Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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– . 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.Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta. 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. 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. How to Peel chiles poblanos.

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. Batter for Coating Fish. Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo. Barbacoa 4 Women as Culinary Agents The Value of Cooking and Other Work Marriage and Cooking Work. Chiles and albur Daily Meals.vi • Contents Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa. Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal Culinary Agency Recipes Huevos a la mexicana. 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 . 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. Salsa pasilla—‘la buena’— for Eating barbacoa on Special Occasions at Home.’ Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela. Motherhood and Virtue Suffering. Home Cooking and Street Food Appetite. Commercial Red Salsa for barbacoa. Taco placero. Buñuelos de lujo.

1 Feast Food in Milpa Alta. and Corresponding Food Terms 2.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole 5.1 Terminology Employed by Gell.Illustrations Tables 2. Arranged According to Type of Celebration Figures 5.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. Shown as Families 103 104 34 35 100 – vii – .2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus 5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

To be able to afford to send her seven children to school. He recognized that many delicacies of Mexican gastronomy are wild ingredients or dishes produced only in people’s homes. sometimes home cooking is reproduced in restaurants. The latter suggested adding a bit of this and that. 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. 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’. Dissatisfied with a complex green sauce that he intended to serve with duck. By the time he moved to Mexico City as a young adult and began formal culinary training. An example is a traditional soup from central Mexico known as squash blossom or milpa plantation soup. One friend of Ricardo’s was a chef at a sophisticated Mexico City restaurant serving nueva cocina mexicana. 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. Ricardo became recognized for his knowledge of traditional Mexican cookery. without the experience of growing up in a pueblo as Ricardo had done. 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. and later also his teaching and publications. a small local eatery selling popular home-style dishes. he asked Ricardo for advice. Mexican nouvelle cuisine. sopa de flor de calabaza or sopa de milpa.12 • Culinary Art and Anthropology cook. redefining or refining the cuisine. he was attuned to the subtleties and diversity of Mexican regional cooking. where one of his sisters had migrated. in his data collection and awe of the foods of Mexico. ultimately expanding. then in turn is re-reproduced in people’s homes. he was continually drawn back to the flavours and culinary cultures of home. watching his mother cook. he has been actively influencing others to share his appreciation of Mexican gastronomy. recommending other cooking tips. and with his delicious cooking. But even without books. occasionally lending a hand. she set up a fonda. Despite his training as a chef that taught him the basics of French cuisine. The soup . ‘I just told you how to make a traditional green mole!’ was Ricardo’s response.11 To me it seems he is like a contemporary Sahagún. After following these suggestions. on such a small scale that they remain local and unknown even in other areas of the country. often shopping for their supplies. and there he took a course on international cookery. Ricardo grew up hanging out in the fonda. For a couple of years he lived in California. discovery or rediscovery of these things. He had had a relatively affluent urban upbringing. 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.

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

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

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

Once in a material or physical state. expertise is enacted as a symbiosis between a skilled practitioner and his or her environment within a system of relations (in our case social. but a full meal. approximately. kept hot. tasted and savoured. 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. I recognized that I needed to reach a comfortable level of self-confidence when I thought of chiles or of making a Mexican salsa. 318) Turning then to her recipe for salsa ranchera on page 338. peeled and roughly chopped 2 pounds (about 4 large) tomatoes. it lists the following ingredients: 2 garlic cloves. p. along with the culinary techniques. 1989. and material). My impression was that short recipes were either composites of several others. kept hot rajas of 1 large chile poblano (see page 471) 4 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco or añejo (Kennedy. assessed by sight. broiled (see page 450) 5 chiles serranos. According to Ingold (2000). 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). these are the ingredients of Diana Kennedy’s recipe for one of the most well-known dishes outside of Mexico.16 • Culinary Art and Anthropology For another example. p. after all. or were side dishes or basic preparations that ultimately constituted an ingredient for another recipe. Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs). broiled (see page 472) 2 tablespoons safflower oil 2 heaped tablespoons finely chopped white onion ½ teaspoon (or to taste) sea salt (Kennedy. But home cooks surely did not think in terms of recipes. an artefact (or . They were only some of the essential components of a complete or proper meal. cocida (page 337). touched and manipulated. or 1⅓ cups salsa de tomate verde. 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. 1989. approximately. abstract formulae that need to be selfconsciously recorded. A cook needs to make myriad decisions before finally producing not just a dish. and it is this type of discernment that also needs to be learnt. Ingredients are chosen. 338) What appeared straightforward at first glance seemed actually more like the endless subordinate clauses of a German sentence. gastronomic. which are. texture and smell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• The batter should cook until it is lightly golden (never brown). Yes. . 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. You may need to change the paper towels two or more times as you continue frying. 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. place them on paper towels to absorb excess oil. • Once you remove the chiles from the pan. • If you are inexperienced. you may need two spatulas to turn the chiles without breaking the egg coating. though it may be better to turn them by holding the stem. though the bottom part will always be a little darker.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 27 • With practice.

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

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

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. And power and meaning are always connected’ (1996. that is. The active agency of art is the conveyor or mediator of social meanings. p. like the Mexican. within the complex of intentionalities that Gell talks about in his work (1998. preparation and consumption of food’ ( p. 1999b). Having succumbed. To illustrate this point. It makes more sense.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 31 political and economic framework. yet in his own work he neglected the aspect of preparation. 2). I was interested in learning the ‘language of chiles’ that I had been led to expect existed from reading Mexican cookbooks. meaning is temporally extended and extendable. ‘[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. He argues for the need to contextualize social theory in ‘the total process of production. to talk about a body of knowledge—a culinary corpus or art corpus. I was surprised to find that real Mexican people. When I first went to Mexico.6 Nevertheless. p. the creative activity. 1982. It is the active element in food preparation.8 an artistic approach may provide greater scope for an analysis of an elaborate cuisine. At least from my findings in Mexican cuisine. combined with the fact that raw materials need to be bought or collected from different places and then prepared and combined well. ‘Because people act in terms of understood meanings. simply did not have a clue about what I was getting at when I talked about culinary manipulations of chiles and other foodstuffs. While it is true that Mexican eating habits can be placed into classifications and then encoded. an example from my fieldwork is helpful. therefore. It allows women to change their social spaces and thereby expand their social network outside of the home. meaning can be said to effectuate behaviors of certain kinds. both professional cooks and women in Milpa Alta. 30). hence power. Some cookery writers. Furthermore. both cooks and eaters) place in the food within their social context. Although I do not contest the analytical advantages of a structural framework. that make good food meaningful and thus give cooks greater social value. within the constraints of a cook’s daily life. As Sidney Mintz says. from his topic of enquiry it seems logical to observe ‘the art of cooking’ itself in the context of its social dimensions. The communicative aspects of cooking and eating lie in the meanings that actors (or agents. to this ‘enchantment’. myself. there is no ‘language of food’ which can be learnt via a grammar of eating habits or cooking techniques. if you wish—or a socially developed system which is employed in the preparation of foods for consumption. which are powerful enough to lead to social changes in other levels in the matrix of cultural forms. 30).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. fully trapped under some kind of gastronomic spell. . describe Mexican culinary mastery as analogous to the control required to manipulate poetic language or magic.

I mainly draw upon Alfred Gell’s theory of art. the cultural meanings of culinary activity as part of women’s work is different from a semiotic analysis of foodstuffs. or repository of social meaning. 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. Thinking of food as art which is based on action (Gell. These are important points which could lead to further investigation. focusing on culinary practice. the social meanings or meaningfulness of foods can be better understood if we analyze cuisine as a whole. Rather than direct metonymic expressions of foodstuffs standing for other social structures.g. 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. To help in thinking about food anthropologically. and the cuisine demands a certain discipline and lifestyle which partly structures the daily. rather than trying to explain why one foodstuff may ‘stand for’ something else. 6). pp. ‘as a system of action. monthly. women’s domestic and extradomestic roles. and recognizing this puts due emphasis on the flavour of food. Gell’s Theory of Art Gell (1996) suggests thinking of art as a ‘vast and often unrecognized technical system. then. therefore. and social interaction and hospitality in fiesta and quotidian occasions. 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.32 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Technical mastery is what defines the art object. intended to change the world rather than encode symbolic propositions about it’ (1998. (1986. p. 1998. emphasis added) which . 1999b). p. So. and yearly timetables of women as well as men. Thus. I am taking cuisine as art in the way that Gell sees art. Another way of looking at it is Munn’s definition of meaning. and my approach attempts to respond to such a gap. and therefore meaning ful. the perspective of food as art may help us understand some of the meanings that foods carry. which is the efficacious aspect. as being the relational nexus that enters into any given sociocultural form or practice (of whatever order of complexity) and defines that practice. Thus I avoid analysis of semiotic relations such as corn with blood or chiles with penises (in the wordplay albur). Instead. but also acknowledge the artistic quality of the act of cooking. as he developed it in several publications (e. If foods are full of meaning. Women do the cooking. essential to the reproduction of human societies’ (p. 6). 43. weekly. What Mexican cooking actually appears to ‘mean’ is a harmonious family and socio-cosmological life. 6 –7) Put into context. my research focuses on the meanings of interrelating cultural forms—the corpus of cuisine.

Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. produced by an ‘artist’. the artwork is an ‘index’. Likewise.10 David Parkin (2006. 68ff). If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. including art-objects. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks. It is art as an activity. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). sometimes via the index/artwork. become personified and persons become objectified. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects. or made beautiful’ (p. 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. or both. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. in particular. 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. They also are thought of as having higher value. gastronomic bliss. consumer. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. The agency of the artist. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. or as a social actor. in Gell’s terms. for instance.9 Art objects. upon which/whom agency is exerted. p. therefore. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’. as products of techniques’ (p. whether from the position of producer. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. 43). The solution to this problem. sometimes directly. sometimes through art-objects. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. Put very simply for visual art. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996.1). based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). Gell emphasizes action. original emphasis). and recipient as eater (see Table 2. what Gell calls captivation (1998. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. the prototype as recipe. we may think of the artist as cook. or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. 43. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. the index as the food. p. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. meal or dish. or (eventually) the development of personhood. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. p.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With this perspective. with his name labelling the cuisine he produces. 1998. a cook or chef. On two levels. does not really make an eater the ‘owner’ of that dish. opening an exchange relationship by offering food to a guest or family member likewise opens the possibility for reciprocity in some form (Mauss.23 Also. or at least to know where to go in order to reproduce it (to know how or where or with whom to eat). Parallel to this. or its reproduction may depend on the actions of a specific cook. 1986). In one sense. yet it can be reproduced ad infinitum. Possession is a more complex issue because the dish can be reproduced. Food selling is a social activity. even temporarily. 80–1). 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). nor is it like the intellectual possession of a famous painting beyond a consumer’s (financial) capacity to take it home and own it. an index of . pp. it can never truly be completely consumed. remains the owner of that dish (cook-A→recipe-P). therefore. and therefore it can never be truly owned. we can think of food as both a work of art as well as an object of exchange. and perhaps also having the possibility (or controlling this possibility) of eating it again. As the outcome of a recipe. once the dish is produced. which provides the cook with an agency that contains the powerful potential to demand social reciprocity. The possession of food-as-art seems to take the form of having eaten it. makes it seem ludicrous to try to pinpoint any ‘owner’ of a dish. but it may not necessarily be reproducible in exactly the same way or in the same context. Having eaten something once or twice. the eating of it makes it disappear. Not only this. Now the final problematic issue to explain is its possession. Perhaps it is also possible to say that the ‘inventor’ of a dish. The fact that most women in the community know how to prepare similar dishes following similar recipes (with the same ‘index’). Munn. for example. and who solely produces these dishes within the family sphere (cook-A→food-P). but it does not carry the fundamental persuasiveness of food giving. and having enjoyed it very much. A heightened awareness of artistic or culinary expertise does not in itself constitute possession or ownership of the work. We remember once more that as soon as the supply of the food is depleted it can be constantly renewed. either. rather than self-consciously ‘invents’. It also is inapplicable to the anonymous cook who cooks ‘traditional’ foods. its true possession can be thought of as possession of the know-how to be able to reproduce it (to know how to cook). and this can in turn affect the kind of product that the cook produces (eater-A→cook-P). as Gell has described (1996). 1990.42 • Culinary Art and Anthropology transaction begins and ends there. Possession of food-as-art is not anything like the possession of an object which sits on the mantelpiece for personal admiration. or within the same transactive nexus. food hospitality consists of ‘unfinished business’ which is the essence of the endurance of social relations (Gell. the cook prepares food to the taste of the eater/customer. so the agency actually lies with the customer. But this is only a perspective among many possible ways of interpreting this situation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and even making alcoholic drinks (like pulque. Each of these leaves. Doña Margarita lit the coals that had remained in the pit with scraps of cardboard and burnt pencas. For women in the barbacoa trade. because Mexican food was thought to be notoriously difficult for foreigners . however. all parts of different varieties of maguey plants. weaving cloth. Saturday morning may be spent doing any sort of tasks and chores. We had sopa casera de tallarines con crema. piloncillo. or pencas. and there were beans to follow if anyone wanted some. 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. a (red) tomato-based stew with chicken. To follow was a guisado de jitomate. both pencas and sap. Primy came home and prepared the comida quickly. Alejandro had brought home pencas de maguey. served with a swirl of cream. can reach up to 2 metres in length and about 30 centimetres wide at the base. While waiting for Primy and the boys to return home. In fact. crude sugar. a typical homestyle soup with short noodles in (red) tomato broth. She accompanied me with a sandwich of her own. When a bright fire was smoking in the oven we laid the fresh pencas across the top. turning them and even hanging them halfway into the oven so that they roasted evenly. This time it was less elaborate than on the Friday before. All of this was served with warm corn tortillas. have been used extensively and have been exploited all over Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. By five o’clock the meat should be ready. if available. Then they must be toasted to mellow their flavour and bitterness. we attended to the oven. Then she asked me to accompany her to do her errands. and meanwhile we carried on with other household chores. Alejandro’s mother gave me a sandwich for breakfast and a pint of hot milk in which I stirred some café de olla. By the time I got up at seven o’clock. the succulent leaves of the maguey plant. Before all this. y además come ¡con gusto!’). tapering to a fine point like a needle. avocado and pickled jalapeño chiles. which she made of sliced bread ( pan bimbo) spread with cream and filled with ham. This last point seemed particularly impressive to them. So we proceeded to light the oven by the side of the house. courgettes and strips of roasted and peeled poblano chiles. They are essential in the preparation of this type of barbacoa as they both protect the meat from burning. I helped Doña Margarita wash the dishes from Friday and we went to buy food with which to prepare lunch. The pencas must first be shaved at the base so that they are evenly thick and pliable. coffee boiled with abundant water and flavoured with cinnamon and. and different varieties are used for tequila and mezcal ). for preparing food. 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. This step took a good hour or so.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 61 it had not overflowed and the meat was cooking nicely. as well as add flavour and help to seal in moisture. 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. They are thick and spiny at the edges.

and by now the logs were reduced to red-hot embers. It was time to stack the oven. With this she ignited the wood and left it to burn while we ate. Afterward. only this time the sides of the oven were lined with pencas. Then we checked the oven. She placed the heads and pescuezos into separate pails and when she finished pulling out the panzas. Their second son was still too young to accompany them. la pura brasa. Alejandro sold meat.m. no cooking film was necessary and no water was added for the consomé. Primy showed me how to wrap the panzas in pencas of maguey to protect them from burning as they cook. and with old newspaper she grabbed a fistful of tallow that she collected every week from the meat. They loaded everything into the back of their truck and by 5.30 p. we unloaded the meat. She picked the meat from between the neck bones .62 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to eat. Last. and then they slid the heavy steel cover over the opening. 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. She filled the cavity with dry logs. while Primy made and sold tacos and consomé and also usually acted as cashier. la carne sancochada. an old cover and empty basins were arranged on the edges to secure it and weigh it down. or at least hoped. made me seem less foreign to them and more easily assimilated. which had been pre-cooking in the perol for a few hours. otherwise the meat would fail to cook properly. Just before lunch. Then we left the barbacoa to stew in its own juices all night. separating the meat into plastic crates lined with wax paper and the toasted maguey pencas from the oven. Sunday: Sacando la carne (Taking Out the Meat) At five in the morning I was awakened for the final stage of preparing barbacoa. They spread the sand evenly to block any cracks so that absolutely no steam escaped the oven. The two women pulled out a square of canvas filled with sand to shroud the cover. more toasted pencas were lain. 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. that both of their sons would maintain it when they came of age. they were on their way to their barbacoa stall in a market near the centre of Mexico City.10 Already they took their 7-year-old son with them to sell. When all the meat was properly arranged. Each panza is placed individually in the centre of a toasted penca.30 a. she waited for Alejandro to come and reach into the oven for the tub of drippings. but he told me that he was dying to go. now full of consomé. Finally. Both Alejandro and Primy would go to the market together as it was always their busiest day. On a Sunday the children considered this to be a special treat. and therefore understand the flavours.m. Primy lit the pit-oven with firewood. It was 5. Primy was already unloading everything. Primy and Doña Margarita did this in the same order as in stacking the perol. heads and panzas by the kilo. My ability to enjoy their food. Alejandro’s stall had been in the family for three generations. and he and his wife expected.

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

Their greater investment of work and money increased the quality of their product. the husbands go to the ganadería. they were unwilling to produce an inferior product. They might lose some of their regular clients who were accustomed to a superior 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. several houses were left unfinished. Though using the perol would greatly increase their profit margin. as that would be lowering their standards. In the meantime. This attitude. as well as all the work areas and utensils used. Until the eighties. naturally. They did so despite the increased physical labour and expense required when using firewood rather than gas. 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. In the 1950s most families lived in simple one. as did many others. making it less commercial. Tuesday is dedicated to cleaning and returning everything to normal. hired another woman to help. On the other hand. 1960). Few raise their own livestock since land and labour have become more scarce in recent . but it was Alejandro who insisted that they switch to the pit oven because the resulting flavour is so much better. although it was likely that newer clients would not mind the difference. did not make the most sense financially. During my last visit to Milpa Alta. they were not willing to compromise anymore and go back to making barbacoa de perol. This has forced the price of barbacoa to remain low despite higher production costs. Most of the money they needed to build their houses came from high barbacoa profits. Barbacoieros will not stop making their product. Primy explained to me her perception of how household spending had changed since the crisis of December 1994.64 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it. This is why. Still.or two-room dwellings (Madsen. as it is their trade and means of livelihood. Doña Margarita told me that her husband used to make barbacoa in the perol. thus reducing the profit margin for producers and forcing them to tighten their belts. more of a luxury good and of course more expensive. Sometimes Primy. Primy and Alejandro stopped using the perol altogether and tended to buy slightly younger sheep so that they could cook exclusively in the oven. there are many big houses in San Mateo. 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. the ranch where the livestock is sold. she pointed out. to choose and mark the sheep that they will later buy for slaughter. but by the 1980s many families began to build larger houses as they became more prosperous from selling nopales and barbacoa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The root of the problem. such as when they hire domestic helpers. 1988. 1991. are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. 1983). Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere. 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 – . Crucially. 1997.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it. as wives. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. DeVault writes.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. 142). Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. their husbands. p. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. 1998. Murcott. is how women’s skills. it can lead to women’s subordination (e. McIntosh and Zey. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. Women are the key actors in the culinary system. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework. p. 47). different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. 1979.g. home cooking is considered women’s work. Ekström. Beardsworth and Keil. they can also mobilize the agency of others. Delphy.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. which include cooking and other domestic tasks. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. inevitably play a subordinate role to men. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society. they argue. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5).

p. ‘The Latin American family. It cannot be denied that many women assume the role of wife. As Gudeman and Rivera (1990. applied to Latin America. several recent studies document how family and gender ideologies are more dynamic than static. 101) write about Colombia. xiv) claimed. but they can find other ways to provide a delicious meal whether they cook it themselves or not.’ 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. of course. and not by the wives or daughters of the landowners who prepared food and served it to those men. cooking is a chore. Some women in Milpa Alta say they cook to satisfy their own cravings or desires. In Milpa Alta cooking is indeed embedded in the domestic realm. For others. and whether or not they cook regularly. 2006. knowing how to cook Mexican food is actually thought of as a skill worth learning. or when women work away from home. Doña Delfina told me that before she married she used to take lunch to the peons who worked on her family’s land. affords the female an extensive amount of influence on the members of her family. at least. p. Ann Pescatello (1973. This was one of the parts of the day that she enjoyed most. Servile status was held by the labourers who worked the field. 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. as I explained in Chapter 1. The extended family. I found several women to have such an attitude. ‘[T]he people see nothing servile in this’. In one of the earlier collections of essays published on gender. I would emphasize further that there is also nothing wrong with having defined gendered roles in the family. 108). if not a talent. and this is not to downplay or ignore ongoing social change in terms of gender relations. marital-compadrazgo alliances. 143). are not always forced to prepare elaborate meals for their husbands. Many have told me that they enjoy it. mother and cook whether or not they enjoy it. relatives. women take pride in their cooking. integral to the historical schema … provides much latitude and legitimization of behavior in terms of social status. In Milpa Alta. leaving the house and socializing a little. Though this might be taken as indicative of women’s subordination to men. since power need not be publicly displayed in order to be enforced. On the . subsumed as women’s work or women’s unpaid labour. they meet the challenge of providing good food to their families by depending on cooperation with co-resident women. this does not necessarily imply a master-servant relationship. therefore. and the like.5 Rather. p. still widespread and potent in countryside and city. in-laws and comadres. Women. Thus. In fact. although women serve food to their husbands or bring them meals in the fields. although they may hardly cook at all. prestige. and learn a discipline that defines “appropriate” service for men’ (1991. In such cases. p. when DeVault states that ‘women learn to think of service as a proper form of relation to men.72 • Culinary Art and Anthropology with the existing ideology of Mexican cooking (see also Abarca.

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

women are not quite as confined to the domestic sphere as it might appear. women’s independence and the dynamism of relationships between individuals of both or either gender. women do not need to be accompanied. Trips to the market are as much a social event for exchanging news and gossip as for stocking up the larder. I offered to go instead of Primy or one of the children. but I suspect that it was more unusual not to spend more time chatting with passersby on every outing. For culinary errands. Many women go to great lengths to collect the right foods for the dishes they wish to prepare. When I accompanied one or another friend or acquaintance on a visit to the market. one way that they stretch their boundaries is in pursuit of culinary ideals. 1996. because Doña Margarita told me not to take too long. 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. Johnsson. whereas they are usually chaperoned for social outings. Even in cases where women appear to be subservient to their husbands (‘Es él que manda’). Suárez and Bonfil. 1999. among others). and I set off without stopping. boil and grind more maize (nixtamal ). In Milpa Alta it is normal to make frequent.g. I was surprised at her surprise at how quickly I had been. Abarca. 2001). Since unmarried daughters in the family are often asked to buy fresh bread in the evenings for supper. Though they live with some social restrictions. they are not imprisoned in their kitchens or completely engulfed in household chores (cf. Williams. 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. Working hard in the pursuit of flavour encourages a malleable boundary between domestic and extradomestic spaces. 1994. When I returned to the house. but expected. Roseman. 2006. 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.10 Thus. Fowler-Salamini and Vaughan. 1986. One of the secrets of Mexican (and any good) cooking is having top-quality ingredients at hand. Rogers. their everyday lives are not necessarily limited. Melhuus and Stølen.. 2004. . I observed that for women who are interested in cooking well. which would take too long. much work in Latin America and elsewhere dismantles the notion of women being in a rigid oppressive condition (e. 1975. In Milpa Alta. They go to particular vendors or even other towns. Once when Doña Margarita was making tamales and her dough came out a little too thin.74 • Culinary Art and Anthropology convincing critique of the kitchen as a site of female oppression (see also André. Primy mentioned that it was because I walk very fast. By stressing complementarity between the sexes. she needed someone to go to the tortillería to buy some prepared masa so that we would not have to soak. Sometimes we would detour for an ice cream. 1985). taco. because I had done exactly as I was told—go to the tortillería and come back. or between staying home and being out in the streets. licuado or other snack bought on the street or in the market. almost daily trips to the market or to different shops for fresh ingredients.9 This is not only acceptable.

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

but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. and my findings in Milpa Alta agree. that motherhood does not actually stop women from taking on extradomestic work. Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance. and a man needs a woman to bear children. especially their daughters. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. boasting that he could look after himself on his own. Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work. At this most basic level.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!’). García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main defining characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. it is often necessary for working-class women to work extradomestically to supplement the family income. In fact. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children. ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). ‘¿Entonces. 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. 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. Yet. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. Early one morning. García and Oliveira demonstrate. Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. Work. Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . married men depend on their wives. Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social significance of cooking within marriage. pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination. he replied. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife. 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. Economic considerations play a significant role in women’s activities. 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. tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulfilment for women regardless of social class.

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

(Villareal. her husband may beat her (or at least she fears that he might. at the time of fieldwork. though I have no hard facts to prove it. con esos estoy contenta’). Then she added. The greatest form of suffering for a married . Girls grow up to have difficult lives. she explained. When I asked Doña Delfina. In fact. knowing how a woman suffers. as well as resistance. y gracias a Dios. but apart from those occasions. God gave me two sons. Mexico. she replied that at first she had not thought about it. She then added. and thanks to God. even if he never has given her reason to believe he really will). as I mention below). who had two sons. which was now composed of only boys. she never felt the desire to have a daughter. The idea of keeping their household in ‘good order’ was often conveyed. Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal When Yadira’s first child was born. but it was because I had done something to deserve it. he only hit me once or twice. that women have the tendency to attach virtue to suffering. and since her sons always helped her at home. she told me. better not [to have a daughter]. but actively use the ideals of cooking and motherhood to avoid forcing direct confrontation. mejor. then stayed a bit to help out with his chores. Suffering. 1996. Women’s suffering came up in conversation in a surprisingly casual manner. She proudly showed her sewing and embroidery to her visitors. and probably in other parts of Mexico as well. ‘It was better. An elderly lady told me that her husband was a womanizer and a drunk. he never hit me!’ Some people spoke so openly about wife-beating that I was led to believe it was commonplace. with them I am happy’ (‘Ni. as did the topic of physical abuse. since the girls had married out. They do not necessarily succumb submissively to the dominant discourse.78 • Culinary Art and Anthropology fields to take him a hot lunch. They can take an active role in modifying their social spaces. if she had wanted a daughter. 20). ya no. por conocer que una como mujer sufre. 195) A similar kind of dynamic exists in Milpa Alta. which undermines the power of the accepted gender imagery. Melhuus and Stølen (1996) argue that gender ideology is in constant flux. Some cases cited in their volume indicate a certain complicity among women. Socorro bragged quietly about how she cooked for her family. ‘No. yet it continues to organize and perform functions in society. she suffers through it. ‘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. I was also told that if a woman fails to cook or clean. Domestic violence rarely results in separation. If he does beat her. there were few divorces and separations in Milpa Alta (though there were other reasons for this as well. but he never hit her. p. They write. she cried because the child was a girl. Melhuus (1992) suggests in her study of Toluca. Villareal’s case study clearly demonstrates that women are not passive. Dios me ha dado dos hijos.

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

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

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

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

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

both because the master class became dependent on its cooks. Gradually. To summarize.15 With the tortillas sorted out. there was resistance to machine-made tortillas. 1998). with technological advances and political changes as women entered the extradomestic labour force. p. in the case of Mexico. an elaborate cuisine is not simply a creative escape valve for otherwise restricted women. by recognizing that cooking is active and creative. the dependence on flavour. women were left with more time and energy to devote to other activities. Looking more closely at cuisine and the social relations surrounding its production can be illuminating. morality and domestic power and may even help them to trap a husband. 80–1). Mexican women used to spend up to a third of their waking hours making tortillas (pp. she is in control over these two fundamental . recipes) should be thought of as having social agency. or. 1996. 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. Ideally food is cooked at home. which eventually led to the development of an elaborate cuisine. pp. While it is arguable that women’s subordination was exacerbated by the demands of the kitchen. and it can even be thought of as a means toward women’s liberation. this was specifically the demands of making fresh tortillas (see Pilcher. It is a license for social action in the pursuit of technical or culinary artistry. 1994). 100–6). pp. 99–121). machine-made tortillas gained acceptance (Pilcher. dishes. therefore. cooking was one significant way around it. and because the cooks actually invented a cuisine that the masters could vaunt. At the same time. by a wife or a mother. The elaborate cuisine was not the restrictive factor of their lives per se. then. pp. or as being social actors in their own right. put another way. 1998. forms of autonomy. 106–10). culinary or otherwise. Abarca (2006. an idea also formulated by Mintz: ‘[W]orking in the emergence of cuisine legitimized status distinctions within slavery. but could not themselves duplicate’ (47–8). In effect. in the way taught by generations of women who nourished their families as wives and mothers. as works of art (Gell. (Mintz. Then. The tasting of freedom was linked to the tasting of food. 1998.84 • Culinary Art and Anthropology around before freedom itself was. its outcome (food. gives women the legitimacy to expand their social and physical boundaries. because machines produced inferior flavours and quality in comparison to handmade tortillas (Marroni de Velázquez. it is as a provider of sex and food that women’s power becomes evident. Before wide industrialization and the spread of mechanical tortillerías. Although women’s socially acceptable spaces may have appeared limited. Both sex and food lead to the continuance (and reproduction) of individuals as well as of society. A woman should be able to satisfy her husband both sexually and gastronomically. 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. or a devotion to culinary works of art. 37) As I describe for Milpa Alta. pp.

among other Náhuatl-speaking groups. for food and for sex (see Gow. artistry. 1992). in Náhuatl. In fact. a woman can have actual power over her husband. or in the nature of the two most important desires. finely chopped 1 large tomato. 80–1. skill. Women’s agency. the only men for whom women prepare food are their husbands. I believe that such a thing as culinary agency. Women use their culinary agency in the cycle of festivity (described in the chapter that follows). 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. And fulfillment of these desires requires imagination. 80–1) also describes a link between hunger for food and desire for sex among the Sierra Nahaut of Central Mexico. If she is a skilful cook or can mobilize her culinary agency. is accessible to anyone who cooks (see Chapter 2). 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. Chapter 9) argues. Recipes Huevos a la mexicana A typical recipe for almuerzo. and they use this status in imaginative and subtle ways to assert their power (over men).Women as Culinary Agents • 85 desires (cf. as wives and mothers. Women are arguably the most highly valued half of society (Melhuus. in Mexico and elsewhere. pp. In fulfillment of these desires social relations are made or unmade. can be both culinary and reproductive. pp. the domestic sphere and. This perception hinges on the connection between the value of good cooking—of good flavour—and the value allocated to women. Many people. 1989. 1992. finely chopped 1 green chile. and many more examples can be given to corroborate this. it is precisely women’s cooking that is most highly valued. finely chopped 4 eggs salt . creativity—in a word. therefore. Gregor. by extension. the greater social realm. p.16 The preceding discussion has indicated how home cooking is highly valued in Mexico. Furthermore. 1997. say that no one cooks better than their mothers. 1989). Gow. 1985). the word for ‘to eat’ has the double meaning of eating food and having sex (Taggart. or potential to culinary artistry. 182). oil ½ onion. Taggart (1992. Vázquez García. Stephen (2005. when.

Some or all of the following foods are offered for taco placero. and stir until all are well blended. Add tomatoes. 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. add salt. hence its name. 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 . remove from the heat. some women buy various foods in the market to serve taco placero or tacos de plaza. and hot tortillas or bread. heat oil in frying pan and sauté onions and chiles until soft. Some people buy food and combine it with what they have at home for making any kind of tacos.86 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Over a medium flame. Taco placero When there is little time to make a proper meal. When just firm. Eggs should still be soft. Break the eggs into the pan. pickled chiles or salsa. raise the heat and cook until well-done and almost dry. Serve with beans ( frijoles de olla).

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

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

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

What is served depends on the time of arrival. or may be held on the day of the barrio fiesta. As I explain in the section that follows. there are forceful fundamental rules of food hospitality in Milpa Alta. in both fiestas and everyday settings. even if it is only a piece of fruit or agua fresca. It starts with a soup or sopa aguada. Before noon a guest is offered breakfast. and there is an abundance of food. often chicken broth with pasta. 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. sweetened diluted fruit juice. 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. as well as agua de frutas. which are crucial to social interaction. It may be as simple as breaded chicken breasts accompanied by cooked vegetables. teleras and hot milk. This would be followed by beans and all accompanied by tortillas. Whatever is for breakfast is served along with beans. In the mornings a guest may also be served leftovers from the day before. live music and dancing. such as a bowl of pancita accompanied by tacos of broad beans or nopales compuestos. Since each fiesta should have the same kind of feast food. or chicharrón en chile verde (pork crackling in green sauce). young corn kernels. sometimes refried. or perhaps enchiladas or thinly sliced beef steaks with a salsa and potatoes sautéed with onions. however infrequent.Mole and Fiestas • 93 old) or presentation (when a child is 3). something to eat or drink must always be available. from around noon to about six it is lunchtime. and after six is suppertime. and/ or sopa seca (dry soup). a complaint expressed with derision toward the subject of conversation. If they have run out of milk the hosts apologize and ask if coffee would be all right. 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!’). la comida. Since someone might arrive for whatever reason at any time. The main meal of the day. The main course is often meat served in a sauce or with some other hot salsa on the side. the first thing that a host says is. Hospitality and Food When guests arrive at the house. peas and/or potatoes may be added. however long overdue the wedding may be. ‘¡Adelante! ¡adelante! ¿Qué les ofrezco?’ (‘Come in! Come in! What can I offer you?’). or it may be something rather more complex such as mole verde con pollo (green mole with chicken). is usually served between two and five in the afternoon. What would be unacceptable is to have a wedding or baptism without the mole de fiesta to offer to guests. it is acceptable to celebrate them together with a single feast. All occasions require the same menu for the banquet to accommodate hundreds of people. because this is all . which is either pasta or rice flavoured with onions and garlic and sometimes tomatoes to which carrots.

and they had several left. 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. but our hosts insisted. ‘Un taquito. Since Primy had not yet touched her eggs. accompanied by a tomato and pasta soup. then we were offered apples and bananas. so Yadira should have her share. and then Yadira and Kiko left. He accepted the offer. 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. so they gave us the fruit to take away with us. This was what they had eaten for lunch the day before. just one!’). Just as we started to eat. we returned to the compadres’ house and helped them cook nopales. We told them that we had just that moment come from Primy’s house. She would normally prepare a new sauce to make chilaquiles. ¡nada más uno!’ (‘One little taco. which by this time were simply impossible to force in. but Doña Margarita insisted. beans and tortillas. cebollas desflemadas con rajas de chile jalapeño (sliced onions tamed with lime juice and salt and mixed with strips of jalapeño chiles). The host must share whatever food is at hand. as the following anecdote illustrates: It was the feast day of Saint Francis.30. 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. They were taking me to visit the town fiesta of nearby San Francisco Tecoxpa. where we just had breakfast. . It was four o’clock and they had just served their comida. After visiting San Francisco and walking around the fair. Yadira and Kiko came to pick me up for the day. We were invited to have a few tacos of nopales with cheese. she passed one of them to Yadira’s plate. which they sell in the market already prepared with onions. but. 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 their nopalera was in that area of Milpa Alta. we were each given a plate full of milanesas with a simple cucumber and avocado salad and fried plantains with cream. tomatoes and herbs. After this. Since we arrived just in time. After eating. There we were offered tacos dorados de pollo. and then were pushed to have more. she had only one egg. Yadira and Kiko then took me back to Primy’s house. whose son was ill. at around 9.94 • Culinary Art and Anthropology that they have left. Yadira protested that she had already had breakfast and that Doña Margarita should eat. and I was staying in Primy’s house. one uses whatever one has at hand. we were served some sweet rolls and coffee. but Primy. and she heated some barbacoa in the same sauce and served it to him with some beans. 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. she said. saying that she really did not feel like having two eggs that day. This was a very informal and impromptu meal and Chelita. We explained that we had just come from eating and that we were very full. and the guest must accept the food offered. fresh sprigs of coriander and slices of avocado. their compadre’s sister. So we each had one. we went to visit Yadira’s compadres. Doña Margarita immediately passed her plate to Yadira and said that she was not very hungry.

She states that the obligation is so great that one risks being disowned by one’s compadres if one skips a private fiesta. It is a trusting relation between two individuals in social. and if they fail to show up on a special day. They know that they are always invited to any family celebrations. 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. such as the town fiesta or a birthday. it is like being part of the same family. ‘No desprecias a la comida’ (‘Don’t undervalue food’) or ‘No desperdicias la comida’ (‘Don’t waste food’). both for the hosts and for the guests. When one family is particularly close to another family. the host offers the guest a refill. this is fine. ‘Es que no te gustó’ (‘It’s because you didn’t like it’). This implies a willingness to engage in reciprocal exchange because of perceived parity in an ‘equality of wants’. Thus.Mole and Fiestas • 95 The preceding description demonstrates that hospitality is a coercive system. While people are sometimes too busy to attend public fiestas organized by the mayordomía. uttered in an offended tone of voice. when there is confianza between two families. Lomnitz shows that psychosocial distance is a more important factor in reciprocal exchange networks than blood ties. ‘[A]s part of this behavioral model. If a guest leaves food on the plate a host may say disapprovingly. and lending a hand at work obligates the recipient of the favor to reciprocate in kind at some later date’ (Brandes. The concept still applied in Milpa Alta in the 1990s. a guest should not be surprised if his refusal is answered with. Rejecting food is tantamount to rejecting the host. what she calls ‘psychosocial distance’. This same basic system of food giving and receiving is also in action when families are invited to large-scale fiestas. they must expect not to receive an invitation. it can be interpreted as a breach of trust. People would talk and say that the offenders . Food offered in hospitality appears to be treated as an extension of the host and/or cook (if they are the same person). ‘[I]nvitations to life cycle rituals cannot be turned down’ (p. In this way food embodies the agency (of welcome. Lomnitz (1977) defines the Latin American concept of confianza as more than just ‘trust’ or ‘confidence’. 258). which allows for the continuance of social relations. p. gift) of the host in a material form. however. eats it all with relish and possibly asks for more. An invitation to a fiesta must be honoured with its acceptance and also requires reciprocity in the form of future invitations to family fiestas. For this reason the social pressure to eat everything placed in front of a guest is high. gifts require counter-gifts. invitations to meals beget counter-invitations. Attendance to a party is a social commitment. 1988. although if family members live physically far apart. As soon as his plate is near empty. Also inherent is Mauss’s notion of ‘the gift’. they have spoken to the hosts to let them know they cannot make it. Especially when there is a certain closeness between host and guest. in appreciation of the superior flavours of the food. 85). If. Stephen (2005) describes a similar coerciveness in fiesta hospitality amongst compadres in Teotitlán. The perfect guest accepts everything offered to him gratefully. and a food parcel (itacate) will be sent to their home after the fiesta is over. physical and economic proximity.

and to do it well. surrounded by loved ones (close family members). she had gained quite a lot of weight. Yadira told me. 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. Amongst the seven barrios and eleven pueblos of Milpa Alta. If a guest cannot eat it. So it is a luxury to be able to stay home to eat. they do have money to celebrate. Yadira said. making fiestas a source of social cohesion (Perez-Castro and Ochoa. compadres and community come together to socialize and exchange news at greater leisure. To go from one party to the next. Holding large parties. she respected the importance of the festivities. I observed a similar sense of this in Milpa Alta.8 One’s energies are easily depleted. This was mainly because she then moved to Milpa Alta. 1991). are pressured food events.96 • Culinary Art and Anthropology think they are too important to attend or that they think they do not need others in the community. And it is because of this that the community is so festive—to show others that yes. where parties are taken so seriously and where hospitality requires a guest to eat everything she is offered. Barrio San Mateo is the most fiestero. More importantly. Every month there is at least one fiesta at barrio level. 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. is eating a meal at home. especially when one tries to juggle family. because there is no time. Fiestas. of highest value. There are private parties every week. she can surreptitiously take it away to eat at home later. can become tiresome (llega a aburir). is socially enjoyable and beneficial. In Milpa Alta there are so many fiestas that Doña Margarita told me that sometimes when she has a craving for mole. 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’). and explained: The people of Milpa Alta are very. as shown by the case of Barrio San Mateo in Villa Milpa Alta. barbacoa. Since her wedding day. As I . As Yadira explained. very hardworking because nature gave them few resources. Nevertheless. It is necessary to work from dawn until late at night in order to progress [financially]. Yadira told me. All the fiestas could be thought of as a sort of diversion from the monotony of daily labours at a social or community level. or carnitas.7 but this does not mean that the people of this barrio are idle.9 Her statement is telling in that she mentions eating well at home as a ‘luxury’. profession. education and traditional industry. serving mole. therefore. 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 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. fiestas are the primary occasions when kin. but the deepest pleasure.

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

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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

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

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

which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. red tomatoes.1 guacamole 2. of course.1). it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. or different types of barbacoas). but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. an artwork (or salsa. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. or a lineage of guacamoles. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. and thus forms a lineage. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. Some of these are related to each other. onions and salt. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). This is not accidental. for example. 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. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5.1. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5. In Figure 5.2.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. Conceived of in this way. Following Gell’s theory of art. It has relations with other persons (salsas). Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa.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.

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 .

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

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

In 2000. It is therefore defined as appropriate. Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high. serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. and Mx$20. but also because of the social values. 687). It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. In short. the greater its social value. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. Before then. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas. i. Barbacoa is a luxury food. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. Not only because of the costs. 1984. 29).000 (£1.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people.400) for barbacoa. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. and on one’s guests. for example. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. 54). So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. as mentioned previously. For this reason. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta. it is very expensive). 1991. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. In addition.’ (p. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman.000 (£1.e. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. In effect. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. and because to a large extent. as far as I know.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. it can be considered to be in good taste. Mx$15.. p. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. . ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. p. it cost around Mx$10. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head. Since mole is feast food par excellence.. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. within the region. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. 91). technically difficult and valuable. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space.050) for carnitas. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it. 29). the more an object resists our possession (because. 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 .

whether or not there is mole for the rest of the guests.108 • Culinary Art and Anthropology this is not enough to explain why mole is still served during fiestas. which. produce another dish or innovation. carnitas. To reiterate. as is the case in Milpa Alta.. cuisine must be thought of as a distributed object. My analysis of mole indicates its social salience as a nexus of the interrelating social. barbacoa—as culinary works of art are imbued with meaning as they form the nexus of the social networks of normal food hospitality. 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. which are different dishes of varying kinds and complexity. in the cases when mole is not served. there is an apparent contradiction in mole being necessary for fiestas and yet not being present. I have examined mole as an artwork within the context of the art world to which it belongs. as described previously. 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. Still others may have been born of improvisation. as a conceptual whole. Mexican cuisine. as modifications of previously successful (flavourful and pleasurable) dishes. there is perfect sense in barbacoa (or carnitas or mixiote) acting as its replacement at feasts. they are of the same style (Mexican). Yet because of the notions of style (Gell). mixiotes) have become socially salient as acceptable substitutes for mole in Milpaltense fiestas. other specific dishes (barbacoa. especially to the hosts’ compadres. 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. Others can be offshoots of preparatory recipes. resistance (Simmel) and the aesthetic disposition (Bourdieu). cuisine is an ‘object’ which can be divided into its constituent parts. Though mole is the quintessence of Mexican cuisine. So while a simple part-for-whole synecdoche does not exist. compadrazgo and the mayordomía in Milpaltense society. there is still a relation between two dishes which allows them to represent or replace one another if they both maintain ‘the relative capacity . 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. ritual and economic systems within the matrix of Milpa Alta social life. synecdoche. when combined with other recipes or other techniques. as being the ‘mole de fiesta’. mole continues to be described as having the ultimate flavour. there is no denying that they are equally valid parts belonging to the same whole. Some recipes can be shown to have developed directly from others. that is. to create potentialities for . There must be another reason why barbacoa has become acceptable feast food in Milpa Alta. that is. Then. If.. To understand this. in either preparation or ingredients).

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

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

finely chopped 1½ –2 kg tomatoes. stirring frequently. This is a very refreshing dish that people prepare only during Lent and Advent. cut into cubes and reserve the cooking water.Mole and Fiestas • 111 Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo’ Yadira Arenas Berrocal ‘Sangre de Cristo’ means the blood of Christ. sliced in ½-cm rounds. Serves 8–10. adding the bananas half an hour before serving. cut into thick sticks 200–250 g peanuts. about 3 minutes. drained. In a large bowl. Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela Chef Abdiel Cervantes ¾ kg salt cod (bacalao). finely chopped 2–2½ cups (about 4 large heads) garlic. finely chopped To serve: 1 jar green olives 1 tin chiles güeros (or any pickled yellow chiles) crusty bread (teleras or bolillos. soaked several hours. until the oil surfaces. blanched. Cook 5–10 minutes. sauté onions until golden. shredded ½ –1 L extra virgin olive oil ½ kg (about 3 cups) onions. 1 kg beetroot. finely chopped 1½ cups parsley. peel them and discard the skins. Add garlic and let brown. with their peels ¼ –½ iceberg lettuce. combine the rest of the ingredients with the cubed beets and cooking water. . about 20 minutes. Allow to cool. peeled 5 oranges. leaves removed and well-scrubbed 500 g (1 large) jícama. peeled. Serve in bowls with abundant broth. represented by the water in which the beetroot is boiled. 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. with peels 3 ripe bananas. or baguettes) • In abundant olive oil. • Add fish and almonds.25-cm slices. in 1. shredded sugar to taste The beetroot must be very clean and boiled in abundant water with the skins. When cooked. finely chopped 300 g almonds. Add tomatoes and cook over high heat.

cut into 6-centimetre slices 250 g queso cotija. like French toast. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez Torrejas are a Lenten dessert typical of the state of Michoaca ΄n. This is something that she rarely prepared because her mother-in-law. did not like the idea of a sweet made with spices. each cut into 3 pieces.112 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Add parsley and mix well. or 1 baguette. When Doña Margarita was persuaded to try these torrejas. Torrejas Ma. This is the way Primy makes them. which is a bit unusual in that they are coated in the egg batter called a capeado. she liked them so much that she had seconds. 4 slightly stale teleras. Serve in low bowls with lots of syrup. 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. Serve with crusty bread. • Let rest until cool and decorate with olives and chiles. 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. warm the fried bread pieces in the syrup to impregnate them with the flavours and to heat them through. or use an aged white cow’s milk cheese like Romano or Sardo 3 eggs. leaving an open pocket. Primy’s version contains no milk. and it probably would not matter if the bread used was very fresh. Most recipes for torrejas are reminiscent of Spanish torrijas. Doña Margarita. To serve. Serves 12. . cooking until fish completely falls apart into small bits. like the capeado for chiles rellenos.

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

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

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

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

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

With respect to Mexican cuisine. Not only this. Anything that comes from a person.4 . relatives and neighbours and thereby maintain community viability. individual and group. 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. Rather. a ‘distributed person’. mayordomos or other guests. Guests may even be reluctant recipients. towns) to maintain the circulation of value (food/virtue) in the indefinitely enduring cycle of festivity. and they expect elaborate food and entertainment at these events. 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. Mole. The fiesta cycle revolves around the religious timetable and notions of respect. so much so that even those who do not attend are given food in their absence.118 • Culinary Art and Anthropology people. is coercively given and received. In effect. Part and whole. or a socially approved substitute. but only in relation to how they compare with other dishes in the cuisine. is detachable from that person and can be physically touched as well as seen. which are detachable and also exchangeable. 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. During fiestas. Whether compadres. are divisible and indivisible. this means that food is involved in interrelating social networks amongst individuals or groups. neighbours. and not to feed the living. This means that special foods are significant. individuals act on behalf of social groups (families. related to the cook. the same kind of food—effectively. in a sort of Maussian social contract. social distance and hospitality amongst the relevant actors. but they accept the food nonetheless. and with the social relationships of the cooks and eaters. 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. all assume that they will be. eventually may eat the food. Competitively bigger and better versions of the same meal are circulated endlessly amongst compadres. though competition and one-upmanship exist as well. including visual appearance and things he or she produced. the food was cooked with the intention of feeding the dead. the same personhood—is awaited on each occasion.2 Gell’s theory of art uses a conception of a body of artworks as if it were a body of a person. These gifts of food are offered by obligation and their acceptance is obligatory as well. and actors expect an ultimate balance of give and take. the same gift. no one need demand to be fed upon arrival at a fiesta. Therefore the flavour was cooked in for the dead to take away. 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.3 Hospitality begets further hospitality. art objects are exuviae. mayordomos.

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

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

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

continuously draws attention to the metaphoric relationship between oral and sexual desire. the chile is manipulated in another. 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. whether foods or genital organs. but at the level of desire. If these metaphors appear unsystematic. 1991. explicitly relating it to sex. Eating out in Milpa Alta is uncommon. I was told that eating out in the street indicates that the women of the house are lazy (‘son fodongas’ ). The significance of albur is that food. 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. that there are only two restaurants in Villa Milpa Alta. … these metaphors are not structured simply by direct reference to the objects themselves.122 • Culinary Art and Anthropology papaya. and is explicitly related to eating and flavour. they travel to the centre of Mexico City. The use of foods as metaphors for the genitals occurs only in joking. 82. homestyle food. Jiménez. or. The use of food metaphors in joking.e. 201). Daily Meals. (1989. as Gow argues. 202). mamey (a type of fruit). non-euphemistic. more generally and among women. Home Cooking and Street Food I have already explained at length that food prepared at home (i. ejote (young corn on the cob) and zanahoria (carrot. that is because they are not used in an alternate discourse to encode another arbitrary symbolic structure. 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.. if they really wish to eat out. I would agree. names for the genitalia. rather than that between food objects and genitals as objects. 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. Though not specifically . p. or mondongo (a dish made of tripe. and they cater mainly to outsiders (from Mexico City) who work in the municipality rather than to locals. Local Milpaltenses go home for their meals. is subject to linguistic and conceptual manipulation by men. pescado (fish). with some pride. Rather. These restaurants serve comida casera. especially the chile. even random. Having established that the values and virtues of women are materialized in home cooking. pp. p. for native people have standard. with love) has connotations of being tastier and better for you (nutritionally and socially) than food prepared commercially. A few Milpaltenses told me. Some other food metaphors for the penis are longaniza (a type of sausage). too lazy to prepare a meal at home. On the other hand. culinary way. panocha (crude sugar). partly because of the belief that food prepared at home is better. tacos or tamales. camote (sweet potato).

she tries to be discreet about it. effectively failing to fulfill her obligation to feed her family or guests. too cumbersome for the domestic kitchen or for daily cooking. 93) also emphasizes this point. pambazos. 2006. or was more work to prepare than we wished to do. Some things are not easily made at home. she most likely will buy it to take away. like different kinds of tacos. A social activity by nature. however. 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. Tinker (1987) observes that ‘[i]n most countries the traditional foods eaten at home take a long time to make. too busy or indeed too lazy to cook for her family. In Milpa Alta. so that busy housewives or working women will avoid this effort by feeding their families street foods’ (p. A complete Mexican meal requires much time and effort and is difficult to prepare in single servings. Mexican street food is one of the broadest-ranging parts of the cuisine. tamales. keeping all the flavour to herself. ‘Vamos a chinaquear’. such as barbacoa. Abarca (p.’ In other words. 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. because we could have or should have prepared food for ourselves. She would have a mischievous glint in her eye as she said. most women know how to make many of the foods that can be bought in the streets. She also notes that some street foods take longer to make than some typical daily meals. In Milpa Alta there is a specific verb for this idea of eating out that is used only in the region: chinaquear. Sometimes when Doña Margarita and I were on our own. The words envidia and envidioso are used to describe a range of characteristics from envy to greed to being overprotective over family . Chinaquear means to eat snacks in the street and it encapsulates shirking one’s household. referring to Silva. 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. So although there may be times when a woman is too tired. Cooking is almost never done for the sake of the cook alone. If she decides to buy ready-made food in the market. In Milpa Alta. Abarca. 55). if a woman forgets to place salsa on the table. duties. she would suggest to me that we eat in the market. 92–3). garnachas and various other snacks. Another instance when Milpaltenses might eat in the streets is when they eat alone or with only one other person. nor would this be normal behaviour in Milpa Alta. food preparation entails an emotional commitment from cooks and eaters. perhaps could not be the same if made at home. she may be teased as being envidiosa. The food sold by the vendor might be particularly delicious. huaraches. quesadillas. pp. 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. or even womanly. for instance.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 123 investigating Mexico.

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

Conversely. the final product’ (p. the food is exchanged for the love. hence the importance of a home-cooked meal. Vázquez discusses the domestic economy of first and second wives in both monogamous and polygamous unions. my translation). somehow. 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. presumably prepared for selfish. 1986). this food may seem to taste better in the streets. it makes more sense that the appeal of home cooking is based upon its intrinsic meaningfulness. She notes that men inherit land and women receive kitchen equipment upon marriage. is meaningful in a different way. this extends to the gastronomical and sexual loyalty of potentially unfaithful husbands. Mexico. as a sophisticated culinary trap couched in the ideology of generosity and the virtue of women’s suffering and sacrifice. and not for a return of yet undetermined food hospitality in future. socially sanctioned sexual desires. commercially viable and delicious. A home-cooked meal should then taste better and should also be better than snacks bought in the street. loyalty and appreciation of family members. This implies that in the case of home cooking. among family and friends. marketable. I dare say that home cooking is offered in a most complex bounded way. Vázquez García (1997) describes the marital relationship as reciprocal in a Nahua community in southern Veracruz. there is a moral obligatory force involved in giving and receiving food. instrumentalized for the production of legitimate members of society. Applying the same logic to cooking. as socially controlled. economic ends. Rather. She also observes that many women who sell home-cooked food in the streets are unwed . In other words. Among other writers. Munn. 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. Since giving food is as much an obligation as receiving it. whereas commercial cooking would then generate antisocial (individual) ends. We can think of food-giving as generating positive social meaning (community viability) and eating as correspondingly negative (cf.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 125 talent must also be considered. 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. other cooking. 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. This being the case. but men depend on women for the tortilla. Understanding this. Yet street foods are known to be desirable. 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. 171. home cooking generates positive social ends. As I described in Chapter 4. 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.

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

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

finely chopped 1 small green chile (serrano or jalapeño). grilled meats or fish. In any case. 1. • The ingredients can be more mashed or liquefied and other ingredients added. finely chopped (optional) salt to taste coriander (cilantro).2 Guacamole Raw red salsa with mashed avocado added. 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. Variations or optional ingredients. • Fresh. raw salsas are nice left chunky. this is the classic salsa mexicana. roughly chopped 2 small green chiles. • Mash in a mortar with a pestle or put all in a blender with a little water if necessary.1 Salsa roja cruda (Raw Red Salsa) 2 large ripe red tomatoes. finely chopped (optional) lime juice (optional) . or anything. If left chunky.128 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1 Variations on Salsa 1. cut into pieces ½ medium onion. this is a table salsa. chopped salt to taste • Chop all ingredients and mix well. This is a perfect accompaniment for guacamole and tortilla chips as well as for eggs. Blend to desired consistency. finely chopped ¼ white onion.1 Guacamole 2 large ripe avocados 1 small tomato. as with raw red salsa 1. which is often used to accompany grilled fish or meat or eggs.2.

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

Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. This is usually served with white rice. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. pinched side is smeared with melted lard. 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. onions and cream. a front and a back. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. grinding it to a soft dough. grated or shredded cheese . Break fried pork rinds into pieces. 2. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote. 2. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine. Tortillas can be thick or thin.5. sliced radish.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. onions. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). long or short. topped with a variety of different things. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side. and patting out by hand. masa. pressing out with a tortilla press.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta.5. lime. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. Tostadas are also eaten on their own. 1.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. large or small. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. beans and corn tortillas. avocados. salsa. The rough.

chopped onions. Before pressing out the tortillas. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa.3. 2. extra-long. Bake on both sides on a hot comal. The next morning. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. 8 cm wide.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. dry frying pan or griddle. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. 2. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. and 1 cm thick. Top with cooked salsa. cream and grated white cheese. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional). crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. The beans should be encased in masa.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. 2.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. grated cheese. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. thinner and crisper. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall.4. about 10–15 cm long. chopped coriander and cream. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. . Leave them out to dry overnight. fry them in hot oil till crisp. Many people make thin. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.

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

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

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

3 Enfrijoladas See 3. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). Add salt to taste. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4. Sometimes.2.3 above. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook. • Stir well and allow to cook. • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture. Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well. • Add coriander. rather it should be more like pilau. chopped 1 clove garlic. drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion. corn kernels. with separate grains.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice. soaked in hot water. epazote or chile to the top of the rice toward the end of the cooking time. then lower the heat to a very low flame. . It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas. Note: This rice should be dry. if you wish. Fry the rice (and carrots) until it is lightly golden. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked. salsa. peas. 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. 5. and sometimes avocado and lime. 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. Add to rice. It should not be soft and milky like risotto. often eaten on its own with salsa on the side. usually served as a first or second course.

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

Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. In my case. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican.5 per cent was inhabited. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. 21–2). there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. 318). Most of this land was put to agricultural use. 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. 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.489.Notes Introduction 1. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. though it occupied 19. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. in fact her approach is necessarily different. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . p. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. 2000. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. 3. of course. . She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. ‘Where . As can be expected. food as art. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools.007 for the whole city). sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. 5. 3. and indeed of one’s own person. Abarca draws from literary. and indeed of an anthropologist. pp. and vice versa. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. . sazón. So for her. 2.2 per cent of its area. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. At the time of my research in the nineties. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. 4. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81.

15). . Muñoz. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. (1991). The maguey is the source of pulque. and also Coe (1994). p. These are production (economic factors). 328–38). and Muñoz (2000). see Muñoz (2000). as Milpa Alta has. Andrews (1984). market. His own work focuses on production and consumption. even neighbouring. 8. (1996). 38). Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots.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. Also. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. it is called aguamiel. among others. esp. to name a few. Unfortunately.138 • Notes emigrated. America’s First Cuisines (1994). 1997. pp. Martínez (1992). and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. 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. Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. p. community of Mexico City. preparation and consumption. Lomelí. ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine. 9. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. Kennedy (1989. 205). 6. Bayless and Bayless (1987. 96. and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. allocation). and van Rhijn (1993). A comparative study of another group in a different. and it had religious significance during Aztec times. based on household and class. 33– 49. See Long-Solís (1986). distribution (political factors. would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. pp. 3. I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. 459 –84). When unfermented. 7. or honey water. esp. for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print. 2. Villa Milpa Alta.

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

10 –39). especially chapter two on sazón. For a critical discussion of how culinary knowledge is transmitted. corporeal knowledge’ of sazón. But see Sutton (2006). Peter Gow (1989) analyzes the desires for food and sex in the construction of social relations in Amazonian Peru. sin el sazón del amor. Entonces. y debe ser un currículo en las escuelas de cocina. 1966. of course. Lenten. 51). see Sutton (n. 2006) examines food for understanding cultural change. 3. My friend Primy also overturned her bowl to check if the whites were ready.d. which she also describes as a ‘discourse of empowerment’ (2006. knowledge and skill in relation to the topic of culinary knowledge and skill. Beardsworth and Keil (1997. Jonaitis provides an excellent discussion of how the sense of taste has been neglected in ethnographic writing. Chapter 7. semiotic. 17. tal y como es. There are some exceptions. There is much to say about Ingold’s theories of habitus. 2006. 1–19). textual or language-based models to food and cooking. see Fine (1996. 1976). ‘Hay que trasladar la cocina casera a la cocina restaurantera. pp. For a description of how impoverished our language is to describe our experience of flavour. 1989). p.g. Chapter 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice 1. See Vizcarra (2002). which I am unfortunately unable to develop fully here. 19. livelihood.140 • Notes 16. p. Mennell et al. ‘Approaching food without considering taste is like studying a mask without referring to its dance. pero en restaurante. For a detailed overview of the treatment of food in anthropology and sociology. pp. who questions the linear transmission of cooking skill. globalization and local identity in Belize. Imitar las cocinas famosas no sirve. Alicia María González (1986) does not write . 21. see Goody (1982. 18. 162). pp. and Richard Wilk (1999. As I explain in Chapter 2. claro. Deben prepararlos bien de principio. In some communities this is still the case. She suggests. debe utilizar los ingredientes mejores. en vez de tratar de copiar el modelo europeo. 4. For a discussion of cooking without written recipes.. 2. Abarca emphasizes what she calls the ‘sensory logic’ or ‘sensual. Some also base analysis on religious taboo or hierarchy and classification (such as Douglas. In Milpa Alta I have seen women beat their egg whites in plastic bowls and the capeado still worked. 47–70). Babb. Caplan (1997b). see Abarca (2006). 1993) or are more about economic issues and gender than cuisine itself (e.). (1992. which focus interest on cuisine or on eating particular foods for (gastronomical or other) pleasure. como en la casa de la abuela. ‘The Aesthetics of Kitchen Discourse’). Khare. or analyzing a drum without hearing the music it plays’ (Jonaitis. see also Warde (1997). Food-related ethnographies often privilege development issues (e.g.’ 20. I rather prefer to avoid applying metaphorical.

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

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

so the ‘sociality’ produced is of the kind that McCallum (2001) describes. The food product transacted remains the same. 7. Cf. Gell (1996. where he writes of the social meanings behind serving a bad sauce among the Songhay in Niger. as ‘links in chains of personal rather than mechanical causation’ (2000. instead of mole. Nowadays (within the last 20 years). 4. ‘Es una tradición que le va dejando a la nueva generación. 63 – 4). 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). mixiote or barbacoa. Discussed further in Chapter 5. 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. However. 6. . 5. they mutually imply one another (mole ↔ fiesta). 32. see Gomezcésar (1992). Chapter 4).e. Very little material is published on the history of barbacoa in Milpa Alta or elsewhere. He is met not with disapproval. 28. Chapter 1).’ Use of this phrase to describe something seemed to indicate its importance in Milpa Alta society. and the menu rarely varies beyond these three choices. In other parts of Mexico the caul is also called encaje. These dishes are also technically difficult to prepare. See Miller (2002) on expressing love through food shopping. 29. 27. which is used to make mixiote. Aztec children were disciplined by being made to inhale chile smoke as punishment (Coe. Cf. locally reared sheep.Notes • 143 with food portions. 8. 31. pp. 9. Also adobo. 3. See Chapter 5 for an examination of fiesta food. though Bourdieu argues a different point. Recall that going to university is a luxury only recently acquired with the increased economic prosperity in Milpa Alta. but perhaps with some ridicule at times. 26. In a way this seems to echo Simmel. Ingold also considers practical knowledge to be embedded in a social matrix of relations. borregos criollos. As mentioned previously in Chapter 2. If a husband moves into his wife’s house. As explained in Chapter 4. 2. 30. for art. For a clearer understanding of attachment to land. since mole is to fiesta as fiesta is to mole. 24. which literally means lace. 289). Chapter 3 Barbacoa in Milpa Alta 1. i. Stoller (1989. he is often teased for being mandilón (tied to the apron strings) or called ciguamoncli (cf. p. E. 1999b). 25. for barbacoa. many families who hold large celebration banquets serve carnitas.g. 1994.

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

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

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

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

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

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

98. 117 Wilk. 3. 74. 85. 71–85 barbacoa and. Georg. 34 judgement of. 124. 3. 36–7. 99–104 passim. 43–7 passim. 71. 43–4. 125 Vargas. 71–2. 122–7 Sutton. 107. 48. 71. 5. 37. 79. 101. 80. 109 barbacoa. 82–3. Luis. 40. 9. 123 agency and. 114. 108 on learning. 30. 71–8. 33. 48. 85. 14. 4 expectations of. 74. 38–9. 125 Simmel. 43 see also skill tradition. 120 traps. 22. 120. 122. 98 Sahagún. 5. 38–9 as feast food. 6. 15–17. 96. 82. 44. 21. 121 Stephen. 46. 32. 9. 33. 117 angry. 9. 117. 72–3. 2. 46. 84. 58–60. 80. 14. 67 culinary. 75. 98. Lynn. 13–14. 12 sazón. 12–15 and restaurants. Fray Bernardino de. 75. 47. 42 Bourdieu. 52. 120 development of. 75. 83. 71–2. 106 womanhood. 120 women’s. 116. 116. 29–30. 3. 95 street food. 75. 120. 82–3. 30 tamal(es). 45. 14–17. 75 love and. 45. 115 flavour and. 119 sistema de cargos. 89. 40–1. 102. 34. 101. 83 technical mastery. 126 food as. 76. 14. David. 122 economic activity of. 17. 21. 99. 54. 36. 116 . 75. 116 value of. 67. 46. 89. 116. 119–22 work. 85.160 • Index Pilcher. 73. 113. 29. 77 see also motherhood women. 89. 48. 21–2. 45. 53. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. Jeffrey 10. 89. 37. 124 technique(s). 82. 17. 124–7 Mintz. 109 street food. 77–85. 92. 102. 124 power of. 53. 92. 41. 106. 113–14. 98. 13. 123 taste. 102–6 traditional cookery. 41–7 passim. 34. artworks as. 71. See mayordomía skill. 77 as cooks. Richard. 4. 73. 84. 121 roles. 107. 47. 85 cooking and.

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