Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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.Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta. How to Peel chiles poblanos. Hospitality and Exchange Flavour and Value Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Barbacoa in Milpa Alta Eating barbacoa Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta The Process of Preparing barbacoa in Barrio San Mateo. 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– .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He argues for the need to contextualize social theory in ‘the total process of production. yet in his own work he neglected the aspect of preparation. To illustrate this point. 2). As Sidney Mintz says. preparation and consumption of food’ ( p. 1982.8 an artistic approach may provide greater scope for an analysis of an elaborate cuisine.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 31 political and economic framework. While it is true that Mexican eating habits can be placed into classifications and then encoded. meaning is temporally extended and extendable. meaning can be said to effectuate behaviors of certain kinds. ‘[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. from his topic of enquiry it seems logical to observe ‘the art of cooking’ itself in the context of its social dimensions.6 Nevertheless. combined with the fact that raw materials need to be bought or collected from different places and then prepared and combined well. It makes more sense. the creative activity. Having succumbed. 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. which are powerful enough to lead to social changes in other levels in the matrix of cultural forms. therefore. p. an example from my fieldwork is helpful. . within the complex of intentionalities that Gell talks about in his work (1998. within the constraints of a cook’s daily life. Although I do not contest the analytical advantages of a structural framework. myself. simply did not have a clue about what I was getting at when I talked about culinary manipulations of chiles and other foodstuffs. It is the active element in food preparation. to talk about a body of knowledge—a culinary corpus or art corpus. like the Mexican. if you wish—or a socially developed system which is employed in the preparation of foods for consumption. It allows women to change their social spaces and thereby expand their social network outside of the home. 1999b).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. there is no ‘language of food’ which can be learnt via a grammar of eating habits or cooking techniques. When I first went to Mexico. I was interested in learning the ‘language of chiles’ that I had been led to expect existed from reading Mexican cookbooks. I was surprised to find that real Mexican people. that is. ‘Because people act in terms of understood meanings. p. hence power. both cooks and eaters) place in the food within their social context. The communicative aspects of cooking and eating lie in the meanings that actors (or agents. describe Mexican culinary mastery as analogous to the control required to manipulate poetic language or magic. both professional cooks and women in Milpa Alta. The active agency of art is the conveyor or mediator of social meanings. At least from my findings in Mexican cuisine. 30). to this ‘enchantment’. Furthermore. fully trapped under some kind of gastronomic spell. Some cookery writers. 30). that make good food meaningful and thus give cooks greater social value. And power and meaning are always connected’ (1996.

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

or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. p. Gell uses the simple symbol of an arrow to indicate the direction in which agency is ‘abducted’ or the direction of the flow of agency. as products of techniques’ (p. upon which/whom agency is exerted. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks. what Gell calls captivation (1998. 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. consumer. gastronomic bliss. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. the index as the food. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. in particular. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. Gell emphasizes action. the artwork is an ‘index’. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. They also are thought of as having higher value. the prototype as recipe. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . or (eventually) the development of personhood. It is art as an activity. sometimes through art-objects.10 David Parkin (2006.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. or both. become personified and persons become objectified. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects. 68ff). Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. or made beautiful’ (p.9 Art objects. produced by an ‘artist’. or as a social actor. Likewise. 43). sometimes directly. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. meal or dish. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. 43. we may think of the artist as cook. whether from the position of producer. The agency of the artist. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. sometimes via the index/artwork. for instance. and recipient as eater (see Table 2. original emphasis). p. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. The solution to this problem. including art-objects. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). Put very simply for visual art. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. therefore. p. in Gell’s terms.1). the person or thing depicted in the artwork. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1997. inevitably play a subordinate role to men. 1983). it can lead to women’s subordination (e. which include cooking and other domestic tasks. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. Delphy.g. Crucially. 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 – . Murcott. McIntosh and Zey. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. Beardsworth and Keil. as wives. 1991.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. p. Ekström. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. home cooking is considered women’s work. p. instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr. 142).4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. Women are the key actors in the culinary system. they argue. 1998. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere. Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. is how women’s skills. their husbands. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. 1979. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5). DeVault writes. 1988. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. they can also mobilize the agency of others. The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it. The root of the problem. such as when they hire domestic helpers. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. 47).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

who suffer for the sake of husbands. they would even leave their lovers. home cooking means a cuisine grounded in familiar shared history and in common knowledge of places and people. Therefore. Home cooking is always concerned with quality. On the other hand.14 Good women suffer for love of their husbands. it is ideally also the most flavourful. Otherwise. 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. epitomized in the mother-child bond. Among those women who have extramarital lovers. ‘Metaphorically. For this reason they are willing to suffer and to work twice as hard as their husbands. una sola vez se llama’ (‘To the table or to bed. The same does not apply for men. ‘A la mesa y a la cama. though interpretations may vary. Although not common. original emphasis). Yadira said that they prefer to leave their lovers before they are found out. The intimacy of these social relationships makes home cooking the best—somehow construed to be the highest in prestige. the most important point to note is that many women do feel that they are responsible for themselves as well as for their families. 2006). with the sazón de amor of a talented cook who loves her husband and her children. in multiple ways. Being able to blame themselves for some unpleasant aspects of domestic life indicates that women can be powerful and autonomous agents. Abarca. As Lulú and Yadira often said. because people you care about will eat the meal’ (2006.82 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Mexican saying goes. Well-prepared and delicious food is food cooked ‘with love’. p. 202. divorce and single motherhood is worse than having or being an extramarital lover. children and culinary ideals. She generalized that for men. to be in love means submission to men or society’s rules (at least in appearance). and they also cook for love. and by extension the greater social sphere. Women’s power is drawn from the domestic realm. 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. Women. and for women. are portrayed as the ideal providers of sex and food. you must come when you are bid’). Although a single woman having an affair with a married man ought to be looked down upon. women are the hub of the family. They can provide for family needs through nurture as well as by wage-earning work. they support as well as benefit and depend upon their family and children. if her married lover acknowledges her (and their children) and thus demands her respect. They are ready to make great sacrifices for the sake of their children. in sum. This is . to be in love means sex. As Wilk describes it. a married woman having an affair is usually scolded by her female friends and relatives. from the venerated role they play in the family. in order to protect their virtuous image in the eyes of their children. Home cooking is not only the ideal food. They run the family. in Milpa Alta. she may still be respected in her own way. or with love magic cooked in to ensnare a man or keep him at home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

2. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5. and thus forms a lineage. for example. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. an artwork (or salsa. It has relations with other persons (salsas).2 (green chile + tomato + onion (green chile + tomato + salt + avocado + lime juice) + onion + salt + avocado + pipicha + guajes) | guacamole 3 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves) | guacamole 4 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves + garlic + olive oil) Figure 5. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. In Figure 5. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. Following Gell’s theory of art. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). This is not accidental. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. or different types of barbacoas).1 guacamole 2.1). Conceived of in this way. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. Some of these are related to each other.1.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . or a lineage of guacamoles.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa. onions and salt. 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. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. red tomatoes. of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blend to desired consistency. finely chopped 1 small green chile (serrano or jalapeño). as with raw red salsa 1. • Fresh.128 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1 Variations on Salsa 1.2 Guacamole Raw red salsa with mashed avocado added.1 Salsa roja cruda (Raw Red Salsa) 2 large ripe red tomatoes.1 Guacamole 2 large ripe avocados 1 small tomato. If left chunky. This is a perfect accompaniment for guacamole and tortilla chips as well as for eggs.2. roughly chopped 2 small green chiles. finely chopped (optional) lime juice (optional) . finely chopped (optional) salt to taste coriander (cilantro). which is often used to accompany grilled fish or meat or eggs. finely chopped ¼ white onion. • Mash in a mortar with a pestle or put all in a blender with a little water if necessary. • The ingredients can be more mashed or liquefied and other ingredients added. or anything. cut into pieces ½ medium onion. raw salsas are nice left chunky. grilled meats or fish. Variations or optional ingredients. 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. chopped salt to taste • Chop all ingredients and mix well. this is a table salsa. In any case. this is the classic salsa mexicana. 1.

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

a front and a back. Tortillas can be thick or thin.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote. grinding it to a soft dough.5. This is usually served with white rice. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. 2. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. onions and cream. long or short. avocados. grated or shredded cheese . large or small. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas. 2.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. masa. and patting out by hand. sliced radish.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). salsa. pressing out with a tortilla press. pinched side is smeared with melted lard.5. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. Tostadas are also eaten on their own. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side. 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. The rough.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. 1. onions. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. lime. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. topped with a variety of different things. beans and corn tortillas.

3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. grated cheese.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. Many people make thin. about 10–15 cm long. dry frying pan or griddle.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. cream and grated white cheese. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. 2. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. Top with cooked salsa. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. chopped onions. The next morning. thinner and crisper. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each. . 2. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. and 1 cm thick. fry them in hot oil till crisp.3.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional).The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. Before pressing out the tortillas. chopped coriander and cream.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling.4. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. Bake on both sides on a hot comal. Leave them out to dry overnight. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. The beans should be encased in masa. extra-long. 8 cm wide. 2. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos.

Typical Toppings white onion. dip each tortilla in the pan of hot salsa and pass it through to quickly coat it.1 For Enchiladas suizas Use green salsa. • One by one. . and put on toppings and side dishes before serving. When they are well coated. pork or beef filet (milanesa) fried crumbled Mexican longaniza (sausage) shredded boiled chicken frijoles refritos (refried beans. rings or half-rings shredded or crumbled white cheese (queso oaxaqueño. • Toss the tortilla chips in the hot salsa. see below) bolillos or teleras (crusty white bread roll) 3. 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. • One by one. 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. • Sprinkle with chopped onions and grated cheese. queso fresco. Arrange in ovenproof dish and bake till heated through and cheese has melted. Arrange rolls side by side. lay tortillas on a plate or ovenproof serving dish. fry and cook the salsa with epazote. place on plates. place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre and roll into a cylinder.2 Enchiladas corn tortillas thin cooked salsa. 3.132 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Strain into hot oil. shredded chicken and yellow melting cheese and drizzle over crema espesa or sour cream. sliced into very thin wedges. as for chilaquiles shredded boiled chicken.2. Then pass it through the hot oil to soften it a bit and make it pliable.

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

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

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

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

I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. pp. and indeed of one’s own person.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. 4. and vice versa. Abarca draws from literary. 5. 3. 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. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food.Notes Introduction 1. 3. in fact her approach is necessarily different. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. 2. . food as art. So for her. and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. though it occupied 19. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. sazón. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. of course. . Most of this land was put to agricultural use. 2000.5 per cent was inhabited. 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. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine.007 for the whole city). She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. p. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. ‘Where . Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. As can be expected. In my case. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. 318).489. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. and indeed of an anthropologist. 21–2). At the time of my research in the nineties. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold.2 per cent of its area.

p. America’s First Cuisines (1994). as Milpa Alta has. Andrews (1984). esp. His own work focuses on production and consumption. I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. Martínez (1992). 38). Bayless and Bayless (1987. distribution (political factors. These are production (economic factors). and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. When unfermented. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. 3. and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print. community of Mexico City. and van Rhijn (1993). based on household and class. The maguey is the source of pulque. (1991). 7. p. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. allocation). so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. 96. Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. esp. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. 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. among others. Villa Milpa Alta. A comparative study of another group in a different.138 • Notes emigrated. 9. to name a few. and Muñoz (2000). Lomelí. 328–38). pp. Unfortunately. or honey water. 2. Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. Kennedy (1989. pp. Also. and also Coe (1994). it is called aguamiel. even neighbouring. preparation and consumption. . 205). would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. 15). market. See Long-Solís (1986). 33– 49. 459 –84). and it had religious significance during Aztec times. see Muñoz (2000). or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. 6.7 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. (1996). 1997. 8. For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine. Muñoz.

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

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

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

23. They made them breathe it to remove their anger as well (Clendinnen. it is to destroy it both for oneself and for others’ (Mauss. which. p. p. Diana Kennedy said that she herself believes in these culinary methods. but only when the form is mobilized for human purposes. The reason. See Lok (1991) for a discussion of sacrifice and exchange. is a complex. in that she has built up an ecologically friendly oasis in her home in Michoacán. 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. among hunting people. Kennedy’s outlook and attitude toward cuisine is more holistic than many other cookbook writers or culinary investigators. via material forms and mechanisms’ (Gell. 1991. In a way. is because ‘the ancestors’ had more contact with food and so their wisdom must be respected. 1999b. ‘It is in the nature of food to be shared out. There she raises bees for honey and grows her own wheat. maize. Cf. 1990. determined by man’s social existence. she explained. The case of the cook as eater is discussed below. see Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). as having human involvement with the material: ‘Art is a product of human commitment. In a talk at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana on 3 June 1996. p. 18. That is to say. mushrooms and all types of plants from the whole country. In fact. 19. Raymond Firth recognizes art in a comparable way. which. can one properly speak of art’ (1996. and of their mutual relationship. given meaning in human terms by comparative associations. 203). 20. 18). Abarca (2006. 1994). For the general theme of invention of tradition. Not to share it with others is “to kill its essence”. 92–3). 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. render superior culinary results. pp. when put into practice. The ancient Aztecs used chile smoke as a punishment for naughty children (Coe. Wilk (2006) discusses the construction and recuperation of ‘traditional’ cooking and other practices in Belize. with specific regard to the Days of the Dead. questioning the dichotomy between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. the transaction may continue if a customer becomes a regular and then becomes recognized by the vendor as deserving of occasional special favours. She said that you must sing to moles in the same way that you must talk to your plants. these traps communicate the idea of a nexus of intentionalities between hunters and prey animals. p. hospitality can be thought of as a form of sacrifice. 57). It is essentially form. quintessentially social one. 53). 21. Her love of the art of Mexican cookery eventually led to her greater understanding of and care for environmental issues. . 16. 17. 22.142 • Notes victim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40–1. 76. 119–22 work. 21. 120 traps. 89. 46. 2. 14. 75. 124–7 Mintz. 67 culinary. 46. 45. 72–3. 34. 96. 41–7 passim. 89. artworks as. 67. 85 cooking and. 121 roles. 117 Wilk. 3. 83. 71–2. 77 see also motherhood women. 84. 37. 101. 117. 102. 71. 121 Stephen. 9. 116. 99–104 passim. 53. 13–14. 125 Simmel. 106 womanhood. 6. 83 technical mastery. 71–2. Georg. 79. 29. Richard. 9. 12 sazón. 71–85 barbacoa and. 122–7 Sutton. 113. 116 value of. 73. 108 on learning. 53. 101. 74. 3. 48. 30 tamal(es). 33. 124. 120 women’s. 75 love and. 85. 4 expectations of. 41. 82–3. 123 taste. 82–3. 120. 40. 75. 52. 47. 3. 44. 114. 107. 32. 13. 102–6 traditional cookery. 117 angry. 125 Vargas. 75. Luis. 58–60. 89. 122 economic activity of. 98. 119 sistema de cargos. 89. 109 street food. 38–9 as feast food. 22. 38–9. 95 street food. 14. 9. 84. 80. 34 judgement of. See mayordomía skill. 124 technique(s). 4. 43–4. 74. 77 as cooks. 14–17. 98 Sahagún. 107. 43 see also skill tradition. 116. 82. 77–85. 37. 80. 126 food as. 71–8. 14. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 43–7 passim. 17. Jeffrey 10. 48. 30. 82. 123 agency and. 85. 115 flavour and. 120 development of. 17. 54. 106. 75. Lynn. 92. 21. 71. 109 barbacoa. 33. 34. 71. David. 116 . 113–14. 15–17. Fray Bernardino de. 5. 5. 47.160 • Index Pilcher. 99. 46. 102. 21–2. 12–15 and restaurants. 36–7. 48. 122. 45. 29–30. 120. 42 Bourdieu. 116. 73. 85. 75. 45. 98. 36. 98. 124 power of. 92.

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