Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

Includes bibliographical references and index. Angel Court. Madison. 3.First published in 2008 by Berg Editorial offices: 1st Floor. Mexican. Cookery.com . 4. King’s Lynn www. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Adapon. Food habits—Mexico—Milpa Alta. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) 1.1'20972—dc22 2008017019 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. WI. 2. TX716. NY 10010. Culinary art and anthropology / Joy Adapon. Cookery—Social aspects—Mexico—Milpa Alta. Joy. p.bergpublishers. UK 175 Fifth Avenue. USA Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berg.M4A35 2008 394. Cookery—Mexico—Milpa Alta. Title. I. OX4 1AW. cm. Oxford. 81 St Clements Street. New York. Berg is the imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd. USA © Joy Adapon 2008 All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) Typeset by Apex CoVantage.

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. 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. Milpa Alta Conclusion Recipes 29 29 32 36 39 43 47 49 49 50 54 66 68 vii ix 1 4 5 7 7 8 11 12 15 18 22 3 –v– .Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta. How to 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.

Buñuelos de lujo. Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal Culinary Agency Recipes Huevos a la mexicana. Salsa pasilla—‘la buena’— for Eating barbacoa on Special Occasions at Home. Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo. Chiles and albur Daily Meals. Carnitas Mole and Fiestas Compadrazgo and the mayodomía Hospitality and Food Mole and mole poblano Mole and Celebration The Development of a Tradition Fiesta Food The Presence or Absence of Mole in Fiestas Recipes Tamales de nopales for the Barrio Fiesta. Taco placero. Batter for Coating Fish. Commercial Red Salsa for barbacoa. 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.’ Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela. Home Cooking and Street Food Appetite. 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 .vi • Contents Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa. Barbacoa 4 Women as Culinary Agents The Value of Cooking and Other Work Marriage and Cooking Work. Motherhood and Virtue Suffering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

in the first instance. 1–2). 2003.3 Food-as-art easily rolls off the tongue.4 Food in Mexico is a richly satisfying topic. Goody counts Mexican cuisine among other ‘haute cuisines’ such as those found in China. enriching the cuisine through the sharing of culinary and cultural knowledge. 2005.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’. on food as a form of art. reading cookbooks convinced me that Mexican cooking could be thought of as a form of art. 97–9). 1950–1982). throughout Mexico’s history. so I specifically use the word ‘flavour’. pp. Using Gell’s notion of art as a technical practice highlights the social as well as gastronomic virtuosity that is embodied in skilful cooking. there has been continuous adjustment. 1981. rather than ‘taste’. Mexican cuisine was also considered a particularly fine art in relation to other cuisines. Rather. France. pp. Cowal. If we think of cookery as art. in Jack Goody’s terms. development and innovation of culinary techniques. but what might it mean to take this idea seriously analytically? This study focuses on cooking as a deeply meaningful social activity. The people we study care about the flavour of the food that they eat. Stoller. Approaching cooking as artistic activity is most salient when what is under scrutiny can be defined as an elaborate cuisine. 2006. my aim is to explore how we can use a theory of art to analyze food anthropologically. Turkey and India (Goody. more often throughout this book. is the regional food of peasants and the cooking of exotic foreigners’ (1982. Alfred Gell’s theory of the art nexus is the theoretical basis of this book. a ‘differentiated’ or ‘high’ cuisine (1982. which I prefer to emphasize (see Howes. ‘The imagination at work in the use of local ingredients means that eating is not the domain of the rich in Mexico. Corcuera. from the national standpoint. Flavour has more sensual than sociological connotations. Even before my first visit to Mexico. 1990. or. we recognize the creative skill needed to produce good food. Since then. But by no means entirely. Italy. Culinary tradition here is really peasant food raised to the level of high and sophisticated art’ (Cowal. My concern with Mexico is secondary to this consideration of a cuisine as an art form. pp. Korsmeyer. My discussion of the art of Mexican cooking is based on the gastronomic . What can be inferred from this is that any good cook is a ‘specialist’. Though my analysis is based on ethnographic practice. a ‘high’ cuisine depends on ‘a variety of dishes which are largely the inventions of specialists. From what I read. and that this art was to be found in everyday home cooking rather than in restaurants. 514). Chiles could not be examined without the context of the whole cuisine. For the higher cuisine also incorporates and transforms what. 1990. In fact. for thinking as well as for cooking and eating. 510. new foodstuffs have been introduced and incorporated. Sahagún. I had come to Mexico interested primarily in chiles but found that there was so much more to consider. 1997). 104–5). this is not intended as ethnography of Mexican foodways. 1994. Such a situation is what has existed in Mexico since before the Spanish arrived (see Coe. As he defines it. pp.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 may need two spatulas to turn the chiles without breaking the egg coating. 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.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 27 • With practice. • If you are inexperienced. . though the bottom part will always be a little darker. it is possible! • When frying small chiles and those that do not have a heavy filling. place them on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Yes. though it may be better to turn them by holding the stem. • Once you remove the chiles from the pan. • The batter should cook until it is lightly golden (never brown).

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

30 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and Kaplan. 40). In Goody’s (1982) analysis of hierarchy and the development of elaborate cuisines. 2002). or. as Sidney Mintz put it. little is written about cooking as a form of art. using this label without questioning its meaning. 1996. 1996). it has flavour and the taste is important to the people who eat and cook the foods. Instead. Whilst we may subconsciously appreciate very good food as superior craft. which are deemed of higher theoretical relevance. food and eating ‘were more interesting [to anthropologists] if they offended the observer. p. and not food as a means of defining what else it can be used for in the social order (e. 1935). he supports the observation and study of cooking at the domestic level. even food. Lentz. the artistic aspect of food production has often been ignored in favour of its shock value. The same could be said about flavour in food. In fact.g. But his interest is in comparative analysis over a broad historical. see Sutton.4 In other words. albeit lightly.3 The topic of food in anthropology has historically been subsumed into these other areas and contexts. constitutionally. Without the consideration of such related areas. especially from the perspective of the anthropology of art. by locating their interpretation only at the ‘deeper’ level.. . 1999. baffled him. Yet thinking of a cook/chef as an artist. p. However. (p. Yet it cannot be denied that whether food is discussed in ritual or quotidian occasions. stating that there is a tendency to spirit away the more concrete aspects of human life. discussed further below. The distinction between art and craft is a question of skill. Mintz encourages anthropologists to study food in its social context as a ‘cuisine’. is a connection that is so easily made in societies where most anthropologists come from. comparison and contrast within and between cuisines lacks an essential dimension. or were ceremonialized. like aesthetics. taste in terms of flavour seems to be particularly resistant to sociological analysis. Counihan and van Esterik. 1998) but also more generally in anthropology and sociology (see Highmore. 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’. Lupton. especially in areas as closely tied to the whole domestic domain as that of cooking. not only in food studies (e. sex and sacrifice. arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially. it is considered to be subjective and too personal for scrutiny. anthropologists are not used to thinking of it as art. It is what matters most immediately to us when we eat and is difficult to isolate as a subaspect of food. There is a growing trend to consider the everyday. 25) Strangely enough. than if they simply pleased those who were doing the cooking and eating’ (1996. 1997. Wiessner and Schiefenhövel. Malinowski. anti-art’ (1996.5 Gell observes that ‘the neglect of art in modern social anthropology is necessary and intentional.g. perhaps because. 3). Macbeth. analysing cooking in its domestic quotidian context is as important as studying food in ritual contexts. 1997. he discusses ‘the art of cooking’. 1998.

meaning can be said to effectuate behaviors of certain kinds. At least from my findings in Mexican cuisine. there is no ‘language of food’ which can be learnt via a grammar of eating habits or cooking techniques. Having succumbed. preparation and consumption of food’ ( p. I was interested in learning the ‘language of chiles’ that I had been led to expect existed from reading Mexican cookbooks. 30). The active agency of art is the conveyor or mediator of social meanings. And power and meaning are always connected’ (1996. combined with the fact that raw materials need to be bought or collected from different places and then prepared and combined well. that make good food meaningful and thus give cooks greater social value. ‘Because people act in terms of understood meanings. p. While it is true that Mexican eating habits can be placed into classifications and then encoded. from his topic of enquiry it seems logical to observe ‘the art of cooking’ itself in the context of its social dimensions. fully trapped under some kind of gastronomic spell. Furthermore. simply did not have a clue about what I was getting at when I talked about culinary manipulations of chiles and other foodstuffs. myself. It is the active element in food preparation. hence power. 1999b). I was surprised to find that real Mexican people. 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. 2). He argues for the need to contextualize social theory in ‘the total process of production. both professional cooks and women in Milpa Alta. ‘[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. p. the creative activity.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 31 political and economic framework. within the constraints of a cook’s daily life. 1982.6 Nevertheless. an example from my fieldwork is helpful. When I first went to Mexico. As Sidney Mintz says. to this ‘enchantment’. Although I do not contest the analytical advantages of a structural framework. Some cookery writers. . like the Mexican. both cooks and eaters) place in the food within their social context.8 an artistic approach may provide greater scope for an analysis of an elaborate cuisine. The communicative aspects of cooking and eating lie in the meanings that actors (or agents. within the complex of intentionalities that Gell talks about in his work (1998. 30). to talk about a body of knowledge—a culinary corpus or art corpus. which are powerful enough to lead to social changes in other levels in the matrix of cultural forms.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. It allows women to change their social spaces and thereby expand their social network outside of the home. describe Mexican culinary mastery as analogous to the control required to manipulate poetic language or magic. It makes more sense. that is. To illustrate this point. meaning is temporally extended and extendable. therefore. yet in his own work he neglected the aspect of preparation. if you wish—or a socially developed system which is employed in the preparation of foods for consumption.

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

would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. including art-objects. consumer. meal or dish. the prototype as recipe.10 David Parkin (2006. gastronomic bliss. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. what Gell calls captivation (1998. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. original emphasis). or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. sometimes through art-objects. for instance. The solution to this problem. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects.1). as products of techniques’ (p. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. 68ff). They also are thought of as having higher value. Put very simply for visual art. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. the index as the food. or (eventually) the development of personhood. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. Gell emphasizes action. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. we may think of the artist as cook. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). p. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. in Gell’s terms. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. whether from the position of producer. or both. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. 43. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. and recipient as eater (see Table 2. 43). 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . or made beautiful’ (p. based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). in particular. the artwork is an ‘index’. The agency of the artist. 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. Likewise. 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. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. p.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. therefore. p. sometimes via the index/artwork. produced by an ‘artist’. sometimes directly. upon which/whom agency is exerted.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. become personified and persons become objectified. It is art as an activity. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks.9 Art objects. or as a social actor. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

it contains his or her ‘essence’ or ‘spirit’ by nature of being the product of a cook’s invested and creative labour. 113. and tying this with its artistic nature. although Mauss argues that they are all homologous. original emphasis). p. This is its (the food’s) necessity of having a good flavour and being made with culinary technical mastery. 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. 346) from which its aesthetic and meaning arise. It must also be remembered that when it comes to food and eating. reveals to us. the functional and ‘decorative’ aspect is its flavour. a crucial element of sharing is involved. If we account for that. then it is an extension of a person. as David Howes explains for kula shells. exchanged and displayed’ (1998. This product is then materially ingested by the recipient.20 If it is an object of exchange in a Maussian sense. Recognizing the sensory aspect of food. which is what makes it analogous to a work of art. and in the case of food. these decorations perform an important function. although there is a different quality to commensality that seems not to fit with art ownership and display. but the ownership needs further explanation. 81). which will be reciprocated in some unspecified way at an unspecified time in the other direction (that is.40 • Culinary Art and Anthropology this point: ‘[Decorated objects] are not self-sufficient sources of delight. Abstracting the process of food hospitality ignores another fundamental aspect of food that is offered to others.19 Generally. resulting in a literal communion of persons. then. but vehicles of personhood. 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). . does this mean? The eating of the food implies that the ‘spirit of the gift’ that Mauss describes is ingested as well. for the family or for non-family members who are guests. 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. then we can think of ingesting food as equivalent to the consumption/acceptance/possession of a work of art. that ‘they are no mere “objects” of exchange. They depend on them sometimes gastronomically. Display and food presentation (how it appears on the plate) can be seen as equivalent. It is rather as if they were the agents of their own circulation’ (2003. This is not to say that the decorations are not important. and also sometimes socially. p. This aspect of food giving and receiving implies an element of exchange. Eaters remember who prepares superior flavours in certain dishes and return to those cooks. In hospitality. food is cooked for more than one person. p. it is precisely the communal ingestion of food that ‘releases a tremendous socializing power’ (1994.21 What. from eater to artist). Food has particular physical and sensual qualities which differ from other types of objects which are exchanged. which the eater recognizes (as art) by experiencing its flavour. Following Simmel. But I think that food is not merely an object of exchange in the same sense. in fact. to be owned.

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

Food selling is a social activity. Parallel to this. and perhaps also having the possibility (or controlling this possibility) of eating it again. so the agency actually lies with the customer. As the outcome of a recipe. Munn. Possession of food-as-art is not anything like the possession of an object which sits on the mantelpiece for personal admiration. we can think of food as both a work of art as well as an object of exchange. or at least to know where to go in order to reproduce it (to know how or where or with whom to eat). it can never truly be completely consumed. even temporarily.23 Also. With this perspective. but it may not necessarily be reproducible in exactly the same way or in the same context. makes it seem ludicrous to try to pinpoint any ‘owner’ of a dish. Perhaps it is also possible to say that the ‘inventor’ of a dish. a cook or chef. Possession is a more complex issue because the dish can be reproduced. 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 therefore it can never be truly owned. the cook prepares food to the taste of the eater/customer. The possession of food-as-art seems to take the form of having eaten it. 80–1). as Gell has described (1996). We remember once more that as soon as the supply of the food is depleted it can be constantly renewed. On two levels. 1986). yet it can be reproduced ad infinitum. which provides the cook with an agency that contains the powerful potential to demand social reciprocity. remains the owner of that dish (cook-A→recipe-P).42 • Culinary Art and Anthropology transaction begins and ends there. the eating of it makes it disappear. either. Having eaten something once or twice. A heightened awareness of artistic or culinary expertise does not in itself constitute possession or ownership of the work. does not really make an eater the ‘owner’ of that dish. The fact that most women in the community know how to prepare similar dishes following similar recipes (with the same ‘index’). food hospitality consists of ‘unfinished business’ which is the essence of the endurance of social relations (Gell. with his name labelling the cuisine he produces. Now the final problematic issue to explain is its possession. therefore. rather than self-consciously ‘invents’. or within the same transactive nexus. nor is it like the intellectual possession of a famous painting beyond a consumer’s (financial) capacity to take it home and own it. Not only this. 1990. 1998. It also is inapplicable to the anonymous cook who cooks ‘traditional’ foods. or its reproduction may depend on the actions of a specific cook. opening an exchange relationship by offering food to a guest or family member likewise opens the possibility for reciprocity in some form (Mauss. an index of . once the dish is produced. and having enjoyed it very much. and this can in turn affect the kind of product that the cook produces (eater-A→cook-P). for example. 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). In one sense. pp. but it does not carry the fundamental persuasiveness of food giving. and who solely produces these dishes within the family sphere (cook-A→food-P). But this is only a perspective among many possible ways of interpreting this situation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After singing the mañanitas. [we do]’). My observations in Milpa Alta are comparable.’ Yadira said. Though mayordomos typically ‘reign’ for one to five years in Milpa Alta. standing in for the communities represented by the patron saints. individuals representing family groups engage in long-term. without the fireworks. The fiesta officially starts on the eve of the feast day when several other barrios and pueblos of Milpa Alta. 1977. When they finally do have a church wedding. . and fireworks. Mariachis play throughout the day while people eat. the visiting barrios are hosted by local mayordomos to share in a feast of mole. it is to one’s personal benefit to give to the community. In fact. and they are often ridiculed. indefinite bonds of reciprocity that last a lifetime and beyond. ‘But you have to contribute to continue with the traditions. pero para la fiesta . especially weddings. though they are organized amongst compadres. 1988.6 Stephen (2005) explains how. with the usual accompaniments. especially in the role of mayordomos. they are continually replaced by future mayordomos who maintain the ongoing reciprocal exchange relationships amongst other barrios. a Mexican birthday song. For example. and thus their obligation to provide a wedding feast. 2005). The mayordomía engages in similar long-term contractual exchange relationships with the corresponding mayordomías of neighbouring barrios and pueblos. .92 • Culinary Art and Anthropology did not contribute are also made public. Salles and Valenzuela. As Chelita once said to me. Weddings are also the largest and most important family life cycle celebrations. She also argues that women are critical players in ritual life. Some host their own private banquets during the barrio fiesta. until they have children. amongst Zapotecs in Oaxaca. In compadrazgo. who help in cash or kind. ‘No tenemos para el calzón. closeness and distance in the community among families or pueblos. because they are the ones who prepare the food. . 1997. life cycle rituals are sometimes combined and celebrated together. Stephen. However. Lomnitz. begin to arrive with statues of their patron saints. carnitas or mixiotes. 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. the form and content of community-level celebration has been appropriated into life cycle celebrations. a single mother who washes clothes and does general cleaning for a living. Cata.’ (‘We don’t have enough [money] to buy underwear. bringing their promesas of flowers and music.5 Family events are celebrated in the same way. offering the expected fiesta foods in abundance. but for the fiesta . Sometimes people give more money than they really can afford. Both compadrazgo and the mayordomía are systems that structure social relations. apart from funerals. live bands. Many families eagerly look forward to the fiesta del pueblo. some couples delay their church weddings. it can be held jointly with a baptism (when a baby turns 1 year . and into the night there is dancing. the most important aspect of any fiesta. and nearby Morelos. and also for the sake of comfortable relations and status within the social network (Brandes. barbacoa. . planning and saving money months in advance.

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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. red tomatoes. This is not accidental. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5.2. In Figure 5. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense.1).Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa. Following Gell’s theory of art. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. or a lineage of guacamoles. or different types of barbacoas).1 guacamole 2. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine.1. 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. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles. Conceived of in this way. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. for example. an artwork (or salsa. It has relations with other persons (salsas). of course. onions and salt. and thus forms a lineage.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . Some of these are related to each other. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix.

Shown as Families .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.

This. as individuals. The recipes are separately refined by a collection of individuals who interact with and influence one another. 153) Pinpointing exactly what it is that makes barbacoa like mole. and their significance is crucially affected by the relations which exist between them. A cuisine is actually an ideal example of a ‘distributed object’ as defined by Gell. But my purpose here is not to examine the defining style of what makes one dish Mexican and another not Mexican. 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. 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. but put together the parts make sense as a whole. in essence. and from this. leading to further innovation and growth. The recipes are drawn from their memories. made with chiles and other ingredients). ‘The Artist’s Oeuvre as a Distributed Object’). 235.4/1. Thus. each of the varied recipes which make up a cuisine may develop in its own way. and other members of the same category of artworks. both are salsas. As far as Mexican cuisine is part of Mexican tradition. or they learn them from other individuals in the community. constructed by the efforts of individuals who prepare dishes based on recipes. 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. from the perspective of the present looking back toward all past developments. [A]rtworks are never just singular entities. 166). Each part can be very different from the others. for example. although this quality may not be easily defineable. is not as obvious as the similarity between a basic salsa and a mole (that is. Cooking is activity in two ways. its history (or ‘biography’) can be understood as having come into being by the work of many persons (mostly women) simultaneously in separate households. a cuisine is a collective work. As a distributed object. This quality is what Gell calls ‘style’ (1998. Figure 9. and who are in turn . Traditional cuisines appear to develop as spatio-temporal wholes that change and move forward historically. and somewhat like Levi-Strauss’s culinary triangle/tetrahedron). it is a set made up of many parts. they are members of categories of artworks.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. or even in different households in the same community. one body of cuisine made up of many recipes. It continues to be modified and improved as each cook prepares each meal every day. p. 1998. As a single unit.14 who may have greater skill in using the ‘traditional’ knowledge of the culinary arts. p. spread out over space and time (see Gell. (p. as a physical activity and as a creative activity of continuous innovation. is how all traditional arts develop.Mole and Fiestas • 105 develop at the same time or how similar recipes may develop in different regions. Each part has some quality which defines it as belonging to the whole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

housework and caring for children. 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. as a sexual partner for her husband and as a mother and nurturer for the next generation. it is not accidental that women are expected to perform these tasks. pp. cf. As my material on Milpa Alta shows. The cuisine is a material embodiment of a woman’s role in the family. but (previously married) women without husbands are also able to prepare barbacoa. A final observation is that only married men prepare barbacoa. This occurs unless he remarries. 14 –15.116 • Culinary Art and Anthropology wife. These are the most culinary activities of the whole process. Culinary creativity can therefore be seen as the outcome of quotidian domesticity and the social dynamics of men and women. as providers. as a loving dimension of women’s (house)work. she may continue to rely on barbacoa as her means of livelihood. I was told that generally a barbacoiero widower’s business does not flourish the way it did when his wife was alive. women are related as much to men as wives (or lovers) and mothers as they are related to the preparation of food. 2000). but it is a creative task based on culinary agency and skill.1 The preceding and my discussion in Chapter 4 indicate that cooking is not part of housework as invisible labour. They are not necessarily causally linked. Since one of women’s domestic roles is to be a cook. Ingold. But though cooking is embodied and gender is embodied (McCallum. as pork or lamb butchers and/ or in another professional job (such as teaching). The production of barbacoa provides a good example of what Munn refers to as ‘intersubjectivity’. good cooking can lead to the development of a ‘traditional’ cuisine as much as the production of social relations. It must be reiterated that the wife’s basic role in preparing barbacoa is to prepare the salsas and the panza. What is less common is for a man to continue to prepare barbacoa without his wife. When widowers do continue with their businesses. by hiring men to perform the slaughter and disembowelling for her (the ‘matador’ already mentioned).’ Practices form types of social relations and also form the actors who engage in them (1986. In this way. as well as extradomestic labour (such as selling . which is represented by the preparation of salsas/chile/flavour. as individuals or groups. but which also allow them to achieve social and material ends through complementary action. cooking is not an activity of performative gender roles per se. and on women as lovers and mothers. If a woman’s husband dies or abandons her.’ she writes. Women and men have roles and expectations which seem to dictate the limits of their behaviour. ‘not only engage in action but are also “acted upon” by the action. some hire women to help them with the salsas and anything else that their wives would have normally done. For men this includes working in the fields. Perhaps he needs the support of a wife’s loving touch to produce salsas for a successfully flavourful barbacoa. on the value placed upon the home. which is more likely than it would be for a barbacoiera widow to do. It is said that only then does his business regain similar success as with his late wife. For women it includes cooking. 2001). ‘[A]gents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is usually served with white rice. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas. a front and a back.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. The rough. grated or shredded cheese .1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. pinched side is smeared with melted lard. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. 1. onions. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. topped with a variety of different things. 2.5. 2. sliced radish. salsa. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. and patting out by hand. Tortillas can be thick or thin. lime. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. masa.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. large or small. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH).5. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine. avocados. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side. long or short. onions and cream. 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. beans and corn tortillas. Tostadas are also eaten on their own. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. pressing out with a tortilla press. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. grinding it to a soft dough.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1.

Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional). 2. The next morning. chopped coriander and cream. 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. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. and 1 cm thick. .1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. Many people make thin. The beans should be encased in masa. 2.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. thinner and crisper. fry them in hot oil till crisp.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. about 10–15 cm long. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. Bake on both sides on a hot comal.3. chopped onions. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. grated cheese. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. extra-long. 8 cm wide. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. cream and grated white cheese.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City.4. 2. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. Before pressing out the tortillas. Leave them out to dry overnight. Top with cooked salsa.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.

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

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

heat lard or oil in a frying pan. 4. They are also often served with crumbled white cheese (queso fresco or queso añejo. 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 . • Beans cooked like this go well with any dish with a sauce and are also used to spread into sandwiches made with crusty bread. When it begins to smoke. Optional ingredients to add. 4.1 Frijoles refritos (Refried Beans) • Over a medium flame. 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. most people add a sprig of epazote to the pot toward the end of the cooking time. • You can serve these with scrambled eggs and salsa. some pickled chile and cheese and/or cured or roasted meat to make tortas. • Only then add the beans with some of their broth. Mash them continually in the lard and incorporate the onions until a smooth paste is formed. Stir these and cook them until they are dark brown and almost burnt.134 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • For black beans. Chopped coriander also goes well with any beans. add some sliced white onions. or you can scramble them into eggs.2 Sopa de frijol (Bean Soup) Prepare beans with a lot of water or add chicken or other stock before liquefying them. a slice of avocado.

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

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

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

A comparative study of another group in a different. Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. p. Villa Milpa Alta. even neighbouring. esp. and Muñoz (2000). 459 –84). allocation). For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine. p. 8. Andrews (1984). market. would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. . Bayless and Bayless (1987. see Muñoz (2000). 15). a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print. 9. I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. 6. pp. or honey water. (1996). His own work focuses on production and consumption. 205). Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. Muñoz. community of Mexico City. 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. esp. distribution (political factors. 96. and van Rhijn (1993). and also Coe (1994). pp. (1991). Pulque used to be a common drink in this region.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. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. as Milpa Alta has. and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. Unfortunately. Lomelí. America’s First Cuisines (1994). These are production (economic factors). 2. When unfermented. to name a few. See Long-Solís (1986). The maguey is the source of pulque. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. 33– 49. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. preparation and consumption. Martínez (1992). 328–38). and it had religious significance during Aztec times. Kennedy (1989. 7. based on household and class. 1997.138 • Notes emigrated. it is called aguamiel. Also. 3. among others. 38).

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

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

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

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

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

1982). 13. but also by food quality. 4.144 • Notes 10. but had to do another full day’s work at home for their families or husbands. I recognize that I tread on the tenuous border between portraying culinary life as simply rosy and lovely and the dire reality of others. Likewise. 11) which is characterized by generosity with food as a central virtue among the Cashinaua of western Amazonia. that is. This does not necessarily mean. those social relations that lead to sociality may be not only characterized by food generosity. González Montes (1997). and not all social relations lead to sociality. but migrants from the poorer states of Oaxaca. 5. Note that most of their findings were based on white middle-class Americans or Europeans. This is an indication that people tend not to make gastronomic compromises. See Vizcarra (2002) for a comparable account of women and food in an impoverished community in the State of Mexico. 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. that they are supposed to stop making barbacoa! 11. but only cases where a woman was hired for a few hours a week or on an occasional basis. McCallum defines sociality as ‘a temporary product of morally correct engagement in social relationships’ (1989. Alejandro hoped that one of his sons would become a traffic policeman and Primy hoped they would study medicine. 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. Note that she describes how men believe that the only responsibility of women to their husbands is ‘dar de comer’. 3. Chapter 4 Women as Culinary Agents 1. McCallum (2001). . Gutmann (1996). Puebla and Veracruz. hierarchical relationships may be useful for effectively pursuing these ideals. however. This term has been used to criticize women’s entry into the capitalist labour force. 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. culinary technical superiority or culinary artistry. arguably. 6. 12. There are (immoral) actions that can lead to anti-sociality. where they were not only underpaid. But because of the demands of culinary ideals. Melhuus and Stølen (1996). 2. Mole probably ranks as the highest. The doble jornada. González Montes and Tuñón (1997). For example. Alternatively. although they do lead to social organization. Most women who worked as domestic help in Milpa Alta were not natives. (‘to feed them’). I did not know anyone who had live-in domestic help. p. or ‘double workday’.

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

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

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

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

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

119 sistema de cargos. 75. 114. 99. 34 judgement of. 120. 125 Simmel. 98. Jeffrey 10. 38–9. 95 street food. 48. 101. 84. 89. 124. 75 love and. 107. 98. 117 Wilk. 80. 98. 45. 67 culinary. 92. 116. 74. 46. 79. 33.160 • Index Pilcher. 122. 76. 3. 122–7 Sutton. 54. 71. See mayordomía skill. 29. 72–3. 124 technique(s). 4. 75. 84. 43–7 passim. 48. 40. 14. 83 technical mastery. 71–8. 21. 101. 13–14. 109 barbacoa. 82–3. 45. 123 taste. 71–2. 12 sazón. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 15–17. 125 Vargas. Richard. 67. Lynn. 83. 40–1. 122 economic activity of. 14. 107. 21. 45. 53. 102. 99–104 passim. 120 development of. 74. 82. 89. 89. 92. 38–9 as feast food. 77 as cooks. 12–15 and restaurants. 120 women’s. 71–2. 96. 77 see also motherhood women. 6. 121 roles. 116 value of. 34. 120. 71–85 barbacoa and. 48. 82–3. 106 womanhood. 89. 117 angry. 71. 102–6 traditional cookery. Luis. 82. 119–22 work. 116 . 3. 5. 36. 52. 116. 85 cooking and. 85. 22. 9. 109 street food. 32. 44. 77–85. 116. 123 agency and. 14–17. 75. 9. David. 13. 117. 3. 98 Sahagún. 73. 106. 75. 80. 126 food as. 53. 2. 42 Bourdieu. Georg. 30. 34. 113. 41. 37. 5. 14. 41–7 passim. 47. 73. 30 tamal(es). 58–60. 124 power of. 47. 17. 85. 4 expectations of. 85. 36–7. 17. 9. 121 Stephen. 37. 75. 43–4. 21–2. 33. 46. 43 see also skill tradition. 71. 46. 108 on learning. 29–30. Fray Bernardino de. 120 traps. 124–7 Mintz. 115 flavour and. 113–14. 102. artworks as.

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