Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

than if they simply pleased those who were doing the cooking and eating’ (1996. But his interest is in comparative analysis over a broad historical. Instead. albeit lightly. by locating their interpretation only at the ‘deeper’ level. 40). Mintz encourages anthropologists to study food in its social context as a ‘cuisine’. Counihan and van Esterik. discussed further below. not only in food studies (e. Wiessner and Schiefenhövel.30 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and Kaplan. which are deemed of higher theoretical relevance. In fact. 1999. The distinction between art and craft is a question of skill. arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially.4 In other words. and not food as a means of defining what else it can be used for in the social order (e. 1997.3 The topic of food in anthropology has historically been subsumed into these other areas and contexts. Macbeth. or were ceremonialized. Yet thinking of a cook/chef as an artist. it is considered to be subjective and too personal for scrutiny. Lentz.g.5 Gell observes that ‘the neglect of art in modern social anthropology is necessary and intentional. There is a growing trend to consider the everyday. It is what matters most immediately to us when we eat and is difficult to isolate as a subaspect of food. he supports the observation and study of cooking at the domestic level. anthropologists are not used to thinking of it as art. Whilst we may subconsciously appreciate very good food as superior craft. baffled him. However. 3). Without the consideration of such related areas. which is largely a matter of privileging the ‘symbolic’ at the expense of the more immediately communicable dimensions of social action … a neglect of the ‘surface’ in favour of the ‘depths’. like aesthetics. 1998) but also more generally in anthropology and sociology (see Highmore. (p. it has flavour and the taste is important to the people who eat and cook the foods. see Sutton. Lupton. In Goody’s (1982) analysis of hierarchy and the development of elaborate cuisines. using this label without questioning its meaning. Yet it cannot be denied that whether food is discussed in ritual or quotidian occasions. 1998. The same could be said about flavour in food. sex and sacrifice. 25) Strangely enough. 1935). 1997. the artistic aspect of food production has often been ignored in favour of its shock value. stating that there is a tendency to spirit away the more concrete aspects of human life. 1996). comparison and contrast within and between cuisines lacks an essential dimension. 2002). Malinowski. is a connection that is so easily made in societies where most anthropologists come from. as Sidney Mintz put it. p. especially in areas as closely tied to the whole domestic domain as that of cooking. perhaps because. or.g. analysing cooking in its domestic quotidian context is as important as studying food in ritual contexts. . taste in terms of flavour seems to be particularly resistant to sociological analysis. food and eating ‘were more interesting [to anthropologists] if they offended the observer.. anti-art’ (1996. p. he discusses ‘the art of cooking’. even food. constitutionally. 1996. little is written about cooking as a form of art. especially from the perspective of the anthropology of art.

describe Mexican culinary mastery as analogous to the control required to manipulate poetic language or magic. if you wish—or a socially developed system which is employed in the preparation of foods for consumption.6 Nevertheless. He argues for the need to contextualize social theory in ‘the total process of production. Although I do not contest the analytical advantages of a structural framework. meaning can be said to effectuate behaviors of certain kinds. therefore. ‘[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.7 Goody (1982) and Mintz (1979) each insist that meaning (in food) is salient beyond the immediate place and time of its production and consumption. It is the active element in food preparation. While it is true that Mexican eating habits can be placed into classifications and then encoded. 1982. Some cookery writers. fully trapped under some kind of gastronomic spell. . 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. that is. combined with the fact that raw materials need to be bought or collected from different places and then prepared and combined well. 2). to talk about a body of knowledge—a culinary corpus or art corpus. 30). there is no ‘language of food’ which can be learnt via a grammar of eating habits or cooking techniques. an example from my fieldwork is helpful. myself. p. which are powerful enough to lead to social changes in other levels in the matrix of cultural forms. ‘Because people act in terms of understood meanings. It makes more sense. As Sidney Mintz says. It allows women to change their social spaces and thereby expand their social network outside of the home.8 an artistic approach may provide greater scope for an analysis of an elaborate cuisine. 30). to this ‘enchantment’. At least from my findings in Mexican cuisine. And power and meaning are always connected’ (1996. The communicative aspects of cooking and eating lie in the meanings that actors (or agents. I was interested in learning the ‘language of chiles’ that I had been led to expect existed from reading Mexican cookbooks. both professional cooks and women in Milpa Alta. To illustrate this point. 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. I was surprised to find that real Mexican people. yet in his own work he neglected the aspect of preparation. that make good food meaningful and thus give cooks greater social value. p. Furthermore. 1999b). simply did not have a clue about what I was getting at when I talked about culinary manipulations of chiles and other foodstuffs. preparation and consumption of food’ ( p. both cooks and eaters) place in the food within their social context. within the constraints of a cook’s daily life. the creative activity. within the complex of intentionalities that Gell talks about in his work (1998. hence power. Having succumbed. like the Mexican.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 31 political and economic framework. When I first went to Mexico. The active agency of art is the conveyor or mediator of social meanings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. Mexicans do not believe that they are eating’. there are no cinemas.’ Good food means good flavours. good food fixes the eater’s mind to the cook (or host). the logic of love and lovers symbolically makes street food an illicit delight. In Milpa Alta.’ This appears to contradict the value placed on home cooking. theatres or any other public venue of entertainment other than the market. both men and her children (Melhuus. Also. Mexican street food is another highly valued part of Mexican cuisine and is also considered to be flavourful. by extension. 1992). and its nutritive benefits are secondary. The preceding discussion should help as a guideline for thinking about the social processes which revolve around food preparation and food sharing. We can say that the flavour performs a sensory trick which makes the eater believe that he is attached to the maker of the food. Rather than being fed. and one of my informants also spontaneously told me the same: ‘Sin chile no come uno. Chile is equivalent to salsa. these dishes are considered to have the best flavour. the efforts of her labours (her cooking) are also highly valued. It is also expressed in the importance and the forcefulness of hospitality in Mexico (or in Milpa Alta. or ingredients which are grown or bred on local land. For all meals in general. 5 and 6). but in fact. In Mexico. and in many ways this depends on women (good cooks) who make good sauces. flavour. for there to be salsa.31 In particular. beans. food that is thought of as ‘very Mexican’ are usually dishes which use autochthonous utensils or ingredients. makes eating tacos in the market a major source of fun: ‘La mayor diversión es ir a comer tacos en el mercado. Munn. I describe in Chapter 4 how in Mexico the ideal relationship between a man and a woman is that between husband and wife. the culinary matrix of intentionalities involves the planes of social organizations such as the mayordomía and compadrazgo. If it has superior flavour. This. What I hope to have conveyed here now is the idea that flavour is actually the most functional aspect of food. it is not enough for the food to provide nutrition and to be edible. Since women’s virtue and moral value are also attached to her ability to suffer for her loved ones. one is eating a meal prepared by someone caring or is eating a meal with particular social significance. that is. It is also important for it to be palatable. which results directly from the culinary mastery that a skilful cook possesses. vegetables. because it lies within another social dimension of family eating (see Chapter 6). in . I was told. the ideal food is a meal cooked by a woman (wife and mother) for her husband and children. highly valued. elaborate sauce (mole) rather than a regular salsa. which is also equivalent to mole (see Chapter 5).46 • Culinary Art and Anthropology why salsas are the most important part of a Mexican meal.30 This is why a special occasion meal is served with a flavourful. meat). and also the family sphere which is based on love (discussed further in chapters 4.29 A famous quote is: ‘Without chile. 1986).32 In a way. There must be a salsa or at least some chile on the table for people to enjoy their food (tortillas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. DeVault writes. such as when they hire domestic helpers. Delphy. 1979. Women are the key actors in the culinary system. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5). p. is how women’s skills. The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta. 1997. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. it can lead to women’s subordination (e. 1991. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. they can also mobilize the agency of others. 142). Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. 1988. Murcott. they argue. Ekström. p. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework. Crucially. The root of the problem. 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 – . are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. home cooking is considered women’s work. 1983).g. McIntosh and Zey. 1998.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. Beardsworth and Keil. which include cooking and other domestic tasks. 47). inevitably play a subordinate role to men. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. their husbands.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. as wives.

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

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

but expected. 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. one way that they stretch their boundaries is in pursuit of culinary ideals. Abarca. women are not quite as confined to the domestic sphere as it might appear. Primy mentioned that it was because I walk very fast. and I set off without stopping. Many women go to great lengths to collect the right foods for the dishes they wish to prepare. licuado or other snack bought on the street or in the market. boil and grind more maize (nixtamal ). 2001). 1999.74 • Culinary Art and Anthropology convincing critique of the kitchen as a site of female oppression (see also André. Rogers. Suárez and Bonfil. Though they live with some social restrictions. One of the secrets of Mexican (and any good) cooking is having top-quality ingredients at hand. When I accompanied one or another friend or acquaintance on a visit to the market. much work in Latin America and elsewhere dismantles the notion of women being in a rigid oppressive condition (e. 1975. Roseman.10 Thus. women do not need to be accompanied. 1986.g. almost daily trips to the market or to different shops for fresh ingredients. In Milpa Alta. women’s independence and the dynamism of relationships between individuals of both or either gender. or between staying home and being out in the streets.. they are not imprisoned in their kitchens or completely engulfed in household chores (cf. They go to particular vendors or even other towns. 2006. I observed that for women who are interested in cooking well. Melhuus and Stølen. among others). 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. 1994. their everyday lives are not necessarily limited. she needed someone to go to the tortillería to buy some prepared masa so that we would not have to soak. 1996. Johnsson. because I had done exactly as I was told—go to the tortillería and come back. because Doña Margarita told me not to take too long.9 This is not only acceptable. I offered to go instead of Primy or one of the children. Sometimes we would detour for an ice cream. Fowler-Salamini and Vaughan. whereas they are usually chaperoned for social outings. Only then did I understand the joke (evidently based on truth) that men ask (usually single young) women at what time they are supposed to go out to buy bread every day. but I suspect that it was more unusual not to spend more time chatting with passersby on every outing. . taco. In Milpa Alta it is normal to make frequent. Working hard in the pursuit of flavour encourages a malleable boundary between domestic and extradomestic spaces. Even in cases where women appear to be subservient to their husbands (‘Es él que manda’). When I returned to the house. which would take too long. Trips to the market are as much a social event for exchanging news and gossip as for stocking up the larder. Williams. For culinary errands. I was surprised at her surprise at how quickly I had been. By stressing complementarity between the sexes. Since unmarried daughters in the family are often asked to buy fresh bread in the evenings for supper. 1985). 2004. Once when Doña Margarita was making tamales and her dough came out a little too thin.

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

and my findings in Milpa Alta agree. Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulfilment for women regardless of social class. In fact. and a man needs a woman to bear children. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. 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. Economic considerations play a significant role in women’s activities. Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). boasting that he could look after himself on his own. García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main defining characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. 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. but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. especially their daughters. 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. Yet. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife. Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children. Work. pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance. Early one morning. neither the desire for a professional extradomestic career nor the desire to remain home to raise children (and cook and clean) are ‘natural’ for women. García and Oliveira demonstrate. it is often necessary for working-class women to work extradomestically to supplement the family income. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social significance of cooking within marriage. married men depend on their wives.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!’). Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work. Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. ‘¿Entonces. he replied. that motherhood does not actually stop women from taking on extradomestic work. At this most basic level.

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

and since her sons always helped her at home. Women’s suffering came up in conversation in a surprisingly casual manner. p. If he does beat her. she never felt the desire to have a daughter. even if he never has given her reason to believe he really will). Domestic violence rarely results in separation. but it was because I had done something to deserve it. con esos estoy contenta’). In fact. Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal When Yadira’s first child was born. 20). her husband may beat her (or at least she fears that he might. there were few divorces and separations in Milpa Alta (though there were other reasons for this as well. Suffering. An elderly lady told me that her husband was a womanizer and a drunk. then stayed a bit to help out with his chores. Then she added. por conocer que una como mujer sufre. Some cases cited in their volume indicate a certain complicity among women. Girls grow up to have difficult lives.78 • Culinary Art and Anthropology fields to take him a hot lunch. though I have no hard facts to prove it. (Villareal. but apart from those occasions. as well as resistance. she told me. better not [to have a daughter]. They can take an active role in modifying their social spaces. at the time of fieldwork. ‘It was better. that women have the tendency to attach virtue to suffering. Mexico. y gracias a Dios. mejor. and thanks to God. ‘Neither the fact that women often comply with practices that subordinate them nor the fact that they resist the exercise of such practices can be understood in terms of the exclusively repressive view of power common in women’s studies’ (p. Melhuus and Stølen (1996) argue that gender ideology is in constant flux. Dios me ha dado dos hijos. who had two sons. They write. 195) A similar kind of dynamic exists in Milpa Alta. which was now composed of only boys. as I mention below). but actively use the ideals of cooking and motherhood to avoid forcing direct confrontation. Villareal’s case study clearly demonstrates that women are not passive. she replied that at first she had not thought about it. ya no. as did the topic of physical abuse. and probably in other parts of Mexico as well. she suffers through it. which undermines the power of the accepted gender imagery. God gave me two sons. 1996. Melhuus (1992) suggests in her study of Toluca. since the girls had married out. she explained. he only hit me once or twice. he never hit me!’ Some people spoke so openly about wife-beating that I was led to believe it was commonplace. knowing how a woman suffers. She then added. she cried because the child was a girl. She proudly showed her sewing and embroidery to her visitors. The greatest form of suffering for a married . with them I am happy’ (‘Ni. yet it continues to organize and perform functions in society. I was also told that if a woman fails to cook or clean. The idea of keeping their household in ‘good order’ was often conveyed. but he never hit her. if she had wanted a daughter. Socorro bragged quietly about how she cooked for her family. When I asked Doña Delfina. ‘No. They do not necessarily succumb submissively to the dominant discourse.

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

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

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

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

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

Abarca (2006. 1996. in the way taught by generations of women who nourished their families as wives and mothers. 31–2) also notes that in some ways the factory-made tortillas were more of a burden than a blessing to rural women because of their need to earn money to buy them. pp. pp. or. Before wide industrialization and the spread of mechanical tortillerías. pp. which eventually led to the development of an elaborate cuisine. The tasting of freedom was linked to the tasting of food. cooking was one significant way around it. Then. it is as a provider of sex and food that women’s power becomes evident. then. an elaborate cuisine is not simply a creative escape valve for otherwise restricted women. 100–6). In effect. in the case of Mexico. 1998). Mexican women used to spend up to a third of their waking hours making tortillas (pp. dishes. 106–10). 1998. To summarize. (Mintz. therefore. forms of autonomy. by a wife or a mother. While it is arguable that women’s subordination was exacerbated by the demands of the kitchen. put another way. by recognizing that cooking is active and creative. Although women’s socially acceptable spaces may have appeared limited. Both sex and food lead to the continuance (and reproduction) of individuals as well as of society. p. Gradually. culinary or otherwise. Ideally food is cooked at home. The elaborate cuisine was not the restrictive factor of their lives per se. A woman should be able to satisfy her husband both sexually and gastronomically. 99–121). but could not themselves duplicate’ (47–8). gives women the legitimacy to expand their social and physical boundaries. women were left with more time and energy to devote to other activities. machine-made tortillas gained acceptance (Pilcher.15 With the tortillas sorted out. she is in control over these two fundamental . and because the cooks actually invented a cuisine that the masters could vaunt. 80–1). At the same time. the dependence on flavour. or as being social actors in their own right. and it can even be thought of as a means toward women’s liberation. there was resistance to machine-made tortillas. both because the master class became dependent on its cooks. as works of art (Gell. pp. 1994). this was specifically the demands of making fresh tortillas (see Pilcher. an idea also formulated by Mintz: ‘[W]orking in the emergence of cuisine legitimized status distinctions within slavery. 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. 37) As I describe for Milpa Alta. morality and domestic power and may even help them to trap a husband.84 • Culinary Art and Anthropology around before freedom itself was. or a devotion to culinary works of art. because machines produced inferior flavours and quality in comparison to handmade tortillas (Marroni de Velázquez. It is a license for social action in the pursuit of technical or culinary artistry. Looking more closely at cuisine and the social relations surrounding its production can be illuminating. with technological advances and political changes as women entered the extradomestic labour force. its outcome (food. 1998. recipes) should be thought of as having social agency.

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

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

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

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

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Mole and Fiestas

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

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

They are organized by the socio-political institution called the mayordomía or ‘el sistema de cargos’. These parcels of food are also given to compadres when they cannot attend a fiesta. even if it is not always easy. If compadres cannot attend. People used to be named after the saints on whose day they were born. 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.Mole and Fiestas • 91 In the realm of the family fiesta cycle. thereby continuing to nourish the social relationship despite their absence. Since San Mateo is a barrio of the pueblo Villa Milpa Alta. According to the Catholic calendar introduced by the Spanish. although this is not the norm. The fiesta del pueblo and the mayordomía In Milpa Alta every barrio and pueblo is named after a Catholic saint. material or physical aid that is asked of them. compadres assist in preparing the fiestas and are also the most honoured guests. Town or barrio fiestas are a combination of feasts. We can say that the Spaniards ‘baptized’ each town with a new Catholic name. 1988). As will be discussed in greater detail in this chapter. Throughout Mexico. it is only called San Mateo. Mayordomos are like human go-betweens amongst the patron saints of the barrios and pueblos. towns may be referred to solely by their indigenous names. taking charge of the ritual visits to other pueblos on their feast day celebrations. On the whole. compadres are expected to visit one another on occasions of special family events and can expect to be welcomed with a mole de fiesta. but nearby pueblos have double names like San Pablo Oztotepec or San Salvador Cuauhtenco. to avoid offense they must let their hosts know in advance. In San Mateo the amounts that each contributed are announced one week after the fiesta. when they leave a fiesta compadres are given extra food to take away with them. The mayordomos. Brandes. each saint corresponds to a certain day in the year. local families are expected to help. one’s birthday is also referred to as one’s saint’s day (el día de su santo). either financially or with their labour. as large sums of money are needed (cf. The names of those who . his or her feast day. most families in Milpa Alta regularly give whatever economic. and for this reason. called an itacate.) Likewise. deserving special treatment. one or more couples (who have married in church) from the barrio/pueblo. The mayordomos go to everyone’s houses collecting donations. the cargo system. For the fiesta del pueblo. barrios and pueblos celebrate their saint’s day with a fiesta. although most pueblos have both Catholic and Náhuatl names. installing a church in honour of that saint in the centre. and it is not unheard of to celebrate both one’s birthday and saint’s day. are responsible for caring for the church. Like the images of saints who ritually visit one another during town fiestas. performances and religious ritual. but they almost always have a Catholic saint’s name as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

Following Gell’s theory of art. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa.1 guacamole 2. or a lineage of guacamoles. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. 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. or different types of barbacoas). which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. onions and salt. for example.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . and thus forms a lineage. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5. Conceived of in this way. Some of these are related to each other. In Figure 5. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. It has relations with other persons (salsas). an artwork (or salsa.2 (green chile + tomato + onion (green chile + tomato + salt + avocado + lime juice) + onion + salt + avocado + pipicha + guajes) | guacamole 3 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves) | guacamole 4 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves + garlic + olive oil) Figure 5.1. This is not accidental. red tomatoes. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe.1). that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree.2. of course. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles.

2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes.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. Shown as Families .

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

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

29). So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. In 2000. Not only because of the costs.000 (£1. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. 91). although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it. as mentioned previously. 687). In addition. it is very expensive). In short. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. 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 . 1991. and on one’s guests. For this reason.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. within the region.. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. 54). and because to a large extent. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. Barbacoa is a luxury food. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. Since mole is feast food par excellence. But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway. for example. the greater its social value.050) for carnitas. but also because of the social values. it cost around Mx$10. i. and Mx$20.400) for barbacoa.. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head. 29). Mx$15. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. p. as far as I know. In effect. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual.e. it can be considered to be in good taste. technically difficult and valuable. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. It is therefore defined as appropriate. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food.’ (p. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. Before then. So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. p. the more an object resists our possession (because. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. 1984. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. . the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta.000 (£1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… these metaphors are not structured simply by direct reference to the objects themselves. especially the chile. Though not specifically . names for the genitalia. continuously draws attention to the metaphoric relationship between oral and sexual desire. explicitly relating it to sex. On the other hand. pescado (fish). 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. p. If these metaphors appear unsystematic. if they really wish to eat out. culinary way. Rather. as Gow argues. Daily Meals. more generally and among women. p. is subject to linguistic and conceptual manipulation by men. the chile is manipulated in another. camote (sweet potato). with some pride. rather than that between food objects and genitals as objects. 82. panocha (crude sugar). A few Milpaltenses told me. partly because of the belief that food prepared at home is better.e. The significance of albur is that food. 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. or mondongo (a dish made of tripe. The use of foods as metaphors for the genitals occurs only in joking. that is because they are not used in an alternate discourse to encode another arbitrary symbolic structure. I was told that eating out in the street indicates that the women of the house are lazy (‘son fodongas’ ). mamey (a type of fruit). that there are only two restaurants in Villa Milpa Alta. non-euphemistic. they travel to the centre of Mexico City. Jiménez. 201). tacos or tamales. and is explicitly related to eating and flavour. 575) Sexual food metaphors may therefore reveal notions about oral and sexual desire— or I would rather say ‘appetite’—and not so much about the relations between specific fruits or vegetables. pp.122 • Culinary Art and Anthropology papaya. even random. for native people have standard. The use of food metaphors in joking. too lazy to prepare a meal at home. Having established that the values and virtues of women are materialized in home cooking. 1991. whether foods or genital organs. homestyle food. These restaurants serve comida casera. Home Cooking and Street Food I have already explained at length that food prepared at home (i. with love) has connotations of being tastier and better for you (nutritionally and socially) than food prepared commercially. or. I would agree. 202).. but at the level of desire. ejote (young corn on the cob) and zanahoria (carrot. (1989. and they cater mainly to outsiders (from Mexico City) who work in the municipality rather than to locals. Some other food metaphors for the penis are longaniza (a type of sausage). Local Milpaltenses go home for their meals. Eating out in Milpa Alta is uncommon. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

roughly chopped 2 small green chiles.1 Salsa roja cruda (Raw Red Salsa) 2 large ripe red tomatoes. as with raw red salsa 1.128 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1 Variations on Salsa 1. In any case. Variations or optional ingredients.1 Guacamole 2 large ripe avocados 1 small tomato. If left chunky. • Mash in a mortar with a pestle or put all in a blender with a little water if necessary. grilled meats or fish. This is a perfect accompaniment for guacamole and tortilla chips as well as for eggs. 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. raw salsas are nice left chunky. finely chopped (optional) salt to taste coriander (cilantro). this is the classic salsa mexicana. finely chopped 1 small green chile (serrano or jalapeño). • The ingredients can be more mashed or liquefied and other ingredients added. Blend to desired consistency.2 Guacamole Raw red salsa with mashed avocado added. or anything. chopped salt to taste • Chop all ingredients and mix well. 1. finely chopped ¼ white onion. cut into pieces ½ medium onion. which is often used to accompany grilled fish or meat or eggs. this is a table salsa. • Fresh.2. finely chopped (optional) lime juice (optional) .

Cook until it changes colour and the flavour changes. Examples follow. marjoram. omelettes or vegetable or fish tortitas (croquettes) are cooked into or served heated in thin. using some of the boiling broth in the blender. black pepper. with soft thin bark. . fresh chiles. Variations are endless. cumin. stuffed chiles. 1. and when the oil begins to smoke. • With dried chiles and spices. to soften them. epazote. Use some of the soaking liquid in the blender. soak them in hot water for a few minutes after roasting. be careful not to let them burn or they will taste bitter. • Add herbs (use one): dried oregano. smooth cooked salsas or caldillos.5 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Other Ingredients Often meat. cinnamon (‘true’ or Ceylon cinnamon sticks. It is not necessary to peel tomatoes or chiles after roasting them. Variations for Cooked Salsa • Add spices (use all): cloves. 1.3 Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) Substitute green husk tomatoes (tomates verdes or tomatillos) for red tomatoes. onions and garlic should be roasted unpeeled until the skin blackens (green tomatoes should have papery husk removed). pour in the liquefied salsa. You may need to add a little water. • Serve as a dip with tortilla chips (totopos) or alongside grilled or fried meat or fish.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 129 • Mash all together with fork. vegetables. and proceed as for raw red salsa. • Boil tomatoes (peel husks off green tomatoes first) and fresh chiles before liquidizing. allspice.4 Cooked Salsa Blend salsa ingredients until fairly smooth. • If using dried chiles. not cassia). chiles. fresh coriander. about 10 to 15 minutes. • Tomatoes. to roll into tacos or use in sandwiches. • Before blending. garlic and spices on a dry griddle. roast tomatoes. 1. Heat oil or lard in a saucepan. as the charred skin contributes a nice smoky flavour. comal or frying pan. onions. • 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.

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

The next morning. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. Many people make thin. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional). Leave them out to dry overnight. chopped coriander and cream. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. dry frying pan or griddle. Before pressing out the tortillas. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall.4. extra-long. . cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. Bake on both sides on a hot comal. Top with cooked salsa.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. chopped onions.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling. and 1 cm thick. cream and grated white cheese. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. thinner and crisper. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. The beans should be encased in masa. grated cheese. 2.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. 2.3. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. 8 cm wide. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. fry them in hot oil till crisp. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. about 10–15 cm long. 2.

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

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

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

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

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

the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold.2 per cent of its area.489. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. 2. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted.Notes Introduction 1. As can be expected. At the time of my research in the nineties. sazón. 3. 4. 2000. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. . and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. In my case. . p. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. though it occupied 19. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. 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.102 for Milpa Alta and 8.007 for the whole city). and vice versa. and indeed of an anthropologist. 21–2). Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. pp. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. in fact her approach is necessarily different. ‘Where . and indeed of one’s own person. So for her. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. of course. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen.5 per cent was inhabited. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . 3. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. Abarca draws from literary. 5. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. 318). food as art. 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.

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

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

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

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

20. Raymond Firth recognizes art in a comparable way. quintessentially social one. It is essentially form. 203). p. it is to destroy it both for oneself and for others’ (Mauss. See Lok (1991) for a discussion of sacrifice and exchange. ‘It is in the nature of food to be shared out. 16. The reason. Wilk (2006) discusses the construction and recuperation of ‘traditional’ cooking and other practices in Belize. They made them breathe it to remove their anger as well (Clendinnen. 19. Abarca (2006. For the general theme of invention of tradition. which. 17. 18. There she raises bees for honey and grows her own wheat. The ancient Aztecs used chile smoke as a punishment for naughty children (Coe. p. see Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). maize. 92–3). In a way. is because ‘the ancestors’ had more contact with food and so their wisdom must be respected. The case of the cook as eater is discussed below. . can one properly speak of art’ (1996. 18). among hunting people. 1990. 57). 1994). via material forms and mechanisms’ (Gell. she explained. p. 1991.142 • Notes victim. p. questioning the dichotomy between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. Cf. when put into practice. hospitality can be thought of as a form of sacrifice. is a complex. which. In a talk at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana on 3 June 1996. the transaction may continue if a customer becomes a regular and then becomes recognized by the vendor as deserving of occasional special favours. Diana Kennedy said that she herself believes in these culinary methods. mushrooms and all types of plants from the whole country. determined by man’s social existence. 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. Not to share it with others is “to kill its essence”. 21. In fact. as having human involvement with the material: ‘Art is a product of human commitment. and of their mutual relationship. in that she has built up an ecologically friendly oasis in her home in Michoacán. 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. 23. That is to say. render superior culinary results. 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. these traps communicate the idea of a nexus of intentionalities between hunters and prey animals. given meaning in human terms by comparative associations. 22. 1999b. with specific regard to the Days of the Dead. 53). but only when the form is mobilized for human purposes. pp. Kennedy’s outlook and attitude toward cuisine is more holistic than many other cookbook writers or culinary investigators.

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

but also by food quality. Most women who worked as domestic help in Milpa Alta were not natives. There are (immoral) actions that can lead to anti-sociality. culinary technical superiority or culinary artistry. McCallum (2001). 5. 3. 4. González Montes (1997). For example. . Puebla and Veracruz. This is an indication that people tend not to make gastronomic compromises. 6. Mole probably ranks as the highest. and not all social relations lead to sociality. Likewise. The doble jornada. I did not know anyone who had live-in domestic help. hierarchical relationships may be useful for effectively pursuing these ideals. however. 11) which is characterized by generosity with food as a central virtue among the Cashinaua of western Amazonia.144 • Notes 10. It may not be the existence of domestic labour (or the existence of hierarchy) as such that leads to the development of cuisine (pace Goody. Note that she describes how men believe that the only responsibility of women to their husbands is ‘dar de comer’. those social relations that lead to sociality may be not only characterized by food generosity. although they do lead to social organization. that they are supposed to stop making barbacoa! 11. McCallum defines sociality as ‘a temporary product of morally correct engagement in social relationships’ (1989. arguably. 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. 12. or ‘double workday’. p. 2. Note that most of their findings were based on white middle-class Americans or Europeans. that is. Gutmann (1996). where they were not only underpaid. but migrants from the poorer states of Oaxaca. González Montes and Tuñón (1997). 1982). See Vizcarra (2002) for a comparable account of women and food in an impoverished community in the State of Mexico. This term has been used to criticize women’s entry into the capitalist labour force. (‘to feed them’). Alternatively. Melhuus and Stølen (1996). I recognize that I tread on the tenuous border between portraying culinary life as simply rosy and lovely and the dire reality of others. but had to do another full day’s work at home for their families or husbands. This does not necessarily mean. but only cases where a woman was hired for a few hours a week or on an occasional basis. Alejandro hoped that one of his sons would become a traffic policeman and Primy hoped they would study medicine. Chapter 4 Women as Culinary Agents 1. 13. But because of the demands of culinary ideals. The works of Ohnuki-Tierney (1993) and Rutter (1993) are examples of studies that deal with more symbolism and the power of specific foodstuffs to incorporate individuals into society.

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

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

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

who are involved in a wider discourse of taste than local Milpaltenses. preparing the food for their husbands to sell. They discourage non-Milpaltenses from buying property in the municipality by keeping the prices high. 8. Self-critical members of Milpa Alta society pointed out that their attitude to land is also envidioso. His data on Mexico emphasize cooking as part of women’s role and link cooking and eating with the relationship between husband and wife. 81. 9. 5. . His study is a comparative analysis of gender segregation in Mexico and Spain. but if a Milpaltense is interested in the land. Taggart (1992) also describes a link between eating and sex in his analysis of the Sierra Nahuat. 87). or at least did not share their income with their husbands. through frequent repetition. they reduce the price considerably (see Flores Aguilar. Their income was mainly used for their children and school fees. In a study of seven countries in Africa and Asia. A woman and a man eating together in public would make a Sierra Nahuat uncomfortable because it would suggest the unleashing of powerful and potentially destructive human emotions’ (p. which he bases on early childhood relationships with parents. 1992). Here I would also classify cookbook writers. In these cases. because of the links between Nahuat conceptions of eating and sex. Women vendors were often in polygamous unions or unmarried and were the primary earners in the family. 6. ‘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. Tinker (1987) shows that in four countries street food vendors were usually middle-aged women (32 to 41 years old). women still often contributed their labour from home. emphasis added). Where vendors were mostly men. As mentioned in Chapter 4. p. See Woodburn (1998) for a view which refutes the idea of (food) sharing as exchange. 7. persuade villagers to live according to prevailing contractual norms’ (1988.148 • Notes pervade all of social life and. there were religious or customary reasons for this.

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

Jeffrey 10. 121 Stephen. 33. 73. 117 Wilk. 43 see also skill tradition. 29–30. 67 culinary. 82–3. 41. 38–9 as feast food. 89. 123 agency and. 116 . 44. 124–7 Mintz. 14. 84. 119 sistema de cargos. 14–17. 75. 3. artworks as. 48. 21–2. 77 see also motherhood women. 82. 116. 36. 77 as cooks. 120 development of. 17. 119–22 work. 3. 15–17. 71. 73. 41–7 passim. 77–85. 101. 117 angry. 74. 17. 120. 102. Georg. 98. 75. 6. 107. 82–3. 76. 83 technical mastery. 46. 120. 43–7 passim. 80. 109 street food. 85 cooking and. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 96. 71–2. 89. 85. 120 women’s. 85. 4 expectations of. 38–9. 116. 124. 92. Richard. 71–85 barbacoa and. 58–60. 120 traps. 43–4. 14. 113–14. 5. 3. 45. 101. 34. 85. 80. 107. 74. 123 taste. 89. 124 technique(s). 99–104 passim. 114. 13. 40–1. 116 value of. 71–2. 106. 108 on learning. 109 barbacoa. 92. 121 roles. 79. 9. 83. 126 food as. 72–3. 75. 12 sazón. 46. 116. Fray Bernardino de. 52. 122–7 Sutton. 46. 71. 48. 102. 95 street food. 5. 122. Luis. 13–14. 98. 48. 99. 2. 53. 106 womanhood. 98. 9. See mayordomía skill. 37. 42 Bourdieu. 21. 29. 47. 9. 30 tamal(es). 124 power of. 21. 4. 22. 67. 12–15 and restaurants. 98 Sahagún. 34 judgement of. 45. 33. 37. 32.160 • Index Pilcher. 84. 71–8. 75. 117. 125 Vargas. 45. 102–6 traditional cookery. 53. 113. 71. 82. 122 economic activity of. 30. 36–7. 40. 89. 14. 54. 34. David. Lynn. 75 love and. 115 flavour and. 125 Simmel. 47. 75.

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