Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

he asked Ricardo for advice. where one of his sisters had migrated. and there he took a course on international cookery. For a couple of years he lived in California. This was part of what instigated him to embark on his intense research of what and how people eat and cook in all the pueblos10 of Mexico that he could visit. redefining or refining the cuisine.11 To me it seems he is like a contemporary Sahagún. in his data collection and awe of the foods of Mexico. He had had a relatively affluent urban upbringing. Ricardo became recognized for his knowledge of traditional Mexican cookery. sometimes home cooking is reproduced in restaurants. without the experience of growing up in a pueblo as Ricardo had done. After following these suggestions. To be able to afford to send her seven children to school. he has been actively influencing others to share his appreciation of Mexican gastronomy. What the cooking school taught as Mexican cuisine was nothing like the cuisines that he knew from growing up and living in different regions of Mexico. the resulting sauce was so much better that he called up Ricardo right away to thank him and to ask him how he knew what to do. sopa de flor de calabaza or sopa de milpa. Mexican nouvelle cuisine. An example is a traditional soup from central Mexico known as squash blossom or milpa plantation soup.12 • Culinary Art and Anthropology cook. recommending other cooking tips. discovery or rediscovery of these things. he was attuned to the subtleties and diversity of Mexican regional cooking. watching his mother cook. Dissatisfied with a complex green sauce that he intended to serve with duck. a small local eatery selling popular home-style dishes. Despite his training as a chef that taught him the basics of French cuisine. on such a small scale that they remain local and unknown even in other areas of the country. One friend of Ricardo’s was a chef at a sophisticated Mexico City restaurant serving nueva cocina mexicana. he was continually drawn back to the flavours and culinary cultures of home. Ricardo grew up hanging out in the fonda. ultimately expanding. Cooking Tradition Ricardo is one among many other researchers whose passion for traditional Mexican food inspired an investigation that to some extent is like ‘salvage ethnography’. often shopping for their supplies. He recognized that many delicacies of Mexican gastronomy are wild ingredients or dishes produced only in people’s homes. and with his delicious cooking. The latter suggested adding a bit of this and that. Recording food customs and recipes (lest they fall into disuse) is an active part of cultural revival given that the books where they are recorded influence readers’ activities. ‘I just told you how to make a traditional green mole!’ was Ricardo’s response. By the time he moved to Mexico City as a young adult and began formal culinary training. occasionally lending a hand. then in turn is re-reproduced in people’s homes. she set up a fonda. The soup . and later also his teaching and publications. But even without books.

Traditions are the ‘habits and values [of a culture that are transmitted] from one generation to another’ (p. Ricardo’s work slots into this movement. but it is now also served in posh restaurants serving nueva cocina mexicana. directly related to the growing interest in reclaiming a sense of what is Mexican. I had considerable contact with professional chefs in Mexico City. The number of restaurants in Mexico serving Mexican cuisine has been rising in the past twenty-five years. was formed in Mexico City. the food of the pueblo or of the market. p. flavourful. and the remote (‘authentic’12) recipes of the provincial towns. However. In relation to gastronomy and flavours. the herb epazote. 138). dough for making tortillas. that is. recovering the recipes of their grandparents. Whether they were specialists of French cuisine or California cooking. and huitlacoche (corn fungus). in spite of their support of experimentation and fusion. culinary traditions were self-consciously being revived (p. There were many more Mexican food festivals aimed at wealthy urban mestizos than ever before. This soup is home cooking (comida casera). In the 1990s professional cookery had become as fashionable and prestigious as it was in the USA and UK. 113) trace the initial interest in preserving and promoting ‘traditional’ and fine regional and local Mexican food to 1981 when the Mexican Culinary Circle (Círculo Mexicano de Arte Culinario). which implies movement. squash blossoms. something to be proud of. still under way.14 Hountondji (1983) reminds us that the root word of ‘tradition’ is the Latin word tradere. green beans. they often talked about Mexican food. As a nationalistic reaction to foreign influences on Mexican food. which included international cooking skills and culinary history among other subjects. they still had great appreciation for what they sometimes called the ‘simple’ food. 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. and an awareness that their cuisines are unique.15 Etymologically. traditions should not be thought of as static or frozen in the past. and it was even possible to obtain a university degree in gastronomy.13 Long and Vargas (2005. and of the new and exciting Mexican cookery that was emerging. some of whom had trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris or the Culinary Institute of America in New York. with fresh maize kernels. A great cocktail party could turn into a brilliant party if there were a few dishes of quesadillitas or taquitos (mini quesadillas or tacos) amongst the other hors d’oeuvres.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 13 is made from the products of the milpa. courgettes. and more and more books were being published about ‘real’ Mexican food. Moreover. of the pueblos. The soup may be thickened with masa (nixtamal ). . which may seem very personal and ephemeral. poblano chiles and sometimes nopales. to transmit. of recuperating and renovating (or even reinventing) ‘traditional’ foods and practices. The cooking schools in Mexico City were growing. the greatest interest amongst young student chefs was in studying traditional Mexican cookery. 139). then. This was set up by a group of women who were distinguished chefs or otherwise specialists in Mexican culinary culture.

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

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

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

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

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

Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 19
(Condon and Bennet, 1973, p. 3), possibly the most effusive writer on Mexican cuisine, described it as
the most exalted food ever to appear in the Western Hemisphere, ... it becomes evident, when the glorious plunge is taken, that to cook and eat Mexican food is to celebrate sensuality in every great chamber of this textured, perfumed, delicious, beautiful, and memorable gastronomic antiquity. Mexican food is an aphrodisiac which excites the passion for living. It courts, seduces, ravishes, then cherishes all five senses (as well as the sense of most worthy accomplishment) by treating each as if it existed alone, as if all satisfaction were dependent upon this one sense, while it orchestrates all five into complex permutations of sensation.

Some professional chefs ascribed the source of their success to things other than ‘love’. They talked of having a passion for food, in general, but they were also likely to relate their cooking skills to ‘art’ or to their being ‘professional’. Ricardo says that he cooks with love, and also with passion. Chef Abdiel Cervantes says he is a lover of Mexican cuisine (‘Soy un amante de la cocina mexicana’), and his success is because of his genuine fondness (cariño) for Mexican cuisine. Chefs like Ricardo and Abdiel, who were singled out as specialists in Mexican cuisine, each had profound childhood memories or training that influenced their cooking. They grew up cooking Mexican food, helping their mothers, who sold local food commercially or who often prepared food for large parties. In fact, Abdiel was a self-taught chef who became successful in Mexico City without any formal culinary training. Ricardo tried to explain to me his idea of love when cooking Mexican food: ‘You don’t cook just for the hell of it; there’s something to transmit through the food. It is something very very personal, so hard to explain that the only way to express your feelings is through action.’ He continued, ‘Every single thing you do in the pot, you do because it has a reason.’ When a salsa comes out very hot (muy picosa), the explanation often given is that the cook was angry or that she lacked love. When the salsa is watery, the cook was feeling lethargic, lazy or dispirited ( flojera, sin ánimo, sin amor). As Ricardo always emphasized, the emotional state of mind of the cook is always revealed in the outcome of the cooking. Cooking with love was Ricardo’s favourite topic of discussion. ‘La comida es una verdadera manifestación del amor,’ he said (‘Food is a true manifestation of love).’ He explained that when you truly love someone, not necessarily in a romantic sense, with pleasure you might say, ‘Te voy a cocinar un mole para tu cumpleaños’ (‘I will make you a mole for your birthday’). It is a way to assure your friend that you will provide the best for him or her. Saying, ‘Te voy a cocinarte algo’ (‘I will cook something for you’) means ‘Te quiero mucho’ (‘I love you very much’), but not necessarily in a sexual sense. Ricardo emphasized the Mexican saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, un hombre se enamora por el estómago, or un hombre se conquista por el estómago. A cook invests many hours in preparing food for others, he added (his emphasis). It is a way of expressing how much you

20 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
love someone, because all dishes denoted as special take a very long time to prepare. This is why the time it takes to prepare food is an ‘investment’; it is an investment in the social relationship between the cook and the intended eater(s). Cooking with love combines the pleasure of cooking with the pride of culinary knowledge and the sentiments that are transmitted to the eaters. Several others stressed to me that this personal aspect is vital to understanding Mexican cuisine, both for cooking and for eating. A student of gastronomy told me that her greatest complaint about many publications on Mexican cuisine is that they are recipe books with few explanations. Descriptions of how and why the recipe came about or is used in this way for a particular occasion or in a particular place, or the feelings and choices that are involved in the preparation, or the positioning of the people who are cooking and eating, are all part of Mexican cookery and ought not to be edited out. What Mexican people eat signifies much more than filling their stomachs (Fabiola Alcántara, personal communication). Aída Gabilondo (1986), a Mexican cookbook writer, wrote about the importance of love for good cooking. She recalled the teachings of her mother, who
was a loving cook: no rough stirring or pouring. She insisted that food resented being rudely handled and that finished dishes would show any mistreatment ... Years later when I started teaching cooking in my home town, I remembered her words, and when I wrote a recipe on the blackboard or dictated it to my students, I always ended the list of ingredients with the words, ‘Sal, pimienta, y amor’. Salt, pepper, and love. (p. 5)

Another student of Mexican gastronomy explained to me that Mexican cuisine could never truly be accurately or well transferred to a professional restaurant kitchen. Mexican cuisine requires an emotional investment from the cook, and casual observation reveals that careless cooks produce careless results. ‘Mexican cuisine is very personal, very human. [When cooking] you are always thinking of your family or of the person for whom you’re cooking. When you remove the personal aspect from Mexican cuisine its flavour changes; it cannot be commercialized’ (Ricardo Bonilla, personal communication). One Mexican chef who herself does not specialize in Mexican cuisine says that you need to be born with it in order to cook it properly, to understand and to reproduce it. This is why there are few good Mexican restaurants in Mexico and abroad, she said, ‘because they are just chefs; they learn to reproduce the food—but not from home—without love’. Ricardo Muñoz says, ‘You have to love la tierra [the land]. You have to be involved with the culture.’ In a way, the same can be said if you wish to cook well in any cuisine. You need to care enough to find out about proper techniques, as well as about the history and culture of the dish and the people. The most well-known US chef who specializes in Mexican cooking, Chef Rick Bayless, takes his restaurant staff to Mexico every year so that they can experience the cuisine first-hand. Out of respect for Mexican culture and cuisine, he considers

Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 21
it necessary to stay in touch with the country to be able to better reproduce the traditional cooking back in Chicago. For him, as discussed further below, this attention is how a restaurant can compensate to approximate the love that emanates from home cooking. Bayless was invited as a keynote speaker at a festival of Mexican cuisine held at the Ambrosia cookery school in Mexico City (2 September 1997). His talk was on his ideas about Mexican cuisine and how to ‘translate’ it for use in restaurants outside of Mexico. He said that to properly cook ‘authentic’ Mexican food, it is necessary to cook with the passion, security (confianza) and generous spirit of Mexican cuisine. In his speech, exalting the traditional regional cuisines of Mexico, he also mentioned the impossibility of making real Mexican food in restaurants. The flavours of Mexico cannot be fully achieved unless the human factor is there, but failing that, attention to top-quality ingredients and meticulous workmanship may compensate. He said,
Home cooking must be transferred to the restaurant kitchen, and it must be part of the curriculum in cooking schools, the way it is, instead of trying to copy the European model. It must be prepared properly from the beginning, as it is done in your grandmother’s home; but in restaurants, of course, without the sazón of love. Therefore, the best ingredients must be used. To imitate other more famous cuisines will not do.19

When Bayless mentioned love, he called it a sazón, referring to the impossibility of restaurant chefs having the kind of personal connection to their customers as home cooks have to their families. The word sazón literally means seasoning or flavour but is used to connote a special personal flavour which individual cooks contribute to the food to make it come out well. This word is used to explain why no two cooks ever produce the same flavour, although they may follow the same recipe or were taught to cook by the same person. ‘Cada persona tiene su sazón,’ every person has his own personal touch. Someone can have good sazón or none. ‘Está en la mano,’ it is in the hand, people also say. A person’s sazón is something inexplicable that cannot be learnt but must arise from within, from a person’s heart. It is a talent or knack for cooking, and this particular kind of personal touch that is necessary for good Mexican cooking is love. Both Ricardo and Primy, who makes barbacoa (see Chapter 3), have curiously noticed that when they personally get involved in the cooking, using their hands (mano, sazón), their diners/customers somehow notice the difference. Each told me that when they merely supervise the cooking but do not have direct contact with the food, diners may still think the outcome is very good, but when they are in direct contact, diners sometimes comment on just how good the food turned out that day. The central importance of sazón is examined in depth by Abarca (2006), who considers it to represent a ‘culinary epistemology’. She very accurately describes it as being ‘like a gardener’s green thumb’ (p. 51). The women she interviewed, whom she calls ‘grassroots theorists’, provide several examples where they demonstrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

43). This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. original emphasis). based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). Put very simply for visual art. Likewise. The solution to this problem. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. 43. 68ff). Gell emphasizes action. or both. It is art as an activity. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . the prototype as recipe. produced by an ‘artist’. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. or made beautiful’ (p. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. sometimes through art-objects. p. which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. the artwork is an ‘index’. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. The agency of the artist. They also are thought of as having higher value. become personified and persons become objectified. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. we may think of the artist as cook. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. meal or dish. including art-objects. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. in Gell’s terms. whether from the position of producer. and recipient as eater (see Table 2.10 David Parkin (2006. sometimes via the index/artwork. 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. consumer. gastronomic bliss. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. what Gell calls captivation (1998. sometimes directly. the index as the food. or (eventually) the development of personhood. 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. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. p.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. or as a social actor. upon which/whom agency is exerted. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects.9 Art objects. p. Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. in particular. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. as products of techniques’ (p. for instance.1). or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. therefore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a meal at a restaurant. whereas eating is socially static and self-collapsing. is the opposite of sharing food with others (cook-A→cook-P). 1986. If we think of the things (artworks. this infers that corresponding to the agent (donor) there must be a patient (recipient). how to make tortillas and salsas. a girl is said to be ready for marriage when she demonstrates culinary mastery. Food is exchanged for money. unless one is sharing the food. Simmel perceives of eating as negative and ‘low’). they are material repositories of that person and that person’s intentions. with the expectation of future reciprocity of a similar or different kind (e. If we further accept that these things are extensions of the agent’s personhood. Munn. Food sharing is dynamic and self-extending. The . therefore.’ which transforms the patient’s relationship with the agent. and so. vendor) and a patient (eater. and condition which underlies kula shell exchange between partners’ (1986. the act of sharing is a value-enhancing. there is an immediate exchange between the social actors. there is an agent (cook. just as neglecting to offer food when hospitality is pertinent is considered to be selfish and greedy (envidioso/a). 346). dishes) that a person makes as the products of her agency. ensuring an ongoing relationship which may be based on exchange at another level of social interaction. the act of eating) can be thought of as a negative act (cf. whether it is a special fiesta. Eating food on one’s own.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 41 What the eater also recognizes is the socially meaningful network of intentionalities surrounding the meal. then not sharing (that is. knowing how to cook. conversely. 1994. The skill that the cook reveals through the food likewise reveals other things of social salience.22 Within the corpus of Mexican culinary culture exists a vast subset of street food and market food. shared and distributed to others. original emphasis). Food is shared with specific others as a means of exhibiting respect for an existing or future relationship of reciprocity. p. Munn explains that in Gawa. This is food which follows the logic that it should be prepared for an other. eating what one cooks oneself is antisocial. or the warmth of home cooking.g. So cooking is an inherently social act. customer). Mauss’s time lag). since food transactions are inherently social activities. and thus also ensures community viability. For example. 56. 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. In this case. positive extension of the agent’s ‘spacetime. and as mentioned previously. p. prepared by vendors (señoras) to serve commercially. In this vein I must emphasize that food giving is a basic form of generosity in Milpa Alta. some of which is the same as home cooking. As in food hospitality. which are given. If sharing is a positive act. ‘[T]he shared meal lifts an event of physiological primitivity and inescapable commonality into the sphere of social interaction and thereby suprapersonal meaning’ (Simmel. ‘[T]he exchange of comestibles in hospitality is the dynamic base. though. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily food similarly influences adjustments in behaviour. In the chapter that follows. The success of their cooking affects their relations with the people they are feeding. Women. If we accept that the nature of the art object is defined by its social use (Gell. 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. ideals and relations with men will be explored further. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez green husk tomatoes. a barbacoiero will have greater economic success. women’s labour. which could be thought of as minor works of art or craft. which could later lead to greater social success. I will describe their roles as wives and cooks. On large scale. Before the concentration of barbacoieros and their technical and financial success. Recipes Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa Ma. and how the activities prescribed as appropriate for them. even though there is little time to relax and savour the flavours of their meals. invest measured amounts of time.68 • Culinary Art and Anthropology elaboration is often the responsibility of women. either in small groups or in large fiestas. In particular. barbacoa has affected the community of San Mateo in Milpa Alta. raw green chile de árbol. 1998). If the appropriate pleasurable flavour is achieved in the many parts of the dish. or cooks. As shown in the earlier description of a typical week for barbacoieros. stemmed garlic avocados . San Mateo was like any other barrio of maize farmers among many. but also in celebration and large-scale sharing). effort and money in the everyday production of meals. both with themselves and with one another. since they generally are the ones in charge of the panza and the all-important salsas. San Mateo became special because of a special dish (or a special flavour). women put in much effort and creativity in daily cooking. 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 the technical skills they must acquire. affect the way they socialize with others. 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. More customers will buy the product for their own consumption as well as to share with others.

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

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

Women are the key actors in the culinary system. 47). DeVault writes. such as when they hire domestic helpers. McIntosh and Zey. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. home cooking is considered women’s work. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. Separating the act of cooking or providing a meal for the family from the ‘love and personality’ of the one who provides it (usually the wife/mother) is in contradiction – 71 – . Crucially. it can lead to women’s subordination (e. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta. inevitably play a subordinate role to men. p. Ekström. Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. Delphy. their husbands. Murcott. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5). as wives. they argue.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. p. The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it. The root of the problem. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. 1988.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. 1997. is how women’s skills. Beardsworth and Keil. 1979. 1998. they can also mobilize the agency of others. 142). 1983). instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. which include cooking and other domestic tasks. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. 1991.g.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mole and Fiestas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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 .

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

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

So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. the more an object resists our possession (because. and Mx$20.e. In addition. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head. for example. In 2000. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta. Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high. as far as I know. . For this reason. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. In short.. 687). this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet.400) for barbacoa. but also because of the social values. Mx$15.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. Before then. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. 1984. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. It is therefore defined as appropriate. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. as mentioned previously. 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 . and on one’s guests. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value.. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. i. p. p. 91).000 (£1. within the region. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. 29). 54). technically difficult and valuable. Barbacoa is a luxury food. it is very expensive). But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made.’ (p. So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it. serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. Since mole is feast food par excellence. it cost around Mx$10. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. In effect. Not only because of the costs. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. 1991.000 (£1. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. the greater its social value. 29).Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. 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. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. and because to a large extent.050) for carnitas. it can be considered to be in good taste.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Milpaltenses go home for their meals. 82.122 • Culinary Art and Anthropology papaya. On the other hand. or. or mondongo (a dish made of tripe. pescado (fish). 1991. Rather. The use of foods as metaphors for the genitals occurs only in joking. and they cater mainly to outsiders (from Mexico City) who work in the municipality rather than to locals. more generally and among women. Those usually found eating in market stalls are youths having a snack after school or people who do not live in Milpa Alta and thus have no family nearby to go home to for their meals. I was told that eating out in the street indicates that the women of the house are lazy (‘son fodongas’ ). These restaurants serve comida casera. Though not specifically . homestyle food.. and is explicitly related to eating and flavour. especially the chile. Having established that the values and virtues of women are materialized in home cooking. Some other food metaphors for the penis are longaniza (a type of sausage). 202). they travel to the centre of Mexico City. with some pride. whether foods or genital organs. A few Milpaltenses told me. The use of food metaphors in joking. … these metaphors are not structured simply by direct reference to the objects themselves. non-euphemistic. tacos or tamales. but at the level of desire. Home Cooking and Street Food I have already explained at length that food prepared at home (i. Daily Meals. with love) has connotations of being tastier and better for you (nutritionally and socially) than food prepared commercially. that is because they are not used in an alternate discourse to encode another arbitrary symbolic structure. if they really wish to eat out. 201). as Gow argues. continuously draws attention to the metaphoric relationship between oral and sexual desire. (1989. culinary way. If these metaphors appear unsystematic. p. names for the genitalia. partly because of the belief that food prepared at home is better. rather than that between food objects and genitals as objects. pp. The significance of albur is that food.e. is subject to linguistic and conceptual manipulation by men. explicitly relating it to sex. 575) Sexual food metaphors may therefore reveal notions about oral and sexual desire— or I would rather say ‘appetite’—and not so much about the relations between specific fruits or vegetables. panocha (crude sugar). the chile is manipulated in another. I would agree. p. ejote (young corn on the cob) and zanahoria (carrot. even random. camote (sweet potato). 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. for native people have standard. 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. too lazy to prepare a meal at home. Jiménez. Eating out in Milpa Alta is uncommon. that there are only two restaurants in Villa Milpa Alta. mamey (a type of fruit).

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Add herbs (use one): dried oregano. to soften them. be careful not to let them burn or they will taste bitter. with soft thin bark. epazote. You may need to add a little water. 1. comal or frying pan. fresh coriander. fresh chiles.3 Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) Substitute green husk tomatoes (tomates verdes or tomatillos) for red tomatoes. omelettes or vegetable or fish tortitas (croquettes) are cooked into or served heated in thin. garlic and spices on a dry griddle. Variations for Cooked Salsa • Add spices (use all): cloves. black pepper. cumin. smooth cooked salsas or caldillos. 1. 1.4 Cooked Salsa Blend salsa ingredients until fairly smooth. cinnamon (‘true’ or Ceylon cinnamon sticks. as the charred skin contributes a nice smoky flavour. Heat oil or lard in a saucepan. onions. chiles. Variations are endless. marjoram. to roll into tacos or use in sandwiches. and proceed as for raw red salsa.5 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Other Ingredients Often meat.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 129 • Mash all together with fork. pour in the liquefied salsa. onions and garlic should be roasted unpeeled until the skin blackens (green tomatoes should have papery husk removed). Examples follow. not cassia). • Before blending. . It is not necessary to peel tomatoes or chiles after roasting them. and when the oil begins to smoke. • Tomatoes. • With dried chiles and spices. vegetables. roast tomatoes. • Boil tomatoes (peel husks off green tomatoes first) and fresh chiles before liquidizing. Use some of the soaking liquid in the blender. about 10 to 15 minutes. allspice. Cook until it changes colour and the flavour changes. • Serve as a dip with tortilla chips (totopos) or alongside grilled or fried meat or fish. • If using dried chiles. soak them in hot water for a few minutes after roasting. using some of the boiling broth in the blender. stuffed chiles. • 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.

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

2. fry them in hot oil till crisp. 8 cm wide. and 1 cm thick.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. chopped coriander and cream. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling. 2. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. thinner and crisper. Leave them out to dry overnight. . dry frying pan or griddle.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. The next morning. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.3. Before pressing out the tortillas. Top with cooked salsa. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. chopped onions. Bake on both sides on a hot comal.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional). Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. grated cheese. cream and grated white cheese. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. 2. about 10–15 cm long.4. extra-long. Many people make thin. The beans should be encased in masa.

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

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

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

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

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

Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. In my case. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. ‘Where . sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. 3. 3. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. and vice versa. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. and indeed of one’s own person. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. 2000. in fact her approach is necessarily different.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006.Notes Introduction 1. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican.007 for the whole city). pp. So for her. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. 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.5 per cent was inhabited. though it occupied 19.2 per cent of its area. and indeed of an anthropologist. At the time of my research in the nineties. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. Abarca draws from literary. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . p. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. .489. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. 5. 2. food as art. 21–2). She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. As can be expected. 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. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. of course. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. sazón. 318). 4. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. . and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997.

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

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

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

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

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

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

González Montes (1997). Chapter 4 Women as Culinary Agents 1.144 • Notes 10. Note that most of their findings were based on white middle-class Americans or Europeans. or ‘double workday’. See Vizcarra (2002) for a comparable account of women and food in an impoverished community in the State of Mexico. Note that she describes how men believe that the only responsibility of women to their husbands is ‘dar de comer’. Alejandro hoped that one of his sons would become a traffic policeman and Primy hoped they would study medicine. but also by food quality. that is. p. Mole probably ranks as the highest. The works of Ohnuki-Tierney (1993) and Rutter (1993) are examples of studies that deal with more symbolism and the power of specific foodstuffs to incorporate individuals into society. but had to do another full day’s work at home for their families or husbands. But because of the demands of culinary ideals. Puebla and Veracruz. I did not know anyone who had live-in domestic help. where they were not only underpaid. There are (immoral) actions that can lead to anti-sociality. culinary technical superiority or culinary artistry. It may not be the existence of domestic labour (or the existence of hierarchy) as such that leads to the development of cuisine (pace Goody. 2. Likewise. For example. and not all social relations lead to sociality. Most women who worked as domestic help in Milpa Alta were not natives. Gutmann (1996). 1982). that they are supposed to stop making barbacoa! 11. those social relations that lead to sociality may be not only characterized by food generosity. This is an indication that people tend not to make gastronomic compromises. 13. but only cases where a woman was hired for a few hours a week or on an occasional basis. This does not necessarily mean. arguably. although they do lead to social organization. 12. but migrants from the poorer states of Oaxaca. This term has been used to criticize women’s entry into the capitalist labour force. Melhuus and Stølen (1996). . is a term used in Latin America to refer to the labour of women who have paid full-time jobs and yet also do all the housework and cooking at home. I recognize that I tread on the tenuous border between portraying culinary life as simply rosy and lovely and the dire reality of others. McCallum (2001). 5. Alternatively. hierarchical relationships may be useful for effectively pursuing these ideals. 4. González Montes and Tuñón (1997). 3. McCallum defines sociality as ‘a temporary product of morally correct engagement in social relationships’ (1989. 11) which is characterized by generosity with food as a central virtue among the Cashinaua of western Amazonia. 6. The doble jornada. (‘to feed them’). however.

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

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

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

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

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

116. 47. 109 barbacoa. 21. 117. 113. 116 value of. 43–4. 34 judgement of. 99. 109 street food. 43 see also skill tradition. 89. 117 Wilk. 107. 4 expectations of. 120. 71. 113–14. 9. 37. 48. 76. 73. 30 tamal(es). 85. 73. 125 Vargas. 3. Georg. 75. 45. 124 power of. 22. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 98. 83 technical mastery. 82–3. 32. 124 technique(s). 119–22 work. 5. 4. 120 traps. 82. 79. 6. 75. 114. 47. 115 flavour and. 38–9. 71–85 barbacoa and. Fray Bernardino de. 54. 124. 120 development of. 36. 71–2. 2. 71–2. 96. 71–8. 121 roles. 116. 124–7 Mintz. 74. 80. 72–3. artworks as. 14–17. 75. 12 sazón. 74. 12–15 and restaurants. 48. 106 womanhood. 101. 117 angry. 14. 29–30. 89. 67. 71. 36–7. 13–14. 99–104 passim. 33. Lynn. 15–17. 85. 89. Jeffrey 10. 85 cooking and. 122 economic activity of. 85. 101. 120 women’s. 84. 14. 80. 5. 53. 14. 53. 37. 82. 13. 121 Stephen. 77 see also motherhood women. 92. 44.160 • Index Pilcher. 17. 120. 102. 119 sistema de cargos. 116. 48. 45. 77 as cooks. 41–7 passim. 83. 67 culinary. 123 agency and. 21–2. 95 street food. 123 taste. 9. 108 on learning. Luis. Richard. 126 food as. 38–9 as feast food. 125 Simmel. 52. 84. 45. 102. 122. 71. 9. 3. 42 Bourdieu. 33. 107. 40–1. 17. 21. 77–85. 34. 92. 82–3. David. See mayordomía skill. 98. 46. 58–60. 46. 89. 41. 40. 3. 75 love and. 122–7 Sutton. 34. 98 Sahagún. 116 . 29. 98. 46. 106. 75. 75. 43–7 passim. 30. 102–6 traditional cookery.

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