Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

2.1'20972—dc22 2008017019 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Cookery—Social aspects—Mexico—Milpa Alta. Includes bibliographical references and index. USA Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd. p. Angel Court. Title. OX4 1AW. Oxford. TX716. Berg is the imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd. Cookery. Joy. Culinary art and anthropology / Joy Adapon. 3. I. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) 1. Madison. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) Typeset by Apex CoVantage. 81 St Clements Street. UK 175 Fifth Avenue. NY 10010. WI. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berg.First published in 2008 by Berg Editorial offices: 1st Floor. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Adapon.M4A35 2008 394. USA © Joy Adapon 2008 All rights reserved.bergpublishers. Food habits—Mexico—Milpa Alta. King’s Lynn www. 4. cm. Cookery—Mexico—Milpa . Mexican. New York.

How to Achieve a Perfect capeado 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice Food and Culinary Art in Anthropology Gell’s Theory of Art A Meal as an Object of Art On Edibility. DF Organization of the book 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine The Cultural Significance of Chiles The Range of Mexican Foods Home Cooking by Profession Cooking Tradition On Learning Techniques Food and Love Recipes Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato. How to Peel chiles poblanos. Hospitality and Exchange Flavour and Value Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Barbacoa in Milpa Alta Eating barbacoa Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta The Process of Preparing barbacoa in Barrio San Mateo. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traditions are the ‘habits and values [of a culture that are transmitted] from one generation to another’ (p. . the food of the pueblo or of the market. 138). they often talked about Mexican food. squash blossoms. and of the new and exciting Mexican cookery that was emerging. This was set up by a group of women who were distinguished chefs or otherwise specialists in Mexican culinary culture. 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. 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. in spite of their support of experimentation and fusion. Ricardo’s work slots into this movement. the greatest interest amongst young student chefs was in studying traditional Mexican cookery. Whether they were specialists of French cuisine or California cooking. As a nationalistic reaction to foreign influences on Mexican food. which included international cooking skills and culinary history among other subjects. was formed in Mexico City.15 Etymologically. The cooking schools in Mexico City were growing. and an awareness that their cuisines are unique. still under way. of the pueblos. some of whom had trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris or the Culinary Institute of America in New York. but it is now also served in posh restaurants serving nueva cocina mexicana.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 13 is made from the products of the milpa.13 Long and Vargas (2005.14 Hountondji (1983) reminds us that the root word of ‘tradition’ is the Latin word tradere. that is. the herb epazote. of recuperating and renovating (or even reinventing) ‘traditional’ foods and practices. 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). directly related to the growing interest in reclaiming a sense of what is Mexican. green beans. which may seem very personal and ephemeral. they still had great appreciation for what they sometimes called the ‘simple’ food. In relation to gastronomy and flavours. flavourful. This soup is home cooking (comida casera). dough for making tortillas. poblano chiles and sometimes nopales. and huitlacoche (corn fungus). However. courgettes. 139). Moreover. and more and more books were being published about ‘real’ Mexican food. then. with fresh maize kernels. The soup may be thickened with masa (nixtamal ). culinary traditions were self-consciously being revived (p. p. which implies movement. 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. traditions should not be thought of as static or frozen in the past. I had considerable contact with professional chefs in Mexico City. There were many more Mexican food festivals aimed at wealthy urban mestizos than ever before. and it was even possible to obtain a university degree in gastronomy. recovering the recipes of their grandparents. something to be proud of. In the 1990s professional cookery had become as fashionable and prestigious as it was in the USA and UK. to transmit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lentz. analysing cooking in its domestic quotidian context is as important as studying food in ritual contexts. he discusses ‘the art of cooking’. 1997. constitutionally. In Goody’s (1982) analysis of hierarchy and the development of elaborate cuisines. like aesthetics. 3). 1996.4 In other words.5 Gell observes that ‘the neglect of art in modern social anthropology is necessary and intentional. . Counihan and van Esterik. or were ceremonialized. food and eating ‘were more interesting [to anthropologists] if they offended the observer. 1997. Instead. baffled him. 1998) but also more generally in anthropology and sociology (see Highmore. 1999. 40). comparison and contrast within and between cuisines lacks an essential dimension. Yet it cannot be denied that whether food is discussed in ritual or quotidian occasions.g. 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’. not only in food studies (e. 25) Strangely enough. Whilst we may subconsciously appreciate very good food as superior craft. as Sidney Mintz put it. see Sutton.. There is a growing trend to consider the everyday. 1998. In fact. taste in terms of flavour seems to be particularly resistant to sociological analysis. Macbeth. 2002). Mintz encourages anthropologists to study food in its social context as a ‘cuisine’. sex and sacrifice. the artistic aspect of food production has often been ignored in favour of its shock value.30 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and Kaplan. anthropologists are not used to thinking of it as art. than if they simply pleased those who were doing the cooking and eating’ (1996.3 The topic of food in anthropology has historically been subsumed into these other areas and contexts. But his interest is in comparative analysis over a broad historical. discussed further below. especially from the perspective of the anthropology of art. 1996). p. it is considered to be subjective and too personal for scrutiny. which are deemed of higher theoretical relevance. arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially. Wiessner and Schiefenhövel. Without the consideration of such related areas. It is what matters most immediately to us when we eat and is difficult to isolate as a subaspect of food. especially in areas as closely tied to the whole domestic domain as that of cooking. Malinowski.g. p. The distinction between art and craft is a question of skill. even food. (p. anti-art’ (1996. he supports the observation and study of cooking at the domestic level. is a connection that is so easily made in societies where most anthropologists come from. by locating their interpretation only at the ‘deeper’ level. little is written about cooking as a form of art. Lupton. The same could be said about flavour in food. Yet thinking of a cook/chef as an artist. albeit lightly. and not food as a means of defining what else it can be used for in the social order (e. or. 1935). However. using this label without questioning its meaning. perhaps because. stating that there is a tendency to spirit away the more concrete aspects of human life. it has flavour and the taste is important to the people who eat and cook the foods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a cook or chef. yet it can be reproduced ad infinitum. the eating of it makes it disappear. 1990. In one sense. rather than self-consciously ‘invents’. With this perspective. its true possession can be thought of as possession of the know-how to be able to reproduce it (to know how to cook). as Gell has described (1996). It also is inapplicable to the anonymous cook who cooks ‘traditional’ foods. and therefore it can never be truly owned. does not really make an eater the ‘owner’ of that dish. or its reproduction may depend on the actions of a specific cook. But this is only a perspective among many possible ways of interpreting this situation. once the dish is produced. the cook prepares food to the taste of the eater/customer. A heightened awareness of artistic or culinary expertise does not in itself constitute possession or ownership of the work. pp. opening an exchange relationship by offering food to a guest or family member likewise opens the possibility for reciprocity in some form (Mauss. Munn. The possession of food-as-art seems to take the form of having eaten it. Food selling is a social activity. and perhaps also having the possibility (or controlling this possibility) of eating it again. 80–1). we can think of food as both a work of art as well as an object of exchange. Possession is a more complex issue because the dish can be reproduced. but it does not carry the fundamental persuasiveness of food giving. for example. and this can in turn affect the kind of product that the cook produces (eater-A→cook-P). even temporarily. As the outcome of a recipe. or at least to know where to go in order to reproduce it (to know how or where or with whom to eat). an index of . and who solely produces these dishes within the family sphere (cook-A→food-P). Parallel to this. either. Not only this. so the agency actually lies with the customer. Now the final problematic issue to explain is its possession. remains the owner of that dish (cook-A→recipe-P). with his name labelling the cuisine he produces. food hospitality consists of ‘unfinished business’ which is the essence of the endurance of social relations (Gell. The fact that most women in the community know how to prepare similar dishes following similar recipes (with the same ‘index’). but it may not necessarily be reproducible in exactly the same way or in the same context. 1986). therefore. nor is it like the intellectual possession of a famous painting beyond a consumer’s (financial) capacity to take it home and own it. 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). Perhaps it is also possible to say that the ‘inventor’ of a dish. it can never truly be completely consumed. Possession of food-as-art is not anything like the possession of an object which sits on the mantelpiece for personal admiration. which provides the cook with an agency that contains the powerful potential to demand social reciprocity.23 Also. 1998.42 • Culinary Art and Anthropology transaction begins and ends there. makes it seem ludicrous to try to pinpoint any ‘owner’ of a dish. Having eaten something once or twice. On two levels. and having enjoyed it very much. or within the same transactive nexus. We remember once more that as soon as the supply of the food is depleted it can be constantly renewed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. that motherhood does not actually stop women from taking on extradomestic work. and my findings in Milpa Alta agree. especially their daughters. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social significance of cooking within marriage. García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main defining characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulfilment for women regardless of social class. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. it is often necessary for working-class women to work extradomestically to supplement the family income. married men depend on their wives. Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). he replied. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work. García and Oliveira demonstrate. ‘¿Entonces. 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. At this most basic level. In fact. Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. boasting that he could look after himself on his own. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife. Yet. 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. Work. pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. Early one morning. 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. to pursue more education so that they would have better chances of finding work should they be deserted by their husbands in future and be left to look after children on their own. and a man needs a woman to bear children.76 • Culinary Art and Anthropology teased his cousin Kiko that he could do nothing without his wife: ‘¡Ni sabe calentar tortillas!’ (‘He doesn’t even know how to heat up tortillas!’). Economic considerations play a significant role in women’s activities. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination.

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

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

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

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

I hinted at the coerciveness of Milpaltense hospitality in Chapter 2 and discuss it further in the next chapter. he had to fulfill his duties as a husband by eating what she had so lovingly cooked. or a second family. It was also Doña Marta’s subtle way of insisting that her husband recognize his sexual obligations to her. saying that he must be hungry since he was home so late. 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. real or imagined. whatever the time. In retaliation. since it is the norm for the wife to move to the husband’s house. so that people will not speak ill of her. On the much rarer occasion of a woman telling me that her husband had had an affair. She had already suspected it when he would repeatedly come home after midnight without letting her know of his plans to stay out late. 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. As a dutiful wife. A woman who acts ‘stupidly’ is just ‘stupid’ because she allows her husband to do as he pleases and does not complain so that her marriage appears intact. he was unable to refuse the meal. the man appears to be acting güey. and she would insist that he have his comida. regardless of the eater’s true hunger. as he ought to do since it was served to him. she would take advantage of her right to demand her husband’s ‘respect’ and full sexual attention. in effect. Inversely. to keep up appearances. Since she had fulfilled her duties as a wife by cooking for him. since he had already eaten a full meal with his lover. by enforcing his gastronomical obligations to eat her home-cooked meals. He allows her to dominate. she would wait until he got home. 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. Although it may not necessarily be the case that his wife dominates over him or that she has an extramarital lover. she either couched the story in terms of woman’s suffering or told me of her little revenge. Men and women are conceived of as having differing motivations for lenience over the sexual behaviour of their spouses. She would rush to the kitchen to warm up the food and would purposely give him large servings. When he failed to return home to eat. but her relatives and neighbours told her she simply had to accept that he was a man and that is how men were. it frustrated her. often cooking his favourites or requests for his comida. if she was not stupid ( pendeja) and was overly concerned with others’ opinions.Women as Culinary Agents • 81 may be teased by others as a ciguamoncli or ciguamoncle. As one . both extramarital or premarital. she prepared proper meals for him every day. as in the following anecdote: Doña Marta told me of her jealousy when she discovered that her husband had a lover. Although he would have been very full and quite tired. A woman who acts tonta does so because she is pendeja.’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 with love magic cooked in to ensnare a man or keep him at home. 202. Home cooking is not only the ideal food. Although a single woman having an affair with a married man ought to be looked down upon. they would even leave their lovers. who suffer for the sake of husbands.82 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Mexican saying goes. una sola vez se llama’ (‘To the table or to bed. because people you care about will eat the meal’ (2006. to be in love means submission to men or society’s rules (at least in appearance). This is . with the sazón de amor of a talented cook who loves her husband and her children. Home cooking is always concerned with quality. 2006). she may still be respected in her own way. The intimacy of these social relationships makes home cooking the best—somehow construed to be the highest in prestige. Well-prepared and delicious food is food cooked ‘with 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. in multiple ways. As Wilk describes it. For this reason they are willing to suffer and to work twice as hard as their husbands. it is ideally also the most flavourful. The same does not apply for men. Among those women who have extramarital lovers. She generalized that for men. original emphasis). from the venerated role they play in the family.14 Good women suffer for love of their husbands. Being able to blame themselves for some unpleasant aspects of domestic life indicates that women can be powerful and autonomous agents. in Milpa Alta. and by extension the greater social sphere. Women. They run the family. epitomized in the mother-child bond. a married woman having an affair is usually scolded by her female friends and relatives. p. Abarca. Yadira said that they prefer to leave their lovers before they are found out. and they also cook for love. you must come when you are bid’). Women’s power is drawn from the domestic realm. are portrayed as the ideal providers of sex and food. Although not common. they support as well as benefit and depend upon their family and children. As Lulú and Yadira often said. ‘Metaphorically. Otherwise. though interpretations may vary. to be in love means sex. in sum. women are the hub of the family. divorce and single motherhood is worse than having or being an extramarital lover. if her married lover acknowledges her (and their children) and thus demands her respect. 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. Therefore. in order to protect their virtuous image in the eyes of their children. On the other hand. They can provide for family needs through nurture as well as by wage-earning work. and for women. They are ready to make great sacrifices for the sake of their children. children and culinary ideals. ‘A la mesa y a la cama. home cooking means a cuisine grounded in familiar shared history and in common knowledge of places and people. the most important point to note is that many women do feel that they are responsible for themselves as well as for their families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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. an artwork (or salsa. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. Following Gell’s theory of art. Conceived of in this way.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. This is not accidental. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. of course. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles. red tomatoes. onions and salt. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles.2. 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 2.1 guacamole 2. or different types of barbacoas). for example. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. It has relations with other persons (salsas). but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa. and thus forms a lineage. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5.1). Some of these are related to each other.1. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. In Figure 5. or a lineage of guacamoles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

avocados. pressing out with a tortilla press.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. beans and corn tortillas.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. pinched side is smeared with melted lard. grated or shredded cheese . 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). Tostadas are also eaten on their own. lime.5. masa. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. The rough. and patting out by hand. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. Tortillas can be thick or thin. 2. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. 2. large or small.5. 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. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side. topped with a variety of different things. sliced radish. a front and a back. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas. onions. This is usually served with white rice. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. salsa. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. grinding it to a soft dough. onions and cream. long or short. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. 1.

Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. Top with cooked salsa. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. and 1 cm thick. chopped onions. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. Many people make thin. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. 8 cm wide. 2. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. Before pressing out the tortillas. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. about 10–15 cm long. 2. . chopped coriander and cream.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling. The next morning. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans.3. extra-long. fry them in hot oil till crisp. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. The beans should be encased in masa. Leave them out to dry overnight. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. 2. grated cheese.4.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. cream and grated white cheese. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. thinner and crisper.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. dry frying pan or griddle. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. Bake on both sides on a hot comal. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional).

Then pass it through the hot oil to soften it a bit and make it pliable. • Sprinkle with chopped onions and grated cheese. as for chilaquiles shredded boiled chicken.2 Enchiladas corn tortillas thin cooked salsa. sliced into very thin wedges. Arrange rolls side by side. 3. and put on toppings and side dishes before serving.2.1 For Enchiladas suizas Use green salsa.132 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Strain into hot oil. pork or beef filet (milanesa) fried crumbled Mexican longaniza (sausage) shredded boiled chicken frijoles refritos (refried beans. • One by one. fry and cook the salsa with epazote. place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre and roll into a cylinder. • Toss the tortilla chips in the hot salsa. queso fresco. see below) bolillos or teleras (crusty white bread roll) 3. 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. . Arrange in ovenproof dish and bake till heated through and cheese has melted. When they are well coated. lay tortillas on a plate or ovenproof serving dish. shredded chicken and yellow melting cheese and drizzle over crema espesa or sour cream. dip each tortilla in the pan of hot salsa and pass it through to quickly coat it. • One by one. pork or beef or boiled potatoes chopped white onions grated cheese • Heat 1 cm oil in a frying pan beside the pan where the salsa is cooking. place on plates. Typical Toppings white onion. rings or half-rings shredded or crumbled white cheese (queso oaxaqueño.

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

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

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

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

her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. 318).Notes Introduction 1. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – .489. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. . 5. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. So for her. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. In my case. Abarca draws from literary. food as art. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997.2 per cent of its area.5 per cent was inhabited. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. At the time of my research in the nineties. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. 21–2). Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. 4. ‘Where . pp. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. 3. of course. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. though it occupied 19. in fact her approach is necessarily different. 2. sazón.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. 2000. As can be expected. and vice versa. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. 3. p. Abarca (2006) takes a political and feminist standpoint to analyze the same topics of food in Mexico that had also struck me as most important—namely. Sutton (2006) also discusses how acquiring cooking skill is a matter of learning bodily habit memory and not simply following a simple set of rules.007 for the whole city). . and indeed of an anthropologist. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. and indeed of one’s own person.

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

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

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

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

‘It is in the nature of food to be shared out. see Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). which. is a complex. 19. Abarca (2006. hospitality can be thought of as a form of sacrifice. Wilk (2006) discusses the construction and recuperation of ‘traditional’ cooking and other practices in Belize. determined by man’s social existence. Diana Kennedy said that she herself believes in these culinary methods. 18. the transaction may continue if a customer becomes a regular and then becomes recognized by the vendor as deserving of occasional special favours. among hunting people. For the general theme of invention of tradition. 1991. can one properly speak of art’ (1996. p. and of their mutual relationship. 1990. p. 23. The reason. In a talk at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana on 3 June 1996. See Lok (1991) for a discussion of sacrifice and exchange. quintessentially social one. is because ‘the ancestors’ had more contact with food and so their wisdom must be respected. It is essentially form. In a way. 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. when put into practice. 21. in that she has built up an ecologically friendly oasis in her home in Michoacán. There she raises bees for honey and grows her own wheat. Cf. p. 18). 20. . p. with specific regard to the Days of the Dead. 203). 1999b. 17.142 • Notes victim. That is to say. she explained. Not to share it with others is “to kill its essence”. 1994). it is to destroy it both for oneself and for others’ (Mauss. Kennedy’s outlook and attitude toward cuisine is more holistic than many other cookbook writers or culinary investigators. render superior culinary results. 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. Her love of the art of Mexican cookery eventually led to her greater understanding of and care for environmental issues. questioning the dichotomy between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. but only when the form is mobilized for human purposes. as having human involvement with the material: ‘Art is a product of human commitment. pp. The ancient Aztecs used chile smoke as a punishment for naughty children (Coe. given meaning in human terms by comparative associations. via material forms and mechanisms’ (Gell. these traps communicate the idea of a nexus of intentionalities between hunters and prey animals. Raymond Firth recognizes art in a comparable way. 92–3). They made them breathe it to remove their anger as well (Clendinnen. She said that you must sing to moles in the same way that you must talk to your plants. The case of the cook as eater is discussed below. maize. 57). which. 22. mushrooms and all types of plants from the whole country. 53). In fact. 16.

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

Melhuus and Stølen (1996). where they were not only underpaid. but only cases where a woman was hired for a few hours a week or on an occasional basis. For example. This does not necessarily mean. There are (immoral) actions that can lead to anti-sociality. although they do lead to social organization. and not all social relations lead to sociality. but had to do another full day’s work at home for their families or husbands. 4. McCallum (2001). 12. This term has been used to criticize women’s entry into the capitalist labour force. González Montes and Tuñón (1997). 6. that they are supposed to stop making barbacoa! 11. but migrants from the poorer states of Oaxaca. but also by food quality. Alejandro hoped that one of his sons would become a traffic policeman and Primy hoped they would study medicine. See Vizcarra (2002) for a comparable account of women and food in an impoverished community in the State of Mexico. that is. culinary technical superiority or culinary artistry. 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. or ‘double workday’. Gutmann (1996). 11) which is characterized by generosity with food as a central virtue among the Cashinaua of western Amazonia. Note that she describes how men believe that the only responsibility of women to their husbands is ‘dar de comer’. 3. arguably. The doble jornada. 13. (‘to feed them’). . Note that most of their findings were based on white middle-class Americans or Europeans. hierarchical relationships may be useful for effectively pursuing these ideals. Most women who worked as domestic help in Milpa Alta were not natives. I recognize that I tread on the tenuous border between portraying culinary life as simply rosy and lovely and the dire reality of others. 1982). Mole probably ranks as the highest. Puebla and Veracruz. I did not know anyone who had live-in domestic help. González Montes (1997). McCallum defines sociality as ‘a temporary product of morally correct engagement in social relationships’ (1989.144 • Notes 10. Likewise. however. But because of the demands of culinary ideals. 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. those social relations that lead to sociality may be not only characterized by food generosity. Alternatively. 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. Chapter 4 Women as Culinary Agents 1. This is an indication that people tend not to make gastronomic compromises. p. 5. 2.

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

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

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

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

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

116 value of. 34. 101. 2. 89. 77–85. 48. 71. 120 traps. 85. 37. 9. 117. 99. 36. 30. Luis. 123 taste. 117 Wilk. Lynn. 108 on learning. 3. 38–9 as feast food. 5. 52. 92. 29–30. 21–2. 14. 42 Bourdieu. 80. 122–7 Sutton. 109 street food. 38–9. 83. 120. 17. 124 technique(s). 96. Richard. 82–3. 82–3. 34. Jeffrey 10. 33. 85. 17. 3. 36–7. 107. 75. 98. 95 street food. 54. 99–104 passim. 72–3. 113–14. 71. 116. 102–6 traditional cookery. 113. 76. 107. 121 roles. 109 barbacoa. 71–85 barbacoa and. 77 as cooks. 119–22 work. 102. 15–17. 71–2. 83 technical mastery. 98. 14. 122. 45. 74. David. 116. 4 expectations of. 120 women’s. 75. 79. 46. 30 tamal(es). 82. 84. 47. 117 angry. 71–2. Georg. 21. 45. 74. 3. 9. 45. 12–15 and restaurants. 124. 53. 102. 29. 123 agency and. 120 development of. 75. 5. 73. 71–8. 89. 33. 119 sistema de cargos. Fray Bernardino de. 125 Vargas. 46. 46. 92. 89. 21. 41. See mayordomía skill. 43 see also skill tradition. 9. 75. 37. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 116. 82. 40–1. 12 sazón. 121 Stephen. 84. 67 culinary. 22. 13. 126 food as. 120.160 • Index Pilcher. 47. 75. 122 economic activity of. 116 . 124–7 Mintz. 106. 101. 48. artworks as. 67. 6. 77 see also motherhood women. 44. 53. 13–14. 85. 32. 73. 43–7 passim. 125 Simmel. 106 womanhood. 40. 115 flavour and. 85 cooking and. 14–17. 98. 43–4. 4. 14. 58–60. 34 judgement of. 75 love and. 98 Sahagún. 80. 89. 114. 124 power of. 71. 41–7 passim. 48.

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