Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

How to Achieve a Perfect capeado 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice Food and Culinary Art in Anthropology Gell’s Theory of Art A Meal as an Object of Art On Edibility. DF Organization of the book 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine The Cultural Significance of Chiles The Range of Mexican Foods Home Cooking by Profession Cooking Tradition On Learning Techniques Food and Love Recipes Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato. How to Peel chiles poblanos. Hospitality and Exchange Flavour and Value Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Barbacoa in Milpa Alta Eating barbacoa Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta The Process of Preparing barbacoa in Barrio San Mateo. Milpa Alta Conclusion Recipes 29 29 32 36 39 43 47 49 49 50 54 66 68 vii ix 1 4 5 7 7 8 11 12 15 18 22 3 –v– .Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italy. there has been continuous adjustment. ‘The imagination at work in the use of local ingredients means that eating is not the domain of the rich in Mexico. from the national standpoint. As he defines it. Such a situation is what has existed in Mexico since before the Spanish arrived (see Coe. 2003. Flavour has more sensual than sociological connotations. Using Gell’s notion of art as a technical practice highlights the social as well as gastronomic virtuosity that is embodied in skilful cooking. My concern with Mexico is secondary to this consideration of a cuisine as an art form.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’. 2005. Sahagún. throughout Mexico’s history. which I prefer to emphasize (see Howes. 514). If we think of cookery as art. For the higher cuisine also incorporates and transforms what. a ‘differentiated’ or ‘high’ cuisine (1982. pp. 1950–1982). 1981. or. 1997). Though my analysis is based on ethnographic practice. 104–5). new foodstuffs have been introduced and incorporated. The people we study care about the flavour of the food that they eat. 1990. Approaching cooking as artistic activity is most salient when what is under scrutiny can be defined as an elaborate cuisine. my aim is to explore how we can use a theory of art to analyze food anthropologically. Alfred Gell’s theory of the art nexus is the theoretical basis of this book. in the first instance. rather than ‘taste’. so I specifically use the word ‘flavour’. is the regional food of peasants and the cooking of exotic foreigners’ (1982. pp. Culinary tradition here is really peasant food raised to the level of high and sophisticated art’ (Cowal. on food as a form of art.3 Food-as-art easily rolls off the tongue. we recognize the creative skill needed to produce good food. Even before my first visit to Mexico. Chiles could not be examined without the context of the whole cuisine. Cowal. But by no means entirely. 510. France. 1–2). Since then. a ‘high’ cuisine depends on ‘a variety of dishes which are largely the inventions of specialists. Stoller. but what might it mean to take this idea seriously analytically? This study focuses on cooking as a deeply meaningful social activity. pp. this is not intended as ethnography of Mexican foodways. What can be inferred from this is that any good cook is a ‘specialist’. enriching the cuisine through the sharing of culinary and cultural knowledge. 1994.4 Food in Mexico is a richly satisfying topic. more often throughout this book. Goody counts Mexican cuisine among other ‘haute cuisines’ such as those found in China. In fact. development and innovation of culinary techniques. 97–9). Rather. for thinking as well as for cooking and eating. From what I read. in Jack Goody’s terms. reading cookbooks convinced me that Mexican cooking could be thought of as a form of art. I had come to Mexico interested primarily in chiles but found that there was so much more to consider. 2006. 1990. Korsmeyer. and that this art was to be found in everyday home cooking rather than in restaurants. Mexican cuisine was also considered a particularly fine art in relation to other cuisines. Turkey and India (Goody. Corcuera. pp. My discussion of the art of Mexican cooking is based on the gastronomic .

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.

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

It is part of the landscape. The combination of the three makes a nutritionally balanced meal. beans are difficult to digest. and we know that even then they were prepared in a number of ways to make them palatable or even edible. It is the ingredient that can determine the flavour of a dish. The Range of Mexican Foods Since pre-Hispanic times. Together they would be good basic sustenance.. and chile. who enthuses that Chile is history. It has outlasted religions and governments in Mexico.3 In the sixteenth century when the Spanish first arrived. Food historian Sophie Coe (1994. 218.1 but even a brief perusal of Mexican cookbooks indicates that chiles are significant in Mexican life. with beans and squash. It’s magic. none of the three would be what it is. and the proof of this is to be found in the omission of chile peppers. 38–9) asserts that ‘[t]his triad was invented by foreigners and imposed on the high cultures of the New World. cornfields. p. without which food was a penance.8 • Culinary Art and Anthropology many meals. literally . especially vitamins A and C. p. (1992. (Muñoz. while the original inhabitants considered them a dietary cornerstone. too numerous to list here. The power of the chile in this Mexican ‘culinary triangle’ is wonderfully described by Zarela Martínez. except that with the exclusion of the chile. there was agricultural abundance. beans and chiles. Chile makes the gastric juices run for a dinner of beans and tortillas. p. which the outsiders viewed as a mere condiment. 460). It also provides the vitamins they lack. 1996. it fails to adequately describe Mexican cuisine. The image of a basic culinary triad is tempting. beans. It belongs to the holy trinity that has always been the basis of our diet: corn. and not just in their use as flavouring for food.’ The possible reason that squash was included is because of the traditional style of planting milpas. The Aztecs of central Mexico had . my translation) Some writings on Mexican cooking state that the ancient Mesoamerican victuals were based on a ‘holy triad’ of corn. Without each other. but any Mexican interested in eating would place the chile above the squash in a list of priorities for the dining table. but hopelessly monotonous. the cuisines of Mexico have been based on corn. Corn is an incomplete protein. Clearly these three crops are basic foodstuffs in the Mexican diet. 10. beans and squash. 1989. who wrote in the sixteenth century that without chiles Mexicans did not believe they were eating.. emphasis added) Mexican cuisine uses many kinds of chiles in diverse ways. ‘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. a New York restaurateur. pp.2 Diana Kennedy echoes Bartolomé de las Casas.

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

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

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

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

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

will affect the outcome of the dishes cooked. I will return to a discussion of culinary skill below and to the mutability of so-called traditional cooking in Chapter 5. We learn gastronomic habits and values by growing up within the contexts that give rise to what we later define as ‘traditional’. Doña Margarita and Primy told me how they would usually make tamales with them. My friend Yadira. . La Merced. Knowing how to make certain dishes or how to combine foods is learnt by repeated observation and practice. but her friend who had given it to her told her to prepare it with onions. saving the blood and tripe to cook with the huevera. She herself had never tasted or cooked it before. from consulting with others. and these dishes are often thought of simply as being ‘traditional’. the recipe for which he described in detail. the curds made from the colustrum of a cow. with a little imagination. cooking is something that is enacted and embodied. I had seen egg-laying hens for sale. if they are labelled at all. For now. in Milpa Alta. These habits and values. culinary knowledge and skill. in addition to gleaning what we can from books and other means or media (cf. Rather. p. from the experience of growing up within a particular gastronomic culture. They were cut open down the middle and their unlain eggs were on display. 128–30) that is stored in their heads. 106). combined with creativity. Miguel proceeded to relate how his mother would slaughter the hens. fellow cooks are expected to be able to draw upon a ‘stock of knowledge’ (Keller and Dixon Keller. Once I mentioned to friends in Milpa Alta that in the main market of Mexico City. 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. tomatoes. hearts. 2006. hands. traditions are dynamic living practices that are ‘infinitely adaptable’ (Sutton. noses and mouths. ‘it is so that we can use up what is in the fridge’. 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. in a physiological. Certainly most people’s vast culinary knowledge is never written down. pp. when people need to do things quickly. Sutton.d. they improvise with the food they have at hand. p. came home one day with calostros de vaca.16 Unlike artefacts in an ethnographic museum.). This is how culinary knowledge is often passed on— without recipes or precise measurements. it ‘develops with the growth of the organism’ (2000. chile and epazote. quoted and discussed in Sutton. 2006.17 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’. These unlain eggs are called the huevera and my friends were able to tell me about different ways of preparing them. it was explained to me. 361). ‘It is not because we want to stop following traditions’.14 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it is difficult to pin down what precisely is transmitted. or as Ingold describes other kinds of skill. 2001. n. not usually articulated. As with any other sort of skill. and they ordered an egg-laying hen from the butcher and prepared the tamales de huevera for my next visit. Rather than strictly following a recipe. social and/or professional sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Because people act in terms of understood meanings. p. It is the active element in food preparation. simply did not have a clue about what I was getting at when I talked about culinary manipulations of chiles and other foodstuffs. fully trapped under some kind of gastronomic spell. At least from my findings in Mexican cuisine. both professional cooks and women in Milpa Alta. When I first went to Mexico.7 Goody (1982) and Mintz (1979) each insist that meaning (in food) is salient beyond the immediate place and time of its production and consumption. He argues for the need to contextualize social theory in ‘the total process of production. from his topic of enquiry it seems logical to observe ‘the art of cooking’ itself in the context of its social dimensions. While it is true that Mexican eating habits can be placed into classifications and then encoded. preparation and consumption of food’ ( p. an example from my fieldwork is helpful. 1982. to this ‘enchantment’. within the constraints of a cook’s daily life. like the Mexican. To illustrate this point. to talk about a body of knowledge—a culinary corpus or art corpus. Some cookery writers. ‘[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. Although I do not contest the analytical advantages of a structural framework.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 31 political and economic framework. combined with the fact that raw materials need to be bought or collected from different places and then prepared and combined well. I was surprised to find that real Mexican people. meaning is temporally extended and extendable. hence power. the creative activity. 2). p. I was interested in learning the ‘language of chiles’ that I had been led to expect existed from reading Mexican cookbooks. . describe Mexican culinary mastery as analogous to the control required to manipulate poetic language or magic. therefore. 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. that make good food meaningful and thus give cooks greater social value. 30). which are powerful enough to lead to social changes in other levels in the matrix of cultural forms. 30). within the complex of intentionalities that Gell talks about in his work (1998. Having succumbed. 1999b).6 Nevertheless. Furthermore. if you wish—or a socially developed system which is employed in the preparation of foods for consumption. And power and meaning are always connected’ (1996.8 an artistic approach may provide greater scope for an analysis of an elaborate cuisine. that is. The communicative aspects of cooking and eating lie in the meanings that actors (or agents. meaning can be said to effectuate behaviors of certain kinds. both cooks and eaters) place in the food within their social context. The active agency of art is the conveyor or mediator of social meanings. there is no ‘language of food’ which can be learnt via a grammar of eating habits or cooking techniques. As Sidney Mintz says. It allows women to change their social spaces and thereby expand their social network outside of the home. myself. yet in his own work he neglected the aspect of preparation. It makes more sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Mexico. Mintz. Related to this. 1996). which may have wider significance at other social levels. Invariably.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 45 technical systems which bring about the (re)production of society. In Chapter 4 I discuss how women talk of their skill in cooking in social situations where their power and value are questioned. Thus. her children and. her own satisfaction. Women as well as men value flavourful food and what they consider to be ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ methods of preparing it. many everyday dishes are complex to prepare. With regard to Mexico.26 This is illustrated by his example of the Anga eel traps (1999b). different from the daily fare. 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. and they are defined by the sauce rather than by the meat or vegetable which is in it. therefore. These traps are constructed to be far more sturdy and complicated than is actually necessary to trap an eel. In fact. which has been suggested to be a means of containing and curbing women’s power over men (Melhuus and Stølen. ultimately. but at least she has the intention to provide good food somehow. wedding or funeral. for example. The trap. The social efficacy of an elaborately prepared meal performs a similar function. actually reveal the high value placed on women’s chastity. her in-laws. which is also complex to prepare. this used to be mole. A good wife would then strive to cook well for the sake of her husband. spouse. 2006.28 Mole may be considered one of the culinary treasures or works of art of Mexican cuisine. She does not have to cook herself. which are served when there is a special occasion. Preparing what is considered a proper meal is analogous to proper nurturing. culinary artistry or agency may be a source of women’s power over men (see Abarca. a complex-flavoured sauce made of up to two dozen or more ingredients. and at the same time is the source of the eel’s power. such as a birthday. If cooking is artistic practice. the requirements to cook dishes from an elaborate cuisine may appear oppressive. 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. 1996). This is . Serving an elaborate dish commemorates an occasion as special by transferring its value (recipe-A→recipe-P). Control over feeding the family becomes the nexus of meaning regarding women’s social and moral values. this is very much like what is considered to be men’s restrictions on women. there are marked dishes. reveals the Anga belief that the eel is so powerful that its trap must be particularly clever. then a cook has the creative freedom to make decisions at this level. As I will discuss further in chapters 4 and 6. friends). André. and this is empowering in the sense that family ties are tightened when food is shared. at first glance. Strict regulations of women’s movements. the trap is a repository of eel-power. 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. 2001). tying women to home when they would rather be out (also cf. often glossed as machismo.27 Skilful cooking does not lead to social empowerment so directly. however.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

they used an electric blender for making sauces and for larger tasks. she would use it. and pulla or guajillo angosto. rubbed them with melted lard. chopped coriander and combined them with the green tomatoes. a short walk away. She told me that for small tasks. This was our starter for lunch on that day. She used saltine crackers instead of bread because. chiles serranos. Preparing the panza is always the women’s responsibility. as well as filling and unloading the oven. we pinched them several times on one side ( pellizcar means to pinch). so Primy had a 30-litre pail for this. and beans in their broth at the end. she preferred the effect of crushed crackers to that of breadcrumbs. there were tortillas and a lovely tomato-chile-based salsa to accompany. She then proceeded to make the red salsa in which she used three types of dried chiles—chile morita. few people did so because of the effort and physical force that was required. onions. she said. I asked her if she always used the metate. Since she needed to make a larger amount. crisply cooked crumbled longaniza (a type of sausage). She filled the pail with the tomatoes and chiles along with salt and other ingredients. in a busy barbacoiero household such as this one. Women look after the softer and more complex cooking. She knelt on the ground behind the grinding stone and in a matter of seconds reduced the crackers to fine crumbs. molino de salsas. Lunch was a feast for me.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 59 a hot comal. I had heard that some people still used it. Alejandro pounded chicken breasts to make milanesas and his mother hauled out the heavy stone metate to make breadcrumbs for the chicken. green salsa and crumbled white cheese. especially in cities. 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. Men in the barbacoa trade are responsible for the slaughter and preparing the meat. We had gorditas to start. 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. árbol seco. For the green salsa we peeled avocados. Primy processed them in the blender in stages because she was making large amounts for the business. as are chopping and cleaning vegetables and herbs. then breaded chicken with boiled carrots with cream. 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. She boiled green tomatoes and put the toasted chiles to soak in the cooking water. unless there was a power failure. but nowadays. Otherwise. Although I would have the tendency to linger over such exquisite food. The meal was washed down with an agua fresca de limón. a tool that dates to pre-Hispanic times. When we returned home Primy had to prepare the stuffing for the panzas. and rajas con crema. such as grinding these crackers.9 The red salsa was more popular than the green in the stand where they sold barbacoa. like making the panza filling and the salsas. garlic and salt. there was a lot of work to be done after eating. far beyond the capacity of a domestic blender. 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. and topped them with refried beans. although it was standard fare for them. As always.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

which include cooking and other domestic tasks. 1979. p. instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. DeVault writes. such as when they hire domestic helpers. 142). 47). 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. 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 – .–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. 1998.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta. it can lead to women’s subordination (e. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. 1991. p. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. 1983). Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. Crucially. Murcott. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible.g. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. inevitably play a subordinate role to men. as wives. The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it. Ekström. 1997. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. McIntosh and Zey. they can also mobilize the agency of others. is how women’s skills. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5). they argue. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. 1988. Beardsworth and Keil. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere. their husbands. Delphy. The root of the problem. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society. Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. Women are the key actors in the culinary system.

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

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

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

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

married men depend on their wives. ‘¿Entonces. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination. boasting that he could look after himself on his own. Economic considerations play a significant role in women’s activities. García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main defining characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife. In fact. 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. 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. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulfilment for women regardless of social class. and my findings in Milpa Alta agree. that motherhood does not actually stop women from taking on extradomestic work. it is often necessary for working-class women to work extradomestically to supplement the family income. and a man needs a woman to bear children. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . At this most basic level. neither the desire for a professional extradomestic career nor the desire to remain home to raise children (and cook and clean) are ‘natural’ for women.76 • Culinary Art and Anthropology teased his cousin Kiko that he could do nothing without his wife: ‘¡Ni sabe calentar tortillas!’ (‘He doesn’t even know how to heat up tortillas!’). Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). Work. Early one morning. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. Finding child minders during their working hours was not usually a problem because of the proximity of relatives or links of compadrazgo in a woman’s kin network. Yet. García and Oliveira demonstrate. Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social significance of cooking within marriage. Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. he replied. especially their daughters. tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance.

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

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

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

are more commonly used in Milpa Alta for insulting men and women. but though she appeared to defer to her husband on the surface. This is why calling a man hijo de puta is a very powerful insult. and she accepts it. porque se hace tonto’). Of central importance is women’s role as mothers in relation to men. It is one of the biggest insults for a man. When a man’s wife has a lover. to act stupidly. 80) and men are the ‘guardians of women’s virtue’ (p. Melhuus (1992) discusses how women’s actual power over men is subtly hidden by a moral discourse linked to the merit of ‘suffering [as] a way of life’ (p. The 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. this did not imply a lack of authority. She pretends that either she does not know or that she does not care so much. ‘Se hace güey’ (‘He is acting güey’). ‘Es un buey’ (‘He is a bull’). it is because it seems that he takes no notice. and to the cuckolded husband of the woman who sleeps around. 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. a man who is called a güey has horns. He arranged a flat for them to rent and only needed Doña Delfina’s signature. preferring for her children to grow up on their land. They are related to the victimized wife of the macho man who has other lovers or more than one family. Years later. and it is women’s behaviour and morality (their shame) which reflects upon men. Women are a threat to men as ‘bearers (if not keepers) of their honour’ (p.80 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Doña Delfina herself wore her hair in two plaits only after marriage. since bulls have horns. A woman described as pendeja is one whose husband has one or more lovers. pendejo/a and güey. The word güey is derived from the word buey. he may be described as being pendejo. When someone is called pendejo/a. More specifically. she ultimately had the last word when it came to family decisions. When you say. whereas calling a woman the daughter of a whore (hija de puta) is ambiguous and virtually meaningless. but he is more likely to be called güey. While men appear to hold honour and represent their families as the household head. In Milpa Alta. So although Doña Delfina talked generally of women’s suffering. These express two key concepts of moral judgement. a man who moves into his wife’s house after marriage or who is henpecked . although it is also used among close friends to profess admiration. Her morality is better insulted directly by calling her puta. Don Felipe was grateful for Doña Delfina’s decision in that the family was happy to have remained in Milpa Alta. So by cheating on him with another man. it usually means hacerse tonto/a. it was explained to me. complementary to the labels of puta and hijo de puta. 159). when you describe a man by saying. his wife gives him horns (se pone los cuernos). it is because his wife is deceiving him (‘porque su esposa le engaña’). 160) or suffering as a female virtue. Furthermore. She refused to sign the tenancy agreement. the greatest value in society is placed on women. which means bull (toro). But two other terms. as swear words are used in English as well.

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

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

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

in the way taught by generations of women who nourished their families as wives and mothers. pp. Both sex and food lead to the continuance (and reproduction) of individuals as well as of society. While it is arguable that women’s subordination was exacerbated by the demands of the kitchen. in the case of Mexico. At the same time. Then. Abarca (2006.15 With the tortillas sorted out. by a wife or a mother. morality and domestic power and may even help them to trap a husband. both because the master class became dependent on its cooks. 100–6). or. 31–2) also notes that in some ways the factory-made tortillas were more of a burden than a blessing to rural women because of their need to earn money to buy them. this was specifically the demands of making fresh tortillas (see Pilcher. p. an idea also formulated by Mintz: ‘[W]orking in the emergence of cuisine legitimized status distinctions within slavery. which eventually led to the development of an elaborate cuisine. and it can even be thought of as a means toward women’s liberation. 99–121). with technological advances and political changes as women entered the extradomestic labour force. To summarize. 80–1). or a devotion to culinary works of art. by recognizing that cooking is active and creative. 1998). 1994). Gradually. 1998. The tasting of freedom was linked to the tasting of food. its outcome (food. Before wide industrialization and the spread of mechanical tortillerías. Mexican women used to spend up to a third of their waking hours making tortillas (pp. Ideally food is cooked at home.84 • Culinary Art and Anthropology around before freedom itself was. or as being social actors in their own right. machine-made tortillas gained acceptance (Pilcher. as works of art (Gell. pp. she is in control over these two fundamental . dishes. because machines produced inferior flavours and quality in comparison to handmade tortillas (Marroni de Velázquez. therefore. 106–10). pp. the dependence on flavour. (Mintz. pp. cooking was one significant way around it. it is as a provider of sex and food that women’s power becomes evident. A woman should be able to satisfy her husband both sexually and gastronomically. culinary or otherwise. It is a license for social action in the pursuit of technical or culinary artistry. but could not themselves duplicate’ (47–8). 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. In effect. forms of autonomy. women were left with more time and energy to devote to other activities. The elaborate cuisine was not the restrictive factor of their lives per se. 1998. an elaborate cuisine is not simply a creative escape valve for otherwise restricted women. put another way. 37) As I describe for Milpa Alta. recipes) should be thought of as having social agency. 1996. gives women the legitimacy to expand their social and physical boundaries. and because the cooks actually invented a cuisine that the masters could vaunt. Looking more closely at cuisine and the social relations surrounding its production can be illuminating. Although women’s socially acceptable spaces may have appeared limited. then. there was resistance to machine-made tortillas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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 .

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

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

i. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. p. it can be considered to be in good taste. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. 1984. 29). it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. In addition.050) for carnitas.e. ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. 91).000 (£1. as mentioned previously. Since mole is feast food par excellence. In short. as far as I know. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. 54). Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. For this reason. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. . In effect. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas. within the region. the greater its social value. 1991. and because to a large extent. 687). So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. but also because of the social values. In 2000.000 (£1. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head. it cost around Mx$10. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. technically difficult and valuable. Not only because of the costs. Before then. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. p. 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 .400) for barbacoa. 29). it is very expensive). Barbacoa is a luxury food. It is therefore defined as appropriate. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway.. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made.. and on one’s guests. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa.’ (p. and Mx$20. for example. the more an object resists our possession (because. Mx$15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion. often eaten on its own with salsa on the side. epazote or chile to the top of the rice toward the end of the cooking time. then lower the heat to a very low flame. Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). 5. salsa. peas.2.3 Enfrijoladas See 3. and sometimes avocado and lime. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course. • Add coriander. rather it should be more like pilau. It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas. corn kernels. It should not be soft and milky like risotto. Add to rice. . chopped 1 clove garlic.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4. Fry the rice (and carrots) until it is lightly golden. • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture. Sometimes. Note: This rice should be dry.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice.3 above. • Stir well and allow to cook. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked. 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. 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. usually served as a first or second course. soaked in hot water. with separate grains. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. Add salt to taste. if you wish.

pineapples). and other fruits that do not disintegrate (e. guavas. peaches. Allow the fruit to cool in the syrup and then refrigerate. To make red rice. Strain this into the hot oil and fried rice. salt and water or chicken broth. when it is done. Variations combine 2 or more types of fruit stir in chopped mint before serving serve with crema espesa/de rancho (crème fraîche) . without a sauce. When the syrup is ready. This is good for pears. frying the dry pasta in oil until it browns a little.3 Sopa de fideos/Macarrones Substitute vermicelli or pasta elbows (macaroni) for the rice and prepare as for arroz rojo. Fry a bit before adding the optional vegetables.136 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 5. before stirring in the salsa and water to cook. like a smooth red salsa. The pasta should remain dry. 5.2 Arroz rojo (Red Rice) Prepare arroz blanco (see preceding recipe).g. Sometimes dry pasta ‘soups’ are served with cream (crème fraîche) drizzled over. put peeled prepared fruits in to poach for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked. Serve cold. add 1 or 2 tomatoes to the garlic and onion mixture and blend well. You might want to add a bit of lime juice so that it is not too sweet. tejocotes. 6 Frutas en almíbar (Poached Fruits in Syrup) Make a light syrup by boiling and simmering sugar in abundant water with some grated lime rind and a stick of Ceylon cinnamon.

Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. 21–2). At the time of my research in the nineties. 3. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. 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. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. So for her. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. . As can be expected. Abarca draws from literary. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. 3. 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. p. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. though it occupied 19. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. 4. . given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. sazón. and indeed of an anthropologist. 2. 318). and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. In my case.Notes Introduction 1. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. 2000. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. pp. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking.007 for the whole city).489. and indeed of one’s own person. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. in fact her approach is necessarily different. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – .2 per cent of its area. ‘Where . 5. food as art.5 per cent was inhabited. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. of course. and vice versa. The regional cuisines of the Middle East.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

117 angry. 115 flavour and. 15–17. 71–85 barbacoa and. 5. 82–3. 98. 17. 85 cooking and. 71. 75. 29. Lynn. 92. 106. 22. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 85. 122 economic activity of. 117 Wilk. 44. 123 taste. 83. 77–85. 9. 14. 85. 120. 67 culinary. 21. 33. 124 power of. 9. 4. 45. 75 love and. 38–9 as feast food. 80. 119–22 work. 95 street food. 101. 123 agency and. 46. 48. 53. 47. 101. 120 development of. 5. 106 womanhood. 99–104 passim. 6. Georg. 116 value of. 120 women’s. 77 see also motherhood women. 79. 14. 75. 84. 45. 82. 102. 120. 3. 48. 53. 84. 17. 114. 47. 46. 33. 124. 48. 122–7 Sutton. 116 . Richard. 98 Sahagún. 9. 113. 71–2. 13. 42 Bourdieu. 14–17. 46. 67. 76. 124–7 Mintz. 3. 89. 126 food as. 77 as cooks. artworks as. 41. 89. 74. 98. 82. 107. 12–15 and restaurants. 71. 40. 72–3. 113–14. 3. 73. 12 sazón. 107. 116. 83 technical mastery. 2. 37. 45. 85. 43–7 passim. 29–30. 73. 102–6 traditional cookery. 75. 41–7 passim. 102. Luis. 121 Stephen. 21. 43–4. 34 judgement of. 109 barbacoa. 89. 108 on learning. 58–60. David. 38–9. 124 technique(s). 71–8. 89. 125 Vargas. 121 roles. 4 expectations of. 75. 14. See mayordomía skill. 52. 34. 80. 40–1. 71–2. 13–14. 125 Simmel. 37.160 • Index Pilcher. 92. 36–7. 21–2. 122. 30 tamal(es). 43 see also skill tradition. 34. 109 street food. 116. 36. 71. Jeffrey 10. 117. 116. 120 traps. 75. 30. 54. 99. 119 sistema de cargos. 98. 32. 82–3. 96. 74. Fray Bernardino de.

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