simply a source of meat. the food preparation is a sensual experience. Food requires ‘decoration’—flavourings or elaborate preparation—just as much as it requires nutrients. the decoration is just as functional as the object itself (1998. p. 74). Likewise. barbacoa can be thought of as an artwork within the corpus of Mexican cuisine. it can be said that the purpose of eating food is not simply for nourishment. although it is by no means the highest. Before I met Primy for the first time I had known that barbacoa was difficult and laborious to prepare. that is. as special. The goal is to achieve the best possible taste in the most pragmatic way for commercial and gastronomic success. it seems the beginning of this social transformation. it is exemplary of how social behaviour is affected for the sake of concerns over taste and economy. and that it had complex flavours. The actual flavouring and . Meat preparation can be socialized. socially malleable. which is decorated or considered more special or beautiful than other objects/dishes.’ Gell states. both for men and for women. For barbacoa. the occasion in which it is eaten. As with any work of art. at first. as in using the developed uterus for the panza. There is a problem with thinking of it in this way. or at least socially interpreted. although consumers themselves are unable to determine the cause of the difference in taste. the resulting dish is greater than the sum of its parts. it is a culinary technique. though. cookery is both a source of prestige from an object (dish) and a source of efficacy in social relations. however. Barbacoa ranks high in the hierarchy of dishes in Mexican cuisine. Because of the technical mastery necessary for its production and the acknowledgement of this virtuosity in its consumption. Barbacoieros feel little or no attachment to the animals they slaughter. The function of the elaboration is to mark the dish.

and the technical skills they must acquire. either in small groups or in large fiestas. or cooks. More customers will buy the product for their own consumption as well as to share with others. barbacoa has affected the community of San Mateo in Milpa Alta.68 • Culinary Art and Anthropology elaboration is often the responsibility of women. Before the concentration of barbacoieros and their technical and financial success. which could be thought of as minor works of art or craft. then in this way barbacoa is an art object whose preparation both defines and is defined by the social relations between the different people who prepare it (together or in competition) and the projected consumers. invest measured amounts of time. women’s labour. San Mateo became special because of a special dish (or a special flavour). As shown in the earlier description of a typical week for barbacoieros. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez green husk tomatoes. raw green chile de árbol. If we accept that the nature of the art object is defined by its social use (Gell. but I could not help being struck by the organized cooperation that I observed during my first few weeks there. women put in much effort and creativity in daily cooking. which could later lead to greater social success. If the appropriate pleasurable flavour is achieved in the many parts of the dish. stemmed garlic avocados . Worth noting now is that I did not arrive in Milpa Alta with the intentions of observing gender relations. The success of their cooking affects their relations with the people they are feeding. San Mateo was like any other barrio of maize farmers among many. 1998). I will describe their roles as wives and cooks. ideals and relations with men will be explored further. Recipes Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa Ma. and how the activities prescribed as appropriate for them. Women. In particular. affect the way they socialize with others. effort and money in the everyday production of meals. On large scale. a barbacoiero will have greater economic success. both with themselves and with one another. but also in celebration and large-scale sharing). In the chapter that follows. even though there is little time to relax and savour the flavours of their meals. Daily food similarly influences adjustments in behaviour. since they generally are the ones in charge of the panza and the all-important salsas. This higher status then has had ramifications on the social relations of its residents with one another as well as with residents of other barrios and towns (the perceived rise in greed and protectiveness.

stemmed. and chile guajillo angosto ( pulla). Pass the chiles through the hot oil once.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 69 onion salt Grind all together in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. peeled orange juice. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez chile pasilla. Barbacoa I used to think it inconceivable to prepare barbacoa at home unless I dug a pit in the garden and grew my own magueyes. fry the garlic cloves until golden. Add olives. Mix well. In the same oil. salt and a drizzle of olive oil to taste. stems and veins removed oil for frying garlic. Commercial Red Salsa for barbacoa Ma. cleaned. freshly squeezed green olives salt olive oil queso canasto (a fresh white cheese) Heat oil in a frying pan. Then one day I decided to try making it and was . Blend together chiles. chile de árbol. then drain. Pour into a serving bowl. boiled ¼ kg each of dried chiles: chile mora. garlic and orange juice. Salsa pasilla—‘la buena’—for Eating barbacoa on Special Occasions at Home Ma. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez 6 kg green husk tomatoes. soaked 3 medium onions 10 small cloves garlic salt to taste Blend all ingredients together. toasted on comal. Decorate with crumbled cheese.

• Wrap the meat with the banana leaves before securing the lid. The meat may or may not be raised on a wire rack. ancho. Rub the meat with the garlic. chopped 6 –8 dried red chiles (de árbol. herbs and chiles. but there is no real substitute for epazote. Meanwhile. chopped roughly • Preheat oven to 180ºC (gas mark 5/375ºF) for about 1 hour. They will change colour slightly and become more pliable. The following recipe was the result of my culinary experiment. wash the banana leaves and then pass them over a flame or dry griddle to soften them. morita. preferably green (tomatillos). limes. since some forms of barbacoa are prepared with them. sliced 2–3 tomatoes. chopped coriander. Serves 3– 4 1 metre banana leaves 1 kg lamb shoulder (or leg) 3 bay leaves large handful of epazote handful of coriander. sliced 3 cloves garlic. avocados and salsas.70 • Culinary Art and Anthropology pleasantly surprised that the flavour I achieved approximated the real thing. and serve with hot corn tortillas. . or until the meat is very tender. if desired. chopped onions. which I do grow on my windowsill. and pour a little water into the pot so the meat does not dry out when cooking. where the piece of meat will fit. although there was little consomé. guajillo) 1 onion. • Combine the rest of the ingredients and place in the casserole. sliced 1 leek. • Sprinkle with salt after cooking is complete. Use them to line a heavy casserole with a lid. Banana leaves may substitute maguey leaves. and place it in the oven for about 2 hours.

as wives. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. 142). are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr. Women are the key actors in the culinary system. The root of the problem. such as when they hire domestic helpers. 1983). 47). they argue. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. which include cooking and other domestic tasks.g. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. their husbands. McIntosh and Zey.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta. home cooking is considered women’s work. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. Murcott.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. 1991. 1979. Delphy. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. 1988. they can also mobilize the agency of others. p. Ekström. 1997. p. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. 1998. DeVault writes. inevitably play a subordinate role to men. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework. it can lead to women’s subordination (e.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. Crucially. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5). Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. Beardsworth and Keil. Separating the act of cooking or providing a meal for the family from the ‘love and personality’ of the one who provides it (usually the wife/mother) is in contradiction – 71 – . instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society. is how women’s skills.

when DeVault states that ‘women learn to think of service as a proper form of relation to men. Though this might be taken as indicative of women’s subordination to men. and the like. although women serve food to their husbands or bring them meals in the fields. 143). this does not necessarily imply a master-servant relationship. but they can find other ways to provide a delicious meal whether they cook it themselves or not. On the . still widespread and potent in countryside and city. and learn a discipline that defines “appropriate” service for men’ (1991.5 Rather. In Milpa Alta. p. knowing how to cook Mexican food is actually thought of as a skill worth learning. mother and cook whether or not they enjoy it. p. although they may hardly cook at all. ‘The Latin American family. ‘[T]he people see nothing servile in this’. at least. integral to the historical schema … provides much latitude and legitimization of behavior in terms of social status. applied to Latin America. several recent studies document how family and gender ideologies are more dynamic than static. I suggest that accepting cooking as a way of expressing love and personality can explain why many women take on roles that to outsiders may appear as subordinate to their husbands but in fact may not be so. cooking is a chore. p. or when women work away from home.’ Pescatello questions the applicability of ‘Western-style women’s liberation’ with research showing that women in Latin America have more movement and autonomy built into their social organization than their US counterparts. Women. The extended family. 101) write about Colombia. relatives. 108). they meet the challenge of providing good food to their families by depending on cooperation with co-resident women. In fact. affords the female an extensive amount of influence on the members of her family. Many have told me that they enjoy it. p. 2006. Thus. In Milpa Alta cooking is indeed embedded in the domestic realm. marital-compadrazgo alliances. and this is not to downplay or ignore ongoing social change in terms of gender relations. As Gudeman and Rivera (1990. Ann Pescatello (1973. are not always forced to prepare elaborate meals for their husbands. Some women in Milpa Alta say they cook to satisfy their own cravings or desires. and whether or not they cook regularly. since power need not be publicly displayed in order to be enforced.72 • Culinary Art and Anthropology with the existing ideology of Mexican cooking (see also Abarca. prestige. I would emphasize further that there is also nothing wrong with having defined gendered roles in the family. subsumed as women’s work or women’s unpaid labour. in-laws and comadres. if not a talent. xiv) claimed. In one of the earlier collections of essays published on gender. Servile status was held by the labourers who worked the field. leaving the house and socializing a little. For others. Doña Delfina told me that before she married she used to take lunch to the peons who worked on her family’s land. women take pride in their cooking. therefore. of course. This was one of the parts of the day that she enjoyed most. I found several women to have such an attitude. as I explained in Chapter 1. It cannot be denied that many women assume the role of wife. and not by the wives or daughters of the landowners who prepared food and served it to those men. In such cases.

It was as natural for them to portray themselves as mothers and cooks (‘Me dedico al hogar’) as it was to call themselves barbacoieras. often by means of their cooking. women in Milpa Alta are ‘submissive’. que crea el comercio’). market vendors (vendedoras) or businesswomen (comerciantes). Williams. Milpa Alta trabaja’). Her sensitive discussion of feminist kitchen politics is a . By four or five in the morning the market is alive. Even when domestic work may appear to be devalued.Women as Culinary Agents • 73 contrary. This must be why several women described themselves as ‘housewives’ although if asked again.7 but that is only how it appears on the surface. and both paid and unpaid domestic and extradomestic work is acknowledged and valued. Both are also valued as work. Milpa Alta works’ (‘Mientras México duerme. they also go to sell and create business (‘La mujer es la que genera el sustento … La mujer es la que se va a vender. on Tejanos). Juanita and other women repeatedly told me that Milpa Alta women never rest. Women remain at work for twelve hours or more. told me that if I were to walk around Milpa Alta at 3 or 4 a. and get up again the next morning before dawn. proper provision of tasty food reflects good motherhood. They are the ones who maintain the economic control in the family. They are not simple housewives but are the drive of the family businesses. 2005. said that women generate sustenance. As I discuss further below. good womanhood. returning home well after dusk. I would find many women awake. Rather than talk of a doble jornada. Supposedly. involving changing gender relations resulting from women’s entrance into the labour force. including domestic tasks. Milpaltense women present themselves as having various opportunities for release from oppression. 1985. the cooking and providing of meals is not (cf. ‘While Mexico sleeps. Juanita told me. they would say that they were barbacoieras.6 they speak with pride of how able and productive their women are. a journalist. they take on extradomestic work and still find a way to feed their families (cf. Indeed. Stephen. pp. Abarca’s (2006) recent study also argues that Mexican and Chicana women use the kitchen as a space of agency and empowerment in creative ways. sometimes defining themselves against this notion of submissiveness. Women in Milpa Alta have a reputation in Mexico City for being hardworking. and likewise. The reasons for these competing discourses of power and submission are multiple and complex.. The example of a barbacoa household (Chapter 3) illustrates how women assume the domestic household duties along with helping in the family trade.8 Yadira told me that most women around her work hard at home but also invest time in labour that could be better described as extradomestic. People commonly say. a single woman in her mid-twenties still living in her natal household. 260 –1). teeming with women setting up their stalls and peeling nopales. among other issues. they are very hardworking (‘La mujer milpaltense no descansa … es muy trabajadora’). Lulú. They admirably sacrifice sleep and other comforts for the sake of their work. Juanita. Hard work seems to be defined as commerce and extradomestic labour.m. checking the barbacoa in their pit-ovens.

Many women go to great lengths to collect the right foods for the dishes they wish to prepare. Working hard in the pursuit of flavour encourages a malleable boundary between domestic and extradomestic spaces. 1996. Though they live with some social restrictions. 1985). this is a time when they can linger and meet illicitly with their lovers under cover of nightfall and the excuse of a culinary errand. 2004. licuado or other snack bought on the street or in the market. women’s independence and the dynamism of relationships between individuals of both or either gender. they are not imprisoned in their kitchens or completely engulfed in household chores (cf. When I returned to the house. Johnsson. she needed someone to go to the tortillería to buy some prepared masa so that we would not have to soak. One of the secrets of Mexican (and any good) cooking is having top-quality ingredients at hand. but expected. By stressing complementarity between the sexes.10 Thus. because I had done exactly as I was told—go to the tortillería and come back. . Even in cases where women appear to be subservient to their husbands (‘Es él que manda’). Williams.9 This is not only acceptable. Trips to the market are as much a social event for exchanging news and gossip as for stocking up the larder. Roseman. taco. women do not need to be accompanied. For culinary errands. boil and grind more maize (nixtamal ). one way that they stretch their boundaries is in pursuit of culinary ideals. I offered to go instead of Primy or one of the children. whereas they are usually chaperoned for social outings. Since unmarried daughters in the family are often asked to buy fresh bread in the evenings for supper. because Doña Margarita told me not to take too long. and I set off without stopping. I was surprised at her surprise at how quickly I had been. In Milpa Alta. 1994. 2001). women are not quite as confined to the domestic sphere as it might appear. Abarca. I observed that for women who are interested in cooking well. much work in Latin America and elsewhere dismantles the notion of women being in a rigid oppressive condition (e. their everyday lives are not necessarily limited.. 1975. 2006. Fowler-Salamini and Vaughan. 1986.74 • Culinary Art and Anthropology convincing critique of the kitchen as a site of female oppression (see also André. 1999. Only then did I understand the joke (evidently based on truth) that men ask (usually single young) women at what time they are supposed to go out to buy bread every day.g. which would take too long. but I suspect that it was more unusual not to spend more time chatting with passersby on every outing. Primy mentioned that it was because I walk very fast. When I accompanied one or another friend or acquaintance on a visit to the market. Sometimes we would detour for an ice cream. it was often a journey with frequent stops to chat with others passing on the street or those working in their perspective stalls or shops. Melhuus and Stølen. Suárez and Bonfil. or between staying home and being out in the streets. They go to particular vendors or even other towns. among others). almost daily trips to the market or to different shops for fresh ingredients. In Milpa Alta it is normal to make frequent. Once when Doña Margarita was making tamales and her dough came out a little too thin. Rogers.

she had been ambitious about her academic and later professional career and had little patience for the kitchen. If a man is satisfied with the way a woman cooks. she said. At the time. García and Oliveira. This is just like how Ricardo told me (in Chapter 1) that a man falls in love with his stomach (rather than his heart). either from her mother. 1997). clean and raise their children. In other words. If they used to dress seductively when they were single. for not knowing how to cook. her mother-in-law or other female friends and relatives. but she managed to keep her husband from finding out. Guille told me conspiratorially that she only learned to cook several years after she got married. as I discussed in Chapter 2. she acquired a similar flavour or sazón in her cooking so that there was not too drastic a difference when she eventually took charge of her own kitchen. and then enter into small commercial ventures on the side. they usually help their husbands in their businesses by providing the necessary culinary labour (making salsas. Conversely. It is also not unlike Gell’s notion of artworks as traps. the correlations amongst cooking. she is considered to be ready for marriage and. which I discuss further below. if a woman appeals to a man’s oral/gastronomical desires (taste). culinary knowledge is not expected of men. She was able to keep this secret from her husband because she used to collect prepared food from her mother’s or sister’s kitchen before her husband arrived home to eat. some women begin to dress conservatively and stop wearing makeup. She should have been ashamed of herself. motherhood and family life correspond to ideals of womanhood. she can entice him to her to fulfil his sexual desires. and proper women prepare food at home from scratch. a woman can trap a man. love and sex. Men could depend on women to provide them their meals and could expect to be well-fed once married. prepared with a sazón de amor. If a single woman does not know how to cook. and those who do.). out of ‘respect’ for their husbands. etc. do so largely because of the high value placed on motherhood and family life in Mexico (cf. Alejandro sometimes . Deciding to stay at home and raise a family is a choice that many (though not all) women make. motherhood. Perhaps it is for good reason that married women spend so much time preparing proper meals. homemaking and extradomestic work are not mutually exclusive. food with good flavour.Women as Culinary Agents • 75 Marriage and Cooking When a girl knows how to cook. and their husbands are expected to eat what they serve them. Yadira told me that a woman can win a man through his mouth (‘Un hombre se conquista por la boca’). In other words. as I explained previously. Some women quit their extradomestic jobs after marriage. We can also extend this to say that attaining culinary expertise is equivalent to attaining complete womanhood. With skilful cooking. she will always have him in the palm of her hand. she learns as soon as she gets married. Married women are expected to know how to cook. Yet far from being housewives who solely cook. although. by extension. This hints at the connections between food. Since her mother and sister taught her to cook little by little.

pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social significance of cooking within marriage. Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. Yet. Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main defining characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. In fact. it is often necessary for working-class women to work extradomestically to supplement the family income. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children.76 • Culinary Art and Anthropology teased his cousin Kiko that he could do nothing without his wife: ‘¡Ni sabe calentar tortillas!’ (‘He doesn’t even know how to heat up tortillas!’). Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. Economic considerations play a significant role in women’s activities. At this most basic level. that motherhood does not actually stop women from taking on extradomestic work. tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination. ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). married men depend on their wives. ‘¿Entonces. Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . neither the desire for a professional extradomestic career nor the desire to remain home to raise children (and cook and clean) are ‘natural’ for women. and a man needs a woman to bear children. García and Oliveira demonstrate. boasting that he could look after himself on his own. and my findings in Milpa Alta agree. Several Milpaltense women mentioned to me that they engaged in commercial or professional activities to earn money so that they could finish building their houses. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. he replied. to pursue more education so that they would have better chances of finding work should they be deserted by their husbands in future and be left to look after children on their own. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. Work. especially their daughters. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulfilment for women regardless of social class. Early one morning. Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work. but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. Finding child minders during their working hours was not usually a problem because of the proximity of relatives or links of compadrazgo in a woman’s kin network.

Mexico. the president of the group. 184) argues against this assumption: ‘In overemphasizing “dominant” imagery.Women as Culinary Agents • 77 to the development of their families despite their capitalist productivity. Women who wish to pursue extradomestic activities can use a discourse of homemaking and cooking to subvert moral and social criticism. The dominant discourse of male power and female weakness is used often in reference to Latin America. For the sake of their children. these women were attacked in an indirect expression of community dissatisfaction over giving up this land.11 Eventually land was grudgingly given to the women beekeepers. including good cooking. can also be demonstrated by the following example. values and ideals of motherhood and domestic work. Although some did talk of professional fulfilment. The virtues. and Villareal (p. free) or their husbands as mandilón (tied to the apron strings. with wives who are loose and free). In the community’s reaction against this. Sara (another member of the group) spoke with satisfaction about how good her sons were.’ In Jalisco. It is helpful to quote at length here to illustrate this point: None [of the women beekeepers] claimed explicitly to be a model housewife. but Petra. but also about her kind and faithful husband. therefore. Other women told me without any indication of shame that they stopped working after marriage. This can lead to black-and-white pictures which portray the notion of a discourse which is almost solely responsible for the exercise of power and subordination. she describes that the government encouraged peasant women’s participation in an entrepreneurial scheme which required the allocation of ejido land. or in particular after having their first child. largely because of the governmental support of the project. Eventually the women were able to circumvent and even subvert some of the powerful images of being good women and good wives (or women vis-à-vis men). Villareal’s (1996) analysis of women beekeepers in Jalisco. a larger percentage of both women and men in Milpa Alta neglected to practise their professional careers in favour of ‘traditional’ Milpaltense occupations. henpecked and in effect. and how she walked kilometres across the . the way they went to church on Sundays. The boundaries of women’s accepted movements were threatened by gossip that labelled them as libertina (loose. because they and/or their husbands thought it best for them to dedicate their time to child rearing. a scarce resource for the community. illustrates how attempts to restrict women’s social spaces may draw on gender imagery that plays upon male ideals and women’s morality. often boasted about her cooking skills and was proud of the way she had reared her children. such as motherhood and being good homemakers (which includes cooking). researchers tend to assume that ideas pertaining to those in hierarchical positions are oppressing passive victims. despite problems with her husband. They did so by emphasizing their exemplary behaviour with respect to other images of womanhood. who wanted her to spend more time in the house. then. Yet women can also use these notions to their advantage. women may stop working outside the home or engage in work that can largely be done from home.

Melhuus (1992) suggests in her study of Toluca. They write. if she had wanted a daughter. he never hit me!’ Some people spoke so openly about wife-beating that I was led to believe it was commonplace. y gracias a Dios. and probably in other parts of Mexico as well. If he does beat her. but actively use the ideals of cooking and motherhood to avoid forcing direct confrontation. but apart from those occasions. her husband may beat her (or at least she fears that he might. there were few divorces and separations in Milpa Alta (though there were other reasons for this as well.78 • Culinary Art and Anthropology fields to take him a hot lunch. Villareal’s case study clearly demonstrates that women are not passive. She proudly showed her sewing and embroidery to her visitors. then stayed a bit to help out with his chores. Then she added. with them I am happy’ (‘Ni. she replied that at first she had not thought about it. Women’s suffering came up in conversation in a surprisingly casual manner. which undermines the power of the accepted gender imagery. at the time of fieldwork. Girls grow up to have difficult lives. con esos estoy contenta’). that women have the tendency to attach virtue to suffering. They can take an active role in modifying their social spaces. Socorro bragged quietly about how she cooked for her family. ‘Neither the fact that women often comply with practices that subordinate them nor the fact that they resist the exercise of such practices can be understood in terms of the exclusively repressive view of power common in women’s studies’ (p. though I have no hard facts to prove it. An elderly lady told me that her husband was a womanizer and a drunk. God gave me two sons. The greatest form of suffering for a married . he only hit me once or twice. yet it continues to organize and perform functions in society. she suffers through it. I was also told that if a woman fails to cook or clean. ya no. as well as resistance. better not [to have a daughter]. mejor. ‘No. Mexico. who had two sons. por conocer que una como mujer sufre. Dios me ha dado dos hijos. knowing how a woman suffers. and thanks to God. ‘It was better. 1996. She then added. 195) A similar kind of dynamic exists in Milpa Alta. but it was because I had done something to deserve it. (Villareal. Suffering. Melhuus and Stølen (1996) argue that gender ideology is in constant flux. she never felt the desire to have a daughter. and since her sons always helped her at home. p. even if he never has given her reason to believe he really will). she explained. as I mention below). Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal When Yadira’s first child was born. but he never hit her. she told me. Domestic violence rarely results in separation. she cried because the child was a girl. The idea of keeping their household in ‘good order’ was often conveyed. In fact. since the girls had married out. When I asked Doña Delfina. Some cases cited in their volume indicate a certain complicity among women. as did the topic of physical abuse. 20). which was now composed of only boys. They do not necessarily succumb submissively to the dominant discourse.

and that this is the source of women’s power. Kiko mischievously decided not to respond in the way expected of him. With amusement Kiko told me his reaction to a man who showed off his affair in the following manner: Toward the end of a fiesta. las mujeres de la calle. Alfonso approached Kiko. such as Yadira and Lulú. a husband is thought likely to be unfaithful to his wife. and likewise that of their husbands. he is henpecked (‘Él que no pega a su mujer es su mandilón’). but this is the expected image. They loved them as mothers. Decent women plaited their long hair and did not use makeup. and as ‘slaves’ to their children (‘Sí.12 At some point in marriage. They allowed their husbands to play the macho role. thus relieving Alfonso of his guilt and his ‘problem’. though she could not say for sure that Milpa Alta had many machos.Women as Culinary Agents • 79 woman is if her husband is having an extramarital affair. es porque se deja’). But my friends. With their appearance. were partly responsible for those consequences. high heels and short skirts. about men who have affairs and why they stay with their wives. it’s because she allows it’ (‘Depende en la mujer. Alejandro once said to me very bluntly. A married man may be envied or admired among his peers if he is known to have a lover on the side. The discussion so far suggests that men might have the upper hand over women when it comes to power and permissiveness. or at least on the surface. Some people would even say that a man who has no lover is not a real man (‘Él que no tiene una amante no es hombre’) and also that if he does not beat his wife. if she becomes submissive. and cut their hair or left it loose in the modern fashionable hairstyles. wore makeup. But what it also indicates is the centrality of women in the judgement of both men and women. Yadira said that men who had affairs surely did love their wives. so this was why many men forbade their wives to cut their hair or wear makeup—to prevent them from attracting other men. ‘El mexicano toma mucho y le gusta divertirse con varias chamacas’ (‘Mexican men drink a lot and like to have fun with lots of girls’). women could protect their morality. supposedly to ask for advice. He did not know what to do. pero como mamás. Motherhood being the centre of domestic life kept men with their wives even if they were tempted by others. He offered to seduce Alfonso’s mistress so that she would lose interest in him. Women were tempting when they dressed up. I began to enquire about men’s and women’s love relationships. also said that women who are beaten by their husbands for not fulfilling domestic tasks (with or without hired help). ‘It depends on the woman. As Lulú put it. or for not dressing ‘appropriately’. Both single and married men found this attractive. especially if she is young and pretty. y esclavas para sus hijos’). . si se vuelve sumisa. Doña Delfina used to say that only women of the streets wear makeup (‘Sólo las pirujas. married with children. After hearing of this incident. and he had fallen in love with a 25-year-old beauty. What Yadira interpreted as a sign of women’s subjugation to men’s ideas or tastes Doña Delfina saw as a moral issue. se pintan’). Not all men are like this. las quieren. and not the other way around. He said that he was 50 years old.

and it is women’s behaviour and morality (their shame) which reflects upon men. as swear words are used in English as well. this did not imply a lack of authority. because he is acting stupid (‘porque parece que no se da cuenta. porque se hace tonto’). ‘Es un buey’ (‘He is a bull’). she ultimately had the last word when it came to family decisions. When a man’s wife has a lover. This is why calling a man hijo de puta is a very powerful insult. Years later. it is because it seems that he takes no notice. to act stupidly. She pretends that either she does not know or that she does not care so much. While men appear to hold honour and represent their families as the household head. He arranged a flat for them to rent and only needed Doña Delfina’s signature. 80) and men are the ‘guardians of women’s virtue’ (p. So by cheating on him with another man. Of central importance is women’s role as mothers in relation to men. and she accepts it. So although Doña Delfina talked generally of women’s suffering. since bulls have horns. The labels puta (whore) and hijo de puta (son of a whore) are insults which highlight this paradox of honour and value in Latin American societies. it is because his wife is deceiving him (‘porque su esposa le engaña’). his wife gives him horns (se pone los cuernos). 160) or suffering as a female virtue. Melhuus (1992) discusses how women’s actual power over men is subtly hidden by a moral discourse linked to the merit of ‘suffering [as] a way of life’ (p. Women are a threat to men as ‘bearers (if not keepers) of their honour’ (p. But two other terms. it was explained to me. which means bull (toro). ‘Se hace güey’ (‘He is acting güey’). Don Felipe was grateful for Doña Delfina’s decision in that the family was happy to have remained in Milpa Alta. A woman described as pendeja is one whose husband has one or more lovers. She refused to sign the tenancy agreement. although it is also used among close friends to profess admiration. a man who is called a güey has horns. When someone is called pendejo/a. In Milpa Alta. The word güey is derived from the word buey. he may be described as being pendejo. pendejo/a and güey. the greatest value in society is placed on women. but though she appeared to defer to her husband on the surface. whereas calling a woman the daughter of a whore (hija de puta) is ambiguous and virtually meaningless. it usually means hacerse tonto/a. These express two key concepts of moral judgement. It is one of the biggest insults for a man. preferring for her children to grow up on their land. a man who moves into his wife’s house after marriage or who is henpecked .80 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Doña Delfina herself wore her hair in two plaits only after marriage. More specifically. but he is more likely to be called güey. complementary to the labels of puta and hijo de puta. Early in their marriage her husband wanted to move to another municipality of Mexico City so that both of them could avoid their long commutes to work. 159). are more commonly used in Milpa Alta for insulting men and women. Her morality is better insulted directly by calling her puta. when you describe a man by saying. Furthermore. They are related to the victimized wife of the macho man who has other lovers or more than one family. When you say. and to the cuckolded husband of the woman who sleeps around.

it frustrated her. Most people with whom I spoke made jokes and ‘naughty’ innuendos when they talked of sexual opportunities. Since she had fulfilled her duties as a wife by cooking for him. both extramarital or premarital. As a dutiful wife. Doña Marta’s culinary revenge was effective against her philandering husband partly because of the Milpaltense imperative to eat everything served on one’s plate. she prepared proper meals for him every day. regardless of the eater’s true hunger. Inversely. and she would insist that he have his comida. if she was not stupid ( pendeja) and was overly concerned with others’ opinions. When he failed to return home to eat. as he ought to do since it was served to him. as in the following anecdote: Doña Marta told me of her jealousy when she discovered that her husband had a lover. so that people will not speak ill of her. but her relatives and neighbours told her she simply had to accept that he was a man and that is how men were. to keep up appearances. since he had already eaten a full meal with his lover. Although it may not necessarily be the case that his wife dominates over him or that she has an extramarital lover. On the much rarer occasion of a woman telling me that her husband had had an affair. As one . she would take advantage of her right to demand her husband’s ‘respect’ and full sexual attention. often cooking his favourites or requests for his comida. she would wait until he got home. she either couched the story in terms of woman’s suffering or told me of her little revenge. in effect. the man appears to be acting güey. real or imagined. It was also Doña Marta’s subtle way of insisting that her husband recognize his sexual obligations to her. The explanation was phrased to me in this way: ‘Generally a man who acts tonto does so because of the depth of his love for his wife. by enforcing his gastronomical obligations to eat her home-cooked meals. Although he would have been very full and quite tired. In retaliation. Men and women are conceived of as having differing motivations for lenience over the sexual behaviour of their spouses. I hinted at the coerciveness of Milpaltense hospitality in Chapter 2 and discuss it further in the next chapter. he was unable to refuse the meal.’13 The implication of the preceding explanation is that a man acts ‘stupidly’ and allows his wife to ‘give him horns’ because he refuses to acknowledge that her behaviour is making a fool of him. since it is the norm for the wife to move to the husband’s house. A woman who acts tonta does so because she is pendeja. He allows her to dominate. Doña Marta would not allow him to leave the table until he cleaned his plate. he had to fulfill his duties as a husband by eating what she had so lovingly cooked. saying that he must be hungry since he was home so late. She would rush to the kitchen to warm up the food and would purposely give him large servings. A woman who acts ‘stupidly’ is just ‘stupid’ because she allows her husband to do as he pleases and does not complain so that her marriage appears intact. She had already suspected it when he would repeatedly come home after midnight without letting her know of his plans to stay out late. or a second family. whatever the time.Women as Culinary Agents • 81 may be teased by others as a ciguamoncli or ciguamoncle.

children and culinary ideals. from the venerated role they play in the family. it is ideally also the most flavourful. They run the family. you must come when you are bid’). This is . and for women. and they also cook for love.82 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Mexican saying goes. a married woman having an affair is usually scolded by her female friends and relatives. Abarca. 202. in order to protect their virtuous image in the eyes of their children. to be in love means sex. Among those women who have extramarital lovers. ‘A la mesa y a la cama. Well-prepared and delicious food is food cooked ‘with love’. Although not common. home cooking means a cuisine grounded in familiar shared history and in common knowledge of places and people. una sola vez se llama’ (‘To the table or to bed. or with love magic cooked in to ensnare a man or keep him at home. original emphasis). epitomized in the mother-child bond. Home cooking is not only the ideal food. with the sazón de amor of a talented cook who loves her husband and her children. 2006). who suffer for the sake of husbands. they support as well as benefit and depend upon their family and children. They are ready to make great sacrifices for the sake of their children. because people you care about will eat the meal’ (2006. in sum.14 Good women suffer for love of their husbands. As Wilk describes it. Culinary Agency The material I have presented thus far suggests that women can gain empowerment through cooking or can draw it from their culinary agency (cf. They can provide for family needs through nurture as well as by wage-earning work. to be in love means submission to men or society’s rules (at least in appearance). are portrayed as the ideal providers of sex and food. if her married lover acknowledges her (and their children) and thus demands her respect. For this reason they are willing to suffer and to work twice as hard as their husbands. Although a single woman having an affair with a married man ought to be looked down upon. Being able to blame themselves for some unpleasant aspects of domestic life indicates that women can be powerful and autonomous agents. She generalized that for men. The same does not apply for men. On the other hand. in Milpa Alta. they would even leave their lovers. women are the hub of the family. and by extension the greater social sphere. the most important point to note is that many women do feel that they are responsible for themselves as well as for their families. another form of ‘revenge’ that a woman may undertake if she finds out her husband has a lover is for her to take a lover of her own. The intimacy of these social relationships makes home cooking the best—somehow construed to be the highest in prestige. As Lulú and Yadira often said. though interpretations may vary. Otherwise. Yadira said that they prefer to leave their lovers before they are found out. she may still be respected in her own way. p. ‘Metaphorically. Home cooking is always concerned with quality. in multiple ways. Women’s power is drawn from the domestic realm. Women. Therefore. divorce and single motherhood is worse than having or being an extramarital lover.

Women as Culinary Agents • 83 given further credence by other related studies in Latin America and elsewhere that demonstrate that gender roles are not necessarily constitutive of power relationships and identity. This emphasizes the importance of cooking in family life. by focusing on food. elaborate cuisines may in fact be a means of escaping the varied existing restrictions that are already embedded in social life. 177). just staying alive was the sole challenge. or have other incomegenerating activities that keep them busy away from home. to calibrate differences in taste—and to be prevented from doing so—help to suggest that something of the taste of freedom was . they ultimately attained freedom. barbacoieras. 1999. Nevertheless. Roseman. 1996. some may choose to emphasize cooking as part of their gender identity. To be sure. see also Moore. Tasting Freedom. 1996. cooking is a creative activity which requires a basic freedom to perform. they did so under terrible constraints. to compare. Not only this. who were low in class hierarchy. In fact. depending on the social or local political situation in which they find themselves. the pursuit of flavour and culinary mastery allowed some slaves to be elevated from being treated like beasts in the fields to exercising their creative agency through their cooking. In these differing tasks (and in eating). By constructing a cuisine of their own. Mintz describes how something judged to be of good taste can emanate from the necessity and poverty of the slaves of the American South. Chapter 3) describes how freedom from slavery may have been partly achieved by the development of a local cuisine. Yet the ability to render judgements of food. In Tasting Food. to elaborate their preferences. McCallum. and they provide good food for their families however much or little they cook. Ortner. Sanders. 2001. whether or not they actually do so regularly because they are food vendors. In contrast. whether or not they consider it the main source of their public esteem in general. Mintz suggests. she may take the credit for providing a meal (abducting the culinary agency of the food/cook). By virtue of its artistic nature. Mintz’s ‘taste of freedom’ is in direct contrast with Bourdieu’s. but that gender is in flux and power is not intrinsic to its constitution (González Montes and Tuñon. Rather than good taste (at least in food) being defined according to the habitus of the dominant class. Bourdieu defines the ‘taste of luxury’ as the ‘taste of liberty’ or a distance from necessity (1984. That is. p. Furthermore. often. it is associated with economic success (economic capital). they were able to exercise the human potentiality to taste. Sidney Mintz (1996. women in Milpa Alta are proud to be known as hardworking. Whether a woman cooks for her family or has someone else do the cooking. the existing ideal of gastronomy makes culinary artistry a possible goal that women may strive to achieve. Women’s culinary agency is not limited to cooking but may also extend to creative methods of meal provision. Melhuus and Stølen. as I have described previously. although Mintz does not specifically engage himself with Bourdieu. 2000). women may choose to define themselves as loving individuals who cook for their husbands or other family members. to develop comparisons. 1997. 1994.

Ideally food is cooked at home. because machines produced inferior flavours and quality in comparison to handmade tortillas (Marroni de Velázquez. or a devotion to culinary works of art. While it is arguable that women’s subordination was exacerbated by the demands of the kitchen. At the same time. A woman should be able to satisfy her husband both sexually and gastronomically.15 With the tortillas sorted out. It is a license for social action in the pursuit of technical or culinary artistry. Both sex and food lead to the continuance (and reproduction) of individuals as well as of society. forms of autonomy. 1998. put another way. machine-made tortillas gained acceptance (Pilcher. in the case of Mexico. she is in control over these two fundamental . which eventually led to the development of an elaborate cuisine. this was specifically the demands of making fresh tortillas (see Pilcher. but could not themselves duplicate’ (47–8). 31–2) also notes that in some ways the factory-made tortillas were more of a burden than a blessing to rural women because of their need to earn money to buy them. pp. the dependence on flavour. it is as a provider of sex and food that women’s power becomes evident. both because the master class became dependent on its cooks. In effect. pp. Mexican women used to spend up to a third of their waking hours making tortillas (pp. as works of art (Gell. 1994). The tasting of freedom was linked to the tasting of food. She also describes how her mother’s skill in making tortillas by hand was a source of pride and self-assurance in confrontation with her in-laws (Abarca. women were left with more time and energy to devote to other activities. and it can even be thought of as a means toward women’s liberation. 106–10). and because the cooks actually invented a cuisine that the masters could vaunt. or as being social actors in their own right. by recognizing that cooking is active and creative. Although women’s socially acceptable spaces may have appeared limited. 37) As I describe for Milpa Alta. by a wife or a mother. an elaborate cuisine is not simply a creative escape valve for otherwise restricted women. or. Before wide industrialization and the spread of mechanical tortillerías. an idea also formulated by Mintz: ‘[W]orking in the emergence of cuisine legitimized status distinctions within slavery. 80–1). pp. culinary or otherwise. then. Then. 1998. The elaborate cuisine was not the restrictive factor of their lives per se. 100–6). Gradually. with technological advances and political changes as women entered the extradomestic labour force. p. 1996. dishes. Abarca (2006. there was resistance to machine-made tortillas. pp. gives women the legitimacy to expand their social and physical boundaries. 1998). morality and domestic power and may even help them to trap a husband. 99–121). (Mintz.84 • Culinary Art and Anthropology around before freedom itself was. Looking more closely at cuisine and the social relations surrounding its production can be illuminating. in the way taught by generations of women who nourished their families as wives and mothers. To summarize. therefore. recipes) should be thought of as having social agency. its outcome (food. cooking was one significant way around it.

it is precisely women’s cooking that is most highly valued. Whilst I cannot claim to have a formula or list of criteria for determining who is a culinary artist or who is an ordinary cook. Women are arguably the most highly valued half of society (Melhuus. 1989). by extension. Women use their culinary agency in the cycle of festivity (described in the chapter that follows). In fulfillment of these desires social relations are made or unmade. p. Chapter 9) argues. and they use this status in imaginative and subtle ways to assert their power (over men). 182). finely chopped 1 green chile. pp. or in the nature of the two most important desires. a woman can have actual power over her husband. Recipes Huevos a la mexicana A typical recipe for almuerzo. Women’s agency. or potential to culinary artistry. therefore. the word for ‘to eat’ has the double meaning of eating food and having sex (Taggart. for food and for sex (see Gow. artistry. 1989. say that no one cooks better than their mothers. 1997. Taggart (1992. Stephen (2005. 1992. This perception hinges on the connection between the value of good cooking—of good flavour—and the value allocated to women. Gregor. in Mexico and elsewhere. when. as wives and mothers. can be both culinary and reproductive. Gow. 80–1. oil ½ onion. finely chopped 1 large tomato. 1985). the only men for whom women prepare food are their husbands. finely chopped 4 eggs salt . and many more examples can be given to corroborate this. In fact. pp. the domestic sphere and. creativity—in a word. skill. 1992).16 The preceding discussion has indicated how home cooking is highly valued in Mexico. And fulfillment of these desires requires imagination. Furthermore. Many people. is accessible to anyone who cooks (see Chapter 2). the greater social realm. among other Náhuatl-speaking groups. If she is a skilful cook or can mobilize her culinary agency. in Náhuatl.Women as Culinary Agents • 85 desires (cf. Vázquez García. I believe that such a thing as culinary agency. 80–1) also describes a link between hunger for food and desire for sex among the Sierra Nahaut of Central Mexico. It is important to remember now that a proper meal prepared at home according to traditional techniques is considered to taste better than anything commercially produced.

raise the heat and cook until well-done and almost dry. some women buy various foods in the market to serve taco placero or tacos de plaza. Taco placero When there is little time to make a proper meal. remove from the heat. hence its name. Serve with beans ( frijoles de olla). with the essential ingredients marked with an asterisk (*): *tortillas *queso fresco *avocado *chicharrón *pápaloquelite *pickled chiles salsa cebollas desflemadas nopales compuestos tamal de sesos tamal de charales pascle salpicón barbacoa carnitas cecina lime spring onions beans Batter for Coating Fish (pescado capeado) Yadira Arenas Berrocal 1 egg 1 clove garlic salt and pepper . When just firm. Some people buy food and combine it with what they have at home for making any kind of tacos. add salt. Add tomatoes. heat oil in frying pan and sauté onions and chiles until soft. and stir until all are well blended. pickled chiles or salsa. Eggs should still be soft. Some or all of the following foods are offered for taco placero.86 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Over a medium flame. Break the eggs into the pan. and hot tortillas or bread. This is a combination of foods that can be bought in the market or tianguis and eaten right there in the plaza as fillings for tacos.

Women as Culinary Agents • 87
Blend all ingredients together or crush garlic and scramble with eggs, salt and pepper. Dredge fish fillets in flour. Dip in egg mixture. Fry in hot oil.

Carnitas
José Arenas Berrocal Yadira’s brother, José, learned to make carnitas by watching others. The first time he prepared carnitas was for a fiesta that I attended. The food turned out so well that his sisters congratulated him as if he were a young girl, saying, ‘Now you are ready to marry!’ (José was divorced and had two adolescent sons.) One whole pig (about 20 kg) serves around 140 people. For this recipe José used two medium-sized pigs. • The pig must be cut into large pieces—legs, loin, shoulders, ribs, skin—and marinated in vinegar for several hours to overnight. • In a large cauldron, heat abundant lard until boiling. Add meat in this order: first legs, then shoulders, loin, ribs, with skin on top, covering all the meat. • When the lard comes to a boil once more, add around 5 large cans of evaporated milk, the juice from around 40 oranges, and the peels of 5 oranges. You may add garlic, but this is optional. • Allow the meat to boil until it is very soft. Add saltpetre to redden and flavour the meat. • Serve with hot tortillas and red or green salsa.

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Mole and Fiestas

This chapter analyzes the social meanings of the food served during fiestas in Milpa Alta—that is, mole, barbacoa, carnitas and mixiotes. Fiesta food, like daily food, is also prepared or organized by women, although we have seen that barbacoa is a product of men’s and women’s complementary labour, and carnitas is a similar dish. Whichever fiesta food is chosen, it is prepared in large amounts, usually to serve at least around five hundred guests, and thus also requires more than one cook to prepare it. These celebratory dishes are repositories of the value of social actors as groups rather than as individuals. As described in the previous chapter, the high value of culinary elaboration is interwoven with the social value placed upon women’s (sexual and gastronomic) virtue as wives and mothers within the domestic sphere. Women are also valued in the community specifically for their role in rituals, that is, fiestas (cf. Stephen, 2005, Chapter 9). One of Stephen’s Zapotec informants is quoted to have said, ‘The men respect our work and say that we work hard. They know the food is the most important thing about a fiesta, and we do that. So our work is most important, but it’s hard’ (p. 261). This is similar to Milpa Alta, where food preparation is recognized and appreciated as work in family as well as in community contexts. What I found striking about fiestas was the predictability of the menu; in Mexican cuisine, feast food is mole, and likewise having mole makes eaters feel that they are celebrating something. This is significant, but not just as an indication of the symbolic power or value of foods. Special occasions require elaborate dishes so that they can be marked as special,1 but there are other features of a fiesta apart from the food that together characterize celebration. The fiesta incorporates local social systems (the mayordomía and compadrazgo), including music, ritual and convention, which will be explained in this chapter. The mayordomía organizes the town fiesta (la fiesta del pueblo), one of the most important public festivities. During this time the community cooperates with the local mayordomía to hold a large-scale celebration where all are welcome. Similarly, compadrazgo (the system of ritual kinship or co-parenthood) helps families cooperate to organize and celebrate their private life cycle rituals. Fiestas of varying scales require greater or lesser individual involvement, depending on family and community demands and whether they are personal celebrations of life cycle events or local or national holidays. In the following pages I describe some aspects of the fiesta of

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To speak with respect. the most important aspects of which are the food and the music. it is because they hold them in high esteem and would thus be honoured if they would accept the role of godparent for their child. Compadrazgo ritualizes these close social relationships between families based on their mutual respect. is natural under these circumstances. as ‘comadrita’. Lomnitz. which at its most basic is the relationship between a couple and the godparents ( padrinos) of their child. The ties bound by shared responsibility over the ahijado (godchild) provide a social assurance which may be necessary in future. house blessings and almost any kind of inaugural or life cycle event. The respect that characterizes compadrazgo relationships implies personal affection. They are ritual kin. Apart from baptism. mutual admiration and also social distance.90 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Barrio San Mateo and the systems of reciprocal exchange in hospitality. each family thereafter maintains this bond between them. are couples married in church with whom they wish to maintain a lifelong relationship. both systems function around feasts and hospitality at the levels of the family and the barrio. the quintessence of Mexican culinary artistry. concluding with a discussion of mole. though much has already been written by others on these systems of reciprocal exchange.4 . Compadrazgo Compadrazgo3 is the system of ritual kinship. Compadres. respectively. and the families maintain commitments as of kinship into future generations. the actual relationship between compadres may be characterized by competition. sometimes jointly. other family members on both sides call one another compadre/comadre or padrino/madrina. and one would begin to address the mother of one’s comadre. she said that compadres (and friends) are ‘inherited’ in Milpa Alta. sometimes singly. Both husbands and wives choose their compadres. envidia (greed) and initial distrust. Thus. therefore. The way Yadira explained it. Accompanying heightened respect. especially baptismal compadres. Compadrazgo and the mayordomía It is helpful to have a basic understanding of compadrazgo and the mayordomía. 1977). there are other kinds of compadres for marriage. and these also extend throughout the families of the compadres. friends who become compadres may change the form of address that they use with one another and begin to use Usted when they used to call each other tú (cf.2 As already mentioned. although not necessarily for economic assistance. Indeed. Mayordomos also arrange the salvas/promesas (gifts) that their barrio takes to others’ town/barrio fiestas. Their main responsibility is to organize fiestas. By extension. When a couple chooses their compadres. for example.

They are organized by the socio-political institution called the mayordomía or ‘el sistema de cargos’. one or more couples (who have married in church) from the barrio/pueblo. local families are expected to help. On the whole. are responsible for caring for the church. but nearby pueblos have double names like San Pablo Oztotepec or San Salvador Cuauhtenco. the cargo system. but they almost always have a Catholic saint’s name as well. most families in Milpa Alta regularly give whatever economic. The fiesta del pueblo and the mayordomía In Milpa Alta every barrio and pueblo is named after a Catholic saint. one’s birthday is also referred to as one’s saint’s day (el día de su santo). either financially or with their labour. when they leave a fiesta compadres are given extra food to take away with them. Brandes. compadres assist in preparing the fiestas and are also the most honoured guests. taking charge of the ritual visits to other pueblos on their feast day celebrations. The names of those who . thereby continuing to nourish the social relationship despite their absence. material or physical aid that is asked of them. deserving special treatment. installing a church in honour of that saint in the centre. although this is not the norm. to avoid offense they must let their hosts know in advance. As will be discussed in greater detail in this chapter. performances and religious ritual. People used to be named after the saints on whose day they were born. Since San Mateo is a barrio of the pueblo Villa Milpa Alta. even if it is not always easy. For the fiesta del pueblo. and it is not unheard of to celebrate both one’s birthday and saint’s day. If compadres cannot attend. each saint corresponds to a certain day in the year. Like the images of saints who ritually visit one another during town fiestas. (Most people are now no longer named after the calendar name. his or her feast day.) Likewise. Town or barrio fiestas are a combination of feasts. towns may be referred to solely by their indigenous names. called an itacate. Mayordomos are like human go-betweens amongst the patron saints of the barrios and pueblos. as large sums of money are needed (cf. The mayordomos go to everyone’s houses collecting donations. although most pueblos have both Catholic and Náhuatl names.Mole and Fiestas • 91 In the realm of the family fiesta cycle. The mayordomos. Throughout Mexico. and for this reason. They take on this charge for a determined length of time before passing on the role to other members (married couples) of the community. barrios and pueblos celebrate their saint’s day with a fiesta. 1988). These parcels of food are also given to compadres when they cannot attend a fiesta. We can say that the Spaniards ‘baptized’ each town with a new Catholic name. it is only called San Mateo. In San Mateo the amounts that each contributed are announced one week after the fiesta. compadres are expected to visit one another on occasions of special family events and can expect to be welcomed with a mole de fiesta. According to the Catholic calendar introduced by the Spanish.

1997. . live bands. Stephen. She also argues that women are critical players in ritual life. carnitas or mixiotes. who help in cash or kind. For example. and also for the sake of comfortable relations and status within the social network (Brandes. offering the expected fiesta foods in abundance. In fact. In compadrazgo. pero para la fiesta . the most important aspect of any fiesta. Some host their own private banquets during the barrio fiesta. and they are often ridiculed. When they finally do have a church wedding. Sometimes people give more money than they really can afford. a Mexican birthday song. it is to one’s personal benefit to give to the community. Both compadrazgo and the mayordomía are systems that structure social relations. it can be held jointly with a baptism (when a baby turns 1 year . My observations in Milpa Alta are comparable. Salles and Valenzuela. the form and content of community-level celebration has been appropriated into life cycle celebrations. indefinite bonds of reciprocity that last a lifetime and beyond. they are continually replaced by future mayordomos who maintain the ongoing reciprocal exchange relationships amongst other barrios. because they are the ones who prepare the food. closeness and distance in the community among families or pueblos. amongst Zapotecs in Oaxaca. However. a single mother who washes clothes and does general cleaning for a living. life cycle rituals are sometimes combined and celebrated together. Mariachis play throughout the day while people eat. but for the fiesta . until they have children. standing in for the communities represented by the patron saints. Cata. As Chelita once said to me. Weddings are also the largest and most important family life cycle celebrations. begin to arrive with statues of their patron saints. and into the night there is dancing. Many families eagerly look forward to the fiesta del pueblo. 1988. . individuals representing family groups engage in long-term. some couples delay their church weddings. though they are organized amongst compadres. the visiting barrios are hosted by local mayordomos to share in a feast of mole. barbacoa.92 • Culinary Art and Anthropology did not contribute are also made public.6 Stephen (2005) explains how. . and thus their obligation to provide a wedding feast. ‘No tenemos para el calzón. Though mayordomos typically ‘reign’ for one to five years in Milpa Alta. especially in the role of mayordomos. with the usual accompaniments. Lomnitz. apart from funerals.’ Yadira said.’ (‘We don’t have enough [money] to buy underwear. . buys a pig every year which she tends and fattens so that when it is time for the fiesta she can have it slaughtered to prepare carnitas for at least a hundred guests. and nearby Morelos.5 Family events are celebrated in the same way. The fiesta officially starts on the eve of the feast day when several other barrios and pueblos of Milpa Alta. [we do]’). and fireworks. The mayordomía engages in similar long-term contractual exchange relationships with the corresponding mayordomías of neighbouring barrios and pueblos. 1977. 2005). After singing the mañanitas. especially weddings. bringing their promesas of flowers and music. planning and saving money months in advance. ‘But you have to contribute to continue with the traditions. without the fireworks.

there are forceful fundamental rules of food hospitality in Milpa Alta. peas and/or potatoes may be added. People take it seriously and remember hosts who do not offer a soft drink or a glass of water (‘¡Ni siquiera te ofrecen un refresco o un vaso con agua!’). which is either pasta or rice flavoured with onions and garlic and sometimes tomatoes to which carrots. often chicken broth with pasta. All occasions require the same menu for the banquet to accommodate hundreds of people. or chicharrón en chile verde (pork crackling in green sauce). Hospitality and Food When guests arrive at the house. and/ or sopa seca (dry soup). young corn kernels. a complaint expressed with derision toward the subject of conversation. or it may be something rather more complex such as mole verde con pollo (green mole with chicken). and there is an abundance of food. Since each fiesta should have the same kind of feast food. In the mornings a guest may also be served leftovers from the day before. If they have run out of milk the hosts apologize and ask if coffee would be all right. What is served depends on the time of arrival. as well as agua de frutas. la comida. is usually served between two and five in the afternoon. and after six is suppertime. sometimes refried. Hospitable and well-mannered people offer their guests a full meal if it is available or if they themselves are in the middle of a meal. or perhaps enchiladas or thinly sliced beef steaks with a salsa and potatoes sautéed with onions. This would be followed by beans and all accompanied by tortillas. however long overdue the wedding may be. ‘¡Adelante! ¡adelante! ¿Qué les ofrezco?’ (‘Come in! Come in! What can I offer you?’). such as a bowl of pancita accompanied by tacos of broad beans or nopales compuestos. something to eat or drink must always be available. even if it is only a piece of fruit or agua fresca. the first thing that a host says is. sweetened diluted fruit juice. Since someone might arrive for whatever reason at any time. In the evenings a guest may be served leftovers from the main meal or perhaps some sweet rolls accompanied by café de olla or hot milk into which one is invited to stir instant coffee or chocolate and sugar.Mole and Fiestas • 93 old) or presentation (when a child is 3). which are crucial to social interaction. The main course is often meat served in a sauce or with some other hot salsa on the side. it is acceptable to celebrate them together with a single feast. It starts with a soup or sopa aguada. What would be unacceptable is to have a wedding or baptism without the mole de fiesta to offer to guests. It may be as simple as breaded chicken breasts accompanied by cooked vegetables. Whatever is for breakfast is served along with beans. in both fiestas and everyday settings. As I explain in the section that follows. Before noon a guest is offered breakfast. The main meal of the day. however infrequent. teleras and hot milk. or may be held on the day of the barrio fiesta. from around noon to about six it is lunchtime. because this is all . live music and dancing.

This was what they had eaten for lunch the day before. just one!’). beans and tortillas. Since Primy had not yet touched her eggs. To prepare the chilaquiles Doña Margarita had used the green sauce from the carne de res con nopalitos en chile verde (beef with nopales in green sauce) that we had eaten for lunch the day before. we were served some sweet rolls and coffee. she had only one egg. The host must share whatever food is at hand. After this. Just as we started to eat.30. she passed one of them to Yadira’s plate. as the following anecdote illustrates: It was the feast day of Saint Francis. and the guest must accept the food offered. she said. we went to visit Yadira’s compadres. We were invited to have a few tacos of nopales with cheese. we returned to the compadres’ house and helped them cook nopales. where we just had breakfast. It was four o’clock and they had just served their comida. She would normally prepare a new sauce to make chilaquiles. so they gave us the fruit to take away with us. We were breakfasting on chilaquiles served with two fried eggs each and teleras. Alejandro and Doña Margarita would not accept this and again insisted we eat. accompanied by a tomato and pasta soup. then we were offered apples and bananas. which they sell in the market already prepared with onions. and then Yadira and Kiko left. we were each given a plate full of milanesas with a simple cucumber and avocado salad and fried plantains with cream. but. So we each had one. one uses whatever one has at hand. We explained that we had just come from eating and that we were very full. whose son was ill. So with difficulty we cleaned our plates. Since Doña Margarita had served herself last and there was an odd number of eggs. she and Kiko needed to pay their contribution to the local mayordomía. Since we arrived just in time. fresh sprigs of coriander and slices of avocado. ¡nada más uno!’ (‘One little taco. There we were offered tacos dorados de pollo. but our hosts insisted. their compadre’s sister. . and they had several left. They were taking me to visit the town fiesta of nearby San Francisco Tecoxpa. We told them that we had just that moment come from Primy’s house. After eating. but Primy. at around 9. He accepted the offer. Since their nopalera was in that area of Milpa Alta. tomatoes and herbs. heated tortillas one by one and gave them to each of us straight from the comal rather than wrapping a stack in a napkin inserted into a chiquihuite. but Doña Margarita insisted. and she heated some barbacoa in the same sauce and served it to him with some beans. which by this time were simply impossible to force in. Yadira protested that she had already had breakfast and that Doña Margarita should eat.94 • Culinary Art and Anthropology that they have left. Yadira and Kiko came to pick me up for the day. Yadira and Kiko then took me back to Primy’s house. ‘Un taquito. After visiting San Francisco and walking around the fair. saying that she really did not feel like having two eggs that day. This was a very informal and impromptu meal and Chelita. cebollas desflemadas con rajas de chile jalapeño (sliced onions tamed with lime juice and salt and mixed with strips of jalapeño chiles). so Yadira should have her share. Doña Margarita immediately passed her plate to Yadira and said that she was not very hungry. She then asked Kiko if he would like some barbacoa en chile verde because they had run out of tortillas and could not make more chilaquiles. and then were pushed to have more. and I was staying in Primy’s house.

and a food parcel (itacate) will be sent to their home after the fiesta is over. Lomnitz shows that psychosocial distance is a more important factor in reciprocal exchange networks than blood ties. and lending a hand at work obligates the recipient of the favor to reciprocate in kind at some later date’ (Brandes. This implies a willingness to engage in reciprocal exchange because of perceived parity in an ‘equality of wants’. 85). ‘Es que no te gustó’ (‘It’s because you didn’t like it’). invitations to meals beget counter-invitations. however. ‘[I]nvitations to life cycle rituals cannot be turned down’ (p. when there is confianza between two families. They know that they are always invited to any family celebrations. Especially when there is a certain closeness between host and guest. it can be interpreted as a breach of trust. physical and economic proximity. Also inherent is Mauss’s notion of ‘the gift’. Refusing an invitation without good reason may be taken as an insult or a break in the ties of trust (confianza) which keep families together.Mole and Fiestas • 95 The preceding description demonstrates that hospitality is a coercive system. although if family members live physically far apart. eats it all with relish and possibly asks for more. they must expect not to receive an invitation. such as the town fiesta or a birthday. It is a trusting relation between two individuals in social. Stephen (2005) describes a similar coerciveness in fiesta hospitality amongst compadres in Teotitlán. If. what she calls ‘psychosocial distance’. In this way food embodies the agency (of welcome. in appreciation of the superior flavours of the food. This same basic system of food giving and receiving is also in action when families are invited to large-scale fiestas. this is fine. both for the hosts and for the guests. The perfect guest accepts everything offered to him gratefully. If a guest leaves food on the plate a host may say disapprovingly. gift) of the host in a material form. Rejecting food is tantamount to rejecting the host. Food offered in hospitality appears to be treated as an extension of the host and/or cook (if they are the same person). Thus. they have spoken to the hosts to let them know they cannot make it. it is like being part of the same family. 1988. An invitation to a fiesta must be honoured with its acceptance and also requires reciprocity in the form of future invitations to family fiestas. Lomnitz (1977) defines the Latin American concept of confianza as more than just ‘trust’ or ‘confidence’. the host offers the guest a refill. uttered in an offended tone of voice. p. Attendance to a party is a social commitment. gifts require counter-gifts. People would talk and say that the offenders . a guest should not be surprised if his refusal is answered with. For this reason the social pressure to eat everything placed in front of a guest is high. As soon as his plate is near empty. While people are sometimes too busy to attend public fiestas organized by the mayordomía. ‘[A]s part of this behavioral model. She states that the obligation is so great that one risks being disowned by one’s compadres if one skips a private fiesta. The concept still applied in Milpa Alta in the 1990s. When one family is particularly close to another family. and if they fail to show up on a special day. ‘No desprecias a la comida’ (‘Don’t undervalue food’) or ‘No desperdicias la comida’ (‘Don’t waste food’). which allows for the continuance of social relations. 258).

compadres and community come together to socialize and exchange news at greater leisure. They are still as hardworking as other Milpaltenses and are up before six o’clock every morning to tend to their cactus fields or other occupations. or carnitas. and explained: The people of Milpa Alta are very. barbacoa.8 One’s energies are easily depleted. In Milpa Alta there are so many fiestas that Doña Margarita told me that sometimes when she has a craving for mole. and to do it well. she had gained quite a lot of weight.9 Her statement is telling in that she mentions eating well at home as a ‘luxury’. profession. Yadira told me. I observed a similar sense of this in Milpa Alta. And it is because of this that the community is so festive—to show others that yes. Every month there is at least one fiesta at barrio level. where parties are taken so seriously and where hospitality requires a guest to eat everything she is offered. It is necessary to work from dawn until late at night in order to progress [financially]. can become tiresome (llega a aburir). As I . Amongst the seven barrios and eleven pueblos of Milpa Alta. Yadira said. Parties and festivals in San Mateo are more than simple seasonal markers partly because of their frequency and also because of their obligatory force. she can surreptitiously take it away to eat at home later. surrounded by loved ones (close family members). as shown by the case of Barrio San Mateo in Villa Milpa Alta. serving mole. she respected the importance of the festivities. Personal fiestas are taken so seriously that it is not unusual for some Milpaltenses to take a day off of work on their birthdays to properly attend to their celebration. they do have money to celebrate. she need not go through the effort of making it because she knows there will always be another party soon and her craving will be satisfied. of highest value. fiestas are the primary occasions when kin. is socially enjoyable and beneficial. Holding large parties. If a guest cannot eat it. Since her wedding day. Fiestas. Yadira told me. There are private parties every week. As Yadira explained. So it is a luxury to be able to stay home to eat. making fiestas a source of social cohesion (Perez-Castro and Ochoa. This was mainly because she then moved to Milpa Alta. More importantly. education and traditional industry.7 but this does not mean that the people of this barrio are idle. All the fiestas could be thought of as a sort of diversion from the monotony of daily labours at a social or community level. 1991). are pressured food events. Nevertheless. is eating a meal at home. because there is no time. very hardworking because nature gave them few resources. but the deepest pleasure. especially when one tries to juggle family. therefore. To go from one party to the next. Barrio San Mateo is the most fiestero.96 • Culinary Art and Anthropology think they are too important to attend or that they think they do not need others in the community. fiestas are important social commitments that need to be honoured with family participation: ‘Son tradiciones pero imposiciones muy fuertes por parte de la comunidad’ (‘They are traditions but at the same time very strong impositions from the community’).

There is some disagreement about what makes a mole poblano distinct from other moles. it is eaten primarily for celebrations. Since . Leaving food is a great insult. although it is commonly included. mole of fragrance (Bayless and Bayless. Some also use the plastic cups on the table which are there for serving drinks. photographs. but it is more complex. a culinary work of art) which allows for ongoing social relations. the festive life ultimately sustains community life. (You are the sesame seed of all moles. it is a breach of the spirit of the gift (of food. ‘Eres ajonjolí de todos los moles. the Pueblan mole. Others believe it is particular in its incorporation of chocolate. The word now connotes a combination of dried chiles. Each ingredient requires individual preparation before all are ground together into a paste.Mole and Fiestas • 97 mentioned in Chapter 2. formerly called mole de olor. nuts. or the sculptural sweets made for the Days of the Dead called alfeñiques. It is often misrepresented as a combination of chiles and chocolate. 1987 p. In other words. thick sauce which incorporates up to thirty ingredients. herbs. There are several different kinds of regional recipes for mole.) —Mexican saying The most famous dish in Mexico is the mole poblano. then diluted with broth and cooked. crucial to these fiestas is a proper feast. fruits. Some cooks say that the mole poblano is distinguishable by the chiles used— mulato. Mole is the dish that usually defines a feast. The most important thing is never to leave anything on the plate. Considered to be the ultimate Mexican dish. which I will discuss in the remainder of this chapter. it is a richly flavoured. ancho and pasilla. or they wrap food in tortillas and tie it into a napkin to take home. The name for this dish is a Hispanicization of the Náhuatl word for sauce. The popular Mexican saying above. seeds and starches (like bread and tortillas). some people attend parties with a plastic bag or Tupperware in their handbag so that they can unobtrusively take home the food they are unable to eat. catalyzed by the food. spices. Even in artistic images. The majority say that its most characteristic difference is that Pueblan mole includes a lot of sesame seeds and typically is strewn with more as a garnish. Since during the fiesta cycle people regularly reunite over special meals. but generally speaking. although many other moles may contain chocolate. the mole poblano is recognized as the thick dark brown sauce with sesame seeds sprinkled on top just before serving. both native and non-native to Mexico. and chocolate is not an essential ingredient.’ draws upon this common knowledge about festive food in Mexico. such as paintings. molli. Mole and mole poblano Eres ajonjolí de todos los moles. 196).

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parties are considered incomplete without mole, and mole (poblano) is incomplete without its sprinkling of sesame seeds, to say that someone is like the sesame seeds of all moles implies that that someone is highly social and attends all parties. The mole poblano is considered the Mexican national dish, although it is popular and well-known only throughout the central area. There has been much speculation about its origin. It is often portrayed as a mestizo dish, with strong indigenous Mexican roots. The most popular story is that mole poblano was invented at the end of the seventeenth century by Spanish nuns, although it is improbable that a Spanish nun would kneel on the ground in front of a heavy stone metate to grind out a thick sauce. Given the difficulty of obtaining Spanish ingredients in New Spain, what the Spanish could not make the native Mexicans grow, they had to import. The scarcity of these ingredients led to the Spanish Creoles adopting and adapting to the local foods available. Thus they would necessarily have had to hire native women to help them and to teach them how to use these ingredients which were so different from anything with which they were familiar. The only ones who could have taught the nuns or any non-natives to make such a sauce, or a molli, using the metate, would have had to be the local women. These local women therefore had the easiest access to the newly introduced foodstuffs that the Spanish brought with them to the New World. Thus, the culinary learning was a mutually enriching education for the Spanish and the locals. It is known that there were native Mexicans helping in the convent kitchens, so it is more likely that they did the most strenuous manual labour, especially if they were already experienced and indeed expert at the exercise of grinding a sauce on a metate. So, while it may be more poetic to think of mole poblano as an invention of inspired religiosity, surely the development of the recipe was a slower process of culinary incorporation and experimentation rather than a Catholic miracle. Laudan and Pilcher (1999) argue that the mole poblano is actually the New World version of Creole interpretations of eighteenth-century European cooking, and Laudan (2004) further convincingly argues that at the base of many Mexican dishes there is a Persian element. Furthermore, as Wilk discusses, creolization in cooking cannot be a simple process of ‘effortless mixing’ (2006, p. 109), as the crafting of ‘tradition’ is as dynamic as the manufacture of ‘modernity’ (Wilk, 2006, esp. chapters 6, 8). Whatever the case may be, in Milpa Alta the debate on the recipe’s origin or authenticity is not considered relevant. For Milpaltenses in the late 1990s, mole was thought of as a celebratory dish of family tradition. The quintessential festive dish is mole, whether it is in Pueblan style or a family recipe.

Mole and Celebration
It goes without saying that mole is quite a difficult dish to prepare, and its presence at a meal usually indicates that some sort of occasion is being celebrated, such as

Mole and Fiestas • 99
someone’s birthday or saint’s day. All over Mexico, mole is served every Christmas, Easter, and Days of the Dead and at birthdays, baptisms, weddings and funerals. The classic accompaniments for mole are turkey (mole de guajolote, deliberately referred to using the Náhuatl-derived word guajolote and not the Spanish word pavo), rice (usually red, especially for dark moles), beans, and tortillas. For most families, chicken is now more commonly used instead of turkey, because chicken is cheaper and more readily available. Sometimes as a first course, consomé, or the broth of the chicken or turkey, is served with rice, chopped onions, chopped coriander, fresh green chile and limes. In Milpa Alta, they also serve tamalates (plain tamales) or tamales de frijol or alberjón, tamales with beans or yellow peas. To drink there might be pulque, though it is no longer widely available despite Milpa Alta being in a zona pulquera. Since not everyone develops a taste for this sour, viscous alcoholic drink, it is also common to have a glass of tequila with mole, or beer. Friends from outside of Milpa Alta told me that it is important to accompany mole with tequila or a fizzy soft drink; otherwise it causes an upset stomach. But in Milpa Alta and in professional kitchens, I was told that this happens only if it is a badly prepared mole. Properly prepared, as at home, mole would not have any ill effects. The commercial moles, which are prepared in bulk with less attention to detail, are those which may be dangerous. This was because the chiles used in commercial moles were not cleaned well, and the bad chiles and stems were not discarded, as would be normal practice at home. Apart from Puebla, where mole poblano is from, famous regions for mole are the southern province of Oaxaca and the municipality of Milpa Alta in Mexico City, specifically the town of San Pedro Atocpan. Every year they hold a weeklong mole fair, La feria del mole, and I have been told that San Pedro moles are exported as far as Israel. Mole is everyone’s family business in San Pedro, and not only do they sell prepared pastes or powders to later be diluted with chicken broth or water, they also sell the necessary spices, dried fruits and chiles so that women can make their own moles at home. In the roving markets (tianguis) that are set up in the streets every day in all reaches of Mexico City, there is always a stand supplying mole and dried groceries set up by a resident of San Pedro. While Mexicans from all over go to San Pedro to shop for ingredients, there is hardly a clientele of people from Milpa Alta for moles prepared in San Pedro. All over Milpa Alta, as well as Xochimilco, it is more common for mole to be homemade, although in other parts of Mexico City it is almost unthinkable to attempt it. Relatively few urban dwellers have the time or the skill to make their own moles for birthdays or other celebrations, and so it is easier to buy a good-quality paste from the market than spend several days toasting, frying, drying, grinding, stirring, cooking and recooking the sauce. It is precisely this elaborate effort and the number of ingredients required that make mole an expensive dish reserved for special occasions. Not only this, leftover mole is sometimes made into enchiladas10 or mixed with shredded chicken to fill bread rolls (tortas or hojaldras de mole), or even used

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to make tamales at home. Some people prefer the varied preparations made with leftover fiesta food to the feast itself, and these variations are easily available in inexpensive eateries throughout Mexico City, like cafes and fondas. So, although it is possible to eat mole every day without spending too much money, it is not always easy to find a well-made mole, and it remains a dish highly imbued with celebratory meanings. It is not a symbol of celebration in a semiotic sense, though its presence at a meal indicates that there is a significant event which has caused the host (cook/ wife/mother/artist) to prepare (or even buy) and serve it as an action of respect for the occasion. Mole never appears on the table by accident, because it happened to be in season and available in the market. It appears because its presence carries the collective intentions of the community to commemorate a life cycle or fiesta cycle event with kin and non-kin. Some people deliberately stain their shirts with mole so that their neighbours or colleagues see the mark and think to themselves, ‘Hmm, he must be rich or lucky because he obviously ate mole today’ (Luis Arturo Jiménez, personal communication). Different kinds of moles and other dishes typically are served during the different fiestas of the year. These are listed in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1

Feast Food in Milpa Alta, Arranged According to Type of Celebration Specific fiesta Birthdays, weddings, quinceaños, town fiestas, Christmas, Easter Sunday, ninth day after funeral Holy Week, Christmas Eve, funerals Typical food served Mole con pollo o guajolote Tamales de alberjón or de frijol or tamalates Arroz rojo Barbacoa, mixiote or carnitas Revoltijo (meatless mole with shrimp fritters) Tamales con queso or tamalates Tortitas de papa Pescado capeado Mole con pollo or guajolote Tamales verdes, de rajas Atole Arroz rojo Dulce de calabaza, local sweets, candied fruits Pescado a la vizcaina Chiles rellenos de queso o atún Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo’ Capirotada or torrejas Buñuelos, calabaza en tacha

Type of fiesta/practice Life cycle celebrations, Catholic, anniversaries, rebirth of dead souls (quintessential Mexican feast food) Very Catholic practices

Festival with clear pre-Hispanic origins (dishes with pre-Hispanic origins, or those considered very Mexican) Catholic seasons (most dishes with clear Spanish origins, all meatless)

Days of the Dead

Lent, Advent

Yet my observations in Milpa Alta showed that it was more common for fiesta food to be barbacoa. its replacement as fiesta food emphasizes and even reinforces its social meanings. On another occasion. p. I understood that since this mole was not commercial. What is interesting is that Spanish or Catholic customs of avoiding meat during Lent and Advent are adhered to.12 Almost everyone I met had a commentary or opinion about mole. so cooks need skill and practice to prepare it well. No doubt mole deserved its status as quintessential fiesta food. Mole is never made in small amounts. But as I will explain below. and that she had some of the chiles sent over from Puebla. whether they are festivals of Spanish or indigenous origin.11 and these extra little attentions made quite a difference to the outcome of the dish.Mole and Fiestas • 101 Mole and tamales of different kinds are associated with specific fiestas and seasons. but for personal ritual events and the Days of the Dead. and. This change in the traditional menu for feasts had probably begun to occur only since the 1980s. 1999b). carnitas or mixiotes. 44) succinctly writes about art in general is true for mole in particular: ‘The power of art objects stems from the technical processes they objectively embody: the technology of enchantment is founded on the enchantment of technology. It was the time of the Feria del Mole in San Pedro Atocpan. She also showed me another detail which indicated her special care in producing a good mole. It is a good example of an object of art within the art corpus of cuisine (following Gell. fruits may be underripe. she said it was important to take a little of the oil rendered on top of the mole. mole was also described as a ‘gastronomical orgasm’. her mother-in-law. but Doña Delfina proudly told us that she had made the mole herself. So what Gell (1996. When it is so delicious that it impresses the eaters as a gastronomic climax. rather than detract from its meaningfulness. is a complex and socially powerful dish. had prepared mole for us as a special welcome. in short. The changing or loss of such tradition may seem to indicate a decreasing significance of mole. it was better than moles from San Pedro. and a sprinkling of this added a sheen and extra flavour to properly garnish the dish. Doña Delfina. Guille told me that to make a good mole she would toast her chiles in the sun for a week rather than use a flame and comal.’ The first time I went to Milpa Alta and met Yadira and her family. after pouring a generous amount of mole over the piece of chicken. spices may be old and flavourless and nuts may go rancid if the weather is warm. the eaters are succumbing to an enchantment grounded in their knowledge of what it takes to make a mole. 1998. . Chiles and seeds are easily burnt. as I mentioned in Chapter 1. Mole. When serving. Several women gave me culinary tips. which have their roots in pre-Hispanic customs. This way the chiles would toast gently and were in no danger of burning and therefore becoming bitter. the food served is what is considered to be ‘very Mexican’ or ‘traditional’. The value attributed to mole is related to an awareness that it requires a certain technical mastery to prepare well.

Yet I also wish to offer a way of thinking about how a traditional cuisine may develop if we maintain our engagement with the notion of food as art. many families still prepare a small amount of mole to serve as a second main course after guests have filled themselves with barbacoa. There may or may not be mole. Wilk explains how a ‘Belizian’ style of cooking emerged from the particular history of Belize. a salsa can be a mole. usually de árbol or sometimes serrano) which accompanies a meal. A prototypical salsa (chilmolli in Náhuatl) is one made of chiles ground into a sauce. to be bitten into whenever desired. wrapping and stuffing. mole is not served. salsa is conceptualized as a whole green chile (in Milpa Alta. Examples of dishes that developed into what we now recognize as Belizean food resulted from culinary methods that have made local things global and global things local (Wilk. 2006. These methods are blending. lumping together categories with emblematic dishes) and alternation and promotion. how what is now considered ‘traditional’ came about through the complexity of culture contact that existed. barbacoa. substitution of ingredients with local or available ones. In Milpa Alta. as I have been promoting it in this book. onion. but the meal remains sufficiently festive. such as tamales. There are also some women who are well-known in the community for their cooking. which I find entirely convincing. 113–21). Even when mole is not the main course of the fiesta meal. salsas and vegetables. As an example. in Milpa Alta. They offer it for their guests to eat with tamales and beans. We can begin by thinking of a cuisine developing in a linear progression from simple to complex. were still almost always present during any sort of celebration in Milpa Alta. At other times. submersion (absorbing a foreign/global ingredient into a local dish). and they can be hired to prepare certain dishes for the fiesta. the words salsa and chile are often used interchangeably. carnitas and mixiotes are usually made at home. compression (a simplified classification of foods. but a small portion is given to special guests (family and compadres) as an itacate. At its most complex. and perhaps other chiles as well). The Development of a Tradition Richard Wilk (2006) provides a general model of how ‘traditional cuisine’ develops as a result of the kinds of ‘shocks and changes’ of different influences mentioned by Laudan in Chapter 1. To explain why this is so. Carne en chile verde refers to meat in green salsa (which usually includes green husk tomatoes. . let us consider salsas in Mexican cuisine. and spices. pickled chiles. It is not meat in green chile only. pp. Examples from current conceptions of the ‘traditional’ cuisines of Mexico can easily be found that fit into Wilk’s categories of culinary methods. At its most basic.102 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Like mole. Mole and its accompaniments. therefore. it is necessary to understand something about the role of social memory in how a cuisine or any other traditional art develops. or by relatives or compadres who know how to make it.

1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole .2 (green chile + tomato + onion (green chile + tomato + salt + avocado + lime juice) + onion + salt + avocado + pipicha + guajes) | guacamole 3 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves) | guacamole 4 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves + garlic + olive oil) Figure 5. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. an artwork (or salsa. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). Conceived of in this way.1 guacamole 2. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. for example. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. or different types of barbacoas).1. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. onions and salt. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. It has relations with other persons (salsas). Following Gell’s theory of art. This is not accidental. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5. red tomatoes. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. Some of these are related to each other. This would be too simplistic and does not illuminate how quite different recipes green chile | pico de gallo (green chile + tomato + onion + salt) | guacamole 1 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado) ┌──────────┴───────────┐ guacamole 2. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. In Figure 5.1).Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa. and thus forms a lineage. of course. or a lineage of guacamoles.2. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising.

beans + lard (+ onion) maize + lime (CaOH) chile ┌───────┴───────┐ lard + masa tortillas + salsa 1 salsa 2 … salsa x │ ┌────┴────┐ refried beans + masa preparada + salsa x ┌─────┼─────┐ │ chilaquiles enchiladas pastel azteca mole – 104 – tlacoyos huaraches tamales tamales de frijol de chile Figure 5.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. Shown as Families .

one body of cuisine made up of many recipes. As a distributed object. for example. The recipes are drawn from their memories. from the perspective of the present looking back toward all past developments. each of the varied recipes which make up a cuisine may develop in its own way. This quality is what Gell calls ‘style’ (1998. although this quality may not be easily defineable. and the relationships that exist between this category and other categories of artworks within a stylistic whole—a culturally or historically specific art-production system. and somewhat like Levi-Strauss’s culinary triangle/tetrahedron). we can observe the interrelations of this level of meaning (culinary) with other levels of meaning in social life (much like Munn’s value transformations. Each part has some quality which defines it as belonging to the whole. and other members of the same category of artworks. and their significance is crucially affected by the relations which exist between them. Cooking is activity in two ways. a cuisine is a collective work. both are salsas. spread out over space and time (see Gell. p. 1998. Each part can be very different from the others. A cuisine is actually an ideal example of a ‘distributed object’ as defined by Gell. p. [A]rtworks are never just singular entities. in essence. they are members of categories of artworks. The recipes are separately refined by a collection of individuals who interact with and influence one another. What is considered to be ‘traditional’ cooking has emerged and continues to emerge out of the domestic sphere and as a part of local social life.Mole and Fiestas • 105 develop at the same time or how similar recipes may develop in different regions. 153) Pinpointing exactly what it is that makes barbacoa like mole. its history (or ‘biography’) can be understood as having come into being by the work of many persons (mostly women) simultaneously in separate households. But my purpose here is not to examine the defining style of what makes one dish Mexican and another not Mexican. or they learn them from other individuals in the community.13 What is necessary is to accept the logic that there is something called ‘style’ which allows certain recipes to be grouped within the corpus of Mexican cuisine. ‘The Artist’s Oeuvre as a Distributed Object’). It continues to be modified and improved as each cook prepares each meal every day.14 who may have greater skill in using the ‘traditional’ knowledge of the culinary arts. as individuals. Traditional cuisines appear to develop as spatio-temporal wholes that change and move forward historically. 166). made with chiles and other ingredients). Thus.4/1. leading to further innovation and growth. Figure 9. and who are in turn . but put together the parts make sense as a whole. and from this. (p. or even in different households in the same community. 235. As far as Mexican cuisine is part of Mexican tradition. as a physical activity and as a creative activity of continuous innovation. This. constructed by the efforts of individuals who prepare dishes based on recipes. As a single unit. is not as obvious as the similarity between a basic salsa and a mole (that is. it is a set made up of many parts. is how all traditional arts develop.

At the same time they incorporate new influences. Eventually this particular combination of ingredients may become widespread and embedded in local/regional cooking and thought of as ‘traditional’. It is flavoured with oranges and garlic. to produce similar but different dishes. If others like my salsa. individuals maintain their own creative input. or herself. The dish is the result of the agency of a cook who prepares it with specific intentions for a particular reason and for particular other persons. Fiesta Food To return to the question of how barbacoa. nuts and spices) are expensive. The high-quality ingredients for mole (chiles. there is also repetition and constancy. like barbacoa.16 yet as much as there is innovation and change. implementing for themselves the changes I made. or add garlic. then is wrapped in a mixiote.106 • Culinary Art and Anthropology drawing from their own memories or influences. Carnitas is made by stewing a whole pig in its own fat. onions. ideas and ingredients as well as experiment and improvise. they may try making a similar salsa. to make another salsa that still tastes as Mexican as the salsa that I first learned to make. modified or discarded. 2006). mole is prepared at home even though it is available commercially. and eventually this may become a regular part of my recipe repertoire. a recipe is the prototype of a dish that is prepared. We may also think of recipes developing into the dishes that make up a cuisine as ‘variations on a theme’. One kilo of mole costs more than one kilo of barbacoa. Also. The relative costs of preparing these dishes are also relevant. into which they introduce variations on what they have learnt. Mixiote is made of meat (rabbit.15 Within the limits of the style of cooking that one learns by imitation of masters/mothers. therefore. In Gell’s terms. If the salsa is successful. Meal structure is another area which requires analysis and incorporation. may be planned or can happen by accident. carnitas or mixiote. I may take note and repeat what I have done on another occasion. in a way similar to Becker’s ‘art worlds’ (1982) or Gell’s notion of ‘style’. I am aware that the development of cuisine cannot be fully explained by focusing solely on recipes (see Wilk. green chile and salt. and then tomorrow try out using dried chiles. it is always served with salsas and tortillas. Barbacoa is made by roasting a whole lamb in a pit lined with maguey leaves and left to cook overnight over hot coals and aromatics. or a combination of chiles. pork and/or chicken) which is rubbed with an adobo (a mole-like) paste. and. I may learn to make salsa with tomatoes. Historical and social factors play a role in how and when ingredients and techniques are incorporated.17 Dishes have a recognizable quality that can be thought of in relation to the cuisine. and it is always made as a special effort for . carnitas and mixiote came to be accepted as fiesta food. Innovation. It is always served with particular salsas accompanying it. it is first interesting to note some of the similarities amongst these dishes. the skin of the leaves of the maguey (the same plant used to line the pit for making barbacoa).

and Mx$20. as far as I know. 29). this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. it is very expensive). the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. it cost around Mx$10. p. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. 91). The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. within the region. the more an object resists our possession (because. p. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. It is therefore defined as appropriate.. In 2000.. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. 29). He continues that ‘[I]n fact. But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. it can be considered to be in good taste. 54). So in money and in labour mole is more expensive.400) for barbacoa. 1984. For this reason.e. technically difficult and valuable. and because to a large extent.’ (p. Since mole is feast food par excellence. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. Not only because of the costs. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. but also because of the social values.050) for carnitas. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. 687). 1991. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. In effect. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta.000 (£1. Barbacoa is a luxury food. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. this “intention” is itself the product of the social norms and conventions which combine to define the always uncertain and historically changing frontier between simple technical objects and objets d’art . Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high. the greater its social value. as mentioned previously. ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. and on one’s guests.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. In short. for example. i. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. Before then. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. In addition.000 (£1. Mx$15. .

as modifications of previously successful (flavourful and pleasurable) dishes. To reiterate. which. cuisine must be thought of as a distributed object. They are art objects within the culinary system that are circulated as gifts/offerings of food in the cycle of festivity that maintains social ties amongst family or community groups. Some recipes can be shown to have developed directly from others. especially to the hosts’ compadres. Yet because of the notions of style (Gell). using a cook’s knowledge of recipes she has followed in the past or learnt from others while applying her skill to the limited ingredients or situation that she has at her disposal. Then. mole continues to be described as having the ultimate flavour. that is. compadrazgo and the mayordomía in Milpaltense society. carnitas. as is the case in Milpa Alta. synecdoche. how can barbacoa be served at a feast in its stead? The Presence or Absence of Mole in Fiestas I described previously how certain dishes—mole. Although not all the parts of the whole cuisine are similar (a salsa has nothing in common with a tortilla. that is. there is perfect sense in barbacoa (or carnitas or mixiote) acting as its replacement at feasts. Though mole is the quintessence of Mexican cuisine.108 • Culinary Art and Anthropology this is not enough to explain why mole is still served during fiestas. which are different dishes of varying kinds and complexity. in the cases when mole is not served. There must be another reason why barbacoa has become acceptable feast food in Milpa Alta. to create potentialities for . ritual and economic systems within the matrix of Milpa Alta social life. Mexican cuisine. Still others may have been born of improvisation. there is an apparent contradiction in mole being necessary for fiestas and yet not being present. there is no denying that they are equally valid parts belonging to the same whole. other specific dishes (barbacoa. there is still a relation between two dishes which allows them to represent or replace one another if they both maintain ‘the relative capacity . So while a simple part-for-whole synecdoche does not exist. cuisine is an ‘object’ which can be divided into its constituent parts. My analysis of mole indicates its social salience as a nexus of the interrelating social. produce another dish or innovation. resistance (Simmel) and the aesthetic disposition (Bourdieu). Others can be offshoots of preparatory recipes.. they are of the same style (Mexican). as described previously. I have examined mole as an artwork within the context of the art world to which it belongs. when combined with other recipes or other techniques. whether or not there is mole for the rest of the guests. in either preparation or ingredients). barbacoa—as culinary works of art are imbued with meaning as they form the nexus of the social networks of normal food hospitality. as being the ‘mole de fiesta’. To understand this. mixiotes) have become socially salient as acceptable substitutes for mole in Milpaltense fiestas.. In this chapter I have attempted to demonstrate how thinking of these particular dishes as works of art can help us to understand their social meaningfulness. as a conceptual whole. If.

the meat used is expensive. Since any recipe can be representative of the whole cuisine (synecdoche). when served as the meal of a fiesta. or special enough to commemorate a special occasion. mole is present at the fiesta in people’s memories. close friends and family. placing a stick of double cream cheese in the centre as if it were a piece of meat. because of its deep social significance. Thus it makes sense that barbacoa could be served at a fiesta. Its actual presence or absence does not indicate its conceptual absence.18 Provided that a dish is conceived of as needing a certain amount of technical mastery in order to prepare it. Fill prepared corn husks as if they were tamales but without masa. Steam. after barbacoa’ to only ‘barbacoa’. barbacoa is made able to effectively carry similar meanings to those of mole. With time. each of which requires a relatively high level of technical skill for its preparation. and the family as a unit hosts fiestas on grand scale. 11). and it is somewhere in the range of special dishes. . The menu gradually shifts from a festive meal being defined as ‘mole’ to ‘mole after barbacoa’ to ‘mole as itacate for compadres only. The menu transformation reveals a transfer of value from mole to these three specified dishes.Mole and Fiestas • 109 constructing a present that is experienced as pointing forward to later desired acts or material returns’ (Munn. In fact. Barbacoa is special enough to be a Sunday treat for the family. it requires labour and skill to prepare. the meal structure could be modified by the preparation of a smaller amount of mole and accompaniments for a fiesta. Recipes Tamales de nopales for the Barrio Fiesta Doña Margarita Salazar Fry chopped onions in butter. therefore. although it may not rank as high as mole. Toast chile de árbol in lard and crush roughly. barbacoa is a luxury to be indulged in with the family. Mix chiles with nopales and queso oaxaca. In effect. Eventually. provided that there is a little bit of ‘mole de fiesta’ offered as a second main course to complete the social transaction of value. what occurs is Gell’s ‘halo effect of technical difficulty’ (1996) so that the dish can be designated as special. 1986. p. whether or not it is actually served to them on their plates. barbacoa can be taken as a representative of Mexican cuisine (as a distributed object) and can be demonstrated to have some equivalence to mole. only to give as an itacate to the hosts’ compadres. mole is still omnipresent in fiestas. In effect. This makes them legitimately pertain to the style of a Mexican fiesta because of their recent relation to mole and the omnipresence of salsa/chile. Add chopped nopales.

This is how Primy always makes buñuelos. flour a work surface and pull off walnut-sized balls.) • When the dough is elastic. melted zest of 2 oranges. finely grated orange juice. cover your knee with a clean tea towel. I began calling them her ‘luxury buñuelos’ or ‘buñuelos de lujo’ because they were so different from the kind that you find being sold at fairs all over Mexico during Christmas. except for the oil. Drain on absorbent paper and allow to harden. occasionally throwing the dough forcefully onto a metate. Easter or Carnival. Place the circle of dough on the rounded surface and very gently pull the dough from the edges in small increments. • Fry each circle in hot oil. Do this several times and make sure that you hear a loud slapping noise with each throw. The dough can be stretched to a very thin disk about 25 cm in diameter. a pinch of aniseed. in a large bowl.110 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Buñuelos de lujo Ma. making sure to press the centre into the oil so that it cooks evenly. as the dough is strong. If the dough breaks easily it is not elastic enough and may lack kneading. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez In Mexico buñuelos are broad. adding enough orange juice to make an elastic dough. They are served at Christmas parties or during posadas and are said to represent the diapers of the Baby Jesus Christ. (Primy said that sometimes she would ask Alejandro or any available man to do the kneading for her because it is physically quite difficult. turning it constantly and sustaining it on your knee. like most home cooks. Turn to brown the other side. To Serve Drizzle with a light syrup made of crude sugar ( piloncillo) and water (this may be flavoured with aniseed or guava). and do not worry about it breaking. Flatten or roll each ball into a rough circle. . crispy fritters served in stacks. Knead it well to develop the glutens. Makes 50 to 60 buñuelos. freshly squeezed 2 fistfuls of lard 3 cups of sugar abundant oil for frying • Combine all the ingredients. Sitting down. dribbled with a light flavoured syrup or honey. boiled in a little water 2 kg plain flour 9–10 eggs ¼ kg butter. The measurements are approximate because. Primy just throws in whatever amounts ‘feel’ right to her.

• Add fish and almonds. blanched. It is important to keep the orange and banana peels on the fruit so that the bananas do not fall apart and the beet water is infused with their flavours. Serve in bowls with abundant broth. shredded ½ –1 L extra virgin olive oil ½ kg (about 3 cups) onions. shredded sugar to taste The beetroot must be very clean and boiled in abundant water with the skins. soaked several hours. Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela Chef Abdiel Cervantes ¾ kg salt cod (bacalao). in 1. Cook 5–10 minutes. cut into cubes and reserve the cooking water. This is a very refreshing dish that people prepare only during Lent and Advent. cut into thick sticks 200–250 g peanuts. with their peels ¼ –½ iceberg lettuce. Allow to cool. sliced in ½-cm rounds. finely chopped 300 g almonds. represented by the water in which the beetroot is boiled. drained. or baguettes) • In abundant olive oil. stirring frequently. leaves removed and well-scrubbed 500 g (1 large) jícama. In a large bowl. finely chopped 2–2½ cups (about 4 large heads) garlic. until the oil surfaces.Mole and Fiestas • 111 Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo’ Yadira Arenas Berrocal ‘Sangre de Cristo’ means the blood of Christ. adding the bananas half an hour before serving. 1 kg beetroot. Add garlic and let brown. Add tomatoes and cook over high heat. finely chopped 1½ cups parsley. combine the rest of the ingredients with the cubed beets and cooking water. When cooked. peeled 5 oranges. about 3 minutes. peeled. sauté onions until golden. peel them and discard the skins. Serves 8–10. about 20 minutes. with peels 3 ripe bananas.25-cm slices. finely chopped 1½ –2 kg tomatoes. . finely chopped To serve: 1 jar green olives 1 tin chiles güeros (or any pickled yellow chiles) crusty bread (teleras or bolillos.

Primy’s version contains no milk. Serve in low bowls with lots of syrup. cut into 6-centimetre slices 250 g queso cotija. Serves 12. warm the fried bread pieces in the syrup to impregnate them with the flavours and to heat them through. like the capeado for chiles rellenos. Torrejas Ma. Spiced Syrup 1 cone of piloncillo (crude sugar) or 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 8 cm of Ceylon cinnamon (not tough Cassia) 5 whole cloves 5 whole allspice berries around 750 mL of water Boil all the ingredients in enough water to make a light syrup. each cut into 3 pieces. she liked them so much that she had seconds.112 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Add parsley and mix well. Serve with crusty bread. To serve. and it probably would not matter if the bread used was very fresh. separated vegetable oil for frying Hollow out each piece of bread by removing some of the central crumbs. Fill each space with cheese and proceed with the capeado as for stuffed chiles. leaving an open pocket. did not like the idea of a sweet made with spices. Doña Margarita. This is something that she rarely prepared because her mother-in-law. This is the way Primy makes them. . • Let rest until cool and decorate with olives and chiles. or use an aged white cow’s milk cheese like Romano or Sardo 3 eggs. or 1 baguette. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez Torrejas are a Lenten dessert typical of the state of Michoaca ΄n. which is a bit unusual in that they are coated in the egg batter called a capeado. cooking until fish completely falls apart into small bits. 4 slightly stale teleras. Most recipes for torrejas are reminiscent of Spanish torrijas. like French toast. When Doña Margarita was persuaded to try these torrejas.

effectively creates social relations. Given that any kind of cooking – 113 – . surface and depth. its artistic nature. and in other ways throughout this book. McCallum. flavour is achieved via love (the sazón de amor necessary for good cooking). is always a concern. the presence of flavour. situating this in the context of Milpa Alta. I offer an interpretation based on the point of view of food as a form of art to argue the following points: flavour is functional in an active sense. I argued in Chapter 2. are interlinked.–6– The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life The conjunction of a member of the social group with nature must be mediated through the intervention of cooking fire. 2001) and women are able to use cooking to exert power and enact their social value (Abarca. p. is thought of as an artwork. In other words. that flavour is the most important and functional. and social organization can be understood as a social-relational matrix with food as indexes within the active art nexus (following Gell. In the following sections I will explain these conclusions. it is decorative. or a dish. It is not a superficial. 1998). 1996). Melhuus and Stølen. via cooking. observing cooking shows how actors are acted upon by their actions (following Munn. and whose operation thus has the effect of making sure that a natural creature is at one and the same time cooked and socialized. physical characteristic which carries semiotic meaning. and the mobilization of different flavours in a cuisine. original italics) In this book I have approached Mexican cuisine by thinking of cooking as an artistic practice. If food. —Lévi-Strauss (1994. form and function. active element of food. cultural and social reasons that people eat and drink certain foods. Rather than as an aid to help humans ingest nutrients. 336. whose normal function is to mediatize the conjunction of the raw product and the human consumer. and this decoration is precisely what makes food powerful or meaningful. from everyday hospitality to fiesta hospitality. gender is not intrinsically hierarchical (cf. 2006. 1986). The Function of Flavour There are many physiological. but flavour. the flavour is not simply the decorative aspect—or rather. This means that we can understand different social levels (family-compadrazgo-mayordomía) by analyzing food in terms of cooking.

When women prepare mole from scratch. and pineapples. family. the deeper social meanings inherent in the serving and eating of mole are related to ideas of this dish being historical and passed down from generation to generation via cooks in the family and community. pipiánes. and for family fiestas. and to fully appreciate the honour bestowed upon them if they are served mole in someone’s home. flavour is chile. compadres and the wider community). This includes all sorts of tacos. de rajas or de mole). Mole epitomizes some of the best qualities of Mexican cuisine. adobos or adobados. In the case of Mexican cuisine. there are also many Mexican dishes that are inconceivable to eat without an accompanying sauce. tlacoyos. and chile is salsa. In Milpa Alta. As I described in greater detail in chapter 4. Otherwise foreigners are expected to like it right away. gorditas and sincronizadas. and not only in terms of flavour. is the ultimate recipe. It also carries other meanings when it is served or eaten. and street foods like sopes. or a pickled chile or fresh green chile to chew on at the side. Examples of this are chicharrón en chile verde. Many dishes are defined by their sauces or chiles rather than the accompanying meat or vegetable that is eaten with the sauce. for instance. It is one of the most laborious and technically difficult dishes to prepare. using family recipes. Mole. Otherwise. When mole is served to guests. in some ways it can be thought of as representing the whole cuisine in the way that one person represents his or her family (part-for-whole synecdoche). A foodstuff can be eaten on its own. flavour constitutes the surrounding social relations of the actors (cooks and eaters. who are highly valued in Milpaltense society as wives and mothers. enchiladas. but when combined with chile or some sort of sauce. food/artwork is ‘the crystallisation of activity within a relational field’ (2000. The cooks are specifically women. entomatados. Even fresh fruit. barbacoa. and chiles rellenos. chilaquiles. as well as by their sexual behaviour. flavour is added. The same can be applied to most tamales which are differentiated by the salsa used in the filling (such as tamales verdes.114 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and eating are food transactions. mole acts as the . as it is. It is considered to be ‘very Mexican’ and ‘very traditional’. 345). women’s morality is circumscribed by their knowledge of cookery and their domestic and extradomestic labour. p. white and green). and the variations are prepared by the addition or omission of a red or green salsa in the cooking process. rojos. and also soups (including rice and pasta dishes). Or. borrowing Tim Ingold’s definition of an artefact. or they may never learn to like it. are sold with a sprinkling of powdered chile piquín and lime juice. as producers and reproducers. and by extension. thought of as representing the best of Mexican cuisine. jícamas. like mangoes. sweet tamales). moles. and hence value is added. especially a whole hog’s head) are differentiated by colour (red. The varieties of pozoles (hominy soups made with pork. bananas. so much so that sometimes foreigners are warned that they may not like it when they try it for the first time. combining more ingredients and culinary techniques than most others. or it is an example of excellence amongst other salsas. or by the salsa’s absence (tamalates.

They might prepare mole for a fiesta. and therefore more culinary agency and freedom in daily life. cooked in for specific reasons and for specific others/eaters. I showed that the production of this culinary work of art is an all-encompassing social activity. the technical knowledge necessary to produce quotidian dishes or daily family food is in some ways more complex than what is necessary for large fiestas. Conversely. the nuclear family. This discussion indicates that there is greater creativity involved in domestic cooking. Not everyone is considered a good cook or has the same range of culinary expertise which is fully explored only in the familiar sphere. Of course there is no denying that mole is a complex and sophisticated dish. as well as the most flavourful dish in a woman’s culinary repertoire. Particular flavours are not just the guiding principles of social events and their organization. That is. 4 and 5 addressed this topic. The Importance of Cooking in Social Life So if chiles appear to be symbolic ingredients in Mexican cuisine. to some extent the taste judgements or values placed on certain flavours within the cuisine (or certain dishes) are determined by the social values of the dominant actors (Bourdieu. 1984). it is in a deeply meaningful way because there is a sophisticated gastronomic technology that actors learn and can mobilize via their cooking. The manipulation or mobilization of flavours in cooking is as much a social activity as human agents interacting (cf. By preparing particular dishes for personal or commercial reasons. cooks deliberately produce certain flavours (chile/salsa/mole) for their own social ends. but in an area like Milpa Alta its preparation is common knowledge. we can make sense of the culinary system of Milpa Alta only in relation to other local social systems. Together chapters 3. or. It also requires cooperation within the primary social unit. Yet in spite of this. that of husband and . The barbacoieros of San Mateo enjoy a social position and value related to their economic capital in comparison to the other barrios or towns of Milpa Alta. barbacoa to sell in the market or family favourites for loved ones. Rather than an incidental characteristic of food. and how Milpaltenses use their cuisine. flavour is a central and active element. in their social interaction. The traditional methods to prepare barbacoa involve a commitment to a way of life that is ordered by the demands of the market economy and the elaborate recipe. more specifically. when and why. Depending on who cooks what. Gell. 1998). the production of particular flavours is the primary concern in food preparation. Discussing barbacoa in Milpa Alta. or the moral notions surrounding cooking. This value was achieved only by means of skilfull production of a socially desired flavour that ultimately produced successful business and sociality.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 115 quintessence of women’s hard work. the ideal relationship between a man and a woman. Everyone knows how to make mole. though some moles are better than others.

women are related as much to men as wives (or lovers) and mothers as they are related to the preparation of food. but (previously married) women without husbands are also able to prepare barbacoa.’ Practices form types of social relations and also form the actors who engage in them (1986. The production of barbacoa provides a good example of what Munn refers to as ‘intersubjectivity’. but it is a creative task based on culinary agency and skill.’ she writes. it is not accidental that women are expected to perform these tasks. as a loving dimension of women’s (house)work. ‘not only engage in action but are also “acted upon” by the action. some hire women to help them with the salsas and anything else that their wives would have normally done. As my material on Milpa Alta shows. although food is used as the nexus of social meaning by which cooks (women as individuals or as representatives of their families) construct their social world. These are the most culinary activities of the whole process. as individuals or groups. Culinary creativity can therefore be seen as the outcome of quotidian domesticity and the social dynamics of men and women. 2001). 2000). Since one of women’s domestic roles is to be a cook. If a woman’s husband dies or abandons her. The cuisine is a material embodiment of a woman’s role in the family. as a sexual partner for her husband and as a mother and nurturer for the next generation. I was told that generally a barbacoiero widower’s business does not flourish the way it did when his wife was alive. which is more likely than it would be for a barbacoiera widow to do. she may continue to rely on barbacoa as her means of livelihood. as providers. housework and caring for children. cooking is not an activity of performative gender roles per se. by hiring men to perform the slaughter and disembowelling for her (the ‘matador’ already mentioned).1 The preceding and my discussion in Chapter 4 indicate that cooking is not part of housework as invisible labour. But though cooking is embodied and gender is embodied (McCallum. as pork or lamb butchers and/ or in another professional job (such as teaching). ‘[A]gents. Women and men have roles and expectations which seem to dictate the limits of their behaviour. They are not necessarily causally linked. and on women as lovers and mothers. on the value placed upon the home. cf. pp. This occurs unless he remarries. but which also allow them to achieve social and material ends through complementary action. For men this includes working in the fields. which is represented by the preparation of salsas/chile/flavour. Perhaps he needs the support of a wife’s loving touch to produce salsas for a successfully flavourful barbacoa. Ingold. A final observation is that only married men prepare barbacoa. as well as extradomestic labour (such as selling .116 • Culinary Art and Anthropology wife. In this way. When widowers do continue with their businesses. It must be reiterated that the wife’s basic role in preparing barbacoa is to prepare the salsas and the panza. For women it includes cooking. good cooking can lead to the development of a ‘traditional’ cuisine as much as the production of social relations. 14 –15. It is said that only then does his business regain similar success as with his late wife. What is less common is for a man to continue to prepare barbacoa without his wife.

and this is how it has been reported to me by people in Milpa Alta (see also Lok. and afterward. It is not because of inherent biochemical properties in the foodstuffs themselves. 150). sweets and some favourite foods of the dead. although it may have been prepared with the same culinary principles as always. The idea of a cook/artist’s intentions can be better understood when applied to feast food. In this case of food for the dead. Mole with chicken is always present.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 117 in the market). Whilst the unit of wife and husband is crucial to the establishment of links of compadrazgo. Food set out on the family altar. the dead. tamales. when the living eat the food that had been set out. Agency and Intention Thus cooking is an activity performed for the sake of social interaction (cf. 101). this unit is also thought to be at the core of business success. the ofrenda. women cook with particular eaters in mind. Simmel. 1994) as much as for making food edible or tastier. Rather than searching for a chemical or physical explication of why something caused another thing to occur. Although the way that they prepare some dishes may be nuanced by their own taste and pleasure. 2005. 1991. in Milpa Alta. in the example of the Days of the Dead. it is thought to occur in this way. they use their culinary agency according to the network of intentionalities in which they are entangled as social beings. the food loses its flavour because of the presence of the dead who come to eat its essence. In other words. Gell’s conception of intentionality is based on defining the nature of causation. Food served to be eaten has flavour because a cook intends to bring out or produce these flavours in the meals that she prepares for other people with whom she has specific social relations. Hence. rather it is in the deliberately induced reaction of foodstuffs when cooked or combined in a particular way. Although not everyone says that they believe it. Although other living . that is. why flavour is a social (and also cultural) aspect of food. and to the fulfillment of the mayordomos’ role for the community. ‘[I]ntentions cause events to happen in the vicinity of agents’ (1998. Married women cook for their husbands and children. and other (usually unmarried) members of the household. The technical mastery required to cook is also socially learnt and socially salient. ‘[T]he explanation of any given event (especially if socially salient) is that it is caused intentionally’ (p. So this is why food has flavour. it no longer has any flavour. p. 101). p. Long and Vargas. They also cook particular dishes during fiestas for compadres and the wider community. is offered to the dead relatives of the family. The explanation for this is no more mystical than the relationship between the cook (culinary agent) and the expected recipient of the food. as well as yellow fruits. What they prepare is dependent upon their relationship with the eaters. they still are cooking with the intention of feeding (or offering food to) someone else (a recipient). The dead are believed to eat the essence of the food when they come.

so much so that even those who do not attend are given food in their absence. The fiesta cycle revolves around the religious timetable and notions of respect. individuals act on behalf of social groups (families. the same personhood—is awaited on each occasion.118 • Culinary Art and Anthropology people. The entire art corpus of a single artist or a collective style of art can therefore be looked at as if it were pieces of one body distributed over time and space. the food was cooked with the intention of feeding the dead. eventually may eat the food. Part and whole. no one need demand to be fed upon arrival at a fiesta. relatives and neighbours and thereby maintain community viability. Mole. all assume that they will be. neighbours. mayordomos. mayordomos or other guests. Guests may even be reluctant recipients.3 Hospitality begets further hospitality. or a socially approved substitute.4 . and they expect elaborate food and entertainment at these events. though competition and one-upmanship exist as well. this means that food is involved in interrelating social networks amongst individuals or groups. towns) to maintain the circulation of value (food/virtue) in the indefinitely enduring cycle of festivity. Whether compadres. and actors expect an ultimate balance of give and take. is detachable from that person and can be physically touched as well as seen. the same kind of food—effectively. which are detachable and also exchangeable. but only in relation to how they compare with other dishes in the cuisine. but they accept the food nonetheless. Not only this. and not to feed the living. in a sort of Maussian social contract. This means that special foods are significant. In effect. are divisible and indivisible. During fiestas. including visual appearance and things he or she produced. These gifts of food are offered by obligation and their acceptance is obligatory as well. Fiesta Food in the Culinary Art Corpus It is appropriate now to recall the theoretical basis of food as art as I have been using it. art objects are exuviae. social distance and hospitality amongst the relevant actors. and the acceptance of this offering within this network of intentionalities is confirmed when the food is eaten by the living the next day and they can verify that the food has lost its flavour. Anything that comes from a person. Therefore the flavour was cooked in for the dead to take away. Competitively bigger and better versions of the same meal are circulated endlessly amongst compadres. Rather. With respect to Mexican cuisine. Food giving and receiving occurs in different directions amongst individual actors who perform the roles of hosts or guests on specified days during the year. individual and group. a ‘distributed person’. is coercively given and received.2 Gell’s theory of art uses a conception of a body of artworks as if it were a body of a person. the same gift. and can link social beings in the way that Mauss’s hau or Munn’s kula valuables transform value from one person to the next. and with the social relationships of the cooks and eaters. related to the cook.

the value of mole can be understood as effectively equivalent to the value of women in Milpaltense society. vis-à-vis the wider public. the mole of the feast. including gifts of food. the hosts’ decision to serve these dishes to others in formal hospitality bestows value on their guests. mole. becomes representative of the whole distributed object of Mexican cuisine. morally recognized as capable of cooking the mole de fiesta and able to legitimately reproduce the next generation. then. Indeed. As should be clear by this point in this book. the power and value of women (or cooks) are transformed into ongoing social relations. the luxury of barbacoa. while at the same time it allows the hosts to mobilize the value of the dish (or vice versa) because of the social prestige connected with the preparation of the dish (Bourdieu. in fact. or its substitutes. fiesta hospitality and the corresponding food are products of gender complementarity and family cooperation. mediates the domestic realm with the public sphere. the desire to participate in the mayordomía or to engage in relations of compadrazgo is sometimes an instigation for couples to hold a church wedding. this effect is encapsulated in Gell’s notion of the ‘technology of enchantment’(1996). So in other words. similar to how Simmel (1994) allocates value to daily meals. in the fiesta sphere. As an example. women’s culinary agency is distributed and shared amongst her family. fetching or delivering things. When people in Milpa Alta talk of ‘el mole de fiesta’. or ‘el lujo de barbacoa’. or the everyday and the ritual. which all effectively . though they may help married women who are. even after many years of cohabitation and the birth of several children. The dish can be judged as delicious or flavourful because it is accepted with gastronomic awe from the perspective of the eater. family honour can be distributed and properly enacted only with fiesta commensality. Munn. who can imagine the complexity of the production of the dish from his or her informed culinary knowledge. In fact. produced through daily cooking. The individual actors who take responsibility as official representatives are highly respected church-married couples. As the relational node of a culinary matrix of interrelating social spheres. serving mole. 1984. In the same way children and unmarried adults are not responsible for food provision. Goody.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 119 Children and unmarried adults do not formally participate in these systems of reciprocity. 1985). the dish that they speak of is a nexus of interacting social relations within the cuisine as well as among the human social actors who perform value transactions via food hospitality. 1986). In the wider social context. In the fiesta cycle. Sault. Gell. In short. although women are thought of as the family cooks. except for the occasional unmarried woman who is asked to be a comadre (cf. A particular recipe is placed in a hierarchical relation to the indexes of other dishes in the corpus of its cuisine (cf. they are treated as extensions of their families. 1998. But while women are in charge of cooking for feasts. 1982). on whom they depend for their food and on whose behalf they are expected to perform minor duties such as shopping. current popularly served dishes like barbacoa are prepared jointly by women and men. Finally. The whole cuisine.

as a final garnish. an understanding of traditions and Mexican culture and. we can take sex into account as part of the socialization of women as members of the community as well as in their relations .120 • Culinary Art and Anthropology represent the whole cuisine. Its complex history involves the invasion of foreigners who brought ingredients and technical knowledge to Mexico. superior flavour could be achieved by technical culinary skill. In one recipe the interrelating value systems and complex of intentionalities that exist in Milpa Alta are found: ‘tradition’. Therefore social interaction circulates around women and women’s culinary labours. Recognizing the deeply symbolic value of cooking as a part of women’s work. women are representing the family. Equivalently. who are ultimately governed by an honour code of giving and respect to their children. This means that social interaction is effective when food is offered. altering social interaction while simultaneously altering women’s relationship with food and cooking. compadrazgo. In the remainder of this book I would like to make a few final comments on cooking and love and our perceptions of food and flavour. the fulfillment of gastronomical ideals or desires is central to social life in Milpa Alta. In this way. top-quality ingredients. although men may be the public or official representatives. women in Milpa Alta have two kinds of responsibilities: housework and cooking (production) and family (reproduction). Mole differs from other dishes within the cuisine because its preparation epitomizes the wide variety of culinary techniques and ingredients that women have adopted and adapted into ‘traditional’ Mexican cuisine. which represents women. In effect. To recapitulate. cooked with culinary artistry (or technical mastery). Other dishes in Mexican cuisine are difficult to make. partners. Food and Love. and especially flavour. then how do professional chefs achieve culinary mastery in Mexican cuisine? In Chapter 1 I described some of the ways that chefs thought of proper Mexican cooking. sexual. via women’s culinary agency. but it is special not only because it is difficult to make. religious and maternal love. land. Chiles and albur In different ways throughout this book I have discussed the interconnections between notions of love and food in Milpa Alta. which revolve around women and their roles in the family. loved ones. there are two kinds of human desires: for food and for sex. Urban students were encouraged to go back to the pueblos to search for unwritten recipes and culinary tips from anonymous mayoras and señoras who were unrecognized culinary artists. According to them. and who influenced the religious and domestic realms. women. Mole as a special dish indicates celebration. a sazón de amor (a sprinkling of love).5 The teaching of cultural events and Mexican history were included in the curricula of some cookery schools. If the preceding are the ingredients necessary to successfully prepare mole (or any other recipe). Mole represents salsa. which represents flavour.

Albur is a kind of wordplay used almost exclusively amongst men (see Jiménez. Once girls are able to cook. or. In Gow’s (1989) article on the Piro. those en confianza) in terms of sexually penetrating them without being considered homosexual. and depends on speed and wit. 1996). as well as on linguistic twists. Since chiles come in so many different shapes and sizes. put another way. as a husband should also value and prefer his wife’s cooking. which stands for the penis. They are also central to a variety of jokes in which the chile is spoken of metaphorically as a man’s penis. there is ample opportunity for innuendo. most used in albur. If they do. even if there is only a small proportion of chile in the recipe for the salsa. though sometimes the analogy is more obscure. He can continue to consider himself to be heterosexual. italics added). Men are able to speak with their friends (cuates. 568. Home cooking is highly valued because of the moral value of women. even macho (see Gutmann. As I explained in Chapter 1. One of the central metaphors used is the chile. it is amongst other women (not in mixed company) and is of a milder sort. Lomelí. they are ready for marriage. A man using albur plays upon these sensibilities. 1991. This is because there are overt sexual connotations in the speech games in albur. rather than the one penetrated. Chiles are central to Mexican gastronomy and are arguably the basic unit of the cuisine. pp. ‘[R]elationships are predicated on the satisfaction of particular desires experienced by the partners in the relationship’ (p. Usually it is obvious why they are chosen. At the same time. ‘systematically related to certain types of social relations’ (p. It is very rare for women to speak using albur. The food sharing inherent in hospitality and family eating is considered to be moral and ethical and in a wider sense can lead to community viability. perhaps even more than his mother’s. For the vagina there are words such as . However. in Milpa Alta people use the words salsa and chile interchangeably. 568). people use other food metaphors in joking conversation to refer to male and female sexual organs.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 121 with men. they have acquired the skills necessary to participate in the community-wide systems of food giving as well as the skills necessary to demand and offer food and sex to a husband. In Chapter 4 I discussed the kind of sexual/gastronomical reciprocity that exists between husbands and wives. 20–6). 1991. and yet also are considered funny. he argues that the desires for food are linked to specific food providers. he would still be performing within what is considered normal male behaviour. In this way women are understood to be powerful agents within their local social spheres. Yet one other dynamic of food and love is worth describing for a more nuanced picture of how flavour and morality are intertwined. He continues. food that is thought of as particularly delicious is food cooked with love. Thus an individual would be prone to prefer his mother’s cooking over others’. As long as a man is the one penetrating. The marital relationship is both moral and imbued with social obligations. Albur and derivative word games can be used in mild to increasingly aggressive ways. who are the producers of this food.

I was told that eating out in the street indicates that the women of the house are lazy (‘son fodongas’ ). p. If these metaphors appear unsystematic. and they cater mainly to outsiders (from Mexico City) who work in the municipality rather than to locals. The significance of albur is that food. Rather. partly because of the belief that food prepared at home is better. especially the chile. pp. On the other hand. (1989. we can extrapolate from this that it can reflect badly on a woman if she fails to prepare a home-cooked meal and instead decides to buy ready-made food in the streets like tortas. is subject to linguistic and conceptual manipulation by men. panocha (crude sugar). they travel to the centre of Mexico City. camote (sweet potato). pescado (fish). I would agree. and is explicitly related to eating and flavour. or mondongo (a dish made of tripe. culinary way. non-euphemistic. but at the level of desire. Though not specifically . Having established that the values and virtues of women are materialized in home cooking. … these metaphors are not structured simply by direct reference to the objects themselves. Eating out in Milpa Alta is uncommon. 1991. mamey (a type of fruit). ejote (young corn on the cob) and zanahoria (carrot. that there are only two restaurants in Villa Milpa Alta. 82. continuously draws attention to the metaphoric relationship between oral and sexual desire. Home Cooking and Street Food I have already explained at length that food prepared at home (i. The use of food metaphors in joking. that is because they are not used in an alternate discourse to encode another arbitrary symbolic structure. p. tacos or tamales. the chile is manipulated in another. even random. The use of foods as metaphors for the genitals occurs only in joking..122 • Culinary Art and Anthropology papaya. Jiménez. A few Milpaltenses told me. These restaurants serve comida casera. for native people have standard. names for the genitalia. 575) Sexual food metaphors may therefore reveal notions about oral and sexual desire— or I would rather say ‘appetite’—and not so much about the relations between specific fruits or vegetables. Those usually found eating in market stalls are youths having a snack after school or people who do not live in Milpa Alta and thus have no family nearby to go home to for their meals. Some other food metaphors for the penis are longaniza (a type of sausage). rather than that between food objects and genitals as objects. with love) has connotations of being tastier and better for you (nutritionally and socially) than food prepared commercially. as Gow argues. homestyle food. Daily Meals. 201). or. whether foods or genital organs. more generally and among women.e. 202). too lazy to prepare a meal at home. explicitly relating it to sex. with some pride. if they really wish to eat out. The relationships among food and cooking and love and sex can be understood through albur to have ramifications in the assessment of flavour and morality in terms of eating a meal cooked at home or enjoying snacks in the streets. Local Milpaltenses go home for their meals.

A social activity by nature. quesadillas. So although there may be times when a woman is too tired.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 123 investigating Mexico. 93) also emphasizes this point. if a woman forgets to place salsa on the table. She can then take it home to eat in privacy so that no one will see her and her family eating in public and later be able to accuse her of chinaqueando. for instance. she tries to be discreet about it. 2006. Mexican street food is one of the broadest-ranging parts of the cuisine. keeping all the flavour to herself. huaraches. pambazos. such as barbacoa. 55). A complete Mexican meal requires much time and effort and is difficult to prepare in single servings. The food sold by the vendor might be particularly delicious. referring to Silva. Chinaquear means to eat snacks in the street and it encapsulates shirking one’s household. Cooking is almost never done for the sake of the cook alone. In Milpa Alta there is a specific verb for this idea of eating out that is used only in the region: chinaquear. however. she would suggest to me that we eat in the market. In Milpa Alta.’ In other words. she most likely will buy it to take away. Another instance when Milpaltenses might eat in the streets is when they eat alone or with only one other person. because we could have or should have prepared food for ourselves. food preparation entails an emotional commitment from cooks and eaters. She would have a mischievous glint in her eye as she said. or even womanly. one of her ‘critical thinkers’/informants: ‘The desire to have her family surround her table gives her the impetus to create laborious meals … The merit of culinary creation for Silva is inseparable from the participation of her audience. perhaps could not be the same if made at home. tamales. like different kinds of tacos. nor would this be normal behaviour in Milpa Alta. Abarca. pp. most women know how to make many of the foods that can be bought in the streets. Some things are not easily made at home. Tinker (1987) observes that ‘[i]n most countries the traditional foods eaten at home take a long time to make. In Milpa Alta. or was more work to prepare than we wished to do. effectively failing to fulfill her obligation to feed her family or guests. garnachas and various other snacks. Perhaps there is also an element of taste involved in the decision to buy food in the street. part of the social significance of a meal prepared at home stems from the caring involved in cooking food with flavour for specific eaters. too busy or indeed too lazy to cook for her family. 92–3). The words envidia and envidioso are used to describe a range of characteristics from envy to greed to being overprotective over family . ‘Vamos a chinaquear’. she may be teased as being envidiosa. Abarca (p. At the stand she chatted guiltily with the food vendors as if they shared a naughty secret. Another eater makes a cook more willing to go through the trouble of preparing the several parts that make up a meal (cf. too cumbersome for the domestic kitchen or for daily cooking. duties. She also notes that some street foods take longer to make than some typical daily meals. Sometimes when Doña Margarita and I were on our own. If she decides to buy ready-made food in the market. so that busy housewives or working women will avoid this effort by feeding their families street foods’ (p.

This is partly because of the asymmetrical relationship between parent and child or married woman and her in-laws (see Gell. as I mentioned earlier. the eater is more likely to judge the food as tastier and better because of the social relationship that exists between them.6 A person who is envidioso/a refuses to share or lend food or other material belongings. husbands and in-laws. 1999a. Within the family. and it is not exchanged for an expected return of food reciprocity on another occasion. someone who somehow displeased another was often described as being envidioso. at least not until many years later in old age. given and received. For daily meals. and then all of it is eaten. love and hospitality of home. Raising children is more simply a moral obligation and. though of course. moral obligation and gender role expectations. in daily meals food is not circulated. While community relationships are characterized by respect and social expectations. women’s culinary agency becomes directed to their husbands and their new households. but because of the centrality of the marital bond as the source of social (and sexual and gastronomical) fulfillment. but if they do. It also then follows that when the relationship between cook and eater is very close. children are considered as extensions of their parents in the community-wide systems of (food) reciprocity and exchange that do exist in fiestas.124 • Culinary Art and Anthropology members. Appetite. on a daily basis. 1989). a cook’s . However. He or she lacks confianza. and I have also described how love is the instigation for culinary activity. food is demanded by children. not because of some deep-seated subordination of women to men. and in this way good cooking works like a well-designed trap. Women’s culinary activity is a source of social agency that gives deeper meaning to the home-cooked meal or the food prepared for family and relations of confianza. Flavour and variety are sought after for everyday meals. I have already described how the full artistry of Mexican cuisine is explored daily in the family kitchen. women prepare food for their husbands and children and other members of the household. a woman supplies it. I have used the word love to explain how culinary technical mastery is achieved. In Milpa Alta. Daughters rarely take full responsibility for meal provision. Failure to feed their husbands can be judged as shirking marital as well as womanly duties. Gow. Morality and Taste In a perhaps simplified way. Envidia is conceptually opposed to the notions of generosity. I think that that is far too long-term to establish an exchange relationship via food. Once they marry. all different kinds of food are demanded and supplied. food in this case is not actually exchanged between culinary agents and recipients. like family. family relationships are characterized by love. enticing the family and ritual kin to maintain their ties to the cook. it is only within the domestic realm. Parents do not expect anything from children in exchange for feeding and raising them.7 Unlike in the fiesta cycle. Ideally.

somehow. She notes that men inherit land and women receive kitchen equipment upon marriage. This implies that in the case of home cooking. among family and friends. as socially controlled. Rather. Since giving food is as much an obligation as receiving it. is meaningful in a different way. presumably prepared for selfish. Vázquez García (1997) describes the marital relationship as reciprocal in a Nahua community in southern Veracruz. the food given is not a ‘pure gift’ in the way that we would like to think of the freely offered love that stems from the intimacy of home. it makes more sense that the appeal of home cooking is based upon its intrinsic meaningfulness. other cooking. home cooking generates positive social ends. Understanding this. commercially viable and delicious. my translation). marketable. the final product’ (p. Conversely. 171. 1986). Mexico. This reciprocity has material manifestations in access to land or other resources as well as in cooking: ‘[T]he activities of men and women are complementary in the sense of women depending on men for the corn. A cook’s culinary agency and artistry can be seasoned by a sazón de amor that emanates from her feelings toward the intended eaters of her food. A home-cooked meal should then taste better and should also be better than snacks bought in the street. We can think of food-giving as generating positive social meaning (community viability) and eating as correspondingly negative (cf. She also observes that many women who sell home-cooked food in the streets are unwed . How can an anonymous food vendor prepare food with the flavour of love that competes with the nourishment of home and the socially sanctioned marital bond? I will continue exploring the notions of exchange and reciprocity to explain how this can be so. This being the case. I dare say that home cooking is offered in a most complex bounded way. as a sophisticated culinary trap couched in the ideology of generosity and the virtue of women’s suffering and sacrifice. Yet street foods are known to be desirable. there is a moral obligatory force involved in giving and receiving food. socially sanctioned sexual desires. loyalty and appreciation of family members. I now return to the question I posed in the introduction of this book: if mother’s home cooking is the best and tastiest food. instrumentalized for the production of legitimate members of society. hence the importance of a home-cooked meal. Vázquez discusses the domestic economy of first and second wives in both monogamous and polygamous unions. this extends to the gastronomical and sexual loyalty of potentially unfaithful husbands. In other words. As I described in Chapter 4. economic ends. this food may seem to taste better in the streets. then why is it that street food is considered to taste so good? Though any woman who cooks may know how to make the same antojitos.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 125 talent must also be considered. Munn. but men depend on women for the tortilla. Applying the same logic to cooking. the food is exchanged for the love. and not for a return of yet undetermined food hospitality in future. Among other writers. whereas commercial cooking would then generate antisocial (individual) ends.

then. Home cooking has the status of the highly moral marital bond. though each leaves the transaction happier with his or her newly acquired money or food than before. and the value of food sharing. If we follow Gell’s (1999a) logic about commodity exchange.9 It is as delicious and clandestine as an illicit love affair. Street food is commoditized cooking. In fact. Both the vendor and the home cook wish to attract and appease the appetite of the same consumer. and its appeal lies in the link between eating and sex. however. with the intention of constructing bait in a particular way to ensnare the loyalty of kin and ritual kin. especially if one eats alone at a street stand. There is quantitative equivalence. completed on the spot. there are two ways of experiencing food as delicious. without any moral obligation on the part of the buyer or the seller. There will always be differences in a cook’s activities depending on her specific intentions. then. Abarca’s (2007) recent article on Mexican food entrepreneurs argues that some successful women recreate the spirit of home and cultural heritage when they prepare and sell their food. rather than being an unethical commercial venture in opposition to the ethical food-giving at home.126 • Culinary Art and Anthropology mothers or ‘second wives’ of men whose legitimate wives exert domestic (marital and gastronomical) rights. or her intended food consumers. To conclude. A customer hands over money and the vendor hands over flavourful food. nor is it obligatory. Indeed. wherein each actor values the other thing more than the thing he or she gives up. akin to the pleasures of sex without the entanglements of love (amongst social relations). Briefly put. The goal of this and other kinds of commodity exchange is a simple transaction.8 Recall now that cooking is an activity like building a trap-as-artwork. and neither I nor the vendor I choose engage in any realm wherein either of us can be judged to be generous or envidiosa. Things are exchanged for things. I can choose to buy food from this or that vendor. the food is transacted in a mercifully simple. with respect to her agency. as the vendor-client relationship can blur over time to approximate friendship. Yet more pertinent to this point than Gell’s discussion of artworks as traps. is how Gell (1999a) dismantles the idea that commercial activities should be less moral than non-commercial/gift-giving and gift-receiving. So the culinary agency involved in preparing food for sale or for loved ones is actually one and the same. Both the customer and the vendor indeed ‘sacrifice’ something of value (money/food) in exchange for something that they value more (food/money). This immediate-return exchange is instant gratification. . What is given is not a gift. satisfying way. buying and selling street food would constitute a food transaction of supreme reciprocity. What is given over is a thing that the giver values less than what is received. This intention would be no different from the desire of a food vendor to entice customers with a certain taste to her own delicious food. and so the vendor directs her agency to this competition. In Chapter 3 I also mentioned how Primy would proffer special treatment to regular customers. there are no social relations involved to complicate one’s enjoyment of the flavours. food in the street provides the flavour of Mexican cuisine without the effort or social investment.

to snack in the streets is considered a pastime. eating to satisfy appetite without emotional entanglements. there is no contradiction if it is accepted that we have preferences and opinions about food. Gow. Descola. there are deviances from the norm. To summarize. 2001. primarily for their husbands). food that is not cooked at home is also considered to be delicious in a different. Furthermore. 1985). as has been shown to exist in other Latin American societies (e. Chinaqueando is an occasional delight. Likewise. Because of the many rules of greed and generosity surrounding home cooking. to join in the activity. and men and women are known to have extramarital affairs. in Milpa Alta. More specifically. or to cook tradition.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 127 even if under a coercive system. to eat in the street is equivalent to having an illicit love affair—equally or arguably more delicious food prepared by others. an individual practice more commonly engaged in than openly admitted. married women prepare food for their husbands and the rest of the household as part of their domestic role. . and if she chooses to eat in the streets. Please note that this is just a sampling of recipes. McCallum. naughtily enjoying someone else’s cooking as she shirks her own duties to cook. Neither are necessarily offered for the purpose of nourishment or the propagation of society. being seen in the streets invites digression and the potential for extramarital love affairs. as Ricardo says. but of course. 1991. Recipes: Variations on a Theme Despite the apparent impossibility of learning to cook Mexican food with only recipes. she can be criticized. if a woman does not cook at home for her family. Because of the meanings attached to home cooking (food prepared by women. almost sinful sense. I invite readers to experiment with some variations on the theme of basic dishes in Mexican cuisine. given that I have been arguing throughout this book that we do not eat solely for the sake of nutrition. and some things do taste better when prepared at home. she is chinaqueando. just as we have preferences for and opinions about people with whom we socialize. The appeal of one is analogous to that of the other—the temptations of an extramarital affair are similar to those of the appetizing snacks sold on the street. Likewise. 1994. After all. it would be naive to suggest that sex is solely for the sake of procreation. and quantities can vary with every cook’s taste.g. Vázquez García. the meal is heavily emotionally laden. In contrast. not one’s wife. Though different vendors produce different qualities of flavours. but they both provide temporary satisfactions of desires fulfilled for the sake of pure pleasure. Milpa Alta society is characterised by gender complementarity. it is an act of freedom. Eating in the streets is thus an illicit pleasure. 1997). rather than there being a power struggle between genders (Gregor. without the social significance attached to eating in someone’s home. A man should find the greatest pleasures with his wife. interrelated with the social systems of compadrazgo and the mayordomía.

2 Guacamole Raw red salsa with mashed avocado added. as with raw red salsa 1.128 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1 Variations on Salsa 1. grilled meats or fish. • Mash in a mortar with a pestle or put all in a blender with a little water if necessary. finely chopped (optional) salt to taste coriander (cilantro). chopped salt to taste • Chop all ingredients and mix well. which is often used to accompany grilled fish or meat or eggs. finely chopped 1 small green chile (serrano or jalapeño). roughly chopped 2 small green chiles. Variations or optional ingredients. cut into pieces ½ medium onion. Blend to desired consistency.1 Salsa roja cruda (Raw Red Salsa) 2 large ripe red tomatoes. If left chunky. finely chopped (optional) lime juice (optional) . raw salsas are nice left chunky.2. or anything. This is a perfect accompaniment for guacamole and tortilla chips as well as for eggs. this is the classic salsa mexicana. • The ingredients can be more mashed or liquefied and other ingredients added. finely chopped ¼ white onion. Variations to Add or Substitute chopped coriander olive oil lime juice garlic fresh red or other chiles or a combination of different chiles green husk tomatoes (tomates verdes or tomatillos)—in which case it becomes green salsa. this is a table salsa. • Fresh. In any case. 1.1 Guacamole 2 large ripe avocados 1 small tomato.

5 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Other Ingredients Often meat. with soft thin bark.3 Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) Substitute green husk tomatoes (tomates verdes or tomatillos) for red tomatoes. Use some of the soaking liquid in the blender.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 129 • Mash all together with fork. • Serve with avocado pits in the sauce to prevent blackening—but a surer way to prevent blackening is to peel and pit the avocados and leave them in fizzy water or iced water for 30 minutes before using. • Tomatoes.4 Cooked Salsa Blend salsa ingredients until fairly smooth. marjoram. • Boil tomatoes (peel husks off green tomatoes first) and fresh chiles before liquidizing. It is not necessary to peel tomatoes or chiles after roasting them. garlic and spices on a dry griddle. smooth cooked salsas or caldillos. You may need to add a little water. and proceed as for raw red salsa. stuffed chiles. cinnamon (‘true’ or Ceylon cinnamon sticks. black pepper. not cassia). Cook until it changes colour and the flavour changes. cumin. pour in the liquefied salsa. Examples follow. Variations are endless. roast tomatoes. • Serve as a dip with tortilla chips (totopos) or alongside grilled or fried meat or fish. chiles. • With dried chiles and spices. Variations for Cooked Salsa • Add spices (use all): cloves. epazote. 1. and when the oil begins to smoke. about 10 to 15 minutes. . fresh coriander. to roll into tacos or use in sandwiches. using some of the boiling broth in the blender. 1. as the charred skin contributes a nice smoky flavour. • If using dried chiles. vegetables. 1. onions. soak them in hot water for a few minutes after roasting. omelettes or vegetable or fish tortitas (croquettes) are cooked into or served heated in thin. onions and garlic should be roasted unpeeled until the skin blackens (green tomatoes should have papery husk removed). • Add herbs (use one): dried oregano. be careful not to let them burn or they will taste bitter. fresh chiles. allspice. Heat oil or lard in a saucepan. comal or frying pan. to soften them. • Before blending.

This is usually served with white rice. salsa.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. Some other optional toppings that can be combined as you wish are as follows: refried beans shredded lettuce shredded boiled chicken or pork salpicón avocado sliced onions crema espesa crumbled. pressing out with a tortilla press. sliced radish. and patting out by hand. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. grated or shredded cheese . beans and corn tortillas. The rough. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. 2. onions. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. 1. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. large or small. long or short. 2. avocados. pinched side is smeared with melted lard. lime. onions and cream. Tostadas are also eaten on their own. grinding it to a soft dough.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. topped with a variety of different things.5. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas. a front and a back. masa. Tortillas can be thick or thin. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side.5.

crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. 2. extra-long. The next morning.4. Leave them out to dry overnight. cream and grated white cheese. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. chopped onions. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each. Many people make thin. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. fry them in hot oil till crisp.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. thinner and crisper. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. dry frying pan or griddle. chopped coriander and cream. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. The beans should be encased in masa. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. 8 cm wide. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. and 1 cm thick. . grated cheese.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling. 2. 2. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional). Bake on both sides on a hot comal. Before pressing out the tortillas.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. about 10–15 cm long. Top with cooked salsa. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled.1 Chilaquiles • The night before.3. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3.

Arrange in ovenproof dish and bake till heated through and cheese has melted.1 For Enchiladas suizas Use green salsa. pork or beef or boiled potatoes chopped white onions grated cheese • Heat 1 cm oil in a frying pan beside the pan where the salsa is cooking. place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre and roll into a cylinder. • Sprinkle with chopped onions and grated cheese. queso fresco. Typical Toppings white onion. dip each tortilla in the pan of hot salsa and pass it through to quickly coat it.132 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Strain into hot oil. mild feta) crema espesa/de rancho/crème fraîche chopped coriander/cilantro Variations: optional side dishes to place on or beside chilaquiles • • • • • • fried egg fried or breaded thinly pounded chicken breast. fry and cook the salsa with epazote. see below) bolillos or teleras (crusty white bread roll) 3. Arrange rolls side by side. pork or beef filet (milanesa) fried crumbled Mexican longaniza (sausage) shredded boiled chicken frijoles refritos (refried beans.2 Enchiladas corn tortillas thin cooked salsa. . • One by one. and put on toppings and side dishes before serving. • Toss the tortilla chips in the hot salsa. When they are well coated. Then pass it through the hot oil to soften it a bit and make it pliable. • One by one. 3. as for chilaquiles shredded boiled chicken. place on plates. rings or half-rings shredded or crumbled white cheese (queso oaxaqueño.2. shredded chicken and yellow melting cheese and drizzle over crema espesa or sour cream. lay tortillas on a plate or ovenproof serving dish. sliced into very thin wedges.

The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 133 3. • Beans are often eaten after the main course. They are also served together with the main course or with rice as well. Traditionally.4 Pastel azteca Arrange tortillas in layers in an ovenproof dish like lasagna. and top with sliced onions. add hot water. or with any sauce that remains on the plate after the meat or fish of the main course is finished. thin refried beans. Adding cold water will temporarily halt the cooking process. cover and simmer over medium heat with some onion and lard or vegetable oil.2. place grated melting cheese on top and bake in oven till cheese melts and all is heated through. The other layers: shredded boiled chicken. 4 Frijoles de olla (Brothy Beans Cooked in an olla) • An olla is a traditional pot used in Mexico for cooking beans or preparing coffee. Only after they are very soft may you add salt. They do not need to be soaked. crumbled white cheese and crema espesa. use shredded chicken as filling. the filling can be shredded chicken. 3. If water needs to be added. the water in the small olla is at the same temperature as the cooking beans. ham and/or cheese. crema espesa. very smoothly liquefied beans ( frijoles de olla or frijoles refritos) instead of salsa. a small clay olla with water is placed on top of the big clay olla where the beans are cooking. • The beans—black turtle or Veracruz beans. If you add salt too soon. and either corn or wheat flour tortillas (flour tortillas need not be passed through hot oil). 3. use leftover mole that has been thinned down with water or chicken broth. pinto or any other beans—should be rinsed and all stones and empty beans removed. the beans will never soften. • Beans are best prepared in advance since you cannot be sure how long they will cook (this depends on how old they are). Stir occasionally.2.2 Enmoladas or Enchiladas de mole For salsa. and after at least 2 hours the beans should be soft. • If you need to add water. • Put beans in a pot with about triple the amount of water. .3 Enfrijoladas Use thin. They also taste better after they have settled.2.

• Only then add the beans with some of their broth. • Beans cooked like this go well with any dish with a sauce and are also used to spread into sandwiches made with crusty bread. most people add a sprig of epazote to the pot toward the end of the cooking time. before or after blending to a smooth soup: dark or crispy fried onions garlic oregano or epazote roasted or raw tomatoes or cook them into the soup green. a slice of avocado. heat lard or oil in a frying pan. Optional ingredients to add. fresh or dried chiles Optional ingredients for serving: tortilla chips (totopos) or crispy fried strips of corn tortillas crumbled or grated cheese pickled chiles strips of roasted chiles crème fraîche (crema espesa) or sour cream chopped (skinned) tomatoes avocado chopped coriander chopped onions .1 Frijoles refritos (Refried Beans) • Over a medium flame. Chopped coriander also goes well with any beans. 4. add some sliced white onions.2 Sopa de frijol (Bean Soup) Prepare beans with a lot of water or add chicken or other stock before liquefying them. They are also often served with crumbled white cheese (queso fresco or queso añejo. When it begins to smoke. • You can serve these with scrambled eggs and salsa. 4. or substitute feta or white Lancashire). some pickled chile and cheese and/or cured or roasted meat to make tortas. Mash them continually in the lard and incorporate the onions until a smooth paste is formed. red. or you can scramble them into eggs.134 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • For black beans. Stir these and cook them until they are dark brown and almost burnt.

• Add coriander. Note: This rice should be dry. chopped 1 clove garlic. epazote or chile to the top of the rice toward the end of the cooking time. with separate grains.3 above. Sometimes. Fry the rice (and carrots) until it is lightly golden.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4. peas. if you wish. soaked in hot water. and sometimes avocado and lime. drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion. Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well. . 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. usually served as a first or second course. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course. It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas. Add to rice. often eaten on its own with salsa on the side. It should not be soft and milky like risotto. then lower the heat to a very low flame. 5.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. Add salt to taste. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked. • Stir well and allow to cook. cubed potatoes (soaked in hot water) (all optional) 2½ cups water or chicken broth salt sprig of coriander or epazote (optional) 1 whole green chile (optional) • Heat the oil until it begins to smoke. salsa.2. rather it should be more like pilau. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture.3 Enfrijoladas See 3. corn kernels.

frying the dry pasta in oil until it browns a little.2 Arroz rojo (Red Rice) Prepare arroz blanco (see preceding recipe). Allow the fruit to cool in the syrup and then refrigerate. Fry a bit before adding the optional vegetables. salt and water or chicken broth. Serve cold. 6 Frutas en almíbar (Poached Fruits in Syrup) Make a light syrup by boiling and simmering sugar in abundant water with some grated lime rind and a stick of Ceylon cinnamon. The pasta should remain dry. and other fruits that do not disintegrate (e. without a sauce. Sometimes dry pasta ‘soups’ are served with cream (crème fraîche) drizzled over. tejocotes. like a smooth red salsa. Strain this into the hot oil and fried rice. This is good for pears. pineapples). put peeled prepared fruits in to poach for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked. You might want to add a bit of lime juice so that it is not too sweet. To make red rice. 5. before stirring in the salsa and water to cook.136 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 5. add 1 or 2 tomatoes to the garlic and onion mixture and blend well. When the syrup is ready.3 Sopa de fideos/Macarrones Substitute vermicelli or pasta elbows (macaroni) for the rice and prepare as for arroz rojo.g. peaches. guavas. Variations combine 2 or more types of fruit stir in chopped mint before serving serve with crema espesa/de rancho (crème fraîche) . when it is done.

and vice versa.5 per cent was inhabited. 2000. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. though it occupied 19. food as art. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. In my case. and indeed of one’s own person. Sutton (2006) also discusses how acquiring cooking skill is a matter of learning bodily habit memory and not simply following a simple set of rules.007 for the whole city). The regional cuisines of the Middle East. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. p. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. sazón. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. 318).489. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . . food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. Abarca (2006) takes a political and feminist standpoint to analyze the same topics of food in Mexico that had also struck me as most important—namely. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. pp. So for her. 4. and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. . Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. in fact her approach is necessarily different. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006.Notes Introduction 1.2 per cent of its area. and indeed of an anthropologist. ‘Where . given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. 2. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. As can be expected. 3. 3. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. of course. Abarca draws from literary. At the time of my research in the nineties. 21–2). 5.

3. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. 328–38). A comparative study of another group in a different. Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. 205). as Milpa Alta has. . while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. my work does provide particular attention to the one aspect of cuisine that Goody was unable to discuss at length in his own work: food preparation. for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print.138 • Notes emigrated. distribution (political factors. and Muñoz (2000). 96. and van Rhijn (1993). market. even neighbouring.7 per cent of the population were natives of Milpa Alta and had never changed their place of residence as of the census of 1990 (Departamento de Distrito Federal. pp. His own work focuses on production and consumption. p. The maguey is the source of pulque. to name a few. 8. For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine. community of Mexico City. When unfermented. 7. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. These are production (economic factors). (1991). 2. 15). Andrews (1984). it is called aguamiel. Also. America’s First Cuisines (1994). based on household and class. Muñoz. would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. Villa Milpa Alta. 9. among others. or honey water. See Long-Solís (1986). Kennedy (1989. a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. see Muñoz (2000). esp. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. Martínez (1992). pp. I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. Lomelí. Bayless and Bayless (1987. and also Coe (1994). and it had religious significance during Aztec times. p. 38). ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. esp. 33– 49. and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. 1997. 459 –84). allocation). Unfortunately. (1996). 6. preparation and consumption.

4). 29. See Pilcher (1998). and on the edges of the city the divisions of the municipalities are called pueblos (which may be further subdivided into barrios). See also Long and Vargas (2005). Diana Kennedy’s work would fall into this category. and Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). ‘The cooking of corn in Mexico with all its elaborations and ramifications is. more urbanized areas. 3). For an excellent discussion of culinary blending. Public talk in Universum. industrial global economy that supporters of the ‘authentic’ criticize. 6. see Long (1996). p.Notes • 139 4. 1981. and always has been. A chinampa is a very fertile type of artificial island. in spite of work-related movement and interaction with other parts of the city. 2005. 15. inaccurately referred to as a ‘floating garden’ (Long and Vargas. In Mexico City. 9. For a lighter account. 7. For a comprehensive compilation of papers on different aspects of the cultural/culinary influences between the Old and New Worlds. p. Rachel Laudan (2001) questions the meaning of ‘authentic’ cuisine. beyond that of any other country’ (Kennedy. p. 10. see Sokolov (1991). In a thought-provoking article. See also Wilk (2006) and Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). The word pueblo refers to a small town or village. these are called colonias in the central. . Pilcher (1998). 5. 1989. I am grateful to Kai Kresse for pointing this out to me. which is made up of several residential districts. see Wilk (2006). and that the foods we think of as traditional and authentic actually depend upon the modern. National pride and identity are qualities which a people’s cuisine can sometimes help determine.). within the realm of the highest culinary art. 11. culture contact and creolization. She argues that depictions of traditional recipes as rural and natural is romantic nostalgia. Most people from the more central colonias of Mexico City are not quite as engaged with their neighbours and co-inhabitants in the way that those from the pueblos of Mexico City and other parts of the country are involved in one another’s lives. 13. 14. that the variety [of foods] was not as great as it first appears at first sight’ (Corcuera. Mexico City. one’s life can easily be contained within the boundaries of one’s pueblo. analyzing the texts carefully. See also Long and Vargas (2005) for an excellent overview of food in Mexico. usually in a non-urban context. Furthermore. 29 September 1997. See Wilk (2006). and Brown and Mussell (1985). 8. my trans. Using the word pueblo to describe the residential area where you live actually has other connotations that living in a colonia does not. Coming from a pueblo implies a connection with a community of people who share a common hometown. Appadurai (1988). ‘The culinary merit is perhaps more if one considers. See also Cruz Díaz (2000) and the regional ‘family cooking’ series published in 1988 by Banco Nacional de Credito Rural (Banrural). 12.

My friend Primy also overturned her bowl to check if the whites were ready.. who questions the linear transmission of cooking skill. Jonaitis provides an excellent discussion of how the sense of taste has been neglected in ethnographic writing. 4. Lenten. globalization and local identity in Belize. For a detailed overview of the treatment of food in anthropology and sociology. which she also describes as a ‘discourse of empowerment’ (2006. pero en restaurante. ‘Hay que trasladar la cocina casera a la cocina restaurantera. and Richard Wilk (1999. 3. Khare. 1966. Beardsworth and Keil (1997. Deben prepararlos bien de principio. 18. p. pp. Alicia María González (1986) does not write . como en la casa de la abuela. 2006. 162). textual or language-based models to food and cooking. 17. Chapter 7.140 • Notes 16. Mennell et al. which I am unfortunately unable to develop fully here. claro. But see Sutton (2006). pp. 10 –39). I rather prefer to avoid applying metaphorical. Imitar las cocinas famosas no sirve. As I explain in Chapter 2. see Goody (1982. For a description of how impoverished our language is to describe our experience of flavour. There are some exceptions. see also Warde (1997). debe utilizar los ingredientes mejores. or analyzing a drum without hearing the music it plays’ (Jonaitis. see Sutton (n. Peter Gow (1989) analyzes the desires for food and sex in the construction of social relations in Amazonian Peru. Abarca emphasizes what she calls the ‘sensory logic’ or ‘sensual. There is much to say about Ingold’s theories of habitus. For a discussion of cooking without written recipes. ‘Approaching food without considering taste is like studying a mask without referring to its dance. 19. She suggests. tal y como es. pp. 1976).’ 20. 51). See Vizcarra (2002).g.g. see Fine (1996. sin el sazón del amor. Babb. see Abarca (2006). 2006) examines food for understanding cultural change. en vez de tratar de copiar el modelo europeo. livelihood. Some also base analysis on religious taboo or hierarchy and classification (such as Douglas. p. Entonces. 2. knowledge and skill in relation to the topic of culinary knowledge and skill. which focus interest on cuisine or on eating particular foods for (gastronomical or other) pleasure. especially chapter two on sazón. For a critical discussion of how culinary knowledge is transmitted. 1993) or are more about economic issues and gender than cuisine itself (e. 47–70). Chapter 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice 1.d. corporeal knowledge’ of sazón. semiotic.). 21. In Milpa Alta I have seen women beat their egg whites in plastic bowls and the capeado still worked. of course. y debe ser un currículo en las escuelas de cocina. Caplan (1997b). ‘The Aesthetics of Kitchen Discourse’). 1–19). 1989). In some communities this is still the case. Food-related ethnographies often privilege development issues (e. (1992.

It is also interesting to note that one of the chefs represented as culinary artists in this book is Chef Rick Bayless. These devices embody ideas. See also Abarca (2006. both had ‘simple’ cuisines. Lévi-Strauss (1966. ‘The work of art is inherently social in a way in which the merely beautiful or mysterious object is not: it is a physical entity which mediates between two beings. 10. Dornenburg and Page (1996). is a transformed representation of its maker. including perfumes. and the prey animal. Douglas (1975). and is also used to avoid pollution and to restore oneself to a state of purity. 6. 1994). 13. see Weismantel (1988). although not on cooks as artists.Notes • 141 about art. E. the hunter. It is a received notion that one cannot assess art without looking at techniques (see Bateson. Gell was also neither the first nor the only one to ascribe agency to objects or artworks (see Latour. Gell was not the only one to emphasize the technical aspect of art. 1987). because a trap. p.g. See Sutton (2006). 1996. the LoDagaa and the Gonja. who specializes in so-called traditional or authentic Mexican cooking (see Bayless. 1993. baker. Firth. 1996. Ingold. Her analysis locates the source of aesthetic meaning on the recommendations of the Prophet Muhammad. because the aesthetic cannot be isolated from (Islamic) social or cultural values. but at least there is an attempt to understand the artistic notions attached to cooking tasty food. but her thesis analyzes the symbolic meanings of Mexican wheat bread. Layton. Chapter 3).. 2000). 1973. She argues that aesthetic satisfaction enhances the experience of the senses. by its very nature. 8. and therefore creates a social relation between them. for a particularly effective and convincing ethnographic analysis. As Andrew Martin describes Latour. ‘[A]nimal traps … might be presented to an art public as artworks. and Mintz (1996. the main difference between feast food and daily fare was abundance rather than special preparations of dishes. This conclusion may seem unsatisfying. 2003). and his craftsmanship in making bread with particular names and shapes. for example. describing the interconnections among sensory experience. see Hugh-Jones (1979). aesthetics and body rituals among women. and for a successful use of semiotics in analyzing cuisine. historical associations and people—who give things names and relationships’ (2005. focusing on the panadero. 12. ‘Objects are really the end result of a long process of negotiation between the material world. For them. which in turn provides a channel for further social relations and influences’ (Gell. . nor was he the first. its 5. See. p. and beauty is pleasing to Allah. This is possibly because the two cultures in which he did fieldwork. 285). 1981. See Chapter 4. 7. 1996. Bayless and Bayless. Kanafani’s (1983) ethnography of women in the United Arab Emirates focuses on the culinary arts. convey meanings. 9. Chapter 3). 11. 52). She emphasizes the artistic nature of foods and personal adornment. 14.

Diana Kennedy said that she herself believes in these culinary methods. . p. 1991. Her love of the art of Mexican cookery eventually led to her greater understanding of and care for environmental issues. and of their mutual relationship. 23. which. she explained. In this case there is a blurring of the boundary between commercial and non-commercial social reciprocity which is acted out in terms of generosity 15. That is to say. Kennedy’s outlook and attitude toward cuisine is more holistic than many other cookbook writers or culinary investigators. She said that you must sing to moles in the same way that you must talk to your plants. ‘It is in the nature of food to be shared out. quintessentially social one. These practices must have come about because the ancestors had a deeper and more personal understanding of and relationship with their foodstuffs and therefore were able to work out the best ways to achieve optimal flavours. the transaction may continue if a customer becomes a regular and then becomes recognized by the vendor as deserving of occasional special favours. See Lok (1991) for a discussion of sacrifice and exchange. questioning the dichotomy between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. but only when the form is mobilized for human purposes. mushrooms and all types of plants from the whole country. 1994). In fact. these traps communicate the idea of a nexus of intentionalities between hunters and prey animals. 20. The ancient Aztecs used chile smoke as a punishment for naughty children (Coe. via material forms and mechanisms’ (Gell. among hunting people. 21. The case of the cook as eater is discussed below. Not to share it with others is “to kill its essence”. Cf. as having human involvement with the material: ‘Art is a product of human commitment. p. There she raises bees for honey and grows her own wheat. 22. In a talk at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana on 3 June 1996. 1990. 19. 16. render superior culinary results. when put into practice. in that she has built up an ecologically friendly oasis in her home in Michoacán. 18. Abarca (2006. see Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). p. it is to destroy it both for oneself and for others’ (Mauss. 18). 53). pp. with specific regard to the Days of the Dead. In a way. determined by man’s social existence. 203). p.142 • Notes victim. given meaning in human terms by comparative associations. which. For the general theme of invention of tradition. Raymond Firth recognizes art in a comparable way. hospitality can be thought of as a form of sacrifice. is because ‘the ancestors’ had more contact with food and so their wisdom must be respected. 17. They made them breathe it to remove their anger as well (Clendinnen. 1999b. can one properly speak of art’ (1996. Wilk (2006) discusses the construction and recuperation of ‘traditional’ cooking and other practices in Belize. maize. is a complex. 92–3). It is essentially form. 57). The reason.

29. These dishes are also technically difficult to prepare. he is often teased for being mandilón (tied to the apron strings) or called ciguamoncli (cf. which literally means lace. 1994. they mutually imply one another (mole ↔ fiesta). 6. 30.’ Use of this phrase to describe something seemed to indicate its importance in Milpa Alta society. 28. Cf. In other parts of Mexico the caul is also called encaje. as ‘links in chains of personal rather than mechanical causation’ (2000. . See Chapter 5 for an examination of fiesta food. Recall that going to university is a luxury only recently acquired with the increased economic prosperity in Milpa Alta. Nowadays (within the last 20 years). See Miller (2002) on expressing love through food shopping. 1999b). However. instead of mole. mixiote or barbacoa. Cf. Discussed further in Chapter 5. oftentimes people serve a small amount of mole with tamales after the main course so that guests do not leave without their ‘mole de fiesta’ (see Chapter 5). 31. and the menu rarely varies beyond these three choices. 27. ‘Es una tradición que le va dejando a la nueva generación. she often is also expected to change her cooking style in order to suit her parents-in-law and the rest of her husband’s family. since mole is to fiesta as fiesta is to mole. 4. He is met not with disapproval. 26.g. 63 – 4). 24. 9. pp. Very little material is published on the history of barbacoa in Milpa Alta or elsewhere. Gell (1996. 25. Aztec children were disciplined by being made to inhale chile smoke as punishment (Coe.Notes • 143 with food portions. 32. 2. In a way this seems to echo Simmel. Also adobo. Stoller (1989. but perhaps with some ridicule at times. borregos criollos. If a husband moves into his wife’s house. Chapter 3 Barbacoa in Milpa Alta 1. for art. The food product transacted remains the same. locally reared sheep. Ingold also considers practical knowledge to be embedded in a social matrix of relations. 8. though Bourdieu argues a different point. i. Chapter 4). for barbacoa. Chapter 1). 5. For a clearer understanding of attachment to land. so the ‘sociality’ produced is of the kind that McCallum (2001) describes. E. 289). where he writes of the social meanings behind serving a bad sauce among the Songhay in Niger. As mentioned previously in Chapter 2. see Gomezcésar (1992). As explained in Chapter 4.e. 3. 7. which is used to make mixiote. many families who hold large celebration banquets serve carnitas. p.

Note that most of their findings were based on white middle-class Americans or Europeans. It may not be the existence of domestic labour (or the existence of hierarchy) as such that leads to the development of cuisine (pace Goody. that is. Gutmann (1996). where they were not only underpaid. Melhuus and Stølen (1996). This term has been used to criticize women’s entry into the capitalist labour force. Puebla and Veracruz. See Vizcarra (2002) for a comparable account of women and food in an impoverished community in the State of Mexico. is a term used in Latin America to refer to the labour of women who have paid full-time jobs and yet also do all the housework and cooking at home.144 • Notes 10. but migrants from the poorer states of Oaxaca. however. Likewise. González Montes (1997). 5. The doble jornada. There are (immoral) actions that can lead to anti-sociality. McCallum (2001). p. 11) which is characterized by generosity with food as a central virtue among the Cashinaua of western Amazonia. For example. 13. Mole probably ranks as the highest. 6. and not all social relations lead to sociality. 4. hierarchical relationships may be useful for effectively pursuing these ideals. . or ‘double workday’. But because of the demands of culinary ideals. Alternatively. McCallum defines sociality as ‘a temporary product of morally correct engagement in social relationships’ (1989. Alejandro hoped that one of his sons would become a traffic policeman and Primy hoped they would study medicine. The works of Ohnuki-Tierney (1993) and Rutter (1993) are examples of studies that deal with more symbolism and the power of specific foodstuffs to incorporate individuals into society. 1982). Most women who worked as domestic help in Milpa Alta were not natives. but only cases where a woman was hired for a few hours a week or on an occasional basis. This does not necessarily mean. culinary technical superiority or culinary artistry. but had to do another full day’s work at home for their families or husbands. This is an indication that people tend not to make gastronomic compromises. arguably. that they are supposed to stop making barbacoa! 11. 3. Chapter 4 Women as Culinary Agents 1. 12. although they do lead to social organization. I did not know anyone who had live-in domestic help. 2. but also by food quality. Note that she describes how men believe that the only responsibility of women to their husbands is ‘dar de comer’. (‘to feed them’). those social relations that lead to sociality may be not only characterized by food generosity. I recognize that I tread on the tenuous border between portraying culinary life as simply rosy and lovely and the dire reality of others. González Montes and Tuñón (1997).

Si no sufren. where there is a discourse of gender hierarchy and women’s submissiveness but also of egalitarianism. In Milpa Alta the stereotype of self-sacrificing women exists: la mujer abnegada is a woman whose husband controls family decisions. Mujeres trabajan el doble de sus maridos. Debe a su familia. 9. Roseman (1999) describes a similar ambiguity in rural Galicia. wherein planning the food is foremost. conducted in Zapotec. Una mujer se hace tonta por pendeja. which is conducted in Spanish and requires mathematical skills. and I also agree. chapters 2 and 3) for more on courtship and marriage. Chapter 3). Chapter 9) explains that unlike in business. The power of human artistry hinges upon the crucial aspect of making something artistic. no son buenas personas. it is not privately owned and it cannot be sold. y tiene que sufrir. Martin. Like communal land. naturally selected. ‘special’ and ‘extra-ordinary’ (cf. a los hijos. para que la gente no habla mal de ella. ‘La mujer es el eje conductor. para guardar las apariencias. Lulú’s words were. Stephen (2005.Notes • 145 7. this relative freedom can be seen as problematic in regard to relations between jealous husbands and wives. In an article called ‘¿Quién manda? … ’. In some cases. Gell. Ejido land is distributed by the government in accordance with the law on agrarian reform. . Almost everyone I met still maintained that handmade tortillas taste better than factory made. A comparative case is what Stephen (2005. In other words. 10. Mummert (1994).’ (See also Melhuus. 11. decorated. the response is not so clear. esp. women’s culinary agency gives them their ritual power. Chapter 5 Mole and Fiestas 1. There was apparently also a compromise on taste. for example. Chapter 7) describes for women in Teotitlán.’ 14. Yet in practice. 1990). Son persinadas. 15. ‘Regularmente cuando un hombre se hace tonto es por tanto amor que le tiene para su mujer. Zapotec women play a strong role in ritual decision making. see Levine (1993. p. el timón de la familia. J. See Levine (1993. 16. 8. ¿Quién es él que manda? (‘Who is in charge?’) is a rhetorical question the answer to which is supposed to be ‘the husband’. Dissanayake (1995) argues that human artistic behaviour is a necessary. 1996). This is a large topic that goes beyond the scope of this discussion. 13. Women had restrictions on their movements outside the house as any errand could be construed as an excuse for an illicit rendezvous. 1992. For a vivid comparative account. 12. practice which aided the survival of the species. but see.

11. For example. see Greenberg (1981. and elsewhere in Mexico. 5. rural or lower-middle-class people than central urban or upper-middle-class to upper-class people. hot tamales verdes and atole champurrado. porque no hay tiempo. 160). for members of the public who attend the singing event at this cold. (1987). Chapter 1). fiestero. Particularly the single young ladies (señoritas) of the barrio hire mariachis or other musical groups (conjuntos) to sing the mañanitas in front of the altar of the church. especially the excesses of food given to compadres to take home. 1987). entonces es un lujo quedarte a comer en la casa. ‘La gente de Milpa Alta es muy trabajadora porque la naturaleza no les dió tanto. also see Adapon (2001). 7. 4. Their fiestas are occasions when they can socialize freely when the residents of the barrios ritually visit one another bearing salvas. Y es por eso que es un pueblo tan fiestero—para mostrar a los demás que sí tiene dinero para festejar y hacerlos bien. Stephen (2005. 9. see Martinez R. ties amongst barrios are strengthened and aggression can be averted when mayordomías bring promesas to other town or barrio fiestas. For a thorough history and description of the cargo systems in Milpa Alta. and Stephen (2005). Sault (1985. and affords a magic symbolic protection against latent personal aggression’ (1977. furthers social mobility and economic advancement. this is commonly done at home for breakfast the day after a fiesta as part of the recalentado. women. as central figures in ritual community life. The dictionary definition of this word. They begin at around half past four in the morning of the feast day (21 September for San Mateo). is pleasure-seeking. This idea of homemade products being better than their commercial counterparts is prevalent and put into practice more by suburban. San Mateo and Santa Martha are rivalling barrios from within which there is much intermarriage as well as competition. Because of how guests are fed during fiestas. In urban . For a theoretical analysis. early hour. The señoritas are also expected to provide typical breakfast foods. see Lomnitz (1977). 3. Hay que trabajar desde la madrugada hasta la noche para salir adelante.146 • Notes 2. Just as Lomnitz argues that ‘compadrazgo strengthens social ties between equals.’ 10. For a town or barrio fiesta in Milpa Alta the unmarried youths are organized to get involved in preparing for the fiesta. 6. For more on compadrazgo and the mayordomía in Milpa Alta. p. Chapter 9) also describes how relationships of compadrazgo are ‘inherited’. In Milpa Alta. fond of parties. For thorough analyses of compadrazgo as a principle for networking and reciprocal exchange. where some women spend their money on their compadrazgo gifts and obligations rather than on their daily meals. juggle their ritual responsibilities with quotidian needs. This is comparable to what Stephen (2005) describes occurring in Teotitlán. 8.

When we warmed it up and ate it. 4. 97). Chapter 6 The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life 1. Michoacán (Mexico). 122). As Parry (1986) explains it. they were also appalled at the price charged at the restaurant. These messages. 15. I once went to a barbacoa restaurant in the city. They . although the restaurant barbacoa was quite good. or the substitute for religion which those who have abandoned the outward forms of received religions content themselves with’ (Gell. and … in the long or short term these favors should somehow be balanced. where the spirit of the town fiesta is reproduced for tourists or urban dwellers. strengthen one another. 13. This is what Munn calls the ‘relative extension of spacetime’. as ‘traditional’ and ‘authentic’ Mexican cuisine is growing in popularity. If she were making mole poblano she would also sprinkle sesame seeds on top. which was double the price per kilo that they charged in their market stall. ‘It is not because we want to stop following traditions. it is so that we can use up what is in the fridge’. Apart from this. See Sutton (n. 17. 3. but it just was not as good as what they made themselves at home. interest and disinterest are all merged. See Wilk (2006. p. In my opinion the barbacoa that Primy and Alejandro made was much better. 2. Chapter 6) for a convincing attempt to define the style of Belizean food. 12.Notes • 147 centres this is starting to change. This relates to an anecdote I mentioned in Chapter 1. She was one other person who confided in me that her culinary secret was that she ‘cooks with love’.) for a thought-provoking article on how culinary knowledge and apprenticeship are not necessarily passed from mother to daughter. The meal concluded with the opinion that this was a commercial barbacoa. This is a notion that Mary Douglas (1983) and David Sutton (2001) have both explored in different ways. The barbacoa was fine. 1998. ‘[T]o write about art … is … to write about either religion. Wilk also notes that consistency is just as difficult to maintain as innovation (2006. the whole family was unanimous in their opinion. things.d. Stanley Brandes analyzed the fiesta cycle in Tzintzuntzan. Primy’s young son said that they must have used goat meat instead of lamb. I brought the leftovers to Milpa Alta for my friends to try it and compare. persons. whether in the public fiesta domain or the private daily domain. though as a means to another end. 18. arguing that ‘reciprocal favors are critical to survival. and which I consider to be useful. when I was told. more flavourful and of higher quality. 14. made for wealthy customers who did not eat it regularly and who were detached from it. p. 16.

women still often contributed their labour from home. Self-critical members of Milpa Alta society pointed out that their attitude to land is also envidioso. but if a Milpaltense is interested in the land. p. In a study of seven countries in Africa and Asia. 87). In these cases. Women vendors were often in polygamous unions or unmarried and were the primary earners in the family. 1992). Tinker (1987) shows that in four countries street food vendors were usually middle-aged women (32 to 41 years old). Where vendors were mostly men. preparing the food for their husbands to sell. or at least did not share their income with their husbands. His study is a comparative analysis of gender segregation in Mexico and Spain. 7. 8. See Woodburn (1998) for a view which refutes the idea of (food) sharing as exchange. which he bases on early childhood relationships with parents.148 • Notes pervade all of social life and. A woman and a man eating together in public would make a Sierra Nahuat uncomfortable because it would suggest the unleashing of powerful and potentially destructive human emotions’ (p. because of the links between Nahuat conceptions of eating and sex. Taggart (1992) also describes a link between eating and sex in his analysis of the Sierra Nahuat. persuade villagers to live according to prevailing contractual norms’ (1988. 5. through frequent repetition. 9. 6. Their income was mainly used for their children and school fees. who are involved in a wider discourse of taste than local Milpaltenses. His data on Mexico emphasize cooking as part of women’s role and link cooking and eating with the relationship between husband and wife. Here I would also classify cookbook writers. They discourage non-Milpaltenses from buying property in the municipality by keeping the prices high. there were religious or customary reasons for this. emphasis added). As mentioned in Chapter 4. they reduce the price considerably (see Flores Aguilar. ‘The public separation of women from men on family ceremonial occasions is understandable if one considers that all rituals involve eating and that the Sierra Nahuat connect eating with sex. 81. .

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Stanley. Larissa Adler. Marcel. 101–5 passim. 126 on commodity exchange. 125 Muñoz. 3. 72–4. 58. 106. 83. Claude. Rick. 40. 32. 42. 116 on sharing. 12. 95. 82 Munn. 91. 92. 40 Ingold. 125 restaurants and. 90. 4–5. 115–16. 106 –8 chefs. 20 –1. 73.Index Abarca. 122 see also sazón McCallum. Richard miscegenation. 117–20 passim. 68. 18–21. 95 Long-Solís. 8. 51. 41–2. 131–2 chinaquear. 121–2 lovers and. 1. 44. 124–7 albur and. 121. 108 technology of enchantment. 121. 89. 90. 10 culinary agency. 125. 38 expertise. 118 Howes. 32. 78 – 82 sex and. 117–20 motherhood. 41. 7. 30. 2. 119 concept of meaning. Raymond. 18. 29. 31. 113. 2. 33. Jack. 9. 71–6 passim. 3. 104. 3. 49–70. Nancy. 5. 13. 124. 113 barbacoa. 9 Cowal. 76 – 8. 113. 67. 41. 67 distributed object. 105 intersubjectivity. 2. 97 Brandes. 108 –9. 102 Lévi-Strauss. 34. 5. 120. 45. 117–8 albur. 105 intentionality. 18 –22 passim. 71–2. Rachel. 123. 51. 109. 47. 89–92. 10. 124. fusion mole. 1–2. 103. 113. 45. 95. 120 see also agency Kennedy. 75. 122–3. 46. 42. 75. Janet. 89. 127 confianza. 108. 119–25 passim as coercive. 45. 39– 42. 15. 20. 46. 113 agency. 39– 40. 113 mestizaje. Laura. 40. 8. 16. 114. 6. 16 Laudan. Wilk. 9. 126 on decoration. 124 see also greed Esquivel. 117 style. 32– 6. 2. 113 envidia. 22–7 nueva cocina mexicana. Victoria. 127 guacamole. 32. 84. 19–21 recipes. 47. 108. 94. 105. 115 see also technical mastery Firth. 13. 45. 10 see also mestizaje. 13 – 159 – . 101. 108. 31. 95. 121. 35. Sonia. 119 theory of art. 11. 90. 67. 113. 42. 46. fusion. 124 intention and. Sophie. 79. 50. 29. 10 see also miscegenation. 71. 126 women and. 100. Peter. 89–92. 7– 8. 75. 3. 3. 3. 115–26 passim see also agency decoration. 38–9 mole and. 37 fusion. 41. 16 culinary. 100–2. 121. 114 –15. 11–12. 123. 126 on sazón. 123–7 Coe. 114. 44 Gow. 12–21 passim. 41. 17. 15. 81. 127 Melhuus. 87. 29. 85. David. 3. 92. Cecilia. miscegenation Gell. 71. 113 artworks as traps. 118 mayordomía. 118 generosity. 120 chilaquiles. 124 cookbook(s). 76. Alfred. 36. 113. 14. 98. 11. 80 –5 passim. 46. 113 Lomnitz. 95 cargo system. 82. 41. Tim. 41. 78. 29– 48. 95. 82. 101. 119. 90. 92. 106. Diana. 7–11 passim. 107. 119 as fiesta food. See love art nexus. 22. 31–3. 11. 1–2. 10 see also mestizaje. 82–5. 117 love. 89 –109. 128 home cooking. 106. 106 –9 Bayless. 106. 31 Corcuera. 96. 92. 10 compadrazgo. 47. 127 Goody. Marit. 85. 3. 46. 46. 21–2 on women’s empowerment. 116 Mauss. 45. 29. 125 hospitality. 118. 116 intention. 123. 127 greed. 93–7. 46. Ricardo. 103. 124–7 value of. 37. 30. 34. Meredith. 21. 126 intentionality and. See mayordomía carnitas. 122. 75. 21 street food and. 11–13. 46. 29.

71. 114. 43–7 passim. 83. 34. 71. 119 sistema de cargos. Georg. 45. 67 culinary. 21. 109 street food. 80. 80. 84. 48. 75. 75. 75. 120. 71. 38–9 as feast food. 13. 116 . 58–60. 22. 14–17. 37. 47. 21–2. 98. 106 womanhood. 126 food as. 32. 99–104 passim. 122–7 Sutton. 120. 17. 116. 34. 120 traps. 14. artworks as. Richard. 119–22 work. 109 barbacoa. 89. 40–1. 15–17. 29–30. 13–14. 116. Lynn. 98. 33. 89. 85. 98. 113–14. 117 Wilk. 21. 54. 125 Vargas. 123 taste. 89. 9. 9. 101. 113. 38–9. 75. 121 roles. 53. 82. 84. 123 agency and. 6. 124. 85. 125 Simmel. 3. 99. 74. 124–7 Mintz. 98 Sahagún. 83 technical mastery. 76. 79. 44. 72–3. 74. 120 development of. 37. 124 technique(s). 95 street food. 48. 41. 96. 82. 101. 45. 40. 77 as cooks. 75. 82–3. 33. 71–8. 116 value of. 52. 53. 3. 85 cooking and. 122 economic activity of. 47. 71–2. 92. Jeffrey 10. 36. 120 women’s. 48. See mayordomía skill. 4. 122. 42 Bourdieu. 46. 12–15 and restaurants. 3. 115 flavour and. Fray Bernardino de.160 • Index Pilcher. 89. 117 angry. 124 power of. 106. 82–3. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 73. 45. 102. 107. 4 expectations of. 43–4. 67. David. 30. Luis. 71–2. 14. 5. 41–7 passim. 71–85 barbacoa and. 34 judgement of. 5. 92. 73. 77–85. 2. 85. 116. 75 love and. 36–7. 102–6 traditional cookery. 102. 108 on learning. 46. 17. 117. 46. 77 see also motherhood women. 107. 14. 43 see also skill tradition. 121 Stephen. 9. 29. 30 tamal(es). 12 sazón.

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