Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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

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

1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole 5.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. and Corresponding Food Terms 2. Arranged According to Type of Celebration Figures 5.Illustrations Tables 2.2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus 5.1 Feast Food in Milpa Alta. Shown as Families 103 104 34 35 100 – vii – .1 Terminology Employed by Gell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alejandro’s stall had been in the family for three generations. Both Alejandro and Primy would go to the market together as it was always their busiest day. Just before lunch. She placed the heads and pescuezos into separate pails and when she finished pulling out the panzas. otherwise the meat would fail to cook properly. My ability to enjoy their food. she waited for Alejandro to come and reach into the oven for the tub of drippings. It was time to stack the oven. The two women pulled out a square of canvas filled with sand to shroud the cover. no cooking film was necessary and no water was added for the consomé. Their second son was still too young to accompany them. When all the meat was properly arranged. Primy lit the pit-oven with firewood.10 Already they took their 7-year-old son with them to sell. Then we left the barbacoa to stew in its own juices all night. Primy lay the caul on top to cover all the meat so the fat could drip down as it melted and keep the meat moist. la pura brasa. Sunday: Sacando la carne (Taking Out the Meat) At five in the morning I was awakened for the final stage of preparing barbacoa. now full of consomé. that both of their sons would maintain it when they came of age. With this she ignited the wood and left it to burn while we ate. On a Sunday the children considered this to be a special treat. or at least hoped.62 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to eat. but he told me that he was dying to go. separating the meat into plastic crates lined with wax paper and the toasted maguey pencas from the oven. and he and his wife expected. Finally. Alejandro sold meat. Primy and Doña Margarita did this in the same order as in stacking the perol. and therefore understand the flavours. la carne sancochada. while Primy made and sold tacos and consomé and also usually acted as cashier. we unloaded the meat. She filled the cavity with dry logs.m. Then we checked the oven. Afterward. more toasted pencas were lain. It was 5. an old cover and empty basins were arranged on the edges to secure it and weigh it down. They loaded everything into the back of their truck and by 5.30 a. made me seem less foreign to them and more easily assimilated. Primy was already unloading everything. only this time the sides of the oven were lined with pencas.m. they were on their way to their barbacoa stall in a market near the centre of Mexico City. and by now the logs were reduced to red-hot embers. Each panza is placed individually in the centre of a toasted penca. Primy showed me how to wrap the panzas in pencas of maguey to protect them from burning as they cook. She picked the meat from between the neck bones . heads and panzas by the kilo.30 p. which had been pre-cooking in the perol for a few hours. They spread the sand evenly to block any cracks so that absolutely no steam escaped the oven. and with old newspaper she grabbed a fistful of tallow that she collected every week from the meat. Last. The sides are folded inward and the lot is tied with string with the edges turned in so that none of the panza is exposed. and then they slid the heavy steel cover over the opening.

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

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

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

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

the food preparation is a sensual experience. Food requires ‘decoration’—flavourings or elaborate preparation—just as much as it requires nutrients. and vice versa. Likewise. at first. it seems the beginning of this social transformation. ‘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. it is exemplary of how social behaviour is affected for the sake of concerns over taste and economy. On small scale. references to motherhood seem related to the achievement of better flavours. a craft whose product depends on physical labour. The technical activity of. as special. economic constraints and technical capabilities. it can be thought of as a work of art. although consumers themselves are unable to determine the cause of the difference in taste. Meat preparation can be socialized. Since barbacoa is an elaborately prepared dish.12 A living animal changes from a natural state to a controlled. 52). or at least socially interpreted. Social values and behaviour seem encapsulated in the process of cooking or making barbacoa. as in using the developed uterus for the panza. The function of the elaboration is to mark the dish.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 67 The production of the dish encompasses all aspects of their lives. The goal is to achieve the best possible taste in the most pragmatic way for commercial and gastronomic success. This is why it is a dish typically eaten at special occasions or weekends.’ Gell states. Barbacoa ranks high in the hierarchy of dishes in Mexican cuisine. it can be said that the purpose of eating food is not simply for nourishment. in this case. Barbacoieros feel little or no attachment to the animals they slaughter. So it is tempting. to analyze the preparation of barbacoa as if it illustrates a process of social conversion and acculturation. Making barbacoa is both a source of livelihood and a pursuit of culinary excellence. which is decorated or considered more special or beautiful than other objects/dishes. It was precisely the complexity of the flavours and the preparation which made it more than just meat. the decoration is just as functional as the object itself (1998.13 Even so. motherhood is a well-known value in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The actual flavouring and . The matanza seems more than a slaughter. because preparing barbacoa is not a ritual. The animals are simply a source of meat. the occasion in which it is eaten. Before I met Primy for the first time I had known that barbacoa was difficult and laborious to prepare. that is. the resulting dish is greater than the sum of its parts. however. p. ‘The work of art. As Gell has argued in differentiating between decorated objects and non-decorated objects. although it is by no means the highest. both for men and for women. Because of the technical mastery necessary for its production and the acknowledgement of this virtuosity in its consumption. and therefore creates a social relation between them. 74). barbacoa can be thought of as an artwork within the corpus of Mexican cuisine. As with any work of art. another ingredient. cookery is both a source of prestige from an object (dish) and a source of efficacy in social relations. it is a culinary technique. There is a problem with thinking of it in this way. though. and that it had complex flavours. For barbacoa. p. socially malleable. For example. edible object. which in turn provides a channel for further social relations and influences’ (1996.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mole and Fiestas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. or a lineage of guacamoles. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. for example. Conceived of in this way. This is not accidental. red tomatoes. or different types of barbacoas). such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. 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. of course. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. In Figure 5. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. onions and salt. It has relations with other persons (salsas). an artwork (or salsa. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa.1). and thus forms a lineage.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . Following Gell’s theory of art.2. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. This would be too simplistic and does not illuminate how quite different recipes green chile | pico de gallo (green chile + tomato + onion + salt) | guacamole 1 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado) ┌──────────┴───────────┐ guacamole 2.1 guacamole 2. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles.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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’ she writes. If a woman’s husband dies or abandons her. but which also allow them to achieve social and material ends through complementary action. which is more likely than it would be for a barbacoiera widow to do. cooking is not an activity of performative gender roles per se. as pork or lamb butchers and/ or in another professional job (such as teaching). ‘not only engage in action but are also “acted upon” by the action. she may continue to rely on barbacoa as her means of livelihood. This occurs unless he remarries. 14 –15.1 The preceding and my discussion in Chapter 4 indicate that cooking is not part of housework as invisible labour. A final observation is that only married men prepare barbacoa. and on women as lovers and mothers. These are the most culinary activities of the whole process. by hiring men to perform the slaughter and disembowelling for her (the ‘matador’ already mentioned). They are not necessarily causally linked. But though cooking is embodied and gender is embodied (McCallum. Women and men have roles and expectations which seem to dictate the limits of their behaviour. as providers. housework and caring for children. as well as extradomestic labour (such as selling .’ Practices form types of social relations and also form the actors who engage in them (1986. some hire women to help them with the salsas and anything else that their wives would have normally done. In this way. 2001). Perhaps he needs the support of a wife’s loving touch to produce salsas for a successfully flavourful barbacoa. When widowers do continue with their businesses. As my material on Milpa Alta shows. Ingold. It must be reiterated that the wife’s basic role in preparing barbacoa is to prepare the salsas and the panza. The production of barbacoa provides a good example of what Munn refers to as ‘intersubjectivity’. Since one of women’s domestic roles is to be a cook.116 • Culinary Art and Anthropology wife. cf. which is represented by the preparation of salsas/chile/flavour. but (previously married) women without husbands are also able to prepare barbacoa. as a loving dimension of women’s (house)work. it is not accidental that women are expected to perform these tasks. ‘[A]gents. What is less common is for a man to continue to prepare barbacoa without his wife. as individuals or groups. I was told that generally a barbacoiero widower’s business does not flourish the way it did when his wife was alive. The cuisine is a material embodiment of a woman’s role in the family. as a sexual partner for her husband and as a mother and nurturer for the next generation. good cooking can lead to the development of a ‘traditional’ cuisine as much as the production of social relations. but it is a creative task based on culinary agency and skill. 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. For women it includes cooking. women are related as much to men as wives (or lovers) and mothers as they are related to the preparation of food. Culinary creativity can therefore be seen as the outcome of quotidian domesticity and the social dynamics of men and women. It is said that only then does his business regain similar success as with his late wife. pp. 2000). on the value placed upon the home. For men this includes working in the fields.

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

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

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

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

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

as Gow argues. especially the chile. I would agree. 82.122 • Culinary Art and Anthropology papaya. Jiménez. non-euphemistic. Eating out in Milpa Alta is uncommon. whether foods or genital organs. with some pride. panocha (crude sugar). If these metaphors appear unsystematic. A few Milpaltenses told me. culinary way. Local Milpaltenses go home for their meals. for native people have standard. On the other hand. 1991. 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. partly because of the belief that food prepared at home is better. 202). or mondongo (a dish made of tripe. 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. and is explicitly related to eating and flavour. Having established that the values and virtues of women are materialized in home cooking. but at the level of desire. Though not specifically . The significance of albur is that food. p. names for the genitalia. continuously draws attention to the metaphoric relationship between oral and sexual desire. tacos or tamales. more generally and among women. Rather. with love) has connotations of being tastier and better for you (nutritionally and socially) than food prepared commercially. (1989. even random. Home Cooking and Street Food I have already explained at length that food prepared at home (i. ejote (young corn on the cob) and zanahoria (carrot. 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. or. Daily Meals. rather than that between food objects and genitals as objects. Some other food metaphors for the penis are longaniza (a type of sausage). explicitly relating it to sex. that is because they are not used in an alternate discourse to encode another arbitrary symbolic structure. 201). pescado (fish). The use of food metaphors in joking. I was told that eating out in the street indicates that the women of the house are lazy (‘son fodongas’ ). that there are only two restaurants in Villa Milpa Alta. These restaurants serve comida casera. and they cater mainly to outsiders (from Mexico City) who work in the municipality rather than to locals. too lazy to prepare a meal at home. … these metaphors are not structured simply by direct reference to the objects themselves. pp. The use of foods as metaphors for the genitals occurs only in joking.. if they really wish to eat out. 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. camote (sweet potato).e. is subject to linguistic and conceptual manipulation by men. they travel to the centre of Mexico City. homestyle food. mamey (a type of fruit). p. the chile is manipulated in another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grated or shredded cheese . 2. sliced radish.5. Tortillas can be thick or thin. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. lime.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. avocados. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. 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. long or short. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. salsa. The rough. large or small. and patting out by hand. 1. grinding it to a soft dough. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). Tostadas are also eaten on their own. beans and corn tortillas. masa. pressing out with a tortilla press. This is usually served with white rice. pinched side is smeared with melted lard.5.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. 2. onions and cream.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine. onions.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. topped with a variety of different things. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. a front and a back. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side.

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

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

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

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

.3 above. 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. and sometimes avocado and lime. Note: This rice should be dry. Sometimes.3 Enfrijoladas See 3. 5. soaked in hot water. salsa. corn kernels. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked. • Stir well and allow to cook. • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. It should not be soft and milky like risotto. Add to rice. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). often eaten on its own with salsa on the side.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4.2. with separate grains. drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion. usually served as a first or second course. 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. It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas. then lower the heat to a very low flame. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice. • Add coriander. Add salt to taste. chopped 1 clove garlic. if you wish. Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well. peas. rather it should be more like pilau.

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

The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – .102 for Milpa Alta and 8. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. As can be expected. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. 3. of course. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. 318). pp. Abarca draws from literary. and vice versa. . in fact her approach is necessarily different. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. 21–2). 3. 5.489.5 per cent was inhabited. p. 4. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. In my case. and indeed of one’s own person. ‘Where . 2. food as art. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. sazón. though it occupied 19. At the time of my research in the nineties. 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.Notes Introduction 1. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. 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.007 for the whole city). . 2000. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81.2 per cent of its area. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. So for her. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. and indeed of an anthropologist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. 54. 119–22 work. David. 30. 101. 75. 117 angry. 120 development of. 116. 17. 120 traps. 74. 102. 120 women’s. 12 sazón. 43 see also skill tradition. 84. 52. 72–3. 84. 46. 73. 116. 80. 9. 75 love and. 121 roles. 34 judgement of. 22. 85 cooking and. 123 taste. 2.160 • Index Pilcher. 98. 71. 30 tamal(es). 21. 75. 122 economic activity of. 9. 58–60. 82. 29–30. 123 agency and. 116 . 75. 3. 36–7. 5. 21–2. 33. 14. 37. 43–4. 108 on learning. 4. 41. 99. 115 flavour and. 85. 45. 5. 13–14. 33. 67. 67 culinary. 77 see also motherhood women. 116. 95 street food. 117. 106 womanhood. 98 Sahagún. 85. Richard. 36. 82. 124 technique(s). 120. Lynn. 12–15 and restaurants. 37. 106. 89. 32. 124. 73. 102–6 traditional cookery. 48. 71–85 barbacoa and. 71. 53. 119 sistema de cargos. 126 food as. 29. 76. 17. 89. 34. 71–8. 47. 83 technical mastery. 43–7 passim. 122–7 Sutton. 101. 21. 92. 124 power of. 40. 48. Jeffrey 10. 99–104 passim. 41–7 passim. 75. 77 as cooks. 122. 48. 4 expectations of. 71–2. 125 Simmel. 114. 113. 102. 3. Georg. 3. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 71–2. 46. 75. 107. 46. 79. 34. 14–17. 9. 107. 6. 98. 74. 44. 116 value of. 47. 89. 77–85. Fray Bernardino de. 42 Bourdieu. 96. 14. 15–17. 92. 121 Stephen. 82–3. 53. 113–14. 109 street food. 45. 71. 38–9 as feast food. 124–7 Mintz. Luis. 98. 13. 85. 82–3. 89. See mayordomía skill. 117 Wilk. 120. 38–9. 109 barbacoa. 83. 45. artworks as. 80. 40–1. 125 Vargas.

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