This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Culinary Art and Anthropology
This page intentionally left blank
Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .
NY 10010. 81 St Clements Street. USA © Joy Adapon 2008 All rights reserved. Berg is the imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd. cm. Cookery—Social aspects—Mexico—Milpa Alta. Angel Court. Mexican. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) Typeset by Apex CoVantage. Madison.1'20972—dc22 2008017019 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Cookery.bergpublishers. King’s Lynn www. 2. I. ISBN 978-1-84788-213-4 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-84788-212-7 (paper) 1.M4A35 2008 394. Title. p. New York.First published in 2008 by Berg Editorial ofﬁces: 1st Floor. Cookery—Mexico—Milpa Alta. Food habits—Mexico—Milpa Alta. 3. UK 175 Fifth Avenue. Includes bibliographical references and index. Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Adapon. WI. OX4 1AW. Culinary art and anthropology / Joy Adapon. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berg. Oxford. Joy. USA Printed in the United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd.com . TX716. 4.
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. DF Organization of the book 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine The Cultural Signiﬁcance of Chiles The Range of Mexican Foods Home Cooking by Profession Cooking Tradition On Learning Techniques Food and Love Recipes Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato.Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta. How to Achieve a Perfect capeado 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice Food and Culinary Art in Anthropology Gell’s Theory of Art A Meal as an Object of Art On Edibility. Milpa Alta Conclusion Recipes 29 29 32 36 39 43 47 49 49 50 54 66 68 vii ix 1 4 5 7 7 8 11 12 15 18 22 3 –v– . How to Peel chiles poblanos.
’ Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela. Home Cooking and Street Food Appetite.vi • Contents Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa. Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo. Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal Culinary Agency Recipes Huevos a la mexicana. Morality and Taste Recipes: Variations on a Theme 71 71 75 76 78 82 85 5 89 90 93 97 98 102 106 108 109 6 113 113 115 118 120 122 124 127 137 149 159 Notes Works Cited Index . Chiles and albur Daily Meals. Buñuelos de lujo. Batter for Coating Fish. Commercial Red Salsa for barbacoa. Torrejas The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life The Function of Flavour The Importance of Cooking in Social Life Fiesta Food in the Culinary Art Corpus Food and Love. 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. Motherhood and Virtue Suffering. Taco placero. Barbacoa 4 Women as Culinary Agents The Value of Cooking and Other Work Marriage and Cooking Work.
Arranged According to Type of Celebration Figures 5.Illustrations Tables 2.1 Terminology Employed by Gell.2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus 5.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. Shown as Families 103 104 34 35 100 – vii – .1 Feast Food in Milpa Alta. and Corresponding Food Terms 2.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole 5.
This page intentionally left blank .
several more people helped me to bring this project to completion with incomparable patience.Preface I love to eat. Fenella Cannell was especially helpful in grounding me during the period immediately following Alfred Gell’s death. nor would I have even thought of going to Mexico. particularly important to me before my ﬁeldwork. supervisor and. if I can focus it on peppers. thorough and frank. kindness and academic rigour. most of all. who taught me that there are ‘tram-line’ people and ‘zigzag’ people. I was fortunate to be one of his last students before his untimely death in 1997. This book is dedicated to the memory of Alfred Gell. Through her patience and understanding I discovered a new ﬁeld of study as well as a different direction for my academic life. that they all eventually arrive at their destination and that the different routes are equally valid. – ix – . then Mexico was the place to go to. I wish I could thank him personally for all his understanding and encouragement. I am grateful to Peter Loizos. ‘Go to Mexico. His advice to enjoy ﬁeldwork and take note of any ‘interesting trivia’ kept me going and looking forward. Without him I would never have begun this investigation. thoughtful.’ Despite my hesitation. Sally Engle Merry ﬁrst introduced me to anthropology and instilled in me an immediate devotion to the subject during my undergraduate years. ‘I’m thinking of maybe doing a PhD.’ he said. I visited Alfred Gell in his ofﬁce and told him. In Alfred’s absence. Back in London. Looking back. So I had to learn to cook. Maurice Bloch was always inspiring and warm. friend. He was my inspiration. especially for taking me seriously whenever I came up with odd ideas. Peter Gow always provided timely encouragement and helped me to learn how to see. I am grateful for the continued friendship and support of Simeran Gell. Even just thinking of her is always encouraging and reminds me time and again to live in the present. Charles Stafford was consistently most reliable. he repeated that if I was interested in chile peppers. guide. During a period of culinary experimentation when I was into peppers of all colours and types. She shares her and Alfred’s love for life with all those who are fortunate to know her.’ ‘Of course you can. She gave me my ﬁrst opportunity for ﬁeldwork and supported my initial shaky steps into anthropology. Their sensitive comments and insight were invaluable as I waded through the process of writing my dissertation on which this book is based. So I went off to read up on Mexico and Mexican food before deciding for myself.
Abdiel Cervántes. constant moral support and generous interest in me and my work. in Manila. we had become inseparable friends. It was he who introduced me to Luz del Valle.’ he said. Ma. Ileana Bonilla. Their friendship and thoughtful conversations constantly provided me with security and fruitful ideas. Ricardo Bonilla. He in turn allowed me to sit in some classes of the gastronomy program and get to know the students and faculty. Berlin or wherever I may be. Doña Margarita Salazar. I wish for the time when they can come stay with me. Gabriel Gutierrez. especially Yadira Arenas and Luis Enrique Nápoles. I was in Mexico City for 24 months from 1995 to 1998 and within a few weeks of my arrival. The people with whom I lived in Milpa Alta. Primitiva Bermejo. 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. Juan Carlos López. took a strange foreigner into their homes and shared much more than their lives. who offered me valuable friendship and a link into Milpa Alta. Leticia Méndez was the second person I met in the UNAM who understood me both academically and emotionally. I didn’t know how lucky I was to have met him. Andrés Medina welcomed me to the Institute of Anthropological Research (IIA) in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) with a sense of humour. ‘Now I guess you have to move in with me. It was through him that I met other scholars of Mexican cuisine who inﬂuenced my understanding of Mexican gastronomy. he was eager to share with someone his favourite eateries and his love for the cuisines of Mexico. He is now internationally acknowledged as an authority on Mexican cookery and has published ﬁve books of renown. She introduced me to José Luis Curiel in the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. homes and food with me.x • Preface In Mexico I owe a great debt to many whose generosity and presence made my stay both pleasant and stimulating. Fabiola Alcántara. Alejandro Enriquez and Guille Arenas. Juan Manuel Horta and the rest of the staff of the Executive Dining Room in the UNAM—opened their hearts and homes to me. Her premature death in 1996 was one of the great shocks that I encountered in Mexico. I was eager to learn all I could about Mexican cooking and to taste everything. Iván Gomezcésar shared with me thoughtful insight about Milpa Alta as well as several texts. Even before my tiny ﬂat in Coyoacán became ﬂooded and unliveable. including José Luis Juárez and Ricardo Muñoz. he helped me to eventually ﬁnd my way during ﬁeldwork. I met Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita. Ricardo was my ‘Muchona the Hornet’ of Mexican food. Janet Long-Solís generously shared her books and her contacts with me. which I would have not found on my own. Antonio Rivera. and I have missed her ever since. Other friends in Mexico—Patricia Salero and her family. Conmigo siempre tienen su casa. With his warmth. He was the ﬁrst person to really understand what I was getting at when I arrived in Mexico for the ﬁrst time. Other friends of his who were also chefs repeatedly told me that with my interest in traditional Mexican food. .
And of course many thanks to Hannah Shakespeare at Berg. Most importantly. helped me to reach bibliographic sources that I had difﬁculty accessing. for all the reasons mentioned above and more.Preface • xi My occasional meetings with Chef Rick Bayless were always inspiring. . and for permission to reuse my material published previously in Petits Propos Culinaires 67. Thank you also to Simon Lord at Oxford University Press for granting unhesitating permission to use and modify Gell’s table of the Art Nexus. Yuehping was the ﬁrst and staunchest supporter of my using Alfred’s theory of art in my analysis. Marilya and Scott Reese supplied me with timely stocks of Mexican ingredients and new cookbooks. as well as willing eaters of all my culinary experiments. and for his astounding commitment to my work and to me. Good friends and peers. Saskia ﬁlled my days with such happiness that working at night seemed a fair enough exchange. and the Proceedings of the Oxford Food Symposium 2001. especially my parents and sister. And ﬁnally. Without his belief in my work this book would not have been published. especially Yuehping Yen and Anja Timm. even when they did not understand what I was doing. My survival and sanity depended on their constant presence and love. Anonymous readers of an earlier draft of my manuscript gave me something to chew on. Thank you! Uta Raina read through a chapter at a critical time and. providing much constructive criticism and tipping me onto certain crucial references that have helped me improve this book immensely. David Sutton was endlessly patient. His openness and offers to help encouraged me in the academic path that he himself chose not to take. have supported me in all possible ways. commented on drafts of this manuscript at various stages and were immeasurably helpful and intellectually stimulating. Michael Schutz provided valuable technical support at short notice. much love and gratitude to Kai Kresse. like Liese Hoffmann. I would also like to thank Tom Jaine at Prospect Books for his always quick and witty responses to queries. My family. critical when necessary. Anja’s editorial eagle eye never failed to impress and amuse me. enthusiastic and supportive. who showed humanity and equanimity at every blip along the way. keeping up my interest in Mexican food when I was distracted by other things.
This page intentionally left blank .
was a key ethnographic moment. ‘I like to keep them crispy. –1– . 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. In a pot Ricardo had boiled green tomatoes (tomates verdes. even artistic process. . I had always believed that anthropological studies of food were overly concerned with staple crops.’ he said. and it also looked beautiful. for I have my own story to tell . . He arranged a mound of chilaquiles onto each plate. tomatillos). crumbled white cheese (queso fresco or de canasto) and a dollop of thick cream (crema de rancho. I had never tasted or cooked anything like it. The salsa sizzled for some moments. My interest in and knowledge of cooking came mostly from my own research. When the salsa was ready.1 I will discuss Abarca’s work elsewhere. So for me. tasting. reading. and then he lowered the heat for it to simmer with some salt. ignoring the fact that food had ﬂavour and was enjoyed and relished by those who ate and prepared it. he tossed in the totopos.Introduction As a once aspiring chef. 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. it was delicious. that spices were as important as staples. a bit of onion and garlic. (Some readers may be aware of Meredith Abarca’s (2006) recent book on Mexican and Mexican American women and cooking. like crème fraîche).’ he told me. white cheese and onions. exploring. and that individual dishes could be as meaningful as symbolic ingredients. It is made of fried pieces of day-old tortillas bathed in a chile-tomato sauce and garnished with mildly soured cream. topping them with thin slices of white onion. serrano chiles and epazote. With or without. not just preparing or eating it. That morning he deep-fried them till crisp to make totopos and set them aside for the excess oil to drain. I was struck by the fact that many ethnographies of food failed to take into account that cooking was a creative. One dish that was personally meaningful for me during my time in Mexico was chilaquiles. Before going to Mexico. When I began this research. experimenting. liqueﬁed the mixture thoroughly and strained it into hot oil. He poured this into a blender with some of the cooking liquid. ‘This is a typical Mexican breakfast. experiencing chilaquiles. but I am still compelled to begin with chilaquiles.) One morning I arrived early at the kitchen of my friend. Chilaquiles is typical Mexican breakfast food. quickly coating them evenly and warming them up.
chicken. and his entire kitchen staff laughed with him. I thought. Perhaps. high gastronomic standards. letting the totopos go soggy. The textures and ﬂavours were wrong. eggs. after asking several people and later living in different Mexican households. Living in Mexico City. 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. My introduction to Mexican cuisine was inevitably by way of recipes and cookbooks. Conversely.2 • Culinary Art and Anthropology My immediate reaction was to say. 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. Many families had their chilaquiles with extra side dishes as well—beans. among professional chefs in the centre as well as among barbacoieros in Milpa Alta at the outskirts. Variations of chilaquiles were normal everyday fare. meat. Clearly I lacked the skill and knowledge to prepare chilaquiles properly.2 I felt that my cooking improved. I learned to feel the .’ he said (‘The Chinese girl [as he affectionately called me] doesn’t believe me’). I began to absorb culinary and gastronomic knowledge. I found it hard to believe that something so complex and laborious could be typical for breakfast. and even insisted on. the more I got to know Mexico and the more I understood about the culture and cuisine. The salsa was too thick and not smooth enough. to use up leftover tortillas or simply for the pleasure of eating. the food that women prepare for their families on any given day. 71). my ﬁrst attempt at making chilaquiles at home was barely edible. Even those who were not culinary professionals delighted in. and I had not had it or practised enough times to really know what to do. even if there was little time to linger over them. even if done to the letter. Abarca’s mother is quoted referring to it as the food of the poor (‘la comida de uno de pobre’. in my body as well as in my mind. learning the culinary techniques needed to make Mexican food did not work as simply as following a recipe. They were only cooking the kind of food that they always ate. bread. However. and no one thought twice about it or found it particularly difﬁcult to make. Busy families made it a point to have delectable dishes for daily meals. and it looked like a sorry heap of nicely garnished mush. p. Ricardo was a well-known chef who specialized in traditional Mexican cooking. this was food for restaurants or for special occasions. Eventually. Though it looked easy. This was Mexican home cooking. 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. ‘No way!’ and this set him off laughing. and I worked too slowly. Since I did not have the beneﬁt of growing up in a Mexican home. They all agreed with him that this was a commonly prepared dish that any family might have on a regular day throughout Mexico. from my perspective. I realized that it was true. and it certainly seemed easier. ‘La china no me cree. This event reﬂected my worries—would I ever be able to acquire any true knowledge of or expertise in Mexican cookery. 2006.
The people we study care about the ﬂavour of the food that they eat. in the ﬁrst instance. Cowal. Rather. development and innovation of culinary techniques. 1997). In fact. Alfred Gell’s theory of the art nexus is the theoretical basis of this book. Korsmeyer. 2006.Introduction • 3 point of readiness when something was cooked ‘until it’s done’ or to discern how much water or broth to put into the rice pot until it was ‘enough’. Chiles could not be examined without the context of the whole cuisine. Corcuera. Using Gell’s notion of art as a technical practice highlights the social as well as gastronomic virtuosity that is embodied in skilful cooking. Italy. reading cookbooks convinced me that Mexican cooking could be thought of as a form of art. Approaching cooking as artistic activity is most salient when what is under scrutiny can be deﬁned as an elaborate cuisine. there has been continuous adjustment. My discussion of the art of Mexican cooking is based on the gastronomic . which I prefer to emphasize (see Howes. My concern with Mexico is secondary to this consideration of a cuisine as an art form. Since then. 104–5). 1990. 2003. but what might it mean to take this idea seriously analytically? This study focuses on cooking as a deeply meaningful social activity. 1950–1982).4 Food in Mexico is a richly satisfying topic. and that this art was to be found in everyday home cooking rather than in restaurants. 514). or. France.3 Food-as-art easily rolls off the tongue. What can be inferred from this is that any good cook is a ‘specialist’. more often throughout this book. in Jack Goody’s terms. Though my analysis is based on ethnographic practice. 1–2). For the higher cuisine also incorporates and transforms what. enriching the cuisine through the sharing of culinary and cultural knowledge. on food as a form of art. 97–9). pp. Sahagún. a ‘high’ cuisine depends on ‘a variety of dishes which are largely the inventions of specialists. pp. From what I read. Goody counts Mexican cuisine among other ‘haute cuisines’ such as those found in China. 1990. we recognize the creative skill needed to produce good food. Stoller. If we think of cookery as art. pp. 1981. Even before my ﬁrst visit to Mexico. Flavour has more sensual than sociological connotations. As he deﬁnes it. Such a situation is what has existed in Mexico since before the Spanish arrived (see Coe. Turkey and India (Goody. 510. But by no means entirely. 1994. throughout Mexico’s history. for thinking as well as for cooking and eating. 2005. Mexican cuisine was also considered a particularly ﬁne art in relation to other cuisines. pp. is the regional food of peasants and the cooking of exotic foreigners’ (1982. rather than ‘taste’. ‘The imagination at work in the use of local ingredients means that eating is not the domain of the rich in Mexico. this is not intended as ethnography of Mexican foodways. from the national standpoint. Culinary tradition here is really peasant food raised to the level of high and sophisticated art’ (Cowal. new foodstuffs have been introduced and incorporated. a ‘differentiated’ or ‘high’ cuisine (1982. I had come to Mexico interested primarily in chiles but found that there was so much more to consider. my aim is to explore how we can use a theory of art to analyze food anthropologically. so I speciﬁcally use the word ‘ﬂavour’.
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 ﬁrst thing asked about me when I was brought to anyone’s home in Mexico was invariably. we add some hot salsa at the table. and ours has been and continues to be characterized by our daily and widespread consumption of chiles’ (Muñoz. In what follows I describe some of the ways that people think of and write about the cuisines of Mexico.–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). and in my case. I became enamoured of Mexican cooking from what I had read prior to my ﬁrst visit. starting with the all-important chile. chiles are used primarily for their distinct ﬂavours and not only for their heat. —Richard Condon. on which most of this book is focused. It is in Mexico where the most extensive variety of chiles is used. ‘Food and cuisine can characterize a culture. A very complex dish begins by roasting and/or grinding chiles. In their green. 13) This chapter introduces the cuisines of Mexico in general. In Mexico. students and researchers of Mexican gastronomy. The Cultural Signiﬁcance of Chiles After the usual introductions. ‘Does she eat chile?’ The second question was usually. To each broth or stew that does not contain chile. p. The most culturally meaningful of the three is the chile. and it is the chile that gives the peculiar and deﬁnitive accent to –7– . This served as thorough preparation for the culinary life that I encountered later in Milpa Alta. largely drawing from what I learned from reading food history and cookbooks and from my early ﬁeldwork in the centre of Mexico City among chefs. The Mexican Stove (1973. The chile is the heart and soul of Mexican food. foreword. ripe or dried states they have different ﬂavours which are cooked or combined for different effects. Food writing colours our perceptions of other cuisines. chile and corn (most often in the form of tortillas) are the main ingredients of Mexican cuisine. ‘And does she eat tortillas?’ Complemented with beans. 1996.
Chile makes the gastric juices run for a dinner of beans and tortillas. It belongs to the holy trinity that has always been the basis of our diet: corn. emphasis added) Mexican cuisine uses many kinds of chiles in diverse ways. and not just in their use as ﬂavouring for food. and we know that even then they were prepared in a number of ways to make them palatable or even edible. without which food was a penance. my translation) Some writings on Mexican cooking state that the ancient Mesoamerican victuals were based on a ‘holy triad’ of corn. especially vitamins A and C. ‘Indeed the chile has played such an important role in the economic and social life of the country that many Mexicans feel their national identity would be in danger of extinction without it’ (Kennedy.8 • Culinary Art and Anthropology many meals. (1992. 10. Together they would be good basic sustenance. there was agricultural abundance. too numerous to list here. The Aztecs of central Mexico had . The power of the chile in this Mexican ‘culinary triangle’ is wonderfully described by Zarela Martínez. 218. literally . 1996. but any Mexican interested in eating would place the chile above the squash in a list of priorities for the dining table.’ The possible reason that squash was included is because of the traditional style of planting milpas. 38–9) asserts that ‘[t]his triad was invented by foreigners and imposed on the high cultures of the New World. who enthuses that Chile is history. The Range of Mexican Foods Since pre-Hispanic times. beans. It has outlasted religions and governments in Mexico. beans and squash. 1989. and the proof of this is to be found in the omission of chile peppers. which the outsiders viewed as a mere condiment. Food historian Sophie Coe (1994. it fails to adequately describe Mexican cuisine. It’s magic. while the original inhabitants considered them a dietary cornerstone. Corn is an incomplete protein. and chile. It is the ingredient that can determine the ﬂavour of a dish.. It also provides the vitamins they lack. who wrote in the sixteenth century that without chiles Mexicans did not believe they were eating. It is part of the landscape. except that with the exclusion of the chile. none of the three would be what it is.1 but even a brief perusal of Mexican cookbooks indicates that chiles are signiﬁcant in Mexican life.2 Diana Kennedy echoes Bartolomé de las Casas. cornﬁelds.. p. (Muñoz. p. Without each other. beans are difﬁcult to digest. p.3 In the sixteenth century when the Spanish ﬁrst arrived. a New York restaurateur. with beans and squash. beans and chiles. pp. 460). The combination of the three makes a nutritionally balanced meal. The image of a basic culinary triad is tempting. the cuisines of Mexico have been based on corn. but hopelessly monotonous. Clearly these three crops are basic foodstuffs in the Mexican diet.
the ancient Aztecs ate turkey. The settlers eventually accommodated themselves within the existing culture. Cuisines evolve as cooks experiment with ingredients and learn new ways to process and combine their raw materials for different occasions and effects. As the Spanish established themselves in what they called New Spain. beans and chiles. they also established ﬁrm roots for the Catholic church. so the variety of foods recorded by Sahagún was actually a result of culinary expertise. Soldiers. tortillas and tamales. 1981. The repertory of Mexican cuisine expanded with the addition of ingredients and cooking methods which were introduced during the Spanish colonial . New foods and cooking techniques are incorporated. animals and insects were being sold for food as supplements to the basic diet of corn. and culinary knowledge and expertise grow. but Sonia Corcuera (1981) points out that the basic ingredients were still limited. meticulously collected material to describe the Aztec (Náhuatl) way of life. including everything that they ate. seeds. lentils and a few vegetables. Not all indigenous groups were equally afﬂuent. They also had military and political power over other groups in the region from whom they demanded tribute. Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1950–82 ). Those ﬂavours which are favourable are repeated and remembered. bland diet of bread. a Franciscan friar who came to Mexico in the sixteenth century.5 The foods still boiled down to being variations of chiles. pulses. wild mushrooms. partly out of necessity and somewhat because of taste choice’ (p. Spanish sources of the period attest to gastronomic abundance. which added variety and breadth to their diet with comestibles that they did not grow themselves. mainly of foods. mutton. 90–9). and this notion is reiterated by writers until today. Without question there was creativity. used to a modest. adapted to the Mexican diet. and also of the feasts that the emperor Moctezuma offered to them and ate himself. tubers. and culinary artistry (Corcuera. where all sorts of plants. Food in the History of Central Mexico (1990). though there is some disagreement amongst researchers and cookbook writers.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 9 sophisticated farming techniques (chinampas4 and milpas) and more sophisticated gastronomy. There are various accounts of how the Spaniards were impressed with the beauty and abundance of the Valley of Mexico. tasted and tested during meals. The Spanish friars were the ﬁrst to learn the local languages for the purposes of evangelization. p. ﬁsh. vegetables. plants and herbs that they collected or domesticated for food use. Food historians assert that Aztec cooking was developed to high art. 93). Sahagún recorded that along with maize and beans. She states that ‘at ﬁrst the civilization was too highly developed and the populace too numerous for the Spaniards to ignore the native cooking. Cowal’s unpublished study. insects and a wide variety of fruits. but the availability of various foods impressed the conquistadors who came and saw the great markets of Tlatelolco. 30). imagination. and it is through their writings that we have any knowledge of the social and culinary systems of the precolonial period. further shows how the Spanish who came during the Conquest were only partially forced to adjust to the foods of Mexico (pp. small game.
above all. chickens and sheep to Mexico. a new and coherent cuisine . and though they did inﬂuence the local cuisines.’9 She asserts that the indigenous cuisines of Mexico did not undergo the miscegenation that most people claim. Yet in spite of this. p. p. cinnamon.. Historian Cristina Barros states that contemporary Mexican cuisine is 90 per cent indigenous and 10 per cent other inﬂuences.6 ‘But among the Aztec elite maize appeared in so many forms that it is hard to imagine them suffering from the monotony which we envisage when told of a culture which has a single staple food and eats it every meal of every day’ (Coe. the Italians. have all had much more impact than the usual indigenous/colonial story would lead one to believe. ‘The most delicious cuisines [in Mexico] are those with more indigenous inﬂuence. as were cooking methods using fats. 62) or of ‘baroque cuisine’ comes directly from the convents. (Rachel Laudan. The convents were wealthy laboratories of gastronomic experimentation where the sharing of culinary inﬂuences ﬂourished during the colonial period. made up of different components that have now blended together to form .. p. as much of what they were used to cooking could not all be imported from Spain. the basis of Mexican cuisine remained the same as it had always been—corn. These popular traditions partly consist in the culinary techniques and gastronomic knowledge that have been passed down the generations through the family kitchen.10 • Culinary Art and Anthropology period. 1995. the process of mestizaje is not a simple fusion of Indian and Spanish. What exists in Mexico is what food historian Rachel Laudan deﬁnes as a local cuisine.8 Cowal points out that ‘Spanish cooking was already a mixture when it got to the Americas. 1995. The idea of an ‘emerging mestizo cuisine’ (Valle and Valle. ‘The excesses and inventiveness of convent cooking reﬂected Mexico’s diverse ﬂora and fauna. personal communication) By the nineteenth century. the omnivorous appetites of its inhabitants. cows. Eight centuries of Arab inﬂuence had left their mark’ (1990. the Germans. beans and chiles. 1998). and. 1994. the Mennonites. cloves and many other herbs and spices that are widely used in Mexican cookery today.. Before the arrival of the Spaniards.. At the same time. p. within the convents. coriander. garlic. They also brought onions.. the power and wealth of its religious orders’ (Valle and Valle. 90). milk and its products were unknown. 63). 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 . the Lebanese. therefore. the bases remained Mexican. which integrated the new ﬂavours and foodstuffs. Juárez López (2000) argues that the bases of much contemporary . Mexican cooks sought the essence of their art in popular traditions rather than in formalized techniques (Pilcher. The Spaniards introduced pigs..7 Given the sophistication of both the native and foreign colonial cuisines. On the other hand. Not just the Spanish but the French. 113). such as frying. There were few Spanish who arrived during the Conquest. Spanish nuns had to learn to use the local products. the later Spanish refugees from the Civil War. That is.
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. after having read so much about Mexican food before my trip.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 11 Mexican cuisine are European. encompassing all kinds of ﬂowers (like ﬂor de izote) and local vegetables (like huauzontle). He grew up with a passion for food because of his mother.g. This was because I expected there to be dozens of beans and ways to prepare them in Mexico. out at street stalls. Kennedy. 1996. a fascinating and many-faceted world’ (1989. Muñoz. Gabilondo. Ricardo had had a modest upbringing in southern Mexico in Tabasco and Veracruz. At the time. as well as other cookbook authors. in restaurants and on regular days or during ﬁestas. ranging from the simplicity of ingredients best eaten raw (like pápaloquelite or small avocados criollos. Gilliland and Ravago. 1987. planted. as well as culinary tools. There are subtle as well as forceful ﬂavours. have worked hard to dispel the idea that the foods of Mexico are anything like the food of popular Tex-Mex restaurants abroad. the most well known writer on Mexican cookery. and Laudan (2004) makes a strong case for Persian inﬂuences. Diana Kennedy. 1995). Bayless and Bayless. hunted. Middle Eastern and French. very much. Regardless of a recipe’s origins. who is an excellent . and this was only a sampling. Home Cooking by Profession Soon after I arrived in Mexico for the ﬁrst time I met Chef Ricardo Muñoz. states that ‘[t]he foods of regional Mexico are in a gastronomic world of their own. Ricardo was not yet 30 years old. research and writing for this book. 2005. many non-Mexican (e. What did impress me. and he had already devoted seven years to travel. 2000). techniques and customs related to food from all over the country. About thirty different recipes were covered. All of them draw this conclusion from their exposure to regional home cooking rather than to restaurant food. Zaslavsky. 1986. p. such as the Chinese. in small eateries. Indeed. 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. Kraig and Nieto. many restaurants in Mexico offer home cooking as their specialities. was when we next met and Ricardo showed me the ﬁrst draft of the Mexican gastronomic dictionary he had written (now published. xiii). The project was a self-motivated labour of love. Aﬁcionados travel to Mexico just to discover the richness and variety of the local cuisines. because Ricardo believed that there was so much about Mexican gastronomy that people in Mexico and abroad should be aware of. There were two thousand single-spaced pages describing what people cooked. and collected and what they ate at home. whose edible skin tastes subtly of anise) to complex stews or preparations made of dozens of ingredients (like moles and stuffed chiles).
he was continually drawn back to the ﬂavours and culinary cultures of home. sometimes home cooking is reproduced in restaurants. he has been actively inﬂuencing others to share his appreciation of Mexican gastronomy. ultimately expanding. sopa de ﬂor de calabaza or sopa de milpa. Ricardo became recognized for his knowledge of traditional Mexican cookery. redeﬁning or reﬁning the cuisine. Dissatisﬁed with a complex green sauce that he intended to serve with duck.12 • Culinary Art and Anthropology cook. recommending other cooking tips. He recognized that many delicacies of Mexican gastronomy are wild ingredients or dishes produced only in people’s homes. where one of his sisters had migrated. 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. and later also his teaching and publications. Cooking Tradition Ricardo is one among many other researchers whose passion for traditional Mexican food inspired an investigation that to some extent is like ‘salvage ethnography’. often shopping for their supplies. and with his delicious cooking. on such a small scale that they remain local and unknown even in other areas of the country. without the experience of growing up in a pueblo as Ricardo had done. By the time he moved to Mexico City as a young adult and began formal culinary training. He had had a relatively afﬂuent urban upbringing. 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. she set up a fonda. For a couple of years he lived in California. in his data collection and awe of the foods of Mexico. But even without books. occasionally lending a hand. a small local eatery selling popular home-style dishes. After following these suggestions. The latter suggested adding a bit of this and that. Ricardo grew up hanging out in the fonda. To be able to afford to send her seven children to school. One friend of Ricardo’s was a chef at a sophisticated Mexico City restaurant serving nueva cocina mexicana. then in turn is re-reproduced in people’s homes. 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.11 To me it seems he is like a contemporary Sahagún. and there he took a course on international cookery. An example is a traditional soup from central Mexico known as squash blossom or milpa plantation soup. discovery or rediscovery of these things. he asked Ricardo for advice. ‘I just told you how to make a traditional green mole!’ was Ricardo’s response. Despite his training as a chef that taught him the basics of French cuisine. 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. watching his mother cook. The soup .
to transmit. dough for making tortillas. The number of restaurants in Mexico serving Mexican cuisine has been rising in the past twenty-ﬁve years.14 Hountondji (1983) reminds us that the root word of ‘tradition’ is the Latin word tradere. and of the new and exciting Mexican cookery that was emerging. In the 1990s professional cookery had become as fashionable and prestigious as it was in the USA and UK. some of whom had trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris or the Culinary Institute of America in New York. with fresh maize kernels. in spite of their support of experimentation and fusion. something to be proud of.15 Etymologically. and huitlacoche (corn fungus). I had considerable contact with professional chefs in Mexico City. the greatest interest amongst young student chefs was in studying traditional Mexican cookery. However. There were many more Mexican food festivals aimed at wealthy urban mestizos than ever before. green beans. the herb epazote. they often talked about Mexican food. In relation to gastronomy and ﬂavours. This was set up by a group of women who were distinguished chefs or otherwise specialists in Mexican culinary culture. Traditions are the ‘habits and values [of a culture that are transmitted] from one generation to another’ (p. which included international cooking skills and culinary history among other subjects. As a nationalistic reaction to foreign inﬂuences on Mexican food. The soup may be thickened with masa (nixtamal ). still under way. p. traditions should not be thought of as static or frozen in the past. squash blossoms. 113) trace the initial interest in preserving and promoting ‘traditional’ and ﬁne regional and local Mexican food to 1981 when the Mexican Culinary Circle (Círculo Mexicano de Arte Culinario). This soup is home cooking (comida casera).Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 13 is made from the products of the milpa. 139). which may seem very personal and ephemeral. The cooking schools in Mexico City were growing. 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. Ricardo’s work slots into this movement. and more and more books were being published about ‘real’ Mexican food. 138). Moreover. and the remote (‘authentic’12) recipes of the provincial towns.13 Long and Vargas (2005. poblano chiles and sometimes nopales. directly related to the growing interest in reclaiming a sense of what is Mexican. and an awareness that their cuisines are unique. was formed in Mexico City. culinary traditions were self-consciously being revived (p. that is. of the pueblos. ﬂavourful. then. . the food of the pueblo or of the market. recovering the recipes of their grandparents. and it was even possible to obtain a university degree in gastronomy. which implies movement. of recuperating and renovating (or even reinventing) ‘traditional’ foods and practices. they still had great appreciation for what they sometimes called the ‘simple’ food. A great cocktail party could turn into a brilliant party if there were a few dishes of quesadillitas or taquitos (mini quesadillas or tacos) amongst the other hors d’oeuvres. courgettes. but it is now also served in posh restaurants serving nueva cocina mexicana. Whether they were specialists of French cuisine or California cooking.
culinary knowledge and skill. from the experience of growing up within a particular gastronomic culture. the recipe for which he described in detail. Knowing how to make certain dishes or how to combine foods is learnt by repeated observation and practice. chile and epazote. 2006. 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. I will return to a discussion of culinary skill below and to the mutability of so-called traditional cooking in Chapter 5. hands. 361). I had seen egg-laying hens for sale.14 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it is difﬁcult to pin down what precisely is transmitted. ‘It is not because we want to stop following traditions’. combined with creativity. 128–30) that is stored in their heads. but her friend who had given it to her told her to prepare it with onions. fellow cooks are expected to be able to draw upon a ‘stock of knowledge’ (Keller and Dixon Keller. saving the blood and tripe to cook with the huevera. tomatoes. Once I mentioned to friends in Milpa Alta that in the main market of Mexico City. they improvise with the food they have at hand. social and/or professional sense. in addition to gleaning what we can from books and other means or media (cf. with a little imagination. cooking is something that is enacted and embodied. For now. They were cut open down the middle and their unlain eggs were on display. or as Ingold describes other kinds of skill. it was explained to me. p. noses and mouths. Rather. from consulting with others. Sutton. 2006. ‘it is so that we can use up what is in the fridge’. This is how culinary knowledge is often passed on— without recipes or precise measurements. Rather than strictly following a recipe. and they ordered an egg-laying hen from the butcher and prepared the tamales de huevera for my next visit. hearts. Miguel proceeded to relate how his mother would slaughter the hens. when people need to do things quickly. La Merced. the curds made from the colustrum of a cow. . These unlain eggs are called the huevera and my friends were able to tell me about different ways of preparing them.). n. quoted and discussed in Sutton. p. and these dishes are often thought of simply as being ‘traditional’.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’.16 Unlike artefacts in an ethnographic museum. came home one day with calostros de vaca. if they are labelled at all. Doña Margarita and Primy told me how they would usually make tamales with them. 106). 2001. As with any other sort of skill. We learn gastronomic habits and values by growing up within the contexts that give rise to what we later deﬁne as ‘traditional’. 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. Certainly most people’s vast culinary knowledge is never written down. My friend Yadira. She herself had never tasted or cooked it before.d. not usually articulated. traditions are dynamic living practices that are ‘inﬁnitely adaptable’ (Sutton. will affect the outcome of the dishes cooked. in a physiological. These habits and values. pp. in Milpa Alta. it ‘develops with the growth of the organism’ (2000.
It was intimidating. to say the least. to make a soft dough before patting them out into tortillas. is necessary to cook well. Some cookbooks suggest sample menus or traditional accompaniments. for people who like to cook’ (Condon and Bennet. 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. and baking them one by one on a comal. ‘The pervasive fact about Mexican food is that it is not only for people who like to eat. it is. and much effort and time are needed to prepare almost anything that people eat daily. in spite of industrialization). On Learning Techniques Before my ﬁrst visit to Mexico. Here is an example from the cookbook of a well-known restaurant in Texas that has been known for serving ‘authentic Mexican food of the interior’. women had to spend several hours a day boiling dried maize kernels. or basalt grinding stone. 16). The grinding action of the stones produces a more even. 134) In addition. 1973. Fonda San Miguel. they recommend serving the ﬁsh with arroz blanco (white rice) and frijoles negros (black beans). so it is good advice to follow. I bought or read a number of Mexican cookbooks. recipes for which are found on other pages of the book. Most people I came across in Mexico would still insist that a salsa made in the molcajete tastes better than one made in a blender. in the ﬂavours. which slices.18 Sauces had to be prepared with the stone mortar and pestle called the molcajete and tejolote. p. these are the three ingredients of their recipe for Pescado Tikin Xik: 6 6. in some households. The rice and beans would be the most common accompaniments for this ﬁsh in the Yucatán where the recipe originates.to 7-ounce red snapper ﬁllets. a metal or clay griddle. but in fact they were full of parenthetical references to other recipes or basic techniques. This is one reason that a sincere interest in cooking. skinned Achiote Rub (see recipe for Cochinita Pibil) Cebollas Rojas en Escabeche (see separate recipe) (Gilliland and Ravago. the ingredients. textured salsa than an electric blender. making a choppy and more watery sauce. which are helpful. hoping to try out some recipes. p.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 15 Some traditional Mexican cooking techniques are complex or involve long processes. Inspired by a recipe from Diana Kennedy. 2005. rather than grinds. the raw materials and the ﬁnished dishes. (Thank goodness we can ask the ﬁshmonger to ﬁllet and skin the ﬁsh for us!) . ﬂat round cakes. then grinding them on a metate. As one cookbook aptly expresses. or with chipotle mayonnaise. Some restaurants even serve salsas from molcajetes whether or not they actually make the sauces in them. even more so if such a thing were possible. Often recipes looked deceptively simple. Before industrialization (and now.
and it is this type of discernment that also needs to be learnt. approximately. But home cooks surely did not think in terms of recipes. an artefact (or . 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). after all. peeled and roughly chopped 2 pounds (about 4 large) tomatoes. Once in a material or physical state. 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. tasted and savoured. kept hot. kept hot rajas of 1 large chile poblano (see page 471) 4 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco or añejo (Kennedy. cocida (page 337). gastronomic. Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs).16 • Culinary Art and Anthropology For another example. broiled (see page 472) 2 tablespoons safﬂower oil 2 heaped tablespoons ﬁnely chopped white onion ½ teaspoon (or to taste) sea salt (Kennedy. assessed by sight. Ingredients are chosen. broiled (see page 450) 5 chiles serranos. or were side dishes or basic preparations that ultimately constituted an ingredient for another recipe. My impression was that short recipes were either composites of several others. p. According to Ingold (2000). 1989. 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. abstract formulae that need to be selfconsciously recorded. approximately. 318) Turning then to her recipe for salsa ranchera on page 338. texture and smell. but a full meal. It took me several months of living in Mexico before I could look at a typical recipe such as the above and not need to take a deep breath before beginning. 1989. 338) What appeared straightforward at ﬁrst glance seemed actually more like the endless subordinate clauses of a German sentence. touched and manipulated. or 1⅓ cups salsa de tomate verde. p. 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. it lists the following ingredients: 2 garlic cloves. A cook needs to make myriad decisions before ﬁnally producing not just a dish. these are the ingredients of Diana Kennedy’s recipe for one of the most well-known dishes outside of Mexico. along with the culinary techniques. which are.
I did not dare to put a chile directly on the gas ﬂame of the cooker to blister the skin before steaming and peeling it. meal) is as much a part of the creative process as its pre-conceptualisation. Yadira insisted that it is better to use too much oil to fry rice well before adding water or broth. 343). Among chefs who specialized in Mexican cuisine. I garnered knowledge of technical terminology and processes much more systematically than I did from women in Milpa Alta. food. They serve as reminders so that a cook can prepare a dish using previously learnt skills acquired through experience (see also Sutton. He said that he learned to cook by watching his sister cooking as he grew up. Making raw salsas and different kinds of cooked or part-cooked salsas with fresh chiles or dried chiles requires different methods. This is because ‘the artefact engages its maker in a pattern of skilled activity’ (p. In my case. frijoles refritos. 2006). boiled beans. practise and articulate my questions about Mexican culinary techniques so that some of the cooking skill could grow within me.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 17 in our case. Toño. Another friend. I stopped thinking twice about it. That is not to say that the techniques of one group were any more or less sophisticated than the other’s. Yet when it came to the way in which they talked about Mexican cuisine. When two cooks prepare food following the same recipe the food comes out differently. showed me how he makes refried beans. and he noticed how she respected food. Though she did not set out to teach him to cook. and to my understanding each group held the other in great respect for their presumed culinary mastery. Before going to Mexico for the ﬁrst time. Sutton (2001) notes that written recipes are ‘memory jogs’ that cannot actually teach someone how to cook. When a Mexican friend told me that to make enchiladas I had to ‘pass the tortilla through hot oil’. . following a Mexican recipe required learning culinary skills to which I had had no prior exposure. The women of Milpa Alta and the chefs of the centre differed in social class and social context. To prepare basic Mexican dishes some unique culinary techniques need to be learned. the coming-into-being of any product (artefact. p. even if you must drain off the excess oil. preferably by demonstration and practice. and that it is important to allow foods to take their own time to reach their optimum points. Even watching my friends cook on occasion was not enough for me to pick up the skills in a short time. Because of these very individual actions. In all my time in Mexico. The hands of the cook and other bodily sensory factors play a role in the outcome. I had to confess that I did not know what that meant. who used to cook for a fonda in Veracruz. 2000. participate. too. It took him almost forty-ﬁve minutes to fry and mash onions with the frijoles de olla. 345). a dish or meal) does not actually come into being in the exact way that it was previously imagined (Ingold. he loved to watch her. even though I comprehended the words individually. but I had plenty of opportunities to observe. After some weeks watching and helping people cook in Mexico. rather than use too little oil and sacriﬁce the ﬂavour and texture. they used a very similar discourse. I rarely cooked on my own.
This love may be interpreted as an affection for the people who will be eating or as the desire to eat well. and the gastronomical—and these three are encapsulated in mole. loving way to bring out each ingredient’s best qualities. the cook sometimes dictated me a recipe.18 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Food and Love There is a rhetoric of food and love in Mexico. 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. It may be that a good cook treats ingredients in a particular. saying. This comment may sound exaggerated. of course. which I did often. Richard Condon . There are three types of orgasms. It may also be that a good cook cares about following a recipe or doing a technique properly. The rhetoric of love is not something that is unique to Mexico. they almost always took up this popular discourse of love and gave an emotional value to the topic. including the attention and care that goes into cooking well. what ‘marries well’ or not. It involves understanding the history of a dish or an ingredient. Wooing couples of different cultures often practise courtship or romance with private meals (out or in) as preludes to other things. 1992). but oftentimes. It also appears that you need not be born Mexican in order to feel so strongly about their cuisine. Throughout my ﬁeldwork I was confronted with these statements—both from trained chefs and from home cooks. he who loves’). ‘I cook with love’ (‘Yo cocino con amor’ ). Friends from different backgrounds have told me their culinary secret. ‘What’s your secret?’. when I complimented people on their cooking. Relating food to love in Mexico may not be unique. At some point I wondered whether this might be a clever culturally sanctioned means of hiding culinary secrets. and sometimes said that her secret was ‘love’. This was a phrase they volunteered. and I was unable to elicit a clear explanation from him. The latter often added that love was the ‘secret ingredient’ that made their dishes special. the spiritual. saying. I never asked anyone directly. A young banker once tried to explain to me his relationship to food. And of course there is the correlation between food and romance. he told me—the carnal. which is exempliﬁed by novels such as Like Water for Chocolate (Esquivel. ‘La cocina mexicana es para él que siente. because of a love of cooking. Knowing how to develop the ﬂavours of a food depends on an interest in understanding it and how it reacts with other foods. But my banker friend was not the only person I met who talked of food in this manner. but I believe the prevalence and variety of its expression is pertinent. Different kinds of culinary specialists subscribe to this popular discourse on the connection between love and cooking. If pressed. Professional chefs have a technical language in which to express themselves about gastronomic matters. When people talk of love (amor). they refer to many facets of love. knowing how or why certain things are used together. él que ama’ (‘Mexican cuisine is for he who feels. but when we talked about Mexican cuisine. good cooks from any culture might say that the reason they cook well is because of some kind of love.
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
it is not only a recognition of their culinary knowledge. it separates artists from craftspeople. Similar to what Abarca notes. and to this I now turn in the chapter that follows. caldillo. 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. Recipes Though I have just explained at length that it is difﬁcult to reproduce Mexican cooking without demonstration and practice. embodied or otherwise. and in market stands and fondas. Sazón. Los chiles rellenos en México (1996). They are guided by their memories. 54). In other words. and it is possible to have sazón even when cooking with modern appliances. 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. as well as by their internal embodied knowledge. frijoles de olla. are poblano chiles stuffed with chopped or minced meat ( picadillo). I hope that Ricardo’s detailed explanations will compensate for the lack of his presence.20 Drawing from the work of Giard (2002). In the market the chiles are sold wrapped in a tortilla like a taco. though in sazón they are not mutually exclusive. stuffed chiles would be served with a thin tomato sauce. my working title was Chiles rellenos a la mexicana. Abarca writes. without recipes. I suggest. Because of his training as a chef. This can range from something as common as boiled beans in their broth. The recipes and cooking tips in this chapter are taken from Ricardo’s ﬁrst book. I have heard people describe sazón as something like a blessing or a gift. instead. personal histories and taste. For my part. Her grassroots theorists tend to cook without measuring. that is. or cheese. but in a fonda or at home. that the sazón is what differentiates a good cook from a particularly ﬁnely talented one. but what is most commonly found in Mexico City. I would hesitate to connect sazón too much to ‘traditional’ kitchen equipment. The picadillo ﬁlling for the chile recipes . ‘captures the notion of saber rather than conocer’ (p. I provide recipes throughout this book to give readers an idea of Mexican home cooking (comida casera). ‘to know’ at a sensory epistemological level rather than ‘to know’ in a technical way. When someone has sazón. instructions are meticulously written.22 • Culinary Art and Anthropology their sazón in their ability to prepare particularly delicious food. or sazón. ‘Stuffed Chiles a la Mexicana’. yet also very humble and everyday dish. un don. When cooks are singled out for their ability. I have abridged it only a little as I translated it. that someone is rarely able to pinpoint what her actual trick might be. She describes women who have good sazón who avoid pressure cookers and grind their moles on their metates. When I ﬁrst began my own research. It is precisely this inexplicable quality that sets some cooks apart from others. to more challenging dishes such as pipián verde. All kinds of chiles are stuffed and are served in people’s homes.
below. . peeled and cut into ½-cm (⅛-inch) cubes ½ cup corn or canola oil 1 cup white onions. ready for stufﬁng • See ‘How to Peel chiles poblanos’. 1996. and everyone learns to cook according to the regional style. stir in the beef and pork. They should be cooked but not very soft. Panela. Add the garlic and as soon as it is fried. 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. Oaxaca and Chihuahua cheeses are commonly used. especially the kinds that melt. stirring from time to time to separate the lumps and to avoid it sticking to the pan. Cook until the meat is crispy. Chiles rellenos de picadillo sencillo con papa Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato (Muñoz. • Heat the oil until it smokes lightly and fry the onions until soft and golden.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 23 here can be substituted with cheese. Few families have recipe collections. ﬁnely chopped 300 g (11 oz) minced beef 350 g (12 oz) minced pork sea salt to taste black pepper. to taste • Blanch the potatoes in water and set them aside. and she soon learned to make local dishes. Formal classes of authentic Mexican cooking are never taken. freshly ground. Chiles 15 chiles poblanos. pp. but she came to live in the capital when she was very young. just by watching. Picadillo 3 cups potatoes. María Elena was born in Coahuila. ﬁnely chopped 1 tablespoon garlic. but a mother or mother-in-law knows that her daughter or daughter-in-law should someday inherit her culinary secrets.
below. and season with salt and pepper to taste. sliced into thin segments 4 cloves garlic. peeled 6 black peppercorns sea salt to taste chicken broth or water. tomato and cumin. as necessary corn or canola oil for frying • See ‘How to Achieve a Perfect capeado’. p. 1996. liquefy the garlic. Adjust the salt. and fry the onion until golden. chopped ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds sea salt to taste black pepper to taste • Heat the oil in a pan until it smokes lightly. Alternative caldillo ( from picadillo especial recipe.24 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Add the potatoes and pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes. chopped roughly 6 cloves garlic. • Allow the caldillo to cook for about 15 minutes. accompanied with white rice and/or brothy beans and corn tortillas or bread. Capeado 8 eggs at room temperature. 53) 2 kg (4½ lb) tomatoes ½ cup white onions. • Leave to cool and stuff the chiles. peeled 1 cup tomato. • Serve the chiles with this sauce. as necessary ¼ cup corn oil sugar to taste . • In a blender. Strain the mixture and pour it over the onions. separated sea salt to taste ﬂour. Munoz. Caldillo ¼ cup corn oil 2 cups white onions.
Pour the sauce into the oil and let it cook about 10 minutes. because if they are peeled too far in advance they may become too soft and lose their texture and visual appeal. add a little sugar. immediately transfer the chiles to a plastic bag and close it. • Place the chiles directly over the ﬂame on the stove. Cook until the tomatoes are totally cooked. These are the most common ways. Leave the chiles to rest for around 15 minutes so that they can sweat. and stopping at least 1 centimetre (⅓ inch) before you reach the bottom tip. 48–9) Almost every family has their own technique for peeling and cleaning chiles. It is necessary to dry the chiles with a dry cloth or to drain them very well. garlic. Taste and adjust the seasoning. When the skin is charred well and evenly. and chiles ixcatic. making the chiles hotter. Try to peel the chiles just before stufﬁng and coating them in batter. almost falling apart. and the skin will slip off more easily. with their respective differences. If they will be coated in capeado it is all right if some bits of skin remain. keeping the stem facing upward. heat the oil until it smokes lightly. This is best done with your ﬁngers. or over hot coals or a wood ﬁre. • This same technique may be used for other fresh chiles like the de agua of Oaxaca. and salt in enough broth or water to completely cover them.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 25 • Boil the tomatoes with the onion. • It is unnecessary to scrape the chiles. but this makes the chile lose some ﬂavor. Strain it. • Remove all the veins and seeds from the chiles. If it is a bit sour or tart. • In a deep pot. 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). This can also be done on a griddle (comal ). you may return them to the ﬂame to burn off any remaining skin. starting 2 centimetres (¾ inch) from the stem. How to Peel chiles poblanos (pp. Check that the part attached to the stem is completely clean because some veins and seeds often remain. • Place the chiles on a chopping board. because they may break. . so it is good to roast and peel a few extra chiles. Set aside to serve with stuffed chiles. Many people ﬁnd it easier to remove the seeds under cold running water. It is at this stage when the chiles are most easily broken. With the tip of a knife cut a slit down the length of each chile. If they are not to be battered. • Pour it all into a blender jar and liquefy to form a smooth sauce. pepper. but if you have very sensitive skin you may wish to wear rubber gloves. If the cut is made from end to end it may be difﬁcult to stuff and then close the chiles. The inside of the chiles should be cleaned with a damp cloth. jalapeños.
they are not yet ready and should be beaten some more. . • Beat the egg whites only until they form soft peaks ( punto de nieve. incorporate the yolks one by one with folding movements. but not too much because it is easy to overbeat them.26 • Culinary Art and Anthropology How to Achieve a Perfect capeado (Muñoz. It is very difﬁcult to beat many egg whites stiff at the same time. turn the chile to cook the other side. Do not heat it too much or the batter may burn. pp. This also helps the egg to adhere to the chile and not slip off when you fry it. just stiff ). the batter will separate. since it helps the whites to reach the required or ideal point. It should also be dry so that no liquid will spill out. in stages. • Before placing the chiles in the oil. Afterward. To determine whether they have reached this point. • If you need to coat large amounts of chiles. the chiles should be totally dry inside and outside. because these bowls retain ﬂavors and odors and often cause the egg whites to collapse. • Never beat egg whites in plastic bowls. and with a spatula. • Coat the chiles in the batter quickly. • Roll the chiles in sifted ﬂour (make sure to shake off the excess). • When stufﬁng the chiles. even if it has previously been strained. • Do not stuff the chiles too far in advance since the juices of the ﬁlling may spill out. • When placing the chile in oil. 1996. Metal or glass bowls will also give good results. Pay special attention to drying the inside very well. • The stufﬁng should be cold or at room temperature. if not. 112–3) • For the egg to stick well to the chiles. splash the oil over the top of the chile to seal it. moisture will deﬂate the stifﬂy beaten eggs. make sure that the oil is hot enough. if the egg whites move or slip. use a spatula to push it back to stick to the chile so that it remains uniform and without drips. • The ﬂour should be sifted because lumps remain raw and give a bad taste to the capeado. At this stage you may add salt. because they are difﬁcult to handle if they are too heavy. Add one or two tablespoons of sifted ﬂour if you wish to have a thicker batter. it should smoke lightly. They very easily collapse or separate. • If the batter spreads beyond the sides of the chile. • The eggs must always be at room temperature because cold egg whites do not rise sufﬁciently.21 A copper bowl is ideal. avoid overstufﬁng them. though copper bowls are expensive and difﬁcult to ﬁnd. lay it with the opening facing up. If the eggs have been in the refrigerator it is necessary to remove them two hours before using them. overturn the bowl. prepare the batter in small amounts. • As soon as the whites have been beaten to the required point.
you can hold them by the stem to turn them without using a spatula. it is possible! • When frying small chiles and those that do not have a heavy ﬁlling. place them on paper towels to absorb excess oil. • Once you remove the chiles from the pan. though it may be better to turn them by holding the stem. Yes. • The batter should cook until it is lightly golden (never brown). you can splash the top of the chile constantly with oil so that it will no longer be necessary to turn the chile to fry the other side. you may need two spatulas to turn the chiles without breaking the egg coating. • If you are inexperienced. 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.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 27 • With practice.
This page intentionally left blank .
2003) of life in Milpa Alta. consumption and exchange of foods within social networks. delicious. cookery and cuisine. often ﬁnd it difﬁcult to articulate their reasons for preferring some foods over others.–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. there has been more focus on issues such as gender. or to describe and discuss ﬂavours. poverty. home cooks acquire skill by growing up under certain conditions considered ‘traditional’ and also by working with masters who are other home cooks known for their buen sazón. including culinary professionals.g. the means by which each of these groups acquires this skill are completely different. I then move on to examine Gell’s broadly deﬁned notion of art. for my approach to food differs from that of Bourdieu and Goody. identity or symbolic staple foods. Yet many people. which ultimately results in their producing food (artwork/artefact) that is successful in its rendition (that is.1 This may be why there are few attempts to analyze ﬂavours anthropologically.2 Though much has been written about food in anthropology. and often in the context of ritual occasions (e. memorable). creativity and agency. I develop these ideas by ﬁrst establishing how food has been treated previously. see Brown and Mussell. and a point of departure. meaningful. and second. the ‘technology of enchantment’ and his notion of the ‘art nexus’. Food and Culinary Art in Anthropology Chefs and gastronomes talk passionately about food. 1997a. who focused primarily on class distinction and social hierarchy. for a fruitful anthropological examination of food and ﬂavour. Though the results are comparable. 1985. Counihan – 29 – . This is because of the perceived skill involved in its execution. In this chapter I put forth the argument that we should think of food as art in order to analyze it productively anthropologically. I use Gell’s theory of art as a model. 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). Caplan. in the sensual/social relations (Howes. Chefs and home cooks both perceive and appreciate the knowledge acquisition of each other. by taking into account the production. Chefs acquire skill by professional training in schools or working with masters.
Macbeth. discussed further below. 1999. p.g. by locating their interpretation only at the ‘deeper’ level. In fact. taste in terms of ﬂavour seems to be particularly resistant to sociological analysis. Yet it cannot be denied that whether food is discussed in ritual or quotidian occasions. p. 1996). Instead. 40). it is considered to be subjective and too personal for scrutiny. Counihan and van Esterik. than if they simply pleased those who were doing the cooking and eating’ (1996. or. Lupton. comparison and contrast within and between cuisines lacks an essential dimension. 1998) but also more generally in anthropology and sociology (see Highmore. or were ceremonialized. 2002). 1996. arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially. not only in food studies (e. . Malinowski. it has ﬂavour and the taste is important to the people who eat and cook the foods.5 Gell observes that ‘the neglect of art in modern social anthropology is necessary and intentional. analysing cooking in its domestic quotidian context is as important as studying food in ritual contexts. 25) Strangely enough. is a connection that is so easily made in societies where most anthropologists come from. bafﬂed him.3 The topic of food in anthropology has historically been subsumed into these other areas and contexts.g. perhaps because. However. In Goody’s (1982) analysis of hierarchy and the development of elaborate cuisines. 1997. 1997. Yet thinking of a cook/chef as an artist. There is a growing trend to consider the everyday. he supports the observation and study of cooking at the domestic level. the artistic aspect of food production has often been ignored in favour of its shock value. anti-art’ (1996. albeit lightly. as Sidney Mintz put it. constitutionally. see Sutton. which are deemed of higher theoretical relevance.30 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and Kaplan. and not food as a means of deﬁning what else it can be used for in the social order (e. (p. Without the consideration of such related areas. little is written about cooking as a form of art. The distinction between art and craft is a question of skill. 3). The same could be said about ﬂavour in food.4 In other words. Wiessner and Schiefenhövel. 1998. anthropologists are not used to thinking of it as art. stating that there is a tendency to spirit away the more concrete aspects of human life. sex and sacriﬁce. even food. Lentz. It is what matters most immediately to us when we eat and is difﬁcult to isolate as a subaspect of food. But his interest is in comparative analysis over a broad historical. like aesthetics.. especially in areas as closely tied to the whole domestic domain as that of cooking. Mintz encourages anthropologists to study food in its social context as a ‘cuisine’. using this label without questioning its meaning. he discusses ‘the art of cooking’. 1935). especially from the perspective of the anthropology of art. Whilst we may subconsciously appreciate very good food as superior craft. food and eating ‘were more interesting [to anthropologists] if they offended the observer. 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’.
describe Mexican culinary mastery as analogous to the control required to manipulate poetic language or magic. the creative activity. Furthermore. He argues for the need to contextualize social theory in ‘the total process of production. hence power. if you wish—or a socially developed system which is employed in the preparation of foods for consumption. 1982. myself. Having succumbed. 30). The active agency of art is the conveyor or mediator of social meanings. . It is the active element in food preparation. there is no ‘language of food’ which can be learnt via a grammar of eating habits or cooking techniques. within the complex of intentionalities that Gell talks about in his work (1998. 2). meaning is temporally extended and extendable. both professional cooks and women in Milpa Alta. yet in his own work he neglected the aspect of preparation. from his topic of enquiry it seems logical to observe ‘the art of cooking’ itself in the context of its social dimensions.8 an artistic approach may provide greater scope for an analysis of an elaborate cuisine. p. that is. both cooks and eaters) place in the food within their social context. The communicative aspects of cooking and eating lie in the meanings that actors (or agents. At least from my ﬁndings in Mexican cuisine.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. 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. therefore. Although I do not contest the analytical advantages of a structural framework. I was interested in learning the ‘language of chiles’ that I had been led to expect existed from reading Mexican cookbooks. that make good food meaningful and thus give cooks greater social value. like the Mexican. an example from my ﬁeldwork is helpful. It makes more sense. 30). While it is true that Mexican eating habits can be placed into classiﬁcations and then encoded. Some cookery writers. ‘Because people act in terms of understood meanings. within the constraints of a cook’s daily life. p. To illustrate this point. meaning can be said to effectuate behaviors of certain kinds. 1999b).6 Nevertheless. simply did not have a clue about what I was getting at when I talked about culinary manipulations of chiles and other foodstuffs. which are powerful enough to lead to social changes in other levels in the matrix of cultural forms. I was surprised to ﬁnd that real Mexican people. And power and meaning are always connected’ (1996. to this ‘enchantment’. When I ﬁrst went to Mexico. fully trapped under some kind of gastronomic spell. preparation and consumption of food’ ( p. combined with the fact that raw materials need to be bought or collected from different places and then prepared and combined well. to talk about a body of knowledge—a culinary corpus or art corpus. As Sidney Mintz says. It allows women to change their social spaces and thereby expand their social network outside of the home.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 31 political and economic framework. ‘[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.
I am taking cuisine as art in the way that Gell sees art. and yearly timetables of women as well as men. 1999b). the cultural meanings of culinary activity as part of women’s work is different from a semiotic analysis of foodstuffs. 43. (1986. and the cuisine demands a certain discipline and lifestyle which partly structures the daily. What Mexican cooking actually appears to ‘mean’ is a harmonious family and socio-cosmological life. pp. 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. weekly. p. the social meanings or meaningfulness of foods can be better understood if we analyze cuisine as a whole. p. as he developed it in several publications (e. my research focuses on the meanings of interrelating cultural forms—the corpus of cuisine. Gell’s Theory of Art Gell (1996) suggests thinking of art as a ‘vast and often unrecognized technical system. These are important points which could lead to further investigation. Thus I avoid analysis of semiotic relations such as corn with blood or chiles with penises (in the wordplay albur).32 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Technical mastery is what deﬁnes the art object. To help in thinking about food anthropologically. 6 –7) Put into context. Another way of looking at it is Munn’s deﬁnition of meaning. therefore. my position with speciﬁc regard to food is to locate the source of meaning in the social relations between cooks and eaters and in culinary agency. Thinking of food as art which is based on action (Gell. but also acknowledge the artistic quality of the act of cooking. Women do the cooking. So. and my approach attempts to respond to such a gap. essential to the reproduction of human societies’ (p. intended to change the world rather than encode symbolic propositions about it’ (1998. focusing on culinary practice. I mainly draw upon Alfred Gell’s theory of art. emphasis added) which . then. Thus. which is the efﬁcacious aspect. 1998. or repository of social meaning. 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 trying to explain why one foodstuff may ‘stand for’ something else. and recognizing this puts due emphasis on the ﬂavour of food.g. If foods are full of meaning. as being the relational nexus that enters into any given sociocultural form or practice (of whatever order of complexity) and deﬁnes that practice. Instead. the perspective of food as art may help us understand some of the meanings that foods carry. 6). and social interaction and hospitality in ﬁesta and quotidian occasions. 6). ‘as a system of action. Rather than direct metonymic expressions of foodstuffs standing for other social structures. monthly. and therefore meaning ful. women’s domestic and extradomestic roles.
in particular. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. Gell emphasizes action. what Gell calls captivation (1998. 68ff). ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects. Put very simply for visual art. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. whether from the position of producer. or (eventually) the development of personhood. Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. therefore. upon which/whom agency is exerted. sometimes via the index/artwork. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. or made beautiful’ (p. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. become personiﬁed and persons become objectiﬁed. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. 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. including art-objects. consumer. sometimes through art-objects.1).1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. p. p. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. for instance. we may think of the artist as cook. the prototype as recipe. the index as the food. meal or dish. The agency of the artist. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . sometimes directly. The solution to this problem. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). It is art as an activity. Likewise. or as a social actor. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. the artwork is an ‘index’. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). or both. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. They also are thought of as having higher value. which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. as products of techniques’ (p. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. in Gell’s terms. 43.9 Art objects. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. original emphasis). every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. 43). p. and recipient as eater (see Table 2. 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. produced by an ‘artist’. gastronomic bliss.10 David Parkin (2006.
This is because. In effect. Our interpretation of a food event depends on the perspective we take. wherein he demonstrates the differing relations among the previously mentioned four entities. This allows us to construct a table based on his (see Table 2. a social agent. sight. It is the ﬂavour of the food. What is important to keep . however. to produce social effects on or conduct social relations with other social beings (patients).’ Therefore we recognize culinary artistry by the power of the food to perform a perceptual change in the eaters. p. even extra-sensorially. and these interpretations can change with time or the position we take in relation to the social actors involved. difﬁcult to describe. texture. Gell constructs a table (1998. that means that the construction of an artwork is like the construction of a person. It is an extension of a person whose biography can be traced via the whole body of art. the notion of culinary artistry remains elusive. which chefs/culinary artists are able to manipulate to make the eater’s experience transcend the moment. An artwork has the power not only to inspire awe. which belongs to families. and Corresponding Food Terms Artist Artwork Object or person depicted by artwork Spectator.34 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Table 2. which will become clearer as this book progresses. we can think of the art nexus as a food nexus. in the way that I use the term ‘culinary artistry’.11 It is helpful to use Gell’s terms to understand the active nature of bringing out the ﬂavour in food. The relations directly involving the index (in our case. an object has the power (agency) to act. p. food) are the primary transactions. following Gell (1998.1 Artist Index Prototype Recipient Terminology Employed by Gell. 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. Crudely put. Of course. and their effects. Thinking of it in this way. dish. They categorize cooks as ‘burger-ﬂippers’. replacing the corresponding terms that Gell uses with food-related ones. ‘accomplished chefs’ or ‘culinary artists’. depending on which is the primary agent (with the sufﬁx ‘-A’) and which is the primary patient (with the sufﬁx ‘-P’). meal Recipe Eater the food consumed. an art object can be thought of as equivalent to a person. hearing and that extra-special something (sazón?). 153). By its artistic nature. encompassing taste. For my purposes. Food prepared by a culinary artist makes diners feel that ‘Life is wonderful’ rather than ‘That was delicious. the art corpus (its family.2). lineages and so on. smell. though examples can be given for the other instances of when agency is abducted via the index. physically enhancing their experience of life. the artist’s technical mastery gives the object of art this social ability. patron Cook Food. 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. The perception that ‘Life is wonderful’ would be something that eaters would experience through their senses. 29) of what he calls the ‘art nexus’. its lineage).
. 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. barbacoa/mole as feast food Recipe-A→Eater-P Concept of mole controls eaters’ experience.g. food-A→recipe-P Recipe constrained by physical characteristics of food/ingredient. e. controls cook’s action Recipe-A→Food-P Recipient Eater Eater-A→Cook-P Hired cook prepares food. avocado. diner in awe eater-A→recipe-P Rejection of food. e. making barbacoa bestows prestige Food-A→Food-P Prototype Recipe Recipe-A→Cook-P Recipe dictates what cook does. meal ‘tamales needing special care Recipe dictates form taken by not to anger them so dish/food that they can cook’. as witness to act of preparing food Cook-A→Food-P Basic act of cook making/preparing dishes.g. Modiﬁed/Adapted. By permission of Oxford University Press.Table 2. eater dislikes food or does not ﬁnish what is served Eater-A→Eater-P Hiring a cook.‘Life is wonderful’ effect by chef. 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.a made thing’. ‘tamal as. dish. dish. eats own cooking. host eating food prepared on his/her behalf Source: Table 1 from Gell (1998).2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus Agent→ Patient↓ Artist Cook Artist Cook Cook-A→Cook-P Cook shares meal. food is ordered in restaurant or at street stand Eater-A→Food-P Ordering food or asking cook to make particular dishes Index Food. e. following tradition Index Food. meal Food-A→Cook-P Food dictates cook’s action with it.g.g. © Oxford University Press. and affected by food/ingredient. e.
1996. hence the focus on the agent-patient relationship. who were legendary cooks. to explain the mediation performed by an artwork. therefore. In Milpa Alta and other parts of Mexico City. 52).36 • Culinary Art and Anthropology in mind is that objects and persons are connected in a nexus of intentionality. a woman hopes that some of her magic/skill will rub off on her as she observes. Mexico. I am not assuming this only for the purposes of analysis. Learning to cook is actually part . Culinary knowledge or skill. A similar effect occurs when a person hosts a catered dinner party gets the credit for the quality of the food. cookery is commonly spoken of in terms of artistic practice. is based on practice which can be learnt. In fact. the agency of the artwork can be mobilized by another person for social relational inﬂuences. and the hired cook is overlooked (recipient/eater-A→ artist/cook-P). Gell details how each relationship occurs. now dead. the celebration loses some of its meaning. but put simply. and their daughters and daughters-in-law. So. it is offered to guests in abundance. 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. and employs those skills on her own. This can also be observed in Milpa Alta. he poses the example of the work of an (anonymous) artist commissioned to produce a likeness of a ruler or a religious ﬁgure. in public feasts such as weddings. we are in a patient position in relation to the cook-agent (cook-A→eater-P). try to learn their craft by proximity. and being known as a good cook is socially valued in Mexico. ‘[T]echnical virtuosity is intrinsic to the efﬁcacy of works of art in their social context’ (Gell. food is often the subject of conversation among all kinds of people. and close women friends. though within this relationship there may be several subrelationships of action. although those who stand out as particularly talented are given recognition. For our purposes it is sufﬁcient to focus on the simplest and most direct relations of agency and intention. enhancing his or her social relations by means of the occasion and its success. whose renditions of classic recipes were equivalent to art. Part of the requirement for a proper wedding is a proper feast. Working with or for a ‘master’ (or culinary artist). The practice in itself is not restricted to publicly acknowledged culinary masters. ingests. and a particularly skilful cook is casually thought of as an artist. Whether the special meal is prepared at home or not. The spectator’s perception of the person whom the image represents is directly related to perception inspired by the artistic quality of the art object. p. and many times I found myself listening to grandmothers telling stories about other women.12 When we as eaters perceive of food as art. and this directly affects the families of the bride and groom (food-A→eater-P). cooking is an ‘art’. Such women gain fame in the community. Without a sufﬁciently elaborate or festive dish. Regardless of who actually did the physical labour.
but also the former [the community] rather than the latter [the individual] is its [the aesthetic level’s] rightful carrier’ (p. 15) characterization of art can lead one to interpret food as a form of art: ‘To an anthropologist. who are usually other women in the community. 347). an aesthetic satisfaction is also expected from eating. in addition to the satisfying of the appetite. Another way of looking at this is by thinking of Simmel’s notion of the ‘sociology of the meal’ (1994). such as food. not only can a community of several afford more easily the necessary effort than the individual. is attributed to the hand of the cook. Gow. via the ‘aesthetic’ that comes from meal sharing. this signiﬁes a transformation of the carnal to spiritual.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 37 of every girl’s domestic training as she develops into a grown woman. She begins to learn by observing her mother. between art and craft. the ﬂavour of love. 1982). good cooking is learnt by training and imitation of masters. Thus. thinking of food as art makes it easier to understand why it is that ﬂavour and cooking mean so much to Mexican people. Like any other type of skill. all of which interrelate to make up the texture of social life. and economic matrix in which the object has been produced. or the sazón. Nevertheless. even the simplest naming of an object—as mask. la mano. ‘This is because when. but it also causes the togetherness of the social actors.13 Not all of a master’s apprentices produce equivalent works. then. food is not necessarily thought of as art in the same sense as Mexicans or Milpaltenses would think of visual arts. individual to society. ritual. ‘Socialization’ of food consists of cooking it into a delicious meal enjoyed by a discerning group of . but what is learnt is a bodily discipline like other artistic skills (cf. the difference between great food and good food. 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. cf. Culinary knowledge. the ﬂavour changes. substance to art. and later also from her mother-in-law and other women. (I will return to this idea below. Although cooking can be conceived of as artistic practice from a native point of view. The ‘egoistic’ and individual act of eating in fact unites people when they come together to share a meal. ritual and economic dimensions. within an artistic dimension of their own (within an ‘art world’. In trying to deﬁne what art is anthropologically. 1999).’ In other words. I might add) into the meal shared. In other words. Also. ‘High’ qualities such as culture or society can almost only develop out of the ‘low’ ones. It is a talent or ﬂair which is physically exhibited but not copied.) As he puts it. When food is transformed (artistically. Becker. art objects are produced within social. Simmel describes what in his terms would be a gastronomic paradox. With a change of the hand that prepares the dish. Firth’s (1996. such as the works of Diego Rivera or Frida Kahlo. can be developed with practice. p. the formal qualities of a piece of sculpture or music are signiﬁcant. a sazón that works to produce spectacular ﬂavours is commonly called un sazón de amor. But from an anthropological standpoint. But the learning process is not simply a matter of imitation and reproduction of the same. or anthropomorphic ﬁgure. since he considers eating and drinking as unfortunately necessary lowly activities that ultimately culminate in ‘society’. or funeral song— indicates an awareness of a social.
At the same time. ﬁlled with meat. savoury ones. People in Milpa Alta continue to believe that ‘angry’ tamales will never cook (food-A→food-P). ‘The nature of the art object is a function of the social-relational matrix in which it is embedded. food does not have quite the same powers. the person who arranges the tamales in the earthenware pot or aluminium steamer may not leave the house until the tamales are cooked. and unverbalized intentionalities are infused in her cooking and later are literally embodied in those who eat her food. Like Water for Chocolate (1992). typical sayings with culinary themes. artworks act as traps to the viewers/victims. for example. depending on her relationship to the people she cooks for. as the hunter’s intentions and ingenuity are present in his handiwork. and the food itself is the outcome of the cook’s intentions to provide nourishment. If we think in terms of food. they are called tamalates and are a traditional accompaniment to mole. Socialization is ‘mediated’ by eating a meal together (p. potentially. the hunter constructed this particular trap for that particular animal. Potentially almost anything can be considered as an art object. A tamal is a steamed bun made of coarse maize meal beaten with lard and enveloped in corn husks (or. such as the mediation that a work of art performs in Gell’s terms among social beings. must also . beans or ﬁsh. where he convincingly argues that traps can be artworks and. First. and the food as a social meal both has more ‘aesthetic worth’ and is more meaningful because of it. convictions. though it can be personiﬁed. and there is no doubt that complex belief systems surround matters of cooking and eating. with red salsa. green salsa or mole. confronting a meal can also be thought of as confronting a person. 7). In Milpa Alta I learned certain rules which must be followed so that the tamales will cook properly. Esquivel’s novel constructs a Mexican world in which the heroine’s emotions. banana leaves). p. Second. It has no “intrinsic” nature. on any occasion. 1998. There are many kinds of tamales: sweet ones. He or she may or may not be a member of the family.14 Confronting a trap is like confronting a person. at the same time. The meal presents a subset of the cook’s culinary knowledge. history. hospitality. independent of the relational context’ (Gell. ﬂavour. and recipes.38 • Culinary Art and Anthropology members of society. family warmth and. or with strips of roasted chile. Using folk remedies. and are also made for nearly every ﬁesta. Without a ﬁlling. called a tamalera. ﬂavoured with fruits. and many others. onions and cheese. Gell’s anthropology of art does not focus solely on analyzing works of art as deﬁned by an art public per se. empowerment. using the knowledge he possesses about his victim’s habits and sociality. 350). nopales. but what is important is his or her presence in the house. the pot or steamer. Tamales are eaten for breakfast or as a snack for supper. so long as it fulﬁls certain prerequisites. in other areas. with sometimes alarming physical effects. and other kinds of intentionalities. In real-life Mexico. Gell’s deﬁnition of an art object is perhaps easier to grasp from his essay ‘Vogel’s Net’ (1999b ). This is the sort of play of ideas that Laura Esquivel used in her successful novel and ﬁlm.
People swore that these methods were true. On Edibility. a social nexus embedded within a culinary system. as the smoke emitted removes anger. and. Without it the tamales will not cook. like other works of art. which is in itself a social system within a matrix of other interrelated social systems. and Exchange One of the main differences between food and visual art is. no one in the house must get angry. 211). a meal or a special dish can be thought of as an art object. 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. that food is eaten. which seems to lie in the realm of aesthetic pleasure. as well. Third. allusive. I would deﬁne as a candidate artwork any object or performance that potentially rewards such scrutiny because it embodies intentionalities that are complex. Another option would be to throw dried chiles into the ﬁre so that their seeds burn. the angered person has to spank the tamalera and then dance around it to make the tamales happy again. many said that they are never full unless they have eaten tortillas. teleras). The ﬂavour aspect is analogous to artistic decoration. (Gell. salsa) in order to fully enjoy eating (also food-A→eater-P). Gell’s insight into decoration is pertinent at . p. This is a piece of corn husk which needs to be tied on the handle of the tamalera. difﬁcult.17 For this reason. of course. can be owned and exchanged. intended to achieve or mean something interesting. that means that artworks can also satisfy hunger or fulﬁl gastronomic desires. For the purposes of this analysis. such as too much rice or the soft centres (migajón) of crusty bread rolls (bolillos. An angry tamal opens up or the lard drips out of the wrapping.16 Some people also told me that certain foods cause stomach upsets (food-A→ eater-P). although no one could give me an explanation for them. To remedy this. since his anthropological deﬁnition of an object of art is as follows: objects that are scrutinized as vehicles of complicated ideas. p. 1999b. 211)18 He also wrote. Food that is considered as artwork happens to have two fundamental qualities—it has (superior) ﬂavour (as opposed to bland or mediocre). In a similar way. hard to bring off. it is a physical thing which. because I witnessed these rules followed whenever we made tamales in Milpa Alta. Hospitality. 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.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. demanding of attention and perhaps difﬁcult to reconstruct fully. and so on. ‘Artworks can also trap eels … or grow yams.15 I never saw an angry tamal myself. I think Gell would agree that his theory could be applied to Mexican food. A food. or that they need their chilito (chile. like other art objects in theory.
then it is an extension of a person.21 What. the functional and ‘decorative’ aspect is its ﬂavour. 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). a crucial element of sharing is involved. but the ownership needs further explanation. resulting in a literal communion of persons. then we can think of ingesting food as equivalent to the consumption/acceptance/possession of a work of art. p. Eaters remember who prepares superior ﬂavours in certain dishes and return to those cooks. from eater to artist). Food has particular physical and sensual qualities which differ from other types of objects which are exchanged. and also sometimes socially. In hospitality. original emphasis). This is its (the food’s) necessity of having a good ﬂavour and being made with culinary technical mastery. This product is then materially ingested by the recipient. This aspect of food giving and receiving implies an element of exchange. which the eater recognizes (as art) by experiencing its ﬂavour. and tying this with its artistic nature. Recognizing the sensory aspect of food. If we account for that.20 If it is an object of exchange in a Maussian sense. 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.19 Generally. 113. it is precisely the communal ingestion of food that ‘releases a tremendous socializing power’ (1994. reveals to us. It is rather as if they were the agents of their own circulation’ (2003. exchanged and displayed’ (1998. but vehicles of personhood. to be owned. and in the case of food. for the family or for non-family members who are guests. They depend on them sometimes gastronomically. which will be reciprocated in some unspeciﬁed way at an unspeciﬁed time in the other direction (that is. Display and food presentation (how it appears on the plate) can be seen as equivalent. although there is a different quality to commensality that seems not to ﬁt with art ownership and display. which is what makes it analogous to a work of art. these decorations perform an important function. does this mean? The eating of the food implies that the ‘spirit of the gift’ that Mauss describes is ingested as well. in fact. 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. This is not to say that the decorations are not important. although Mauss argues that they are all homologous. p. Following Simmel. . as David Howes explains for kula shells. it contains his or her ‘essence’ or ‘spirit’ by nature of being the product of a cook’s invested and creative labour. But I think that food is not merely an object of exchange in the same sense. that ‘they are no mere “objects” of exchange. then. p. 346) from which its aesthetic and meaning arise. food is cooked for more than one person. 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. Abstracting the process of food hospitality ignores another fundamental aspect of food that is offered to others. 81).
a girl is said to be ready for marriage when she demonstrates culinary mastery. Mauss’s time lag). Food sharing is dynamic and self-extending. shared and distributed to others. The skill that the cook reveals through the food likewise reveals other things of social salience. In this vein I must emphasize that food giving is a basic form of generosity in Milpa Alta. unless one is sharing the food. and condition which underlies kula shell exchange between partners’ (1986. So cooking is an inherently social act. As Nancy Munn describes for kula exchange in Gawa. Eating food on one’s own. vendor) and a patient (eater. Munn. Simmel perceives of eating as negative and ‘low’). a meal at a restaurant. 1994. which are given. the act of sharing is a value-enhancing. knowing how to cook. 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. If sharing is a positive act. though.22 Within the corpus of Mexican culinary culture exists a vast subset of street food and market food. As in food hospitality. Food is shared with speciﬁc others as a means of exhibiting respect for an existing or future relationship of reciprocity. For example. eating what one cooks oneself is antisocial. since food transactions are inherently social activities. If we think of the things (artworks. conversely. This notion of cooking and eating also explains why a lone person in Mexico almost never cooks for oneself to eat alone. there is an agent (cook. If we further accept that these things are extensions of the agent’s personhood. just as neglecting to offer food when hospitality is pertinent is considered to be selﬁsh and greedy (envidioso/a). This is food which follows the logic that it should be prepared for an other. the act of eating) can be thought of as a negative act (cf. therefore.’ which transforms the patient’s relationship with the agent. and so. ‘[T]he exchange of comestibles in hospitality is the dynamic base. or the warmth of home cooking. customer). Munn explains that in Gawa. they are material repositories of that person and that person’s intentions.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 41 What the eater also recognizes is the socially meaningful network of intentionalities surrounding the meal. then not sharing (that is. is the opposite of sharing food with others (cook-A→cook-P). and as mentioned previously. 56. prepared by vendors (señoras) to serve commercially. and thus also ensures community viability. whether it is a special ﬁesta. Food is exchanged for money. dishes) that a person makes as the products of her agency. p. there is an immediate exchange between the social actors.g. whereas eating is socially static and self-collapsing. some of which is the same as home cooking. original emphasis). 346). ensuring an ongoing relationship which may be based on exchange at another level of social interaction. ‘[T]he shared meal lifts an event of physiological primitivity and inescapable commonality into the sphere of social interaction and thereby suprapersonal meaning’ (Simmel. this infers that corresponding to the agent (donor) there must be a patient (recipient). 1986. with the expectation of future reciprocity of a similar or different kind (e. The . positive extension of the agent’s ‘spacetime. In this case. how to make tortillas and salsas. p.
the eating of it makes it disappear. A heightened awareness of artistic or culinary expertise does not in itself constitute possession or ownership of the work. so the agency actually lies with the customer. and having enjoyed it very much. its true possession can be thought of as possession of the know-how to be able to reproduce it (to know how to cook). which provides the cook with an agency that contains the powerful potential to demand social reciprocity. Possession is a more complex issue because the dish can be reproduced. 80–1). As the outcome of a recipe. even temporarily. The possession of food-as-art seems to take the form of having eaten it. makes it seem ludicrous to try to pinpoint any ‘owner’ of a dish. 1990. the cook prepares food to the taste of the eater/customer. but it may not necessarily be reproducible in exactly the same way or in the same context. and this can in turn affect the kind of product that the cook produces (eater-A→cook-P). for example. 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). Perhaps it is also possible to say that the ‘inventor’ of a dish. as Gell has described (1996). with his name labelling the cuisine he produces. once the dish is produced. remains the owner of that dish (cook-A→recipe-P).23 Also. or its reproduction may depend on the actions of a speciﬁc cook. Now the ﬁnal problematic issue to explain is its possession. With this perspective. or within the same transactive nexus. or at least to know where to go in order to reproduce it (to know how or where or with whom to eat). In one sense. We remember once more that as soon as the supply of the food is depleted it can be constantly renewed. Possession of food-as-art is not anything like the possession of an object which sits on the mantelpiece for personal admiration. either. yet it can be reproduced ad inﬁnitum. and therefore it can never be truly owned. It also is inapplicable to the anonymous cook who cooks ‘traditional’ foods. nor is it like the intellectual possession of a famous painting beyond a consumer’s (ﬁnancial) capacity to take it home and own it. and perhaps also having the possibility (or controlling this possibility) of eating it again. therefore. rather than self-consciously ‘invents’. Not only this. a cook or chef. does not really make an eater the ‘owner’ of that dish. it can never truly be completely consumed. pp. But this is only a perspective among many possible ways of interpreting this situation. 1986). The fact that most women in the community know how to prepare similar dishes following similar recipes (with the same ‘index’). Food selling is a social activity. Having eaten something once or twice. 1998. opening an exchange relationship by offering food to a guest or family member likewise opens the possibility for reciprocity in some form (Mauss. but it does not carry the fundamental persuasiveness of food giving. we can think of food as both a work of art as well as an object of exchange.42 • Culinary Art and Anthropology transaction begins and ends there. Munn. On two levels. food hospitality consists of ‘unﬁnished business’ which is the essence of the endurance of social relations (Gell. Parallel to this. an index of . and who solely produces these dishes within the family sphere (cook-A→food-P).
to fulﬁl a social function of legitimating social differences’ (p. ‘history turned into nature’. To begin. Flavour and Value This brings us back to ﬂavour. 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. its social value is derived from its social use. This would explain why an element of prestige and (class) distinction is involved in the choices of serving. for example. or wrapping tamales does not necessarily mean that the results are always uniform from cook to cook. 6). here cuisine. Taste is a subconscious kind of knowledge. 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 as an Artistic Practice • 43 the dish/work of art. a part of habitus. but is always in the process of becoming possessed’ (p. I turn to Pierre Bourdieu’s (1984) analysis of taste judgements. food is an object of exchange. Cooking techniques are learned by apprenticeships to masters. I mentioned that art. since food is eaten and virtually disappears. 81). ‘[T]aste classiﬁes. and it classiﬁes the classiﬁer’ (p. Although judgement of ﬂavour seems to be an aesthetic judgement. he can be distinguished among others of different classes who would value other things. whether a purposely made work of art or not. What we learn to discern as valuable is due to our accumulating ‘economic capital’ and ‘cultural capital’ which is learnt via social class. Knowing the proper techniques for peeling chiles. Taste is a sociological phenomenon rather than a question of a person’s passion or individual discernment. However. a person learns the kind of taste that he needs for social belonging. so by his choices of what deserves value. which in Milpa Alta translates as girls learning to cook from their mothers and other women. it ‘is never fully possessed at all. This means. and technical mastery appears to be more objective or scientiﬁc. Recall that the artistic quality of an object is not inherent in the thing. As Bourdieu puts it. and yet it can be cooked again and regenerated. This is the capacity to recognize artistic characteristics in anything. In other words. I would like to explain how the two can in fact be thought of as one and the same. . At the beginning of my discussion of Gell. should be thought of primarily as a technical system. 7). cooking and eating certain foodstuffs. Along with this cultural capital. possession of food-as-art is a dynamic of eating that is dependent upon the social relational matrix in which it is embedded. A person’s taste becomes the mark of distinction between social classes and is revealed by an individual’s possession of an ‘aesthetic disposition’. ‘[A]rt and cultural consumption are predisposed consciously and deliberately or not. What distinguishes an extraordinary cook from an ordinary one is perceived as technical skill which can be judged by its ﬂavour. making tortillas. education and upbringing.
it also has limitations. a class culture turned into nature. which he describes as a dimension of habitus and systematic choices produced in practice. In an analysis of taste and aesthetics. and if the topic is an ‘art world’. Bourdieu approaches artworks by arguing that value is allocated through the ‘stylization of life’ or ‘the primacy of forms over functions’ (p. and then considering the audience and how this informs an artist to modify an artwork. 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 ‘life’ with function (and necessity). physiologically and psychologically. form and function are merged when externally exhibited in bodily action via the ‘aesthetic’. Because of his deﬁned concern with judgement. therefore. aware that he deliberately ignores the cooking aspect of cuisine. and also for the homologous . this should also be observed. So in the case of food. In contrast. or to taste better.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). 5). Taste. (p. Following Gell. if form is constituted by ﬂavour. then ﬂavour is socially functional. I suggest focusing primarily on the art world (cuisine) and the artists. Focusing exclusively on classiﬁcations. that is embodied. judgement of something cannot be separated from an understanding of the process of its production (for food. In a sense. He explains. This can be explained more fully after an examination of the social dynamics surrounding the cuisine. class and hierarchy. It is an incorporated principle of classiﬁcation which governs all forms of incorporation. at least in Milpa Alta (food-A→cook-P). 190) Thus. then some constituting artworks should be discussed as well. having observed its widespread use I found that its acceptance is related to the prestige attached to barbacoieros. It follows that the body is the most indisputable materialization of class taste. in fact. than another. he is. the link between form and function can also be concluded from Bourdieu’s own concept of habitus and self-presentation. as he approaches art from another perspective. choosing and modifying everything that the body ingests and digests and assimilates.25 He separates form from function by associating ‘art’ with form (and luxury).24 Although I cannot determine exactly where or when it began to be served during ﬁestas. helps to shape the class body. he does not analyze particular ‘works of art’ in relation to their own ‘art world’. I argue that form is necessarily related to function. Perhaps this is better explained with Gell’s method of analyzing art. in other words. and as Goody has argued. which it manifests in several ways. So although Bourdieu’s perspective can be applied convincingly to the context in Milpa Alta. rather than beginning with social classiﬁcations. how it comes about that a society places value on an object and judges one thing to be in better taste. that is. cooking). But the cooking is crucial to the achievement of its artistic status. and not just the isolated dishes (see Chapter 5).
and this is empowering in the sense that family ties are tightened when food is shared. Thus. actually reveal the high value placed on women’s chastity. which is also complex to prepare.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 45 technical systems which bring about the (re)production of society. These traps are constructed to be far more sturdy and complicated than is actually necessary to trap an eel. for example. Women as well as men value ﬂavourful food and what they consider to be ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ methods of preparing it. 1996). and they are deﬁned by the sauce rather than by the meat or vegetable which is in it. 2006. which are served when there is a special occasion.27 Skilful cooking does not lead to social empowerment so directly. In Mexico. wedding or funeral. Preparing what is considered a proper meal is analogous to proper nurturing. Strict regulations of women’s movements. therefore. however. her children and. The social efﬁcacy of an elaborately prepared meal performs a similar function. Serving an elaborate dish commemorates an occasion as special by transferring its value (recipe-A→recipe-P).26 This is illustrated by his example of the Anga eel traps (1999b). friends). Mintz. this used to be mole. 2001). 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. which has been suggested to be a means of containing and curbing women’s power over men (Melhuus and Stølen. many everyday dishes are complex to prepare. her own satisfaction.28 Mole may be considered one of the culinary treasures or works of art of Mexican cuisine. different from the daily fare. spouse. The trap. culinary artistry or agency may be a source of women’s power over men (see Abarca. this is very much like what is considered to be men’s restrictions on women. She does not have to cook herself. her in-laws. and at the same time is the source of the eel’s power. the trap is a repository of eel-power. Invariably. With regard to Mexico. In fact. which may have wider signiﬁcance at other social levels. It thus appears as if the motivations for producing good ﬂavours are as simple as personal satisfaction combined with the desire to satisfy others (family. As I will discuss further in chapters 4 and 6. but at least she has the intention to provide good food somehow. 1996). often glossed as machismo. then a cook has the creative freedom to make decisions at this level. In Chapter 4 I discuss how women talk of their skill in cooking in social situations where their power and value are questioned. reveals the Anga belief that the eel is so powerful that its trap must be particularly clever. the requirements to cook dishes from an elaborate cuisine may appear oppressive. tying women to home when they would rather be out (also cf. ultimately. at ﬁrst glance. Related to this. a complex-ﬂavoured sauce made of up to two dozen or more ingredients. there are marked dishes. Control over feeding the family becomes the nexus of meaning regarding women’s social and moral values. This is . such as a birthday. 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. A good wife would then strive to cook well for the sake of her husband. André. If cooking is artistic practice.
This. I was told. If it has superior ﬂavour. Mexican street food is another highly valued part of Mexican cuisine and is also considered to be ﬂavourful. For all meals in general. because it lies within another social dimension of family eating (see Chapter 6). theatres or any other public venue of entertainment other than the market.32 In a way. In Mexico.’ This appears to contradict the value placed on home cooking. the culinary matrix of intentionalities involves the planes of social organizations such as the mayordomía and compadrazgo. both men and her children (Melhuus. We can say that the ﬂavour performs a sensory trick which makes the eater believe that he is attached to the maker of the food. which is also equivalent to mole (see Chapter 5). meat). food that is thought of as ‘very Mexican’ are usually dishes which use autochthonous utensils or ingredients. Chile is equivalent to salsa. but in fact. these dishes are considered to have the best ﬂavour. makes eating tacos in the market a major source of fun: ‘La mayor diversión es ir a comer tacos en el mercado.’ Good food means good ﬂavours. in . 5 and 6). The preceding discussion should help as a guideline for thinking about the social processes which revolve around food preparation and food sharing. or ingredients which are grown or bred on local land. Munn. one is eating a meal prepared by someone caring or is eating a meal with particular social signiﬁcance. Mexicans do not believe that they are eating’. there are no cinemas. it is not enough for the food to provide nutrition and to be edible. It is also important for it to be palatable. I describe in Chapter 4 how in Mexico the ideal relationship between a man and a woman is that between husband and wife. It is also expressed in the importance and the forcefulness of hospitality in Mexico (or in Milpa Alta. Rather than being fed. Since women’s virtue and moral value are also attached to her ability to suffer for her loved ones. and one of my informants also spontaneously told me the same: ‘Sin chile no come uno. that is. What I hope to have conveyed here now is the idea that ﬂavour is actually the most functional aspect of food. There must be a salsa or at least some chile on the table for people to enjoy their food (tortillas. good food ﬁxes the eater’s mind to the cook (or host). the ideal food is a meal cooked by a woman (wife and mother) for her husband and children. and its nutritive beneﬁts are secondary.46 • Culinary Art and Anthropology why salsas are the most important part of a Mexican meal. and also the family sphere which is based on love (discussed further in chapters 4.30 This is why a special occasion meal is served with a ﬂavourful. ﬂavour. for there to be salsa. highly valued. vegetables. In Milpa Alta. 1986). 1992). the logic of love and lovers symbolically makes street food an illicit delight. the efforts of her labours (her cooking) are also highly valued. beans. by extension. elaborate sauce (mole) rather than a regular salsa. and in many ways this depends on women (good cooks) who make good sauces.29 A famous quote is: ‘Without chile.31 In particular. Also. 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. which results directly from the culinary mastery that a skilful cook possesses.
p. and with the food literally ‘merging’ with these persons as they eat it. the emotional outcome of keeping culinary tricks or recipes secret is that a cook would be considered to be ‘greedy’ (envidiosa). that is. indicating that the food had poor or no ﬂavour and was therefore inedible (eater-A→ cook-P). that the ‘aesthetic stylization’ (1994. a host/cook serves what there is at home. 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. prestige is allocated to a cook and her family when she is known to be an extraordinary cook. foods prepared with the highest technical skill possible. and foodstuffs can be social or cultural symbols. some good cooks hide their culinary secrets viciously. making social relations between persons via the meal. Accepting food offered to you. original emphasis). Failing that. This suggests that ﬂavour is irrelevant to proper social behaviour. hovering in the background. if a guest comes without warning. it is an insult to the host. The relevance of ﬂavour is evident because whether or not a cook is successful. a concept which is taken to be the opposite of loving in Milpa Alta (see Chapter 6). a cook tries to serve only foods of superior ﬂavour to a guest. The food transaction takes precedence over the particular food served. and what is served at home also is prepared with technical mastery and love. This actually recalls Simmel’s gastronomic paradox mentioned earlier. is so important in Milpa Alta that many people attend parties with a plastic bag or piece of Tupperware hidden in their handbags. [the spectator] is obliged to posit a creative agency which transcends his own and. 347) of the meal manifest in ﬂavour is part of the social nature of food transactions. 12. 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. whether you like it or not. If a guest leaves food. 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. For this reason. that is. the power of the collectivity on whose behalf the artist exercised his technical mastery’ (pp. By thinking of cooking as an artistic practice. In turn. 51–2). and persons and persons via things’ (1998. the cook continues to aim for the ideals of ﬂavour. but in fact it is most relevant. Food and eating constitute such a domain wherein social settings exist for people to eat together. however. Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Food carries meaning. neither the artwork and the ideas and meanings surrounding . Furthermore. p. 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.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 47 particular).
4). actively mediating between social members to make (proper) social interaction possible. Thus. in this case. and this liberty extends beyond the walls of the kitchen. but of the mobilization of aesthetic principles (or something like them) in the course of social interaction’ (p. attracting others to the food and to the cook. Mexican. ‘[T]he anthropology of art cannot be the study of the aesthetic principles of this or that culture. with the perspective of cooking as an artistic practice. externally controlled activity. women exert power over their men. With this in mind. women also have license to move beyond their restricted spaces. securing a husband. It may seem irrational for a family to hold large-scale ﬁestas when there is not enough money to ﬁnish building the house. herself. their communities. nor the social relations that are generated. A work of culinary art can act as a trap. and they have the autonomy to make important decisions for their family’s social life. with their (proper) cooking. it is possible to explore a cuisine. cooking is creative. In pursuit of culinary ideals. women (and culinary professionals. It is controlled. In pursuit of this goal. are ignored. cooking is an activity which depends upon creative liberty. their families. through the technical processes of cooking as well as the technical processes of social life and social reproduction. By nature of being artistic. society. This means that it is not a predetermined. but the one in control is the artist. In short. . we can effectively investigate the social relational matrix surrounding the achievement of ﬂavour and the development of cuisine. Thus.48 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it. 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. Easier or cheaper alternatives seem to be unacceptable when superior ﬂavours are the goal and this goal is attainable. or the cook. including barbacoieros) are willing to make sacriﬁces which others may not understand.
typically eaten in the streets. labour-intensive preparation and cooking process (described below). herbs and spices. there also are restaurants in Mexico City which exclusively serve barbacoa with its traditional accompaniments. 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. there are also barbacoas of other meats such as rabbit. It is common to start with a bowl of the consomé de barbacoa. because barbacoa is tasty and complete enough the way it is normally served and requires little more to be satisfying. a ﬂavourful broth consisting of the meat drippings which have amalgamated with herbs and spices – 49 – . Customers can order traditional snacks such as gorditas or chalupitas as their starters. The meat typically used is lamb (borrego. Ordering them would be indulgent. and because of its long.or 2-year-old sheep). including the head. Since the whole animal is used. Although these are antojitos. but the corresponding cooking methods used all over Mexico are based on the Mayan pib or earth oven. pork or goat (kid). it is considered to be festive food. turkey. usually 1. Eating barbacoa Whilst it is more commonly prepared as a cottage industry by families called barbacoieros. however.–3– Barbacoa in Milpa Alta In this chapter. 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. pit-barbecued in a cylindrical clay.or brick-lined oven. In the central states the meat is ﬂavoured with the ﬂeshy leaves of the maguey. A cultural show with dancing and singing of ranchera music gives the place the festive air of a cantina or countryside ﬁesta. chicken. Urban families who avoid eating in the marketplace frequent these restaurants for family celebrations such as birthdays or anniversaries. beef. These barbacoa restaurants offer a complete celebration with the meal. reserved for special celebrations or weekends. 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. although smaller parties are welcome. Depending on the region and tradition. restaurants offer them because a large part of their clientele rarely eat street food. The word barbacoa is of Caribbean origin.
Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta Many Milpaltenses have middle-class professional jobs or higher education. which are ordered by the piece. 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. and a sprinkling of grated white cheese. Stalls typically offer bowls of both red and green salsas (but not the black salsa borracha). the main provider of barbacoa (as served in the markets) is Milpa Alta. 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. or sliced avocado may be served). the particular trades in Barrio San Mateo. the busiest time of day is the late morning. crema espesa. sliced limes. but the methods are basically the same. as the main meal at lunchtime or as dinner. Flautas are long tacos that are rolled closed and fried. and it is drunken because it is traditionally made with pulque. Around three thousand sheep are slaughtered and prepared in Milpa Alta each week. and salsa borracha made especially for barbacoa. usually a red and a green one (often either a typical guacamole or one made with avocado and green tomatoes. Customers ﬁnd a space in front of the stalls and order consomé de barbacoa and tacos or ﬂautas. although the livestock are raised elsewhere (Departamento de Distrito Federal. Villa Milpa Alta. as I have already mentioned. many families prepare barbacoa de borrego for a living. and sometimes dried oregano. chopped onions and coriander. Cooking styles and ﬂavourings vary regionally. The soup is followed or accompanied by tacos or ﬂautas of the succulent meat. As already mentioned. In Milpa Alta. and the eater has the option of squeezing in a little lime juice and adding chopped onions. but the vast majority of residents are still somehow involved in the family trade. Salsas are offered on the side. are nopal . coriander leaves and salsa to mitigate the richness of this intense soup. Others order the meat to take home with a small plastic bag of the accompaniments. oregano or coriander leaves. 22). Other areas in the region famous for making barbacoa are Texcoco in the state of Mexico and parts of the state of Hidalgo. For the Federal District of Mexico. a mildly fermented drink made of maguey sap. tomatoes. For eating barbacoa in the market. The salsa borracha. but they regularly prepare several animals to sell in markets every weekend. cooked prickly pear cactus paddles dressed with onions. p. meaning ‘drunken sauce’. Sometimes there is also a side dish of nopales compuestos. 1997. This is served with boiled rice and chickpeas stirred in.50 • Culinary Art and Anthropology during the long cooking process in the pit. The meal is served with warm corn tortillas and can be eaten as a late breakfast (almuerzo). The salsa is served in a bowl decorated with crumbled fresh white cheese and green olives. usually served with a drizzle of green salsa. salt and vinegar or lime juice.
and barbacoa ranked higher in prestige than carnitas. 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. pp. but most people looked up to barbacoieros. . Because of this. 46–9]. As mole became more and more expensive to prepare for large ﬁestas. sometimes quite large. The ﬁrst family in Milpa Alta to produce barbacoa for a living in the 1930s was the Jurado family.) Barbacoa became the trade of highest honour (above butchery and nopal farming). pork butchery (tocinería) and especially the cooking and selling of barbacoa de borrego. when water was needed for the ﬁelds. The barrio appears almost deserted as most people are busiest during the weekend. and thus is valued higher.1 Doña Margarita.2 Preparing barbacoa is more laborious and also has more ﬂavourings.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 51 farming. They had modern kitchen appliances but often had an extra outdoor kitchen with simple industrial gas hobs. and at every corner and in areas where maize was grown there were taps so that water could be collected for home or agricultural use. the dung could be easily collected for use as fertilizer. She had memories from the 1940s of how the Jurados brought their ﬂock down from the mountains once a week. Almost all nopal growers now use cow dung to fertilize their ﬁelds. but also because of the ﬁnancial prosperity associated with its sales. Pork butchers (sometimes referred to using the derogatory word chiteros) continued to earn a good living both selling raw meat and chicharrón (crisp fried pork crackling) and making carnitas. the greater the difﬁculty of access to an object [of art]. The barbacoieros built corrals around these watering taps so that their sheep could graze there and leave their droppings. They scattered the whole street with salt from one end to the other and fed the animals with salt and water. as running water has become normal in most homes. not only because of the value of the product. 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. carnitas and barbacoa grew in popularity as typical ﬁesta favourites. In Milpa Alta over the decades the barbacoa business boomed. Now that few people cultivated maize and fewer still reared their own sheep. barbacoiero families could afford to build their own houses. told me that they raised their own sheep which they would leave to graze in the mountainous pastures of Milpa Alta. the higher its value. where they did most of the actual cooking. this practice has died out. [1996. a barbacoiera with whom I lived. it is impossible to see what is going on behind the gates. This way. The smell begins to fade as the sun rises and the barbacoa is transported to markets in all reaches of Mexico City. Economically. to accommodate an extended family. although locals know which families live in which houses and what their trades are. (This is an example of Gell’s ‘halo effect of technical difﬁculty’. Since most of the houses are surrounded by walls. In those days there was no running water in the houses. The modern stoves were used more for heating up food and tortillas. and those who remain behind are at home preparing for the sales of the following day.
Despite having her own profession. When women married. but oh! surprise—I was pregnant!’ She never ﬁnished her degree because of the baby. it is acceptable and even expected.52 • Culinary Art and Anthropology It was still common in Milpa Alta for three generations to live in one household. but he had time for other work on Tuesday. and they eventually married when she was 22. After Mario’s father died. he was occupied from Friday to Monday. Mario’s father decided to divide his share of . studying to be a teacher.3 Some built their houses adjacent to the husband’s parents’. ‘I don’t know if it was because I did not take care or if I don’t know much about these things. It was rare for Milpaltenses to buy land outside of Milpa Alta. Though there used to be a lot of land in the family. but she had no regrets. when she was 18. He tried to supplement the family earnings by getting a part-time job in accounting but had to give this up. Wednesday and Thursday (see detailed description of barbacoa work below). He told me that he earned more working in barbacoa than by being an accountant. for example. although many young couples aspired to build their own houses separately from their parents or in-laws. By this time Mario’s older brothers had married and set up their own households in land that their father had given to them. but when his father took ill he decided to help with the family barbacoa business. whilst others bought a new plot of land in another area of Milpa Alta. ‘A woman always changes her profession or trade (oﬁcio) to that of her husband. Upon marriage. he did. Mario. but his priority was his barbacoa. Although she had not wanted to get married until she ﬁnished her studies. for a woman to give up her job and dedicate herself to housework and children or to change her profession to match her husband’s. but rather that they must try their best to assimilate to and prioritize their husbands’. She added. The ofﬁce often wanted him to come in on Fridays. Doña Margarita said. Whatever the precise statistics may be. Since he chose to dedicate himself to the barbacoa. as the generations passed the pieces of land inherited became smaller and smaller. at times. they usually moved to their husbands’ house and lived there until they could afford to build their own. the business was his main inheritance.5 Doña Margarita’s compadre was a barbacoiero and his wife was a primary school teacher. la mujer tiene que ayudar a su esposo. women were expected to loosen their ties with their natal families. An elderly lady told me. at least to the husband’s family. She met her husband. although they might resettle in a different barrio or town. as some women are already working in a similar sort of business as their husband’s before they marry. Mario was left to take over the business. some men learn the trade of their wife’s family if it is more lucrative.4 Families remain close nonetheless and visit often. she was expected to help her husband in his line of work: ‘Siendo profesionista. Elena got a job in a primary school and Mario continued studying accounting.’ Elena was a similar case in point. Also. It was not that they no longer belonged to their natal households.’ This is not exactly true. but on Saturdays she sold the barbacoa in the market because he had to stay home to prepare the meat to sell on Sundays. such as barbacoa.
when she did housework and laundry (although I suspect that she hired help for this as well). Until they marry into the family. however. but they usually go to university or might take on another job elsewhere. Apart from inheriting the barbacoa profession. although I know that she could do the same work and sometimes helped Mario with the oven when necessary. This arrangement worked reasonably well. buying more tortillas when they have run out or helping to wash up the plates and cookware at the end of the workday. and a few years later they learn to kill. and so he taught his younger brothers the process. Typically. these women never get involved. it is not uncommon for young men to set up their own barbacoa business apart from their parents’. As the girlfriend of the son of a barbacoiero. it is rare. and she chopped vegetables for the business. but few men start out in a new business like this at an older age. a woman might sit with her future mother-in-law as she . The trade has been described to me as ‘a tradition that one passes down to the new generations’. young men might help their parents with the family business. Single men do not make barbacoa for a living. thus beginning the tradition in their family. barbacoa market stall and business. she told me. From the age of about 5 or 6. he left the house. but they also wanted land so Mario could work on it during his free days midweek. Their new wives then begin apprenticing themselves to their mothers-in-law. She rarely had anything to do with the meat or with stacking or unloading the oven. so they become knowledgeable specialists early on. Until then she did not want more children. boys are trained to help their fathers with the meat and girls are trained to help their mothers with the vegetables and salsas. the business (or technical skill) is left to one’s children as an ‘inheritance’. children are taken to the market to help in the sales. She taught two shifts at the primary school and also helped with the barbacoa when she was at home. This was men’s work. 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. To reach this goal. Their skills are built from a young age. Not only was land of high value in Milpa Alta. children learn the process of preparing barbacoa from their parents. though not unheard of. Elena worked doubly hard so that they could save up enough money to invest in land. Until they marry.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 53 land among the older siblings when they married. Boys learn by helping their fathers to remove and clean the entrails (despanzar). In his own family. 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. as in the case of Mario. but with his business he maintained a comfortable lifestyle. for men to learn the trade from non-family members. Alejandro’s grandfather’s brother ﬁrst learned to make barbacoa. At 15 or 16 they begin to cut the raw meat. and to Mario. He was illiterate. Already as children. but Elena and Mario truly desired a plot of land of their own.6 In other words.7 After marriage. the youngest. She had most of her free time on Saturdays. however. Alejandro told me that he taught his compadre how to prepare barbacoa when he was 39.
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. even if she has no sons. Should a barbacoiero wife become widowed or abandoned. 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. she must take over as much of her mother-in-law’s work as she can. The matador-workers are in charge of the matanza. and she might lend a hand. playfully called matadores or otherwise referred to as trabajadores (workers). but also how daily meals can still be rather elaborate. she can still carry on with the business. ‘¡Este es como empezar con el postre y terminar con la sopa!’ (‘This is like starting with the dessert and ﬁnishing with the . She continued explaining the cooking process before she interrupted herself and said that no. though. The following section is a rundown of how barbacoa is prepared at home by professionals in the trade. 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. The description that follows is based on the ﬁrst time that I witnessed the entire process. the rastro. This is the same work that is done in the ofﬁcial slaughterhouse. elicited a positive response. The Process of Preparing barbacoa in Barrio San Mateo. I learned to prepare barbacoa in what they considered the traditional manner. depending on availability and price of ingredients. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to live with a family who took pride in the ﬂavour of their product. She described different forms of service. With Primy and Alejandro. the traditional means of food preparation are generally preferred over modern shortcuts in spite of modern conveniences and new regulations. the slaughter. different dishes that can be made with barbacoa meat. as well as for many other culinary techniques. ‘¿la comercial o la buena?’ (‘the commercial sauce or the good one?’). It illustrates some of the compromises that might be made for the sake of the business.54 • Culinary Art and Anthropology is busy cleaning or chopping vegetables. Milpa Alta Primy and Alejandro used to farm nopales. and Primy embarked on a detailed description of the salsas that she made to serve with barbacoa. In barbacoa preparation. As soon as she is married. as always. ‘What would you like to know?’ she asked me. They are also responsible for washing the entrails and chopping them. There are men who dedicate themselves solely to slaughtering animals. this was all wrong. but they tended to always return to the traditional. they began to help with the barbacoa to carry on the family business. but a few years before the death of Alejandro’s father in the early 1990s. but it is representative of how families make barbacoa at home. This. They sometimes varied their methods of preparation. but nothing is expected of her. and then invited me to watch her remove the meat from the oven the next morning.
Then she cut . she continued. While Alejandro continued to slaughter the rest of the livestock. and stay with them to observe the whole process. The space was about 3 by 6 metres in area. The slaughter area was separated from the rest of the patio by a low wall reaching halfway up toward its roof. and along one wall there was a low concrete-lined drain. He then sharpened his knife with his sharpening steel and lay the lamb on its side. it consisted of taking apart and cleaning the animals. Alejandro and Primy dressed in old jeans. She stood by the decapitated animal and felt for the soft cartilage in the joint of the other hind leg. she insisted. the workweek begins at seven o’clock every Thursday morning. la matanza could also be interpreted to refer to all the proceedings of the day. The ground was paved in concrete. It must have been around 10 degrees Celsius outside but they knew they would not feel cold. He sharpened his knife once more and after feeling for a soft spot in the neck joint. Primy took the steel and sharpened her own knife. Hanging the carcass this way makes it easier to clean the whole animal. One cannot learn about barbacoa without seeing everything from beginning to end. She cut off the other three feet and tossed them toward the drain. Thursday: La matanza (The Slaughter) For the family whose trade is to make and sell barbacoa. so Alejandro held its body still until it stopped bleeding and lay limp. He then proceeded to saw off one lower hind leg. Alejandro placed a large aluminium basin in the centre of the space. Although the actual killing was ﬁnished. Apart from the slaughter. Beside this he positioned a rough-hewn wooden stool. For about ﬁve minutes he squatted by the lamb. This is almost considered a late start by Milpa Alta standards. since most people are up and working by 5 a. I must come. Only after I have seen it all can we talk about salsas and chiles. in one corner there was a water tap with a long hose attached. From the ceiling hung eight large hooks fastened to a wooden beam with thick twine.m. Alejandro then went to get another lamb among the group huddled at the far end of the slaughter area. Holding its muzzle shut. She scraped away the fur of the other hind legs so that the carcasses could be hooked through and hung by both legs. scraping away the fur to reveal the bone with its characteristic hole. starting from la matanza. its head resting on the stool. he sawed off its head and set it aside. work which is shared between husband and wife. and the process was repeated. They were prepared for a physically demanding and dirty job. he deftly punctured its throat with the tip of his knife. It bucked its hind legs once in a while in silent protest. Alejandro led a young sheep to the centre of the covered concrete and brick slaughter yard behind the house. and then he hung the body by the leg bone on one of the ceiling hooks. allowing all the remaining blood and whatever may be left in the oesophagus to drip out onto the ground. short-sleeved shirts and long rubber boots. allowing it to bleed into the basin.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 55 soup!’) she exclaimed.
but Primy and Alejandro told me that this job was not for me and recommended I keep my distance to protect my clothes. The panza was much bigger than I expected it to be. about half a metre long and 20 centimetres wide. I offered to help. ‘como una telita de grasa’. When Alejandro was ready he tugged the coat off each animal. the caul. but in any case the pescuezo must be protected with gauze. Primy proceeded to unravel the small intestines. and she pulled them out as if she were measuring yarn. she proceeded to slice a long vertical hole through the centre of the skinned carcass. Then she squeezed out any waste that may have remained before tossing them into the aluminium tub with the panzas. so she stood aside and waited for her husband. and she began to pull out the entrails. It was covered with a layer of fat. This is the start of the real cleaning process. squeezing out the part-digested fodder and gastric juices. She explained how important this was because when the meat is still fresh. and in fact it looked like a square of pale pink lace8 and could be peeled off the stomach in one piece. el pescuezo. la tripa delgada. la panza. Having clariﬁed this. and she carried the panza to the far corner of the slaughter area where there was a large metal rubbish bin. It is cleaned and later stuffed with the tripe and other innards mixed with herbs and spices. thus holding the centre of several separate lengths of intestine. pulling it inside out with all his strength and using his body weight for the ﬁnal yank.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. swaying from side to side. The odour was rancid and repulsive as the contents of the panza splashed onto the ground. She knotted them together at the centre. Primy warned me to get out of the way. the blood and bile that may remain in the throat attract large ﬂies which enter the pescuezo and may become embedded there. It is tied closed and cooked in the pit oven along with the meat to be later served in tacos. This can ruin the meat. . despanzar. el redaño. giving it a bitter ﬂavour. The panza is one of the most important parts of the sheep. securing them to keep them under control lest they slip away and get tangled and lost amongst the rest of the innards. catching each arms’ length in either hand. She tore off about a half metre’s length and carefully wrapped the pescuezo with the gauze. covering the hole and tying it well. A soft popping noise was made as the body separated from its skin at the neck. He slung each hide on the low wall and carried on with the slaughtering. The hide is heavy and toughly attached to the ﬂesh. These were at least 12 metres long. which Primy described as being like a cloth. 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. First Primy pulled out the stomach. Primy hosed the panza inside and out and tossed it into another aluminium tub before returning to the carcass. As soon as she had all the tripe looped in her hands she cut one end. keeping grip of the other end. Primy brought a small plastic pail of water toward each animal and washed the blood from the neck. and it was a grey-green colour. From the pail she pulled out a rectangle of gauze and wrung out the excess water. There she emptied the stomach.
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. it may put customers off. otherwise it is impossible to reach the inner folds of the meat. the gall bladder. Alejandro placed the hose in the anal passage at the top of the animal and sprayed a strong stream of water.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 57 Next to remove was the large intestine. but when we got to the last lamb slaughtered I witnessed the discovery of a pregnant one. dirt. because pregnancy causes the uterus to develop. Furthermore. el hígado. This is extremely important because when blood is cooked it becomes a dark. Such a ﬁnd is considered lucky. Without this gush of running water it is more difﬁcult to extract the waste products from the intestine. la matriz. Pregnant sheep are particularly special because usually when the stockbreeder knows that a sheep is pregnant. The developed uterus forms nutritious pink bolitas (these ‘little balls’ actually look like tiny pink donuts). 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. la tripa gorda. the liver. heart. Primy positioned the pail in front of the animal and pointed the large intestine toward the pail. cleaning must be done with bare hands. Only then were we free to sit in front of the television to watch the football. corazón. lungs. Primy stressed to me that each section must be well cleaned individually. The meat needed hanging so that it matures a little and can be cut cleanly. then it was time for breakfast. While Primy was completing this process. pulmones. the bladder. where he hung each by one leg to dry the meat overnight. . The heads are left to soak and the panzas must be blanched so that the bitter stomach lining can be removed. la vejiga. which went straight through the intestine and ﬂushed out most of the suciedad. Primy slit open the uterus to show me the foetus. They are attached to its inner lining and make the stuffed panza tastier and juicier. and so must be expunged. The uterus was quite small. unappetizing colour and although this does not affect the ﬂavour of the meat.e. Alejandro carried the cleaned carcasses. Primy rinsed everything quickly. After saving the foetus Primy rinsed the uterus inside and out and then threw it into the tub of entrails. The ﬁnal step was to slice open the hearts and lungs to remove all traces of blood from the veins and arteries. Each part of the animal was systematically removed in its turn—the uterus.. Any dirt that remains gives an unpleasant bitter ﬂavour to the meat and panza when cooked. it is not sold for slaughter as it will eventually provide young (i. about the size of the palm of my hand. Cold water must be used even if the weather is freezing because using warm water risks spoilage. business). to an airing room. and one stuffed with a developed uterus tastes much better than one with an undeveloped uterus (each of the entrails is chopped up and used to stuff the panza). now referred to as being en canal. Primy then cut it off and dropped it into the pail with the rest of the offal. la vesícula billar. Later each offal meat was cleaned thoroughly with cold water to remove all traces of dirt.
m. removing stems from the fresh and dried chiles and just chatting away. coriander and various other foods. We were having chilaquiles verdes for breakfast that day. I stayed and helped make breakfast in the airing room. I arrived at their house before 7 a. her mother-in-law and herself. that the women had cleaned so thoroughly the day before. where a simple industrial gas cooker was set up. After breakfasting on the chilaquiles with teleras (a type of bread roll) and hot milk with coffee or chocolate stirred in. 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). Alejandro was at his butcher block chopping all the menudencias. As we walked home from the school we passed by a tortillería. the innards.58 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Friday: Mise en Place (Preparations). Primy kneaded the dough and with the help of a tortilla press and her two small sons. The cooker was like those found in food stalls in the market. Meanwhile. made of a metal frame. that supports two large gas rings that can accommodate very large pots and pans. When this was done it was time to pick up the children from school. The day began early. but Primy was in charge. There we bought a kilo of masa. For green chilaquiles. Doña Margarita made a green salsa with the chiles and green husk tomatoes (tomates or tomates verdes) that are also used for the barbacoa. At the same time. Indeed it is the most labour-intensive because all the preparations for the cooking and serving of the meat are done on Fridays. Primy went to the market to buy vegetables. the maize dough used to make tortillas. and almost all of this work was done by Primy. we made thick tortillas. chiles and herbs for the cooking process and also to make the salsas that would accompany the meat. We carried on preparing the vegetables. and Primy was already away at the market while her mother-in-law was at home preparing breakfast. She brought out three little painted wooden chairs with wicker seats for me. Her mother-in-law helped as well. so that we could make gorditas pellizcadas when we got home. Alejandro asked Primy to prepare them for me so that I could taste as much typical Mexican food as time allowed. Primy put all the tomatoes to soak in a plastic basin to soften the husks for easier removal. we got back to work. Primy separated them into the three containers. sancochando la carne (Pre-cooking the Meat) Alejandro told me that Friday is the heaviest day for women in the barbacoa trade. as usual. We all sat outside in the patio with the tomatoes and three plastic strainers and set to peeling off the husks as we rinsed them.) Primy rinsed out the coriander and epazote and left the herbs to soak in water. After baking them on . chopping onions and carrots. (I do not think he did much else that day. Primy and her mother-in-law began to prepare lunch. a small shop selling machine-made tortillas. carrots. chiles. one for the panzas. the other two for the green and red salsas that she would make. Primy returned from her shopping with sacks of white onions. about waist height. green tomatoes. These gorditas (also called sopes) are a type of snack food that is often eaten in the street.
Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 59 a hot comal. She toasted these on a hot comal and warned me to keep clear of the smoke since the chiles always made her cough and sneeze. She knelt on the ground behind the grinding stone and in a matter of seconds reduced the crackers to ﬁne crumbs. such as grinding these crackers. When we returned home Primy had to prepare the stufﬁng for the panzas. and rajas con crema. as are chopping and cleaning vegetables and herbs. Preparing the panza is always the women’s responsibility. Lunch was a feast for me. For the green salsa we peeled avocados. and topped them with refried beans. She told me that for small tasks. there were tortillas and a lovely tomato-chile-based salsa to accompany. Since she needed to make a larger amount. in a busy barbacoiero household such as this one. Otherwise. Primy approached the now-dried carcasses (canales) and cut off the udders and kidneys to chop up and add to the rest of the menudencias. crisply cooked crumbled longaniza (a type of sausage). a tool that dates to pre-Hispanic times. then breaded chicken with boiled carrots with cream. Primy processed them in the blender in stages because she was making large amounts for the business. like making the panza ﬁlling and the salsas. chiles serranos. molino de salsas. I asked her if she always used the metate. We returned to the vegetables we had been cleaning and divided the tomatoes and chiles for the salsas. Although I would have the tendency to linger over such exquisite food. She boiled green tomatoes and put the toasted chiles to soak in the cooking water. far beyond the capacity of a domestic blender. Alejandro pounded chicken breasts to make milanesas and his mother hauled out the heavy stone metate to make breadcrumbs for the chicken. she would use it. although it was standard fare for them. We had gorditas to start. She used saltine crackers instead of bread because. She ﬁlled the pail with the tomatoes and chiles along with salt and other ingredients. rubbed them with melted lard. water ﬂavoured with a variety of sweet lime that they picked off the tree in the garden. and pulla or guajillo angosto. As always. The meal was washed down with an agua fresca de limón. I had heard that some people still used it. as well as ﬁlling and unloading the oven. unless there was a power failure. onions. they used an electric blender for making sauces and for larger tasks. garlic and salt. there was a lot of work to be done after eating. Women look after the softer and more complex cooking. so Primy had a 30-litre pail for this. we took the pail to a salsa mill. especially in cities. This was our starter for lunch on that day. she preferred the effect of crushed crackers to that of breadcrumbs.9 The red salsa was more popular than the green in the stand where they sold barbacoa. chopped coriander and combined them with the green tomatoes. Men in the barbacoa trade are responsible for the slaughter and preparing the meat. we pinched them several times on one side ( pellizcar means to pinch). green salsa and crumbled white cheese. few people did so because of the effort and physical force that was required. She also had procured some pork fat to add to the ﬁlling mixture so that the panza would not get too dry during . a short walk away. she said. but nowadays. and beans in their broth at the end. She then proceeded to make the red salsa in which she used three types of dried chiles—chile morita. árbol seco.
For the sake of ease.60 • Culinary Art and Anthropology the cooking. 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. which for Sunday. There is. In the perol the meat is steamed. Alejandro pulled out his chainsaw and cut the lamb into pieces—the leg. espaldilla. and the perol is closed and left over a strong gas ﬁre for about twelve hours. and which for Monday. The pieces of meat must be arranged in a speciﬁc order so that they cook properly. and the neck. Next. When these were well incorporated she added powdered chile guajillo and salt and beat it some more. the panzas are set down. On Saturdays they sold barbacoa de perol. The panzas were now ready to be stuffed. At the same time she had been boiling rice and chickpeas. Mondays and special occasions they prepared the barbacoa de horno. then the heads and necks. one for Saturday’s sales and another for Sunday’s. This is used to steam the meat over a gas ﬂame. espinazo or lomo.5 metres tall. most people these days ﬁnish cooking the barbacoa in the perol rather than use the traditional pit in the ground or brick oven (horno). to parboil the meat). 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. and she beat all of these together with her forearm (in the same way that one beats lard for making tamales). so water is added to the basin at the bottom. pierna. To save ﬁrewood. a notable difference in ﬂavour between the barbacoa de perol and barbacoa de horno. The perol is a large aluminium bin. She also prepared the herbs and spices that go in the tub for the consomé. 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. epazote and onions. the backbone or loin. which are traditionally served with the consomé de barbacoa. but on Sundays. the shoulder. pescuezo. sancochar la carne (literally. Then an iron grille is positioned above the tub with some special cooking ﬁlm to prevent bits of meat from falling through. mixing the grains. Then she stacked the perol. She checked that there was sufﬁcient consomé and that . a method developed because of the shortage of ﬁrewood in recent years. Into the mixture she threw chopped green tomatoes. ribs. Whilst Primy was doing all of this detailed work. Primy and Alejandro part-cooked the meat in the perol and then ﬁnished the process in the oven so that the meat obtained the smoky ﬂavour of the coals. costilla. since these all take longest to cook and need to be nearest to the heat source. The rest of the parts are stacked in accordingly. He lay these out on the work table in the middle of the room and decided which pieces would be cooked for Saturday. First the tub for the consomé is placed at the bottom so that the juices drip down into the herbs and spices. around 75 centimetres in diameter and 1. however. She drained and separated them into two containers.
This time it was less elaborate than on the Friday before. we attended to the oven. which she made of sliced bread ( pan bimbo) spread with cream and ﬁlled with ham. 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. They are essential in the preparation of this type of barbacoa as they both protect the meat from burning. courgettes and strips of roasted and peeled poblano chiles. however. Then she asked me to accompany her to do her errands. coffee boiled with abundant water and ﬂavoured with cinnamon and.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 61 it had not overﬂowed and the meat was cooking nicely. We had sopa casera de tallarines con crema. By ﬁve o’clock the meat should be ready. Alejandro had brought home pencas de maguey. All of this was served with warm corn tortillas. if available. avocado and pickled jalapeño chiles. turning them and even hanging them halfway into the oven so that they roasted evenly. 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. y además come ¡con gusto!’). Alejandro had long gone to the centre of Mexico City to sell and Primy had gone with her two sons to watch their football match in their playing ﬁeld nearby. While waiting for Primy and the boys to return home. Saturday morning may be spent doing any sort of tasks and chores. or pencas. She accompanied me with a sandwich of her own. To follow was a guisado de jitomate. can reach up to 2 metres in length and about 30 centimetres wide at the base. Alejandro’s mother gave me a sandwich for breakfast and a pint of hot milk in which I stirred some café de olla. all parts of different varieties of maguey plants. In fact. Before all this. When a bright ﬁre was smoking in the oven we laid the fresh pencas across the top. because Mexican food was thought to be notoriously difﬁcult for foreigners . Each of these leaves. a (red) tomato-based stew with chicken. I helped Doña Margarita wash the dishes from Friday and we went to buy food with which to prepare lunch. and there were beans to follow if anyone wanted some. Then they must be toasted to mellow their ﬂavour and bitterness. and meanwhile we carried on with other household chores. crude sugar. piloncillo. For women in the barbacoa trade. tapering to a ﬁne point like a needle. Primy came home and prepared the comida quickly. served with a swirl of cream. By the time I got up at seven o’clock. So we proceeded to light the oven by the side of the house. both pencas and sap. and even making alcoholic drinks (like pulque. The pencas must ﬁrst be shaved at the base so that they are evenly thick and pliable. This step took a good hour or so. for preparing food. as well as add ﬂavour and help to seal in moisture. Doña Margarita lit the coals that had remained in the pit with scraps of cardboard and burnt pencas. have been used extensively and have been exploited all over Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. This last point seemed particularly impressive to them. They are thick and spiny at the edges. and different varieties are used for tequila and mezcal ). a typical homestyle soup with short noodles in (red) tomato broth. weaving cloth. the succulent leaves of the maguey plant.
She picked the meat from between the neck bones . la pura brasa. Afterward. Each panza is placed individually in the centre of a toasted penca. and then they slid the heavy steel cover over the opening. Primy lit the pit-oven with ﬁrewood. My ability to enjoy their food.10 Already they took their 7-year-old son with them to sell. Both Alejandro and Primy would go to the market together as it was always their busiest day. and with old newspaper she grabbed a ﬁstful of tallow that she collected every week from the meat. she waited for Alejandro to come and reach into the oven for the tub of drippings. Then we checked the oven. only this time the sides of the oven were lined with pencas. When all the meat was properly arranged. They loaded everything into the back of their truck and by 5. made me seem less foreign to them and more easily assimilated. Primy and Doña Margarita did this in the same order as in stacking the perol. more toasted pencas were lain. Last. With this she ignited the wood and left it to burn while we ate. or at least hoped. heads and panzas by the kilo.30 a. She placed the heads and pescuezos into separate pails and when she ﬁnished pulling out the panzas. On a Sunday the children considered this to be a special treat. Alejandro’s stall had been in the family for three generations. Sunday: Sacando la carne (Taking Out the Meat) At ﬁve in the morning I was awakened for the ﬁnal stage of preparing barbacoa.m. which had been pre-cooking in the perol for a few hours. but he told me that he was dying to go. separating the meat into plastic crates lined with wax paper and the toasted maguey pencas from the oven. while Primy made and sold tacos and consomé and also usually acted as cashier.62 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to eat.30 p. It was 5. they were on their way to their barbacoa stall in a market near the centre of Mexico City. now full of consomé. otherwise the meat would fail to cook properly. They spread the sand evenly to block any cracks so that absolutely no steam escaped the oven. no cooking ﬁlm was necessary and no water was added for the consomé.m. Their second son was still too young to accompany them. Just before lunch. The sides are folded inward and the lot is tied with string with the edges turned in so that none of the panza is exposed. and he and his wife expected. that both of their sons would maintain it when they came of age. and therefore understand the ﬂavours. 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. The two women pulled out a square of canvas ﬁlled with sand to shroud the cover. an old cover and empty basins were arranged on the edges to secure it and weigh it down. It was time to stack the oven. Primy was already unloading everything. 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. and by now the logs were reduced to red-hot embers. Then we left the barbacoa to stew in its own juices all night. we unloaded the meat. la carne sancochada. Finally. Alejandro sold meat.
few people eat it in the market midweek. she would give them a pint of salsa without charge. however. they retained the same consumption pattern as before. their selling price would be beyond the reach of their customers’ spending power. Whilst the supply of barbacoa might remain the same. but rather it decreased the frequency of their visits. Sometimes she gave them slightly larger tacos. however. the price of livestock multiplied. Preparing it every day would be too much work to be worth the earnings. To improve the quality of their product. and there is good business for barbacoieros. These are the days when most people decide not to cook at home. Primy explained that certain people become regular clients and thus are given special treatment. Thus customer spending reduced and luxury goods such as special foods became less frequent expenses. Discussing the vendor-client relationship with me. might or might not accompany her husband on these lighter sales days. After the economic crash in 1994. economic constraints weigh heavily. The best days for selling barbacoa are Saturday and Sunday.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 63 and used any other loose meat to ﬁll tacos. So if barbacoieros charged a fair price for their product. Saturday. the demand would decrease considerably in that fewer would be able to afford . as the value of the Mexican peso fell to a fraction of its worth against the US dollar. This depends on her mood and other commitments. particularly since much of it is imported live from Australia and New Zealand or from the US. 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 price increase affected sales. Since barbacoa is a heavy dish and is expensive. however. she noticed that some of her regular clients no longer came every week as they used to. like other wives of barbacoieros. 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. or if they ordered to take away. She would recognize them and know what they usually ordered or consumed at one sitting. To increase their sales. Sunday and Monday: A vender (to sell)—How Lucrative is barbacoa? Monday is usually a fairly light day for selling in the market. but several barbacoieros sell nevertheless. Primy. Otherwise. barbacoieros ﬁnd themselves in a competition of ﬂavour. When they did come. though. because of the unstable Mexican economy (la crisis). all the barbacoa stalls open. 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. If a holiday such as Christmas or Easter happened to fall on a weekday. taking into account the rising prices of their raw materials.11 In this way. could not increase at similar speed because wages failed to keep up with the falling peso. In the mid-1990s. The market price of barbacoa.
although it was likely that newer clients would not mind the difference. 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. but it was Alejandro who insisted that they switch to the pit oven because the resulting ﬂavour is so much better. On the other hand. Sometimes Primy. to choose and mark the sheep that they will later buy for slaughter. several houses were left unﬁnished. Though using the perol would greatly increase their proﬁt margin.64 • Culinary Art and Anthropology it. Until the eighties. They might lose some of their regular clients who were accustomed to a superior product. thus reducing the proﬁt margin for producers and forcing them to tighten their belts. as did many others. Their greater investment of work and money increased the quality of their product. Still. but by the 1980s many families began to build larger houses as they became more prosperous from selling nopales and barbacoa. she pointed out. they were unwilling to produce an inferior product. This has forced the price of barbacoa to remain low despite higher production costs. hired another woman to help. In the meantime. as it is their trade and means of livelihood. Barbacoieros will not stop making their product. did not make the most sense ﬁnancially. Primy and Alejandro stopped using the perol altogether and tended to buy slightly younger sheep so that they could cook exclusively in the oven. the husbands go to the ganadería. there are many big houses in San Mateo. They did so despite the increased physical labour and expense required when using ﬁrewood rather than gas. Tuesday is dedicated to cleaning and returning everything to normal. making it less commercial. as well as all the work areas and utensils used. Most of the money they needed to build their houses came from high barbacoa profits.or two-room dwellings (Madsen. During my last visit to Milpa Alta. 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 were not willing to compromise anymore and go back to making barbacoa de perol. as that would be lowering their standards. This attitude. This is why. the ranch where the livestock is sold. naturally. In the 1950s most families lived in simple one. Few raise their own livestock since land and labour have become more scarce in recent . 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. 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. 1960). Doña Margarita told me that her husband used to make barbacoa in the perol.
It becomes too dry and does not look good. all barbacoieros prefer pit-roast borregos criollos. most barbacoieros ﬁnd goats more difﬁcult to work with. they need to be treated more gently. without unappetizing dark spots. in which case they would prepare more barbacoa to sell on these special days. They are more difﬁcult to prepare because of their size and expense. splinters of bone or irregular cuts. Other women married to barbacoieros emphasized this to me as well. This is indisputably the tastiest and best-quality barbacoa that can be made. although it disappears when it is cooked in the oven. some compromises are necessary to increase the proﬁt margin. For the sake of ﬂavour. meaning ﬁve kilos less proﬁt. many families in San Mateo slaughtered their own livestock themselves in a walled area in their yards rather than at the rastro (slaughterhouse). Also. During the cooking much of it melts away. Although goat meat can be used as successfully as lamb. It is also cheaper to buy the animals that are brought over live from the US or Australia. Thus. She also insisted on absolute cleanliness. which remains if the meat is steamed in the perol. locally reared sheep. the meat does not come out well after cooking. vendors prefer sheep. To uphold this value and control quality. The quality of the meat depends on the quality and cleanliness of the ingredients. Otherwise they are free . They also have a singular odour. These graze freely and eat what they wish instead of enriched industrial feed. But if the lambs are too thin. Whilst both male and female goats and sheep may be used. resulting in less kilos of meat to sell. some barbacoieros are willing to pay a little more to buy borregos criollos. Since they are much smaller. Up to ﬁve kilos of fat can be extracted. Wednesday: Rest Wednesday is the day of rest for barbacoiero families. When I talked with Primy about the desirable qualities of barbacoa. This is spent like a typical Sunday for anyone else. 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. and later scrubbing down the work areas and the regular weekly cleaning indicate how essential this step is. as Doña Margarita described it) even after cooking in the perol.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 65 years. and they must be neither too fat nor too thin. however. For the sake of business. she always stressed how the meat must be physically appealing. unless there is a major holiday midweek. sometimes male goats retain their odour (‘the smell of a man’. with a similar preparation process. If they are too fat there will be a huge lump of fat behind the kidney or distributed throughout the meat. clients prefer meat to be less fatty. The meticulous elimination of all the suciedad from the entrails of the animals. For personal consumption. and they render less cooked meat per kilo of raw.
Conclusion From the ﬁrst time that I observed and participated in the preparation of barbacoa I was fascinated with the process. whilst single men and women only helped their parents but had separate careers. The sheepskins are sold to make into jackets and rugs. and wealth in the area is attached to barbacoa. the bones are sold to make detergents. There was a distinct division of labour between men and women. When a couple decides to dedicate themselves to barbacoa. when most people are very busy working. it makes sense that people of similar occupation should group together. As indicated in this chapter. that only married couples prepare barbacoa for a living. even if it is only a bit of sugar or a few tortillas. all parts of the animal are used either in the cooking or for other purposes. Those from San Mateo are said to be much less friendly than those of other barrios. 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. All other parts of the animal are eaten. as mentioned earlier.66 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to relax and hold their own or attend other ﬁestas which mark life cycle events in the family. Having the opportunity to socialize at the same times. The fact that they are concentrated in Barrio San Mateo gives the barrio a reputation of being excessively proud and stingy. Nothing is wasted. so unsurprisingly. with the main responsibility lying with the marital couple. When I later learned. they have to work long. it was evident that this was an industry that had signiﬁcant social effects. After slaughtering. cleanliness and frugality are necessary to perform the culinary technique. particularly the wife. Since Milpa Alta is ofﬁcially an area of Mexico City of relative poverty. . order. This behaviour is attributed to wealth. But I had not realized how much the preparation of the dish affected the way that barbacoieros interacted socially with others. issues of trust and envy are highly relevant in the community of all those who are involved in the same business. Whatever the weather. and the tallow is sold to make soap. discipline. Families carefully protect their belongings and social standing. It is uncommon to borrow ingredients from the neighbours as they are expected to pay for whatever foodstuff they require. barbacoieros seem to be both more attractive as well as more cautious when dealing with others. This proximity to one another also encourages competition. disciplined hours to continue to earn a living and not disappoint their customers. The recent prosperity associated with barbacoa has made the wealth of barbacoieros a new value to protect. 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. nor do they share with each other unless there is a particular ﬁesta.
and that it had complex ﬂavours. and therefore creates a social relation between them. The animals are simply a source of meat. cookery is both a source of prestige from an object (dish) and a source of efﬁcacy in social relations. For example. as in using the developed uterus for the panza. a craft whose product depends on physical labour. it is a culinary technique.’ Gell states. the food preparation is a sensual experience.12 A living animal changes from a natural state to a controlled. that is. There is a problem with thinking of it in this way. which is decorated or considered more special or beautiful than other objects/dishes. economic constraints and technical capabilities. Before I met Primy for the ﬁrst time I had known that barbacoa was difﬁcult and laborious to prepare. although consumers themselves are unable to determine the cause of the difference in taste. Food requires ‘decoration’—ﬂavourings or elaborate preparation—just as much as it requires nutrients. socially malleable. the decoration is just as functional as the object itself (1998. As with any work of art. The function of the elaboration is to mark the dish. in this case. to analyze the preparation of barbacoa as if it illustrates a process of social conversion and acculturation. Meat preparation can be socialized. as special. Making barbacoa is both a source of livelihood and a pursuit of culinary excellence. Since barbacoa is an elaborately prepared dish. references to motherhood seem related to the achievement of better ﬂavours. The actual ﬂavouring and . This is why it is a dish typically eaten at special occasions or weekends. The technical activity of. which in turn provides a channel for further social relations and inﬂuences’ (1996. Because of the technical mastery necessary for its production and the acknowledgement of this virtuosity in its consumption. 52). and vice versa. though. For barbacoa. it can be said that the purpose of eating food is not simply for nourishment. Barbacoa ranks high in the hierarchy of dishes in Mexican cuisine. p.13 Even so. The matanza seems more than a slaughter.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 67 The production of the dish encompasses all aspects of their lives. p. Barbacoieros feel little or no attachment to the animals they slaughter. it seems the beginning of this social transformation. On small scale. Social values and behaviour seem encapsulated in the process of cooking or making barbacoa. because preparing barbacoa is not a ritual. the occasion in which it is eaten. however. at ﬁrst. Likewise. As Gell has argued in differentiating between decorated objects and non-decorated objects. The goal is to achieve the best possible taste in the most pragmatic way for commercial and gastronomic success. So it is tempting. edible object. ‘The work of art. it can be thought of as a work of art. both for men and for women. another ingredient. barbacoa can be thought of as an artwork within the corpus of Mexican cuisine. the resulting dish is greater than the sum of its parts. ‘is inherently social in a way in which the merely beautiful or mysterious object is not: it is a physical entity which mediates between two beings. it is exemplary of how social behaviour is affected for the sake of concerns over taste and economy. motherhood is a well-known value in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. although it is by no means the highest. 74). It was precisely the complexity of the ﬂavours and the preparation which made it more than just meat. or at least socially interpreted.
ideals and relations with men will be explored further. women put in much effort and creativity in daily cooking. In the chapter that follows. Recipes Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa Ma. and the technical skills they must acquire. barbacoa has affected the community of San Mateo in Milpa Alta. but I could not help being struck by the organized cooperation that I observed during my ﬁrst few weeks there. even though there is little time to relax and savour the ﬂavours of their meals. If we accept that the nature of the art object is deﬁned by its social use (Gell. Daily food similarly inﬂuences adjustments in behaviour. and how the activities prescribed as appropriate for them. 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. since they generally are the ones in charge of the panza and the all-important salsas. If the appropriate pleasurable ﬂavour is achieved in the many parts of the dish. San Mateo became special because of a special dish (or a special ﬂavour). In particular. Before the concentration of barbacoieros and their technical and ﬁnancial success. Worth noting now is that I did not arrive in Milpa Alta with the intentions of observing gender relations. stemmed garlic avocados . The success of their cooking affects their relations with the people they are feeding. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez green husk tomatoes. raw green chile de árbol. either in small groups or in large ﬁestas. More customers will buy the product for their own consumption as well as to share with others. but also in celebration and large-scale sharing). As shown in the earlier description of a typical week for barbacoieros. On large scale.68 • Culinary Art and Anthropology elaboration is often the responsibility of women. Women. I will describe their roles as wives and cooks. San Mateo was like any other barrio of maize farmers among many. which could later lead to greater social success. which could be thought of as minor works of art or craft. a barbacoiero will have greater economic success. 1998). affect the way they socialize with others. effort and money in the everyday production of meals. both with themselves and with one another. or cooks. 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’s labour. invest measured amounts of time.
Mix well. cleaned. boiled ¼ kg each of dried chiles: chile mora. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez 6 kg green husk tomatoes. and chile guajillo angosto ( pulla). stems and veins removed oil for frying garlic. toasted on comal. In the same oil. Then one day I decided to try making it and was . chile de árbol. freshly squeezed green olives salt olive oil queso canasto (a fresh white cheese) Heat oil in a frying pan. Commercial Red Salsa for barbacoa Ma. stemmed. Pour into a serving bowl. peeled orange juice. soaked 3 medium onions 10 small cloves garlic salt to taste Blend all ingredients together. Salsa pasilla—‘la buena’—for Eating barbacoa on Special Occasions at Home Ma. Barbacoa I used to think it inconceivable to prepare barbacoa at home unless I dug a pit in the garden and grew my own magueyes. garlic and orange juice. fry the garlic cloves until golden.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 69 onion salt Grind all together in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez chile pasilla. salt and a drizzle of olive oil to taste. Decorate with crumbled cheese. Add olives. Pass the chiles through the hot oil once. Blend together chiles. then drain.
• Sprinkle with salt after cooking is complete. chopped coriander. Use them to line a heavy casserole with a lid. chopped roughly • Preheat oven to 180ºC (gas mark 5/375ºF) for about 1 hour. The meat may or may not be raised on a wire rack. herbs and chiles. ancho. avocados and salsas. Serves 3– 4 1 metre banana leaves 1 kg lamb shoulder (or leg) 3 bay leaves large handful of epazote handful of coriander. Rub the meat with the garlic. where the piece of meat will ﬁt. chopped onions.70 • Culinary Art and Anthropology pleasantly surprised that the ﬂavour I achieved approximated the real thing. . and pour a little water into the pot so the meat does not dry out when cooking. wash the banana leaves and then pass them over a ﬂame or dry griddle to soften them. Banana leaves may substitute maguey leaves. and place it in the oven for about 2 hours. preferably green (tomatillos). They will change colour slightly and become more pliable. The following recipe was the result of my culinary experiment. since some forms of barbacoa are prepared with them. and serve with hot corn tortillas. Meanwhile. morita. guajillo) 1 onion. limes. or until the meat is very tender. • Combine the rest of the ingredients and place in the casserole. sliced 2–3 tomatoes. although there was little consomé. chopped 6 –8 dried red chiles (de árbol. sliced 3 cloves garlic. which I do grow on my windowsill. if desired. but there is no real substitute for epazote. • Wrap the meat with the banana leaves before securing the lid. sliced 1 leek.
1988. Delphy. Crucially.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. p. Women are the key actors in the culinary system. p.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta. Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. 1998. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. Beardsworth and Keil. 142). Ekström. 47). The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it. 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 – . DeVault writes. 1997. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework. such as when they hire domestic helpers. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society. 1991. which include cooking and other domestic tasks.g. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. their husbands. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during ﬁestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5). it can lead to women’s subordination (e. is how women’s skills. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. as wives. 1979. they argue. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. Murcott. 1983). they can also mobilize the agency of others. home cooking is considered women’s work. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good ﬂavour. McIntosh and Zey. The root of the problem. inevitably play a subordinate role to men.
but they can ﬁnd other ways to provide a delicious meal whether they cook it themselves or not. and whether or not they cook regularly. On the . For others. This was one of the parts of the day that she enjoyed most. Many have told me that they enjoy it.’ 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. ‘[T]he people see nothing servile in this’. integral to the historical schema … provides much latitude and legitimization of behavior in terms of social status. leaving the house and socializing a little. 143).5 Rather. In such cases. cooking is a chore. I would emphasize further that there is also nothing wrong with having deﬁned gendered roles in the family. Servile status was held by the labourers who worked the ﬁeld. although women serve food to their husbands or bring them meals in the ﬁelds. p. In Milpa Alta. still widespread and potent in countryside and city. p. p. It cannot be denied that many women assume the role of wife. xiv) claimed. ‘The Latin American family. as I explained in Chapter 1. and this is not to downplay or ignore ongoing social change in terms of gender relations. Doña Delﬁna told me that before she married she used to take lunch to the peons who worked on her family’s land. knowing how to cook Mexican food is actually thought of as a skill worth learning. Women. Though this might be taken as indicative of women’s subordination to men. or when women work away from home. and the like. and learn a discipline that deﬁnes “appropriate” service for men’ (1991. I found several women to have such an attitude. they meet the challenge of providing good food to their families by depending on cooperation with co-resident women. As Gudeman and Rivera (1990. when DeVault states that ‘women learn to think of service as a proper form of relation to men. this does not necessarily imply a master-servant relationship. marital-compadrazgo alliances. several recent studies document how family and gender ideologies are more dynamic than static. The extended family. relatives. Some women in Milpa Alta say they cook to satisfy their own cravings or desires. mother and cook whether or not they enjoy it. p. applied to Latin America. of course. since power need not be publicly displayed in order to be enforced. in-laws and comadres. 101) write about Colombia. In fact. at least. Ann Pescatello (1973. 2006. subsumed as women’s work or women’s unpaid labour. are not always forced to prepare elaborate meals for their husbands. In Milpa Alta cooking is indeed embedded in the domestic realm. 108). although they may hardly cook at all. affords the female an extensive amount of inﬂuence on the members of her family.72 • Culinary Art and Anthropology with the existing ideology of Mexican cooking (see also Abarca. therefore. 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. if not a talent. Thus. prestige. In one of the earlier collections of essays published on gender. women take pride in their cooking. and not by the wives or daughters of the landowners who prepared food and served it to those men.
they are very hardworking (‘La mujer milpaltense no descansa … es muy trabajadora’). Milpa Alta works’ (‘Mientras México duerme. 260 –1). Supposedly. People commonly say. Milpaltense women present themselves as having various opportunities for release from oppression.. que crea el comercio’). a single woman in her mid-twenties still living in her natal household.m.7 but that is only how it appears on the surface. The reasons for these competing discourses of power and submission are multiple and complex. Women remain at work for twelve hours or more. Rather than talk of a doble jornada. they would say that they were barbacoieras. good womanhood. Hard work seems to be deﬁned as commerce and extradomestic labour.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. They are not simple housewives but are the drive of the family businesses. and likewise. proper provision of tasty food reﬂects good motherhood. 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. Women in Milpa Alta have a reputation in Mexico City for being hardworking. checking the barbacoa in their pit-ovens. 1985. women in Milpa Alta are ‘submissive’. and both paid and unpaid domestic and extradomestic work is acknowledged and valued. 2005. teeming with women setting up their stalls and peeling nopales. among other issues. market vendors (vendedoras) or businesswomen (comerciantes). I would ﬁnd many women awake. sometimes deﬁning themselves against this notion of submissiveness. The example of a barbacoa household (Chapter 3) illustrates how women assume the domestic household duties along with helping in the family trade. 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. Both are also valued as work. It was as natural for them to portray themselves as mothers and cooks (‘Me dedico al hogar’) as it was to call themselves barbacoieras. the cooking and providing of meals is not (cf. often by means of their cooking. they take on extradomestic work and still ﬁnd a way to feed their families (cf. Juanita. This must be why several women described themselves as ‘housewives’ although if asked again. involving changing gender relations resulting from women’s entrance into the labour force.6 they speak with pride of how able and productive their women are. told me that if I were to walk around Milpa Alta at 3 or 4 a. Indeed. returning home well after dusk. Williams.Women as Culinary Agents • 73 contrary. Milpa Alta trabaja’). Juanita told me. a journalist. They are the ones who maintain the economic control in the family. By four or ﬁve in the morning the market is alive. on Tejanos). As I discuss further below. pp. including domestic tasks. and get up again the next morning before dawn. Her sensitive discussion of feminist kitchen politics is a . Juanita and other women repeatedly told me that Milpa Alta women never rest. Even when domestic work may appear to be devalued. Lulú. They admirably sacriﬁce sleep and other comforts for the sake of their work. said that women generate sustenance. ‘While Mexico sleeps. Stephen.
2004. Sometimes we would detour for an ice cream. 1985). whereas they are usually chaperoned for social outings.9 This is not only acceptable. 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. boil and grind more maize (nixtamal ). one way that they stretch their boundaries is in pursuit of culinary ideals.74 • Culinary Art and Anthropology convincing critique of the kitchen as a site of female oppression (see also André.g. Abarca. almost daily trips to the market or to different shops for fresh ingredients. 2001). and I set off without stopping. Fowler-Salamini and Vaughan. Roseman. among others). When I returned to the house. 2006. Once when Doña Margarita was making tamales and her dough came out a little too thin. they are not imprisoned in their kitchens or completely engulfed in household chores (cf. much work in Latin America and elsewhere dismantles the notion of women being in a rigid oppressive condition (e. women do not need to be accompanied. licuado or other snack bought on the street or in the market. which would take too long. because I had done exactly as I was told—go to the tortillería and come back. but expected. When I accompanied one or another friend or acquaintance on a visit to the market. By stressing complementarity between the sexes. Rogers. 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. 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. she needed someone to go to the tortillería to buy some prepared masa so that we would not have to soak. Williams. Working hard in the pursuit of ﬂavour encourages a malleable boundary between domestic and extradomestic spaces. 1999. I offered to go instead of Primy or one of the children. taco. but I suspect that it was more unusual not to spend more time chatting with passersby on every outing. Suárez and Bonﬁl. Melhuus and Stølen. 1986. because Doña Margarita told me not to take too long. One of the secrets of Mexican (and any good) cooking is having top-quality ingredients at hand. I was surprised at her surprise at how quickly I had been. Though they live with some social restrictions. For culinary errands. I observed that for women who are interested in cooking well. In Milpa Alta it is normal to make frequent. They go to particular vendors or even other towns. 1996.. 1994. Trips to the market are as much a social event for exchanging news and gossip as for stocking up the larder. Many women go to great lengths to collect the right foods for the dishes they wish to prepare. . Johnsson. or between staying home and being out in the streets. their everyday lives are not necessarily limited. women are not quite as conﬁned to the domestic sphere as it might appear. 1975. Since unmarried daughters in the family are often asked to buy fresh bread in the evenings for supper.10 Thus. women’s independence and the dynamism of relationships between individuals of both or either gender. In Milpa Alta. Primy mentioned that it was because I walk very fast. Even in cases where women appear to be subservient to their husbands (‘Es él que manda’).
and those who do. she will always have him in the palm of her hand. clean and raise their children. her mother-in-law or other female friends and relatives. Guille told me conspiratorially that she only learned to cook several years after she got married. she can entice him to her to fulﬁl his sexual desires. homemaking and extradomestic work are not mutually exclusive. This hints at the connections between food. If a single woman does not know how to cook. Since her mother and sister taught her to cook little by little. Conversely. culinary knowledge is not expected of men. She should have been ashamed of herself. food with good ﬂavour. etc. and their husbands are expected to eat what they serve them.Women as Culinary Agents • 75 Marriage and Cooking When a girl knows how to cook. they usually help their husbands in their businesses by providing the necessary culinary labour (making salsas. In other words. At the time. motherhood and family life correspond to ideals of womanhood. as I explained previously. and then enter into small commercial ventures on the side. she said. Some women quit their extradomestic jobs after marriage. Alejandro sometimes . and proper women prepare food at home from scratch. if a woman appeals to a man’s oral/gastronomical desires (taste). It is also not unlike Gell’s notion of artworks as traps. If a man is satisﬁed with the way a woman cooks.). With skilful cooking. If they used to dress seductively when they were single. Yadira told me that a woman can win a man through his mouth (‘Un hombre se conquista por la boca’). she had been ambitious about her academic and later professional career and had little patience for the kitchen. she learns as soon as she gets married. some women begin to dress conservatively and stop wearing makeup. García and Oliveira. which I discuss further below. We can also extend this to say that attaining culinary expertise is equivalent to attaining complete womanhood. Men could depend on women to provide them their meals and could expect to be well-fed once married. prepared with a sazón de amor. This is just like how Ricardo told me (in Chapter 1) that a man falls in love with his stomach (rather than his heart). Perhaps it is for good reason that married women spend so much time preparing proper meals. 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. In other words. Yet far from being housewives who solely cook. a woman can trap a man. 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. Deciding to stay at home and raise a family is a choice that many (though not all) women make. do so largely because of the high value placed on motherhood and family life in Mexico (cf. the correlations amongst cooking. by extension. but she managed to keep her husband from ﬁnding out. as I discussed in Chapter 2. out of ‘respect’ for their husbands. 1997). although. she is considered to be ready for marriage and. motherhood. Married women are expected to know how to cook. love and sex. either from her mother. for not knowing how to cook.
pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. 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. ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. and a man needs a woman to bear children. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social signiﬁcance of cooking within marriage. At this most basic level. he replied. boasting that he could look after himself on his own. Early one morning. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination. Several Milpaltense women mentioned to me that they engaged in commercial or professional activities to earn money so that they could ﬁnish building their houses. Work. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife.76 • Culinary Art and Anthropology teased his cousin Kiko that he could do nothing without his wife: ‘¡Ni sabe calentar tortillas!’ (‘He doesn’t even know how to heat up tortillas!’). especially their daughters. Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. In fact. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work. and my ﬁndings in Milpa Alta agree. García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main deﬁning characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. 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. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children. ‘¿Entonces. but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulﬁlment for women regardless of social class. Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance. 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. married men depend on their wives. Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . García and Oliveira demonstrate. Economic considerations play a signiﬁcant role in women’s activities. 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.
the president of the group.11 Eventually land was grudgingly given to the women beekeepers. illustrates how attempts to restrict women’s social spaces may draw on gender imagery that plays upon male ideals and women’s morality. women may stop working outside the home or engage in work that can largely be done from home. In the community’s reaction against this. who wanted her to spend more time in the house. The boundaries of women’s accepted movements were threatened by gossip that labelled them as libertina (loose. despite problems with her husband. then. Sara (another member of the group) spoke with satisfaction about how good her sons were. such as motherhood and being good homemakers (which includes cooking). therefore. a scarce resource for the community. 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. 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). but also about her kind and faithful husband. a larger percentage of both women and men in Milpa Alta neglected to practise their professional careers in favour of ‘traditional’ Milpaltense occupations. researchers tend to assume that ideas pertaining to those in hierarchical positions are oppressing passive victims. but Petra. can also be demonstrated by the following example. free) or their husbands as mandilón (tied to the apron strings. 184) argues against this assumption: ‘In overemphasizing “dominant” imagery. or in particular after having their ﬁrst child. The dominant discourse of male power and female weakness is used often in reference to Latin America. the way they went to church on Sundays. Villareal’s (1996) analysis of women beekeepers in Jalisco. Women who wish to pursue extradomestic activities can use a discourse of homemaking and cooking to subvert moral and social criticism. she describes that the government encouraged peasant women’s participation in an entrepreneurial scheme which required the allocation of ejido land. and Villareal (p. henpecked and in effect. including good cooking. It is helpful to quote at length here to illustrate this point: None [of the women beekeepers] claimed explicitly to be a model housewife. Other women told me without any indication of shame that they stopped working after marriage. Although some did talk of professional fulﬁlment. They did so by emphasizing their exemplary behaviour with respect to other images of womanhood. The virtues.’ In Jalisco. For the sake of their children. values and ideals of motherhood and domestic work. often boasted about her cooking skills and was proud of the way she had reared her children. with wives who are loose and free). these women were attacked in an indirect expression of community dissatisfaction over giving up this land. largely because of the governmental support of the project. because they and/or their husbands thought it best for them to dedicate their time to child rearing.Women as Culinary Agents • 77 to the development of their families despite their capitalist productivity. Mexico. and how she walked kilometres across the . Yet women can also use these notions to their advantage.
(Villareal. con esos estoy contenta’). The greatest form of suffering for a married . When I asked Doña Delﬁna. since the girls had married out. Then she added. as did the topic of physical abuse. her husband may beat her (or at least she fears that he might. The idea of keeping their household in ‘good order’ was often conveyed. but apart from those occasions. p. ya no. she suffers through it. but it was because I had done something to deserve it. though I have no hard facts to prove it. An elderly lady told me that her husband was a womanizer and a drunk. Melhuus (1992) suggests in her study of Toluca. Domestic violence rarely results in separation. In fact. but he never hit her. 195) A similar kind of dynamic exists in Milpa Alta. They do not necessarily succumb submissively to the dominant discourse. which was now composed of only boys. and probably in other parts of Mexico as well. she cried because the child was a girl. better not [to have a daughter]. there were few divorces and separations in Milpa Alta (though there were other reasons for this as well. she explained. that women have the tendency to attach virtue to suffering. ‘Neither the fact that women often comply with practices that subordinate them nor the fact that they resist the exercise of such practices can be understood in terms of the exclusively repressive view of power common in women’s studies’ (p. Women’s suffering came up in conversation in a surprisingly casual manner. even if he never has given her reason to believe he really will). he only hit me once or twice.78 • Culinary Art and Anthropology ﬁelds to take him a hot lunch. and since her sons always helped her at home. mejor. she replied that at ﬁrst she had not thought about it. y gracias a Dios. if she had wanted a daughter. which undermines the power of the accepted gender imagery. 20). God gave me two sons. as I mention below). They can take an active role in modifying their social spaces. but actively use the ideals of cooking and motherhood to avoid forcing direct confrontation. They write. Melhuus and Stølen (1996) argue that gender ideology is in constant ﬂux. She then added. If he does beat her. at the time of ﬁeldwork. por conocer que una como mujer sufre. ‘It was better. with them I am happy’ (‘Ni. then stayed a bit to help out with his chores. she never felt the desire to have a daughter. and thanks to God. Mexico. Some cases cited in their volume indicate a certain complicity among women. who had two sons. Villareal’s case study clearly demonstrates that women are not passive. as well as resistance. knowing how a woman suffers. yet it continues to organize and perform functions in society. ‘No. she told me. Dios me ha dado dos hijos. She proudly showed her sewing and embroidery to her visitors. 1996. I was also told that if a woman fails to cook or clean. Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal When Yadira’s ﬁrst child was born. Girls grow up to have difﬁcult lives. Socorro bragged quietly about how she cooked for her family. Suffering. he never hit me!’ Some people spoke so openly about wife-beating that I was led to believe it was commonplace.
Decent women plaited their long hair and did not use makeup. Motherhood being the centre of domestic life kept men with their wives even if they were tempted by others. and as ‘slaves’ to their children (‘Sí. were partly responsible for those consequences. women could protect their morality. a husband is thought likely to be unfaithful to his wife. si se vuelve sumisa. But what it also indicates is the centrality of women in the judgement of both men and women. if she becomes submissive. or for not dressing ‘appropriately’. What Yadira interpreted as a sign of women’s subjugation to men’s ideas or tastes Doña Delﬁna saw as a moral issue. ‘It depends on the woman. and he had fallen in love with a 25-year-old beauty. 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. They allowed their husbands to play the macho role. ‘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’). y esclavas para sus hijos’). He offered to seduce Alfonso’s mistress so that she would lose interest in him. also said that women who are beaten by their husbands for not fulﬁlling domestic tasks (with or without hired help). las mujeres de la calle. Not all men are like this. He did not know what to do. high heels and short skirts. es porque se deja’). las quieren. married with children. wore makeup. and cut their hair or left it loose in the modern fashionable hairstyles. But my friends. Women were tempting when they dressed up. such as Yadira and Lulú. After hearing of this incident.Women as Culinary Agents • 79 woman is if her husband is having an extramarital affair. As Lulú put it. he is henpecked (‘Él que no pega a su mujer es su mandilón’). about men who have affairs and why they stay with their wives. or at least on the surface. . Alejandro once said to me very bluntly. Yadira said that men who had affairs surely did love their wives. With their appearance. and that this is the source of women’s power. though she could not say for sure that Milpa Alta had many machos. Kiko mischievously decided not to respond in the way expected of him. They loved them as mothers. it’s because she allows it’ (‘Depende en la mujer. Doña Delﬁna used to say that only women of the streets wear makeup (‘Sólo las pirujas. thus relieving Alfonso of his guilt and his ‘problem’. Alfonso approached Kiko. Both single and married men found this attractive. and not the other way around. He said that he was 50 years old. especially if she is young and pretty. The discussion so far suggests that men might have the upper hand over women when it comes to power and permissiveness. and likewise that of their husbands. se pintan’). A married man may be envied or admired among his peers if he is known to have a lover on the side. so this was why many men forbade their wives to cut their hair or wear makeup—to prevent them from attracting other men.12 At some point in marriage. supposedly to ask for advice. but this is the expected image. I began to enquire about men’s and women’s love relationships. 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. pero como mamás.
When someone is called pendejo/a. as swear words are used in English as well. This is why calling a man hijo de puta is a very powerful insult. which means bull (toro). he may be described as being pendejo. These express two key concepts of moral judgement. ‘Se hace güey’ (‘He is acting güey’). because he is acting stupid (‘porque parece que no se da cuenta. 159). In Milpa Alta. 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. complementary to the labels of puta and hijo de puta. She refused to sign the tenancy agreement. are more commonly used in Milpa Alta for insulting men and women. Women are a threat to men as ‘bearers (if not keepers) of their honour’ (p. a man who is called a güey has horns. a man who moves into his wife’s house after marriage or who is henpecked . porque se hace tonto’). Her morality is better insulted directly by calling her puta. When a man’s wife has a lover. When you say. preferring for her children to grow up on their land. 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. A woman described as pendeja is one whose husband has one or more lovers. 160) or suffering as a female virtue. and to the cuckolded husband of the woman who sleeps around. 80) and men are the ‘guardians of women’s virtue’ (p. Years later. But two other terms. 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. although it is also used among close friends to profess admiration. They are related to the victimized wife of the macho man who has other lovers or more than one family. but he is more likely to be called güey. it usually means hacerse tonto/a. but though she appeared to defer to her husband on the surface. Furthermore.80 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Doña Delﬁna herself wore her hair in two plaits only after marriage. and she accepts it. since bulls have horns. she ultimately had the last word when it came to family decisions. The word güey is derived from the word buey. While men appear to hold honour and represent their families as the household head. to act stupidly. More speciﬁcally. He arranged a ﬂat for them to rent and only needed Doña Delﬁna’s signature. and it is women’s behaviour and morality (their shame) which reﬂects upon men. it was explained to me. his wife gives him horns (se pone los cuernos). She pretends that either she does not know or that she does not care so much. Of central importance is women’s role as mothers in relation to men. it is because it seems that he takes no notice. Don Felipe was grateful for Doña Delﬁna’s decision in that the family was happy to have remained in Milpa Alta. the greatest value in society is placed on women. pendejo/a and güey. It is one of the biggest insults for a man. So although Doña Delﬁna talked generally of women’s suffering. it is because his wife is deceiving him (‘porque su esposa le engaña’). whereas calling a woman the daughter of a whore (hija de puta) is ambiguous and virtually meaningless. this did not imply a lack of authority. when you describe a man by saying. So by cheating on him with another man. ‘Es un buey’ (‘He is a bull’).
and she would insist that he have his comida. regardless of the eater’s true hunger. she either couched the story in terms of woman’s suffering or told me of her little revenge. she prepared proper meals for him every day. as he ought to do since it was served to him. In retaliation. she would wait until he got home. Since she had fulﬁlled her duties as a wife by cooking for him. Although it may not necessarily be the case that his wife dominates over him or that she has an extramarital lover. it frustrated her. saying that he must be hungry since he was home so late. It was also Doña Marta’s subtle way of insisting that her husband recognize his sexual obligations to her. if she was not stupid ( pendeja) and was overly concerned with others’ opinions. so that people will not speak ill of her. both extramarital or premarital. the man appears to be acting güey. real or imagined. Although he would have been very full and quite tired. Most people with whom I spoke made jokes and ‘naughty’ innuendos when they talked of sexual opportunities. Men and women are conceived of as having differing motivations for lenience over the sexual behaviour of their spouses. She had already suspected it when he would repeatedly come home after midnight without letting her know of his plans to stay out late. 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. often cooking his favourites or requests for his comida. since he had already eaten a full meal with his lover. whatever the time. to keep up appearances. but her relatives and neighbours told her she simply had to accept that he was a man and that is how men were. She would rush to the kitchen to warm up the food and would purposely give him large servings. she would take advantage of her right to demand her husband’s ‘respect’ and full sexual attention. by enforcing his gastronomical obligations to eat her home-cooked meals. Doña Marta would not allow him to leave the table until he cleaned his plate. As a dutiful wife. I hinted at the coerciveness of Milpaltense hospitality in Chapter 2 and discuss it further in the next chapter.Women as Culinary Agents • 81 may be teased by others as a ciguamoncli or ciguamoncle. 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. 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. On the much rarer occasion of a woman telling me that her husband had had an affair. he was unable to refuse the meal. as in the following anecdote: Doña Marta told me of her jealousy when she discovered that her husband had a lover. As one . When he failed to return home to eat. he had to fulﬁll his duties as a husband by eating what she had so lovingly cooked. or a second family. Inversely.’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. since it is the norm for the wife to move to the husband’s house. He allows her to dominate. in effect. A woman who acts tonta does so because she is pendeja.
202. Being able to blame themselves for some unpleasant aspects of domestic life indicates that women can be powerful and autonomous agents. She generalized that for men. Home cooking is not only the ideal food. a married woman having an affair is usually scolded by her female friends and relatives. They are ready to make great sacriﬁces for the sake of their children. Abarca. to be in love means submission to men or society’s rules (at least in appearance). Well-prepared and delicious food is food cooked ‘with love’. with the sazón de amor of a talented cook who loves her husband and her children. if her married lover acknowledges her (and their children) and thus demands her respect. and for women. The same does not apply for men. and they also cook for love. home cooking means a cuisine grounded in familiar shared history and in common knowledge of places and people. the most important point to note is that many women do feel that they are responsible for themselves as well as for their families. As Lulú and Yadira often said. una sola vez se llama’ (‘To the table or to bed. women are the hub of the family. The intimacy of these social relationships makes home cooking the best—somehow construed to be the highest in prestige. As Wilk describes it. This is . who suffer for the sake of husbands. Women’s power is drawn from the domestic realm. from the venerated role they play in the family. epitomized in the mother-child bond. Yadira said that they prefer to leave their lovers before they are found out. They run the family. Although not common. p. she may still be respected in her own way. ‘Metaphorically. Among those women who have extramarital lovers. or with love magic cooked in to ensnare a man or keep him at home. They can provide for family needs through nurture as well as by wage-earning work. children and culinary ideals. ‘A la mesa y a la cama. On the other hand. 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.14 Good women suffer for love of their husbands.82 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Mexican saying goes. Therefore. though interpretations may vary. in sum. Women. original emphasis). you must come when you are bid’). For this reason they are willing to suffer and to work twice as hard as their husbands. in Milpa Alta. they support as well as beneﬁt and depend upon their family and children. in order to protect their virtuous image in the eyes of their children. 2006). divorce and single motherhood is worse than having or being an extramarital lover. Home cooking is always concerned with quality. are portrayed as the ideal providers of sex and food. Otherwise. 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. to be in love means sex. they would even leave their lovers. because people you care about will eat the meal’ (2006. Although a single woman having an affair with a married man ought to be looked down upon. in multiple ways. it is ideally also the most ﬂavourful. and by extension the greater social sphere.
1997. In contrast. cooking is a creative activity which requires a basic freedom to perform. although Mintz does not speciﬁcally engage himself with Bourdieu. the existing ideal of gastronomy makes culinary artistry a possible goal that women may strive to achieve. To be sure. depending on the social or local political situation in which they ﬁnd themselves. Sidney Mintz (1996. see also Moore. to elaborate their preferences. Chapter 3) describes how freedom from slavery may have been partly achieved by the development of a local cuisine. In Tasting Food. 1996. Tasting Freedom.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. 2000). Yet the ability to render judgements of food. it is associated with economic success (economic capital). In fact. 177). who were low in class hierarchy. Bourdieu deﬁnes the ‘taste of luxury’ as the ‘taste of liberty’ or a distance from necessity (1984. 1994. McCallum. Mintz’s ‘taste of freedom’ is in direct contrast with Bourdieu’s. they did so under terrible constraints. p. Women’s culinary agency is not limited to cooking but may also extend to creative methods of meal provision. Ortner. Sanders. by focusing on food. to develop comparisons. but that gender is in ﬂux and power is not intrinsic to its constitution (González Montes and Tuñon. Mintz suggests. Whether a woman cooks for her family or has someone else do the cooking. Melhuus and Stølen. 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. elaborate cuisines may in fact be a means of escaping the varied existing restrictions that are already embedded in social life. to compare. That is. as I have described previously. Furthermore. Roseman. women in Milpa Alta are proud to be known as hardworking. or have other incomegenerating activities that keep them busy away from home. some may choose to emphasize cooking as part of their gender identity. women may choose to deﬁne themselves as loving individuals who cook for their husbands or other family members. 1996. Rather than good taste (at least in food) being deﬁned according to the habitus of the dominant class. often. and they provide good food for their families however much or little they cook. just staying alive was the sole challenge. 1999. 2001. By constructing a cuisine of their own. In these differing tasks (and in eating). This emphasizes the importance of cooking in family life. she may take the credit for providing a meal (abducting the culinary agency of the food/cook). barbacoieras. Not only this. whether or not they consider it the main source of their public esteem in general. they were able to exercise the human potentiality to taste. whether or not they actually do so regularly because they are food vendors. they ultimately attained freedom. to calibrate differences in taste—and to be prevented from doing so—help to suggest that something of the taste of freedom was . By virtue of its artistic nature. Nevertheless. Mintz describes how something judged to be of good taste can emanate from the necessity and poverty of the slaves of the American South.
therefore. 80–1). she is in control over these two fundamental . by recognizing that cooking is active and creative. Looking more closely at cuisine and the social relations surrounding its production can be illuminating. The tasting of freedom was linked to the tasting of food. it is as a provider of sex and food that women’s power becomes evident. p. an elaborate cuisine is not simply a creative escape valve for otherwise restricted women. cooking was one signiﬁcant way around it. (Mintz. and it can even be thought of as a means toward women’s liberation. pp. machine-made tortillas gained acceptance (Pilcher. then. It is a license for social action in the pursuit of technical or culinary artistry. Ideally food is cooked at home. because machines produced inferior ﬂavours and quality in comparison to handmade tortillas (Marroni de Velázquez. Gradually. by a wife or a mother. 99–121). women were left with more time and energy to devote to other activities. 1994). as works of art (Gell. 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. in the way taught by generations of women who nourished their families as wives and mothers. Before wide industrialization and the spread of mechanical tortillerías. The elaborate cuisine was not the restrictive factor of their lives per se. its outcome (food. both because the master class became dependent on its cooks. To summarize. gives women the legitimacy to expand their social and physical boundaries. At the same time. 1998). Although women’s socially acceptable spaces may have appeared limited. dishes. Abarca (2006. recipes) should be thought of as having social agency.84 • Culinary Art and Anthropology around before freedom itself was. this was speciﬁcally the demands of making fresh tortillas (see Pilcher. forms of autonomy. and because the cooks actually invented a cuisine that the masters could vaunt. pp. the dependence on ﬂavour. in the case of Mexico. or as being social actors in their own right. there was resistance to machine-made tortillas. but could not themselves duplicate’ (47–8). 37) As I describe for Milpa Alta.15 With the tortillas sorted out. an idea also formulated by Mintz: ‘[W]orking in the emergence of cuisine legitimized status distinctions within slavery. put another way. morality and domestic power and may even help them to trap a husband. 1998. While it is arguable that women’s subordination was exacerbated by the demands of the kitchen. which eventually led to the development of an elaborate cuisine. or. In effect. Then. pp. 1998. 106–10). with technological advances and political changes as women entered the extradomestic labour force. Mexican women used to spend up to a third of their waking hours making tortillas (pp. 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. culinary or otherwise. 100–6). or a devotion to culinary works of art. Both sex and food lead to the continuance (and reproduction) of individuals as well as of society. pp. A woman should be able to satisfy her husband both sexually and gastronomically. 1996.
Women are arguably the most highly valued half of society (Melhuus. pp. Women’s agency. 80–1) also describes a link between hunger for food and desire for sex among the Sierra Nahaut of Central Mexico. skill. 1992). This perception hinges on the connection between the value of good cooking—of good ﬂavour—and the value allocated to women. 1992. Vázquez García. in Mexico and elsewhere. the only men for whom women prepare food are their husbands. Recipes Huevos a la mexicana A typical recipe for almuerzo. p. ﬁnely chopped 1 green chile. in Náhuatl. 182). is accessible to anyone who cooks (see Chapter 2). for food and for sex (see Gow. 1985). Stephen (2005. Gregor. and they use this status in imaginative and subtle ways to assert their power (over men). artistry. or potential to culinary artistry. If she is a skilful cook or can mobilize her culinary agency. say that no one cooks better than their mothers. a woman can have actual power over her husband. creativity—in a word. Furthermore. the domestic sphere and. Gow. ﬁnely chopped 4 eggs salt . I believe that such a thing as culinary agency. therefore. when. among other Náhuatl-speaking groups. it is precisely women’s cooking that is most highly valued. And fulﬁllment of these desires requires imagination. In fulﬁllment of these desires social relations are made or unmade. as wives and mothers. the greater social realm. 1989. or in the nature of the two most important desires. ﬁnely chopped 1 large tomato. pp. 1997. oil ½ onion. by extension. 1989).16 The preceding discussion has indicated how home cooking is highly valued in Mexico. can be both culinary and reproductive. Taggart (1992. 80–1. Many people. and many more examples can be given to corroborate this. 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. In fact.Women as Culinary Agents • 85 desires (cf. Women use their culinary agency in the cycle of festivity (described in the chapter that follows). the word for ‘to eat’ has the double meaning of eating food and having sex (Taggart. Chapter 9) argues. 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.
heat oil in frying pan and sauté onions and chiles until soft. hence its name. Break the eggs into the pan. Eggs should still be soft. and stir until all are well blended. pickled chiles or salsa. Add tomatoes. with the essential ingredients marked with an asterisk (*): *tortillas *queso fresco *avocado *chicharrón *pápaloquelite *pickled chiles salsa cebollas desﬂemadas nopales compuestos tamal de sesos tamal de charales pascle salpicón barbacoa carnitas cecina lime spring onions beans Batter for Coating Fish (pescado capeado) Yadira Arenas Berrocal 1 egg 1 clove garlic salt and pepper . Taco placero When there is little time to make a proper meal. raise the heat and cook until well-done and almost dry. This is a combination of foods that can be bought in the market or tianguis and eaten right there in the plaza as ﬁllings for tacos. remove from the heat. add salt. Some or all of the following foods are offered for taco placero.86 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Over a medium ﬂame. some women buy various foods in the market to serve taco placero or tacos de plaza. Serve with beans ( frijoles de olla). When just ﬁrm. and hot tortillas or bread. Some people buy food and combine it with what they have at home for making any kind of tacos.
Women as Culinary Agents • 87
Blend all ingredients together or crush garlic and scramble with eggs, salt and pepper. Dredge ﬁsh ﬁllets in ﬂour. Dip in egg mixture. Fry in hot oil.
José Arenas Berrocal Yadira’s brother, José, learned to make carnitas by watching others. The ﬁrst time he prepared carnitas was for a ﬁesta that I attended. The food turned out so well that his sisters congratulated him as if he were a young girl, saying, ‘Now you are ready to marry!’ (José was divorced and had two adolescent sons.) One whole pig (about 20 kg) serves around 140 people. For this recipe José used two medium-sized pigs. • The pig must be cut into large pieces—legs, loin, shoulders, ribs, skin—and marinated in vinegar for several hours to overnight. • In a large cauldron, heat abundant lard until boiling. Add meat in this order: ﬁrst legs, then shoulders, loin, ribs, with skin on top, covering all the meat. • When the lard comes to a boil once more, add around 5 large cans of evaporated milk, the juice from around 40 oranges, and the peels of 5 oranges. You may add garlic, but this is optional. • Allow the meat to boil until it is very soft. Add saltpetre to redden and ﬂavour the meat. • Serve with hot tortillas and red or green salsa.
This page intentionally left blank
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
– 89 –
there are other kinds of compadres for marriage. sometimes jointly. Accompanying heightened respect. the most important aspects of which are the food and the music. Indeed. is natural under these circumstances. The way Yadira explained it. Both husbands and wives choose their compadres. When a couple chooses their compadres. Compadrazgo ritualizes these close social relationships between families based on their mutual respect. are couples married in church with whom they wish to maintain a lifelong relationship. which at its most basic is the relationship between a couple and the godparents ( padrinos) of their child. The respect that characterizes compadrazgo relationships implies personal affection.4 . 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. 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. as ‘comadrita’. each family thereafter maintains this bond between them. though much has already been written by others on these systems of reciprocal exchange. Compadrazgo Compadrazgo3 is the system of ritual kinship. Apart from baptism. she said that compadres (and friends) are ‘inherited’ in Milpa Alta. They are ritual kin. Compadres. The ties bound by shared responsibility over the ahijado (godchild) provide a social assurance which may be necessary in future. respectively. the actual relationship between compadres may be characterized by competition. therefore. Thus. for example.90 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Barrio San Mateo and the systems of reciprocal exchange in hospitality. although not necessarily for economic assistance. mutual admiration and also social distance. Their main responsibility is to organize ﬁestas. envidia (greed) and initial distrust. Mayordomos also arrange the salvas/promesas (gifts) that their barrio takes to others’ town/barrio ﬁestas. To speak with respect. especially baptismal compadres. Compadrazgo and the mayordomía It is helpful to have a basic understanding of compadrazgo and the mayordomía. the quintessence of Mexican culinary artistry.2 As already mentioned. and these also extend throughout the families of the compadres. and one would begin to address the mother of one’s comadre. sometimes singly. concluding with a discussion of mole. Lomnitz. 1977). both systems function around feasts and hospitality at the levels of the family and the barrio. other family members on both sides call one another compadre/comadre or padrino/madrina. By extension. and the families maintain commitments as of kinship into future generations. house blessings and almost any kind of inaugural or life cycle event.
barrios and pueblos celebrate their saint’s day with a ﬁesta. The mayordomos go to everyone’s houses collecting donations. called an itacate. thereby continuing to nourish the social relationship despite their absence. People used to be named after the saints on whose day they were born. the cargo system. (Most people are now no longer named after the calendar name. performances and religious ritual. local families are expected to help. either ﬁnancially or with their labour. but nearby pueblos have double names like San Pablo Oztotepec or San Salvador Cuauhtenco. material or physical aid that is asked of them.Mole and Fiestas • 91 In the realm of the family ﬁesta cycle. and it is not unheard of to celebrate both one’s birthday and saint’s day. Throughout Mexico. 1988). Like the images of saints who ritually visit one another during town ﬁestas. Town or barrio ﬁestas are a combination of feasts. to avoid offense they must let their hosts know in advance. As will be discussed in greater detail in this chapter. taking charge of the ritual visits to other pueblos on their feast day celebrations. towns may be referred to solely by their indigenous names. If compadres cannot attend. The ﬁesta del pueblo and the mayordomía In Milpa Alta every barrio and pueblo is named after a Catholic saint. but they almost always have a Catholic saint’s name as well. deserving special treatment. On the whole. installing a church in honour of that saint in the centre. each saint corresponds to a certain day in the year. These parcels of food are also given to compadres when they cannot attend a ﬁesta. it is only called San Mateo. most families in Milpa Alta regularly give whatever economic. his or her feast day. and for this reason. The mayordomos.) Likewise. although most pueblos have both Catholic and Náhuatl names. are responsible for caring for the church. Brandes. although this is not the norm. compadres assist in preparing the ﬁestas and are also the most honoured guests. when they leave a ﬁesta compadres are given extra food to take away with them. They are organized by the socio-political institution called the mayordomía or ‘el sistema de cargos’. compadres are expected to visit one another on occasions of special family events and can expect to be welcomed with a mole de ﬁesta. The names of those who . We can say that the Spaniards ‘baptized’ each town with a new Catholic name. one or more couples (who have married in church) from the barrio/pueblo. In San Mateo the amounts that each contributed are announced one week after the ﬁesta. as large sums of money are needed (cf. even if it is not always easy. Mayordomos are like human go-betweens amongst the patron saints of the barrios and pueblos. Since San Mateo is a barrio of the pueblo Villa Milpa Alta. one’s birthday is also referred to as one’s saint’s day (el día de su santo). According to the Catholic calendar introduced by the Spanish. They take on this charge for a determined length of time before passing on the role to other members (married couples) of the community. For the ﬁesta del pueblo.
and they are often ridiculed. The ﬁesta ofﬁcially starts on the eve of the feast day when several other barrios and pueblos of Milpa Alta. For example. begin to arrive with statues of their patron saints. they are continually replaced by future mayordomos who maintain the ongoing reciprocal exchange relationships amongst other barrios. a single mother who washes clothes and does general cleaning for a living.5 Family events are celebrated in the same way. Sometimes people give more money than they really can afford. who help in cash or kind. Mariachis play throughout the day while people eat.92 • Culinary Art and Anthropology did not contribute are also made public. However. planning and saving money months in advance. amongst Zapotecs in Oaxaca. offering the expected ﬁesta foods in abundance. Some host their own private banquets during the barrio ﬁesta. [we do]’). . She also argues that women are critical players in ritual life. 1988. 1977. Weddings are also the largest and most important family life cycle celebrations. indeﬁnite bonds of reciprocity that last a lifetime and beyond. bringing their promesas of ﬂowers and music. live bands. Though mayordomos typically ‘reign’ for one to ﬁve years in Milpa Alta. individuals representing family groups engage in long-term. carnitas or mixiotes. and also for the sake of comfortable relations and status within the social network (Brandes. the form and content of community-level celebration has been appropriated into life cycle celebrations.’ Yadira said. a Mexican birthday song. and into the night there is dancing. Salles and Valenzuela. and nearby Morelos. Cata. . ‘But you have to contribute to continue with the traditions. apart from funerals. As Chelita once said to me. and thus their obligation to provide a wedding feast. it can be held jointly with a baptism (when a baby turns 1 year . pero para la ﬁesta . life cycle rituals are sometimes combined and celebrated together. especially in the role of mayordomos. After singing the mañanitas. My observations in Milpa Alta are comparable. In compadrazgo. closeness and distance in the community among families or pueblos. . In fact. though they are organized amongst compadres. but for the ﬁesta .6 Stephen (2005) explains how. 1997. with the usual accompaniments. Lomnitz. some couples delay their church weddings. and ﬁreworks. The mayordomía engages in similar long-term contractual exchange relationships with the corresponding mayordomías of neighbouring barrios and pueblos. ‘No tenemos para el calzón.’ (‘We don’t have enough [money] to buy underwear. 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. When they ﬁnally do have a church wedding. Both compadrazgo and the mayordomía are systems that structure social relations. without the ﬁreworks. the most important aspect of any ﬁesta. Stephen. because they are the ones who prepare the food. especially weddings. it is to one’s personal beneﬁt to give to the community. until they have children. the visiting barrios are hosted by local mayordomos to share in a feast of mole. 2005). standing in for the communities represented by the patron saints. . Many families eagerly look forward to the ﬁesta del pueblo. barbacoa.
Since each ﬁesta should have the same kind of feast food. or perhaps enchiladas or thinly sliced beef steaks with a salsa and potatoes sautéed with onions. often chicken broth with pasta. is usually served between two and ﬁve in the afternoon. which is either pasta or rice ﬂavoured with onions and garlic and sometimes tomatoes to which carrots. or chicharrón en chile verde (pork crackling in green sauce). It may be as simple as breaded chicken breasts accompanied by cooked vegetables. What would be unacceptable is to have a wedding or baptism without the mole de ﬁesta to offer to guests. Before noon a guest is offered breakfast. the ﬁrst thing that a host says is. As I explain in the section that follows. live music and dancing. If they have run out of milk the hosts apologize and ask if coffee would be all right. even if it is only a piece of fruit or agua fresca. Hospitality and Food When guests arrive at the house. 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. What is served depends on the time of arrival. such as a bowl of pancita accompanied by tacos of broad beans or nopales compuestos. from around noon to about six it is lunchtime. however infrequent. sometimes refried. la comida. or may be held on the day of the barrio ﬁesta. and after six is suppertime. peas and/or potatoes may be added. or it may be something rather more complex such as mole verde con pollo (green mole with chicken). it is acceptable to celebrate them together with a single feast. because this is all . as well as agua de frutas. It starts with a soup or sopa aguada. The main meal of the day. In the evenings a guest may be served leftovers from the main meal or perhaps some sweet rolls accompanied by café de olla or hot milk into which one is invited to stir instant coffee or chocolate and sugar. in both ﬁestas and everyday settings. teleras and hot milk. Whatever is for breakfast is served along with beans. 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!’). there are forceful fundamental rules of food hospitality in Milpa Alta. ‘¡Adelante! ¡adelante! ¿Qué les ofrezco?’ (‘Come in! Come in! What can I offer you?’). however long overdue the wedding may be. In the mornings a guest may also be served leftovers from the day before. sweetened diluted fruit juice. a complaint expressed with derision toward the subject of conversation. and/ or sopa seca (dry soup). something to eat or drink must always be available. This would be followed by beans and all accompanied by tortillas. The main course is often meat served in a sauce or with some other hot salsa on the side. young corn kernels. which are crucial to social interaction.Mole and Fiestas • 93 old) or presentation (when a child is 3). Since someone might arrive for whatever reason at any time. and there is an abundance of food. All occasions require the same menu for the banquet to accommodate hundreds of people.
94 • Culinary Art and Anthropology that they have left. just one!’). We explained that we had just come from eating and that we were very full. beans and tortillas. They were taking me to visit the town ﬁesta of nearby San Francisco Tecoxpa. but. she passed one of them to Yadira’s plate. one uses whatever one has at hand. After eating. tomatoes and herbs. we were served some sweet rolls and coffee. 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. Yadira protested that she had already had breakfast and that Doña Margarita should eat. and then were pushed to have more. The host must share whatever food is at hand. and I was staying in Primy’s house. We told them that we had just that moment come from Primy’s house. heated tortillas one by one and gave them to each of us straight from the comal rather than wrapping a stack in a napkin inserted into a chiquihuite. we were each given a plate full of milanesas with a simple cucumber and avocado salad and fried plantains with cream. which by this time were simply impossible to force in. as the following anecdote illustrates: It was the feast day of Saint Francis. whose son was ill. but Primy. at around 9. their compadre’s sister. She would normally prepare a new sauce to make chilaquiles. Yadira and Kiko then took me back to Primy’s house. He accepted the offer. and then Yadira and Kiko left. Yadira and Kiko came to pick me up for the day. cebollas desﬂemadas con rajas de chile jalapeño (sliced onions tamed with lime juice and salt and mixed with strips of jalapeño chiles). So we each had one. we went to visit Yadira’s compadres. she said. After this. fresh sprigs of coriander and slices of avocado. Since we arrived just in time. and she heated some barbacoa in the same sauce and served it to him with some beans. Doña Margarita immediately passed her plate to Yadira and said that she was not very hungry. . saying that she really did not feel like having two eggs that day. she had only one egg. but Doña Margarita insisted. but our hosts insisted. 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. This was a very informal and impromptu meal and Chelita. So with difﬁculty we cleaned our plates. and the guest must accept the food offered. After visiting San Francisco and walking around the fair. accompanied by a tomato and pasta soup. Since Doña Margarita had served herself last and there was an odd number of eggs. so they gave us the fruit to take away with us. We were invited to have a few tacos of nopales with cheese.30. we returned to the compadres’ house and helped them cook nopales. she and Kiko needed to pay their contribution to the local mayordomía. This was what they had eaten for lunch the day before. It was four o’clock and they had just served their comida. where we just had breakfast. and they had several left. which they sell in the market already prepared with onions. We were breakfasting on chilaquiles served with two fried eggs each and teleras. ¡nada más uno!’ (‘One little taco. Alejandro and Doña Margarita would not accept this and again insisted we eat. Since Primy had not yet touched her eggs. so Yadira should have her share. There we were offered tacos dorados de pollo. Since their nopalera was in that area of Milpa Alta. then we were offered apples and bananas. Just as we started to eat. ‘Un taquito.
85). ‘[A]s part of this behavioral model. it can be interpreted as a breach of trust. both for the hosts and for the guests. they must expect not to receive an invitation. If a guest leaves food on the plate a host may say disapprovingly. Lomnitz shows that psychosocial distance is a more important factor in reciprocal exchange networks than blood ties. however. what she calls ‘psychosocial distance’. ‘[I]nvitations to life cycle rituals cannot be turned down’ (p. ‘No desprecias a la comida’ (‘Don’t undervalue food’) or ‘No desperdicias la comida’ (‘Don’t waste food’). it is like being part of the same family. invitations to meals beget counter-invitations. uttered in an offended tone of voice. When one family is particularly close to another family. when there is conﬁanza between two families. Stephen (2005) describes a similar coerciveness in ﬁesta hospitality amongst compadres in Teotitlán. physical and economic proximity. 258). 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. Also inherent is Mauss’s notion of ‘the gift’. Food offered in hospitality appears to be treated as an extension of the host and/or cook (if they are the same person). Lomnitz (1977) deﬁnes the Latin American concept of conﬁanza as more than just ‘trust’ or ‘conﬁdence’. They know that they are always invited to any family celebrations. Attendance to a party is a social commitment. Especially when there is a certain closeness between host and guest. For this reason the social pressure to eat everything placed in front of a guest is high. People would talk and say that the offenders . ‘Es que no te gustó’ (‘It’s because you didn’t like it’). eats it all with relish and possibly asks for more. The perfect guest accepts everything offered to him gratefully. If. although if family members live physically far apart. they have spoken to the hosts to let them know they cannot make it. It is a trusting relation between two individuals in social. in appreciation of the superior ﬂavours of the food. a guest should not be surprised if his refusal is answered with. this is ﬁne. As soon as his plate is near empty. such as the town ﬁesta or a birthday. p. gifts require counter-gifts. An invitation to a ﬁesta must be honoured with its acceptance and also requires reciprocity in the form of future invitations to family ﬁestas. In this way food embodies the agency (of welcome. While people are sometimes too busy to attend public ﬁestas organized by the mayordomía. This implies a willingness to engage in reciprocal exchange because of perceived parity in an ‘equality of wants’. Thus. This same basic system of food giving and receiving is also in action when families are invited to large-scale ﬁestas. and a food parcel (itacate) will be sent to their home after the ﬁesta is over. The concept still applied in Milpa Alta in the 1990s. Rejecting food is tantamount to rejecting the host.Mole and Fiestas • 95 The preceding description demonstrates that hospitality is a coercive system. She states that the obligation is so great that one risks being disowned by one’s compadres if one skips a private ﬁesta. and lending a hand at work obligates the recipient of the favor to reciprocate in kind at some later date’ (Brandes. which allows for the continuance of social relations. and if they fail to show up on a special day. 1988. the host offers the guest a reﬁll. gift) of the host in a material form.
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. profession. This was mainly because she then moved to Milpa Alta. As Yadira explained.8 One’s energies are easily depleted. Holding large parties. they do have money to celebrate. because there is no time. Nevertheless. and explained: The people of Milpa Alta are very. barbacoa. is eating a meal at home. 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’). They are still as hardworking as other Milpaltenses and are up before six o’clock every morning to tend to their cactus ﬁelds or other occupations. If a guest cannot eat it. Amongst the seven barrios and eleven pueblos of Milpa Alta. Yadira said. ﬁestas are the primary occasions when kin. So it is a luxury to be able to stay home to eat. 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. Barrio San Mateo is the most ﬁestero. As I . Yadira told me. compadres and community come together to socialize and exchange news at greater leisure. where parties are taken so seriously and where hospitality requires a guest to eat everything she is offered. especially when one tries to juggle family. is socially enjoyable and beneﬁcial. of highest value. are pressured food events. education and traditional industry. In Milpa Alta there are so many ﬁestas that Doña Margarita told me that sometimes when she has a craving for mole.7 but this does not mean that the people of this barrio are idle. therefore.96 • Culinary Art and Anthropology think they are too important to attend or that they think they do not need others in the community. Fiestas. but the deepest pleasure. Yadira told me. serving mole. making ﬁestas a source of social cohesion (Perez-Castro and Ochoa. All the ﬁestas could be thought of as a sort of diversion from the monotony of daily labours at a social or community level. More importantly. There are private parties every week. she had gained quite a lot of weight.9 Her statement is telling in that she mentions eating well at home as a ‘luxury’. To go from one party to the next. It is necessary to work from dawn until late at night in order to progress [ﬁnancially]. can become tiresome (llega a aburir). she respected the importance of the festivities. or carnitas. as shown by the case of Barrio San Mateo in Villa Milpa Alta. Every month there is at least one ﬁesta at barrio level. 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. I observed a similar sense of this in Milpa Alta. surrounded by loved ones (close family members). and to do it well. Parties and festivals in San Mateo are more than simple seasonal markers partly because of their frequency and also because of their obligatory force. Since her wedding day. very hardworking because nature gave them few resources.
Considered to be the ultimate Mexican dish. Since . both native and non-native to Mexico. it is a richly ﬂavoured. Some cooks say that the mole poblano is distinguishable by the chiles used— mulato. and chocolate is not an essential ingredient. seeds and starches (like bread and tortillas). the mole poblano is recognized as the thick dark brown sauce with sesame seeds sprinkled on top just before serving. or the sculptural sweets made for the Days of the Dead called alfeñiques. then diluted with broth and cooked.Mole and Fiestas • 97 mentioned in Chapter 2. The most important thing is never to leave anything on the plate. fruits. It is often misrepresented as a combination of chiles and chocolate. spices. The popular Mexican saying above. Leaving food is a great insult. it is a breach of the spirit of the gift (of food. Mole is the dish that usually deﬁnes a feast. but it is more complex. ‘Eres ajonjolí de todos los moles. Some also use the plastic cups on the table which are there for serving drinks. 1987 p. There are several different kinds of regional recipes for mole. molli. Others believe it is particular in its incorporation of chocolate. such as paintings. ancho and pasilla. There is some disagreement about what makes a mole poblano distinct from other moles. 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. formerly called mole de olor. catalyzed by the food. crucial to these ﬁestas is a proper feast. 196). although many other moles may contain chocolate. The word now connotes a combination of dried chiles. herbs.’ draws upon this common knowledge about festive food in Mexico. Mole and mole poblano Eres ajonjolí de todos los moles. but generally speaking. nuts. although it is commonly included. Even in artistic images. In other words. photographs. or they wrap food in tortillas and tie it into a napkin to take home. thick sauce which incorporates up to thirty ingredients. (You are the sesame seed of all moles. mole of fragrance (Bayless and Bayless. it is eaten primarily for celebrations. The majority say that its most characteristic difference is that Pueblan mole includes a lot of sesame seeds and typically is strewn with more as a garnish. a culinary work of art) which allows for ongoing social relations. the Pueblan mole. Since during the ﬁesta cycle people regularly reunite over special meals. Each ingredient requires individual preparation before all are ground together into a paste. The name for this dish is a Hispanicization of the Náhuatl word for sauce. the festive life ultimately sustains community life.) —Mexican saying The most famous dish in Mexico is the mole poblano. which I will discuss in the remainder of this chapter.
98 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
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
100 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
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.
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
Mole. 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. No doubt mole deserved its status as quintessential ﬁesta food.12 Almost everyone I met had a commentary or opinion about mole. On another occasion. fruits may be underripe. rather than detract from its meaningfulness. This change in the traditional menu for feasts had probably begun to occur only since the 1980s. had prepared mole for us as a special welcome. but Doña Delﬁna proudly told us that she had made the mole herself. p. which have their roots in pre-Hispanic customs. What is interesting is that Spanish or Catholic customs of avoiding meat during Lent and Advent are adhered to. She also showed me another detail which indicated her special care in producing a good mole. I understood that since this mole was not commercial. It was the time of the Feria del Mole in San Pedro Atocpan.Mole and Fiestas • 101 Mole and tamales of different kinds are associated with speciﬁc ﬁestas and seasons. It is a good example of an object of art within the art corpus of cuisine (following Gell. Yet my observations in Milpa Alta showed that it was more common for ﬁesta food to be barbacoa. and that she had some of the chiles sent over from Puebla. the eaters are succumbing to an enchantment grounded in their knowledge of what it takes to make a mole. The changing or loss of such tradition may seem to indicate a decreasing signiﬁcance of mole. When serving. it was better than moles from San Pedro. but for personal ritual events and the Days of the Dead. after pouring a generous amount of mole over the piece of chicken. When it is so delicious that it impresses the eaters as a gastronomic climax. The value attributed to mole is related to an awareness that it requires a certain technical mastery to prepare well. Several women gave me culinary tips. and a sprinkling of this added a sheen and extra ﬂavour to properly garnish the dish. spices may be old and ﬂavourless and nuts may go rancid if the weather is warm. mole was also described as a ‘gastronomical orgasm’. This way the chiles would toast gently and were in no danger of burning and therefore becoming bitter. as I mentioned in Chapter 1. . Mole is never made in small amounts. the food served is what is considered to be ‘very Mexican’ or ‘traditional’. whether they are festivals of Spanish or indigenous origin. and. its replacement as ﬁesta food emphasizes and even reinforces its social meanings. So what Gell (1996. she said it was important to take a little of the oil rendered on top of the mole. her mother-in-law. is a complex and socially powerful dish.’ The ﬁrst time I went to Milpa Alta and met Yadira and her family. 1999b). 1998. Chiles and seeds are easily burnt. so cooks need skill and practice to prepare it well. But as I will explain below. Doña Delﬁna. in short. 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.11 and these extra little attentions made quite a difference to the outcome of the dish. carnitas or mixiotes.
substitution of ingredients with local or available ones.102 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Like mole. how what is now considered ‘traditional’ came about through the complexity of culture contact that existed. salsa is conceptualized as a whole green chile (in Milpa Alta. As an example. Wilk explains how a ‘Belizian’ style of cooking emerged from the particular history of Belize. 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. Mole and its accompaniments. but the meal remains sufﬁciently festive. salsas and vegetables. which I ﬁnd entirely convincing. lumping together categories with emblematic dishes) and alternation and promotion. They offer it for their guests to eat with tamales and beans. It is not meat in green chile only. therefore. Even when mole is not the main course of the ﬁesta meal. usually de árbol or sometimes serrano) which accompanies a meal. barbacoa. To explain why this is so. 2006. 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. and they can be hired to prepare certain dishes for the ﬁesta. 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. At other times. it is necessary to understand something about the role of social memory in how a cuisine or any other traditional art develops. and perhaps other chiles as well). These methods are blending. . In Milpa Alta. Examples from current conceptions of the ‘traditional’ cuisines of Mexico can easily be found that ﬁt into Wilk’s categories of culinary methods. Carne en chile verde refers to meat in green salsa (which usually includes green husk tomatoes. compression (a simpliﬁed classiﬁcation of foods. We can begin by thinking of a cuisine developing in a linear progression from simple to complex. submersion (absorbing a foreign/global ingredient into a local dish). or by relatives or compadres who know how to make it. such as tamales. 113–21). pp. in Milpa Alta. many families still prepare a small amount of mole to serve as a second main course after guests have ﬁlled themselves with barbacoa. At its most basic. There may or may not be mole. wrapping and stufﬁng. let us consider salsas in Mexican cuisine. carnitas and mixiotes are usually made at home. pickled chiles. but a small portion is given to special guests (family and compadres) as an itacate. At its most complex. the words salsa and chile are often used interchangeably. were still almost always present during any sort of celebration in Milpa Alta. to be bitten into whenever desired. onion. There are also some women who are well-known in the community for their cooking. and spices. A prototypical salsa (chilmolli in Náhuatl) is one made of chiles ground into a sauce. mole is not served. as I have been promoting it in this book. a salsa can be a mole.
of course.1).1 guacamole 2.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole .1. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. for example. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. and thus forms a lineage. Conceived of in this way. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles.2. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). Following Gell’s theory of art. onions and salt. This is not accidental. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. or different types of barbacoas). and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. red tomatoes. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. or a lineage of guacamoles. I illustrate a simpliﬁed plan of this in Figure 5.2 (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. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. It has relations with other persons (salsas). In Figure 5. an artwork (or salsa.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa. 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. Some of these are related to each other. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’.
beans + lard (+ onion) maize + lime (CaOH) chile ┌───────┴───────┐ lard + masa tortillas + salsa 1 salsa 2 … salsa x │ ┌────┴────┐ refried beans + masa preparada + salsa x ┌─────┼─────┐ │ chilaquiles enchiladas pastel azteca mole – 104 – tlacoyos huaraches tamales tamales de frijol de chile Figure 5.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. Shown as Families .
each of the varied recipes which make up a cuisine may develop in its own way. although this quality may not be easily deﬁneable. ‘The Artist’s Oeuvre as a Distributed Object’). 1998. Thus. But my purpose here is not to examine the deﬁning style of what makes one dish Mexican and another not Mexican. Cooking is activity in two ways. it is a set made up of many parts. 235. and the relationships that exist between this category and other categories of artworks within a stylistic whole—a culturally or historically speciﬁc art-production system. as individuals. Each part has some quality which deﬁnes it as belonging to the whole. As a distributed object. A cuisine is actually an ideal example of a ‘distributed object’ as deﬁned by Gell. leading to further innovation and growth. As far as Mexican cuisine is part of Mexican tradition.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. is not as obvious as the similarity between a basic salsa and a mole (that is. 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. Each part can be very different from the others. in essence. 166). or even in different households in the same community. 153) Pinpointing exactly what it is that makes barbacoa like mole. Traditional cuisines appear to develop as spatio-temporal wholes that change and move forward historically. is how all traditional arts develop. The recipes are separately reﬁned by a collection of individuals who interact with and inﬂuence one another. and from this. but put together the parts make sense as a whole. [A]rtworks are never just singular entities.14 who may have greater skill in using the ‘traditional’ knowledge of the culinary arts. and somewhat like Levi-Strauss’s culinary triangle/tetrahedron). This. p. (p. spread out over space and time (see Gell. p. its history (or ‘biography’) can be understood as having come into being by the work of many persons (mostly women) simultaneously in separate households. and who are in turn . as a physical activity and as a creative activity of continuous innovation. they are members of categories of artworks. and their signiﬁcance is crucially affected by the relations which exist between them. Figure 9. As a single unit. and other members of the same category of artworks. It continues to be modiﬁed and improved as each cook prepares each meal every day.Mole and Fiestas • 105 develop at the same time or how similar recipes may develop in different regions. made with chiles and other ingredients). 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.4/1. both are salsas. for example. one body of cuisine made up of many recipes. This quality is what Gell calls ‘style’ (1998. The recipes are drawn from their memories. from the perspective of the present looking back toward all past developments. constructed by the efforts of individuals who prepare dishes based on recipes. or they learn them from other individuals in the community. a cuisine is a collective work.
or add garlic. Historical and social factors play a role in how and when ingredients and techniques are incorporated.17 Dishes have a recognizable quality that can be thought of in relation to the cuisine. I may learn to make salsa with tomatoes. the skin of the leaves of the maguey (the same plant used to line the pit for making barbacoa). into which they introduce variations on what they have learnt. If others like my salsa. It is always served with particular salsas accompanying it. or herself. therefore. green chile and salt. The relative costs of preparing these dishes are also relevant. At the same time they incorporate new inﬂuences. may be planned or can happen by accident. in a way similar to Becker’s ‘art worlds’ (1982) or Gell’s notion of ‘style’. I am aware that the development of cuisine cannot be fully explained by focusing solely on recipes (see Wilk. and.16 yet as much as there is innovation and change. or a combination of chiles. like barbacoa. If the salsa is successful. it is ﬁrst interesting to note some of the similarities amongst these dishes. carnitas or mixiote. and it is always made as a special effort for . pork and/or chicken) which is rubbed with an adobo (a mole-like) paste. 2006). carnitas and mixiote came to be accepted as ﬁesta food. In Gell’s terms. 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. We may also think of recipes developing into the dishes that make up a cuisine as ‘variations on a theme’. implementing for themselves the changes I made. Also. there is also repetition and constancy. a recipe is the prototype of a dish that is prepared. 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. and eventually this may become a regular part of my recipe repertoire. onions. then is wrapped in a mixiote. nuts and spices) are expensive. Carnitas is made by stewing a whole pig in its own fat. individuals maintain their own creative input. Fiesta Food To return to the question of how barbacoa. they may try making a similar salsa. mole is prepared at home even though it is available commercially. Mixiote is made of meat (rabbit. Eventually this particular combination of ingredients may become widespread and embedded in local/regional cooking and thought of as ‘traditional’. Innovation. It is ﬂavoured with oranges and garlic. The high-quality ingredients for mole (chiles.15 Within the limits of the style of cooking that one learns by imitation of masters/mothers. Meal structure is another area which requires analysis and incorporation.106 • Culinary Art and Anthropology drawing from their own memories or inﬂuences. ideas and ingredients as well as experiment and improvise. to make another salsa that still tastes as Mexican as the salsa that I ﬁrst learned to make. and then tomorrow try out using dried chiles. it is always served with salsas and tortillas. modiﬁed or discarded. to produce similar but different dishes. One kilo of mole costs more than one kilo of barbacoa. I may take note and repeat what I have done on another occasion.
In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. within the region. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu deﬁnes it. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. Since mole is feast food par excellence. In addition. the greater its social value. it can be considered to be in good taste. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. it cost around Mx$10. Before then.e.000 (£1. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head.’ (p.050) for carnitas. and on one’s guests. p. So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. 54). 1984. for example. 29). and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. serving barbacoa became prestigious for ﬁestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. 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. Since the costs of hosting a ﬁesta are high.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for ﬁve hundred people. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. For this reason. to prepare mole for ﬁve hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. as mentioned previously. 29).400) for barbacoa. In short. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway. 687). Barbacoa is a luxury food. In 2000.. 91). carnitas or mixiote for ﬁve hundred people. it is very expensive). if they decide to serve barbacoa during their ﬁestas. as far as I know. Mx$15. 1991. Not only because of the costs.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. In effect. 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 . But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. i. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. technically difﬁcult and valuable. and because to a large extent. and Mx$20. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast.000 (£1. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. p. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. . the more an object resists our possession (because. It is therefore deﬁned as appropriate.. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. but also because of the social values.
So while a simple part-for-whole synecdoche does not exist. as modiﬁcations of previously successful (ﬂavourful and pleasurable) dishes. 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. 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. synecdoche. that is. as is the case in Milpa Alta. in either preparation or ingredients). there is still a relation between two dishes which allows them to represent or replace one another if they both maintain ‘the relative capacity . especially to the hosts’ compadres. ritual and economic systems within the matrix of Milpa Alta social life. Still others may have been born of improvisation. there is perfect sense in barbacoa (or carnitas or mixiote) acting as its replacement at feasts. mole continues to be described as having the ultimate ﬂavour. as being the ‘mole de ﬁesta’. cuisine must be thought of as a distributed object. barbacoa—as culinary works of art are imbued with meaning as they form the nexus of the social networks of normal food hospitality. Although not all the parts of the whole cuisine are similar (a salsa has nothing in common with a tortilla. when combined with other recipes or other techniques. they are of the same style (Mexican). Others can be offshoots of preparatory recipes. that is. There must be another reason why barbacoa has become acceptable feast food in Milpa Alta. cuisine is an ‘object’ which can be divided into its constituent parts. Though mole is the quintessence of Mexican cuisine. Yet because of the notions of style (Gell). there is an apparent contradiction in mole being necessary for ﬁestas and yet not being present. To reiterate. there is no denying that they are equally valid parts belonging to the same whole. mixiotes) have become socially salient as acceptable substitutes for mole in Milpaltense ﬁestas. Some recipes can be shown to have developed directly from others. I have examined mole as an artwork within the context of the art world to which it belongs. 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 the cases when mole is not served. as a conceptual whole. as described previously. other speciﬁc dishes (barbacoa. whether or not there is mole for the rest of the guests. Then. which are different dishes of varying kinds and complexity. Mexican cuisine. produce another dish or innovation. which. If. compadrazgo and the mayordomía in Milpaltense society. My analysis of mole indicates its social salience as a nexus of the interrelating social. To understand this. resistance (Simmel) and the aesthetic disposition (Bourdieu). to create potentialities for ... carnitas.108 • Culinary Art and Anthropology this is not enough to explain why mole is still served during ﬁestas. 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.
after barbacoa’ to only ‘barbacoa’. In effect. Recipes Tamales de nopales for the Barrio Fiesta Doña Margarita Salazar Fry chopped onions in butter. Its actual presence or absence does not indicate its conceptual absence. In effect. each of which requires a relatively high level of technical skill for its preparation. With time. what occurs is Gell’s ‘halo effect of technical difﬁculty’ (1996) so that the dish can be designated as special. Mix chiles with nopales and queso oaxaca. barbacoa can be taken as a representative of Mexican cuisine (as a distributed object) and can be demonstrated to have some equivalence to mole. Steam. 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. or special enough to commemorate a special occasion. Since any recipe can be representative of the whole cuisine (synecdoche). p. because of its deep social signiﬁcance. In fact. mole is still omnipresent in ﬁestas. 1986. 11). Thus it makes sense that barbacoa could be served at a ﬁesta. The menu gradually shifts from a festive meal being deﬁned as ‘mole’ to ‘mole after barbacoa’ to ‘mole as itacate for compadres only. barbacoa is a luxury to be indulged in with the family. the meal structure could be modiﬁed by the preparation of a smaller amount of mole and accompaniments for a ﬁesta. provided that there is a little bit of ‘mole de ﬁesta’ offered as a second main course to complete the social transaction of value. when served as the meal of a ﬁesta.Mole and Fiestas • 109 constructing a present that is experienced as pointing forward to later desired acts or material returns’ (Munn. therefore. placing a stick of double cream cheese in the centre as if it were a piece of meat. although it may not rank as high as mole. Add chopped nopales. Barbacoa is special enough to be a Sunday treat for the family. Toast chile de árbol in lard and crush roughly. the meat used is expensive. and the family as a unit hosts ﬁestas on grand scale. close friends and family. whether or not it is actually served to them on their plates. mole is present at the ﬁesta in people’s memories. and it is somewhere in the range of special dishes. This makes them legitimately pertain to the style of a Mexican ﬁesta because of their recent relation to mole and the omnipresence of salsa/chile.18 Provided that a dish is conceived of as needing a certain amount of technical mastery in order to prepare it. Eventually. barbacoa is made able to effectively carry similar meanings to those of mole. it requires labour and skill to prepare. only to give as an itacate to the hosts’ compadres.
adding enough orange juice to make an elastic dough. ﬂour a work surface and pull off walnut-sized balls. freshly squeezed 2 ﬁstfuls of lard 3 cups of sugar abundant oil for frying • Combine all the ingredients.) • When the dough is elastic. turning it constantly and sustaining it on your knee. as the dough is strong. like most home cooks. Flatten or roll each ball into a rough circle. in a large bowl. Easter or Carnival. boiled in a little water 2 kg plain ﬂour 9–10 eggs ¼ kg butter. This is how Primy always makes buñuelos. Do this several times and make sure that you hear a loud slapping noise with each throw. dribbled with a light ﬂavoured syrup or honey. Turn to brown the other side. occasionally throwing the dough forcefully onto a metate. They are served at Christmas parties or during posadas and are said to represent the diapers of the Baby Jesus Christ. making sure to press the centre into the oil so that it cooks evenly. If the dough breaks easily it is not elastic enough and may lack kneading. cover your knee with a clean tea towel.110 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Buñuelos de lujo Ma. The dough can be stretched to a very thin disk about 25 cm in diameter. Makes 50 to 60 buñuelos. a pinch of aniseed. melted zest of 2 oranges. • Fry each circle in hot oil. To Serve Drizzle with a light syrup made of crude sugar ( piloncillo) and water (this may be ﬂavoured with aniseed or guava). Sitting down. Knead it well to develop the glutens. Drain on absorbent paper and allow to harden. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez In Mexico buñuelos are broad. (Primy said that sometimes she would ask Alejandro or any available man to do the kneading for her because it is physically quite difﬁcult. The measurements are approximate because. crispy fritters served in stacks. Primy just throws in whatever amounts ‘feel’ right to her. . 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. Place the circle of dough on the rounded surface and very gently pull the dough from the edges in small increments. and do not worry about it breaking. except for the oil. ﬁnely grated orange juice.
cut into thick sticks 200–250 g peanuts. sliced in ½-cm rounds. adding the bananas half an hour before serving. about 3 minutes.25-cm slices. ﬁnely chopped 300 g almonds. blanched. with peels 3 ripe bananas. In a large bowl. Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela Chef Abdiel Cervantes ¾ kg salt cod (bacalao). cut into cubes and reserve the cooking water. sauté onions until golden. peeled. Serve in bowls with abundant broth. or baguettes) • In abundant olive oil. with their peels ¼ –½ iceberg lettuce. stirring frequently. Add garlic and let brown. ﬁnely chopped To serve: 1 jar green olives 1 tin chiles güeros (or any pickled yellow chiles) crusty bread (teleras or bolillos. soaked several hours. about 20 minutes. Serves 8–10. ﬁnely chopped 1½ –2 kg tomatoes. . leaves removed and well-scrubbed 500 g (1 large) jícama. • Add ﬁsh and almonds. 1 kg beetroot. combine the rest of the ingredients with the cubed beets and cooking water. 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. drained.Mole and Fiestas • 111 Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo’ Yadira Arenas Berrocal ‘Sangre de Cristo’ means the blood of Christ. This is a very refreshing dish that people prepare only during Lent and Advent. ﬁnely chopped 1½ cups parsley. Allow to cool. Cook 5–10 minutes. ﬁnely chopped 2–2½ cups (about 4 large heads) garlic. in 1. shredded ½ –1 L extra virgin olive oil ½ kg (about 3 cups) onions. shredded sugar to taste The beetroot must be very clean and boiled in abundant water with the skins. represented by the water in which the beetroot is boiled. Add tomatoes and cook over high heat. until the oil surfaces. peel them and discard the skins. When cooked. peeled 5 oranges.
Most recipes for torrejas are reminiscent of Spanish torrijas. cut into 6-centimetre slices 250 g queso cotija. Fill each space with cheese and proceed with the capeado as for stuffed chiles. or use an aged white cow’s milk cheese like Romano or Sardo 3 eggs. Primy’s version contains no milk. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez Torrejas are a Lenten dessert typical of the state of Michoaca ΄n. • Let rest until cool and decorate with olives and chiles. Torrejas Ma. Serve with crusty bread. When Doña Margarita was persuaded to try these torrejas. Doña Margarita. To serve. cooking until ﬁsh completely falls apart into small bits. and it probably would not matter if the bread used was very fresh. This is something that she rarely prepared because her mother-in-law. leaving an open pocket. she liked them so much that she had seconds. or 1 baguette. 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. This is the way Primy makes them. Serves 12. each cut into 3 pieces. did not like the idea of a sweet made with spices.112 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Add parsley and mix well. warm the fried bread pieces in the syrup to impregnate them with the ﬂavours and to heat them through. 4 slightly stale teleras. separated vegetable oil for frying Hollow out each piece of bread by removing some of the central crumbs. like the capeado for chiles rellenos. . Serve in low bowls with lots of syrup. like French toast. which is a bit unusual in that they are coated in the egg batter called a capeado.
effectively creates social relations. and social organization can be understood as a social-relational matrix with food as indexes within the active art nexus (following Gell. Rather than as an aid to help humans ingest nutrients. from everyday hospitality to ﬁesta hospitality. In the following sections I will explain these conclusions. via cooking. surface and depth. p. its artistic nature. but ﬂavour. original italics) In this book I have approached Mexican cuisine by thinking of cooking as an artistic practice.–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. Given that any kind of cooking – 113 – . It is not a superﬁcial. McCallum. Melhuus and Stølen. 2001) and women are able to use cooking to exert power and enact their social value (Abarca. or a dish. and in other ways throughout this book. situating this in the context of Milpa Alta. In other words. 2006. —Lévi-Strauss (1994. whose normal function is to mediatize the conjunction of the raw product and the human consumer. and this decoration is precisely what makes food powerful or meaningful. that ﬂavour is the most important and functional. 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. 1996). This means that we can understand different social levels (family-compadrazgo-mayordomía) by analyzing food in terms of cooking. gender is not intrinsically hierarchical (cf. is always a concern. and the mobilization of different ﬂavours in a cuisine. physical characteristic which carries semiotic meaning. ﬂavour is achieved via love (the sazón de amor necessary for good cooking). the presence of ﬂavour. active element of food. 336. If food. is thought of as an artwork. cultural and social reasons that people eat and drink certain foods. 1998). the ﬂavour is not simply the decorative aspect—or rather. 1986). it is decorative. are interlinked. form and function. observing cooking shows how actors are acted upon by their actions (following Munn. The Function of Flavour There are many physiological. I argued in Chapter 2. and whose operation thus has the effect of making sure that a natural creature is at one and the same time cooked and socialized.
family. is the ultimate recipe. pipiánes. When women prepare mole from scratch. tlacoyos. jícamas. Or. and street foods like sopes. enchiladas. In the case of Mexican cuisine. as it is. borrowing Tim Ingold’s deﬁnition of an artefact. As I described in greater detail in chapter 4. 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). adobos or adobados. especially a whole hog’s head) are differentiated by colour (red. or they may never learn to like it. It is considered to be ‘very Mexican’ and ‘very traditional’. barbacoa. p. ﬂavour is chile. Otherwise foreigners are expected to like it right away. In Milpa Alta. women’s morality is circumscribed by their knowledge of cookery and their domestic and extradomestic labour. and not only in terms of ﬂavour. Otherwise. who are highly valued in Milpaltense society as wives and mothers. Many dishes are deﬁned by their sauces or chiles rather than the accompanying meat or vegetable that is eaten with the sauce. are sold with a sprinkling of powdered chile piquín and lime juice. but when combined with chile or some sort of sauce. bananas. 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. Examples of this are chicharrón en chile verde. It also carries other meanings when it is served or eaten.114 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and eating are food transactions. or a pickled chile or fresh green chile to chew on at the side. as producers and reproducers. and chile is salsa. there are also many Mexican dishes that are inconceivable to eat without an accompanying sauce. entomatados. chilaquiles. and chiles rellenos. and the variations are prepared by the addition or omission of a red or green salsa in the cooking process. This includes all sorts of tacos. Mole epitomizes some of the best qualities of Mexican cuisine. sweet tamales). ﬂavour is added. and to fully appreciate the honour bestowed upon them if they are served mole in someone’s home. Mole. and by extension. using family recipes. moles. food/artwork is ‘the crystallisation of activity within a relational ﬁeld’ (2000. A foodstuff can be eaten on its own. The varieties of pozoles (hominy soups made with pork. Even fresh fruit. and hence value is added. or it is an example of excellence amongst other salsas. de rajas or de mole). mole acts as the . or by the salsa’s absence (tamalates. gorditas and sincronizadas. combining more ingredients and culinary techniques than most others. The cooks are speciﬁcally women. When mole is served to guests. and for family ﬁestas. and also soups (including rice and pasta dishes). so much so that sometimes foreigners are warned that they may not like it when they try it for the ﬁrst time. as well as by their sexual behaviour. white and green). and pineapples. rojos. The same can be applied to most tamales which are differentiated by the salsa used in the ﬁlling (such as tamales verdes. It is one of the most laborious and technically difﬁcult dishes to prepare. thought of as representing the best of Mexican cuisine. ﬂavour constitutes the surrounding social relations of the actors (cooks and eaters. for instance. compadres and the wider community). like mangoes. 345).
in their social interaction. Discussing barbacoa in Milpa Alta. The Importance of Cooking in Social Life So if chiles appear to be symbolic ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Not everyone is considered a good cook or has the same range of culinary expertise which is fully explored only in the familiar sphere. ﬂavour is a central and active element. but in an area like Milpa Alta its preparation is common knowledge. Yet in spite of this. It also requires cooperation within the primary social unit. 4 and 5 addressed this topic. They might prepare mole for a ﬁesta. that of husband and . the nuclear family. Rather than an incidental characteristic of food. when and why. Particular ﬂavours are not just the guiding principles of social events and their organization. we can make sense of the culinary system of Milpa Alta only in relation to other local social systems. By preparing particular dishes for personal or commercial reasons. barbacoa to sell in the market or family favourites for loved ones. 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. 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. the ideal relationship between a man and a woman. The manipulation or mobilization of ﬂavours in cooking is as much a social activity as human agents interacting (cf. or. though some moles are better than others. I showed that the production of this culinary work of art is an all-encompassing social activity. or the moral notions surrounding cooking. Together chapters 3.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 115 quintessence of women’s hard work. the production of particular ﬂavours is the primary concern in food preparation. That is. it is in a deeply meaningful way because there is a sophisticated gastronomic technology that actors learn and can mobilize via their cooking. 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. Depending on who cooks what. Gell. cooks deliberately produce certain ﬂavours (chile/salsa/mole) for their own social ends. 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. as well as the most ﬂavourful dish in a woman’s culinary repertoire. cooked in for speciﬁc reasons and for speciﬁc others/eaters. 1984). and therefore more culinary agency and freedom in daily life. This discussion indicates that there is greater creativity involved in domestic cooking. Everyone knows how to make mole. more speciﬁcally. and how Milpaltenses use their cuisine. 1998). This value was achieved only by means of skilfull production of a socially desired ﬂavour that ultimately produced successful business and sociality. Of course there is no denying that mole is a complex and sophisticated dish. Conversely.
which is represented by the preparation of salsas/chile/ﬂavour. pp. In this way. by hiring men to perform the slaughter and disembowelling for her (the ‘matador’ already mentioned). ‘not only engage in action but are also “acted upon” by the action. For women it includes cooking. on the value placed upon the home. she may continue to rely on barbacoa as her means of livelihood. Perhaps he needs the support of a wife’s loving touch to produce salsas for a successfully ﬂavourful barbacoa. But though cooking is embodied and gender is embodied (McCallum.1 The preceding and my discussion in Chapter 4 indicate that cooking is not part of housework as invisible labour. 14 –15. housework and caring for children. which is more likely than it would be for a barbacoiera widow to do. but (previously married) women without husbands are also able to prepare barbacoa. I was told that generally a barbacoiero widower’s business does not ﬂourish the way it did when his wife was alive. Ingold. This occurs unless he remarries. women are related as much to men as wives (or lovers) and mothers as they are related to the preparation of food. as individuals or groups.116 • Culinary Art and Anthropology wife. some hire women to help them with the salsas and anything else that their wives would have normally done. Women and men have roles and expectations which seem to dictate the limits of their behaviour. good cooking can lead to the development of a ‘traditional’ cuisine as much as the production of social relations. ‘[A]gents. 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. and on women as lovers and mothers. For men this includes working in the ﬁelds. cooking is not an activity of performative gender roles per se. When widowers do continue with their businesses. These are the most culinary activities of the whole process. If a woman’s husband dies or abandons her. but it is a creative task based on culinary agency and skill. As my material on Milpa Alta shows. 2000). as a loving dimension of women’s (house)work. It is said that only then does his business regain similar success as with his late wife.’ Practices form types of social relations and also form the actors who engage in them (1986. as well as extradomestic labour (such as selling . it is not accidental that women are expected to perform these tasks. The production of barbacoa provides a good example of what Munn refers to as ‘intersubjectivity’. It must be reiterated that the wife’s basic role in preparing barbacoa is to prepare the salsas and the panza.’ she writes. but which also allow them to achieve social and material ends through complementary action. Since one of women’s domestic roles is to be a cook. The cuisine is a material embodiment of a woman’s role in the family. as a sexual partner for her husband and as a mother and nurturer for the next generation. Culinary creativity can therefore be seen as the outcome of quotidian domesticity and the social dynamics of men and women. What is less common is for a man to continue to prepare barbacoa without his wife. cf. They are not necessarily causally linked. as pork or lamb butchers and/ or in another professional job (such as teaching). 2001). A ﬁnal observation is that only married men prepare barbacoa.
the dead. they use their culinary agency according to the network of intentionalities in which they are entangled as social beings. and to the fulﬁllment of the mayordomos’ role for the community. Although not everyone says that they believe it. this unit is also thought to be at the core of business success. when the living eat the food that had been set out. in the example of the Days of the Dead. although it may have been prepared with the same culinary principles as always. p. the food loses its ﬂavour because of the presence of the dead who come to eat its essence. Simmel. Long and Vargas. and afterward. 1994) as much as for making food edible or tastier. In other words. and other (usually unmarried) members of the household. The technical mastery required to cook is also socially learnt and socially salient. 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. Food set out on the family altar. The idea of a cook/artist’s intentions can be better understood when applied to feast food. they still are cooking with the intention of feeding (or offering food to) someone else (a recipient). Gell’s conception of intentionality is based on deﬁning the nature of causation. that is. They also cook particular dishes during ﬁestas for compadres and the wider community. is offered to the dead relatives of the family. ‘[T]he explanation of any given event (especially if socially salient) is that it is caused intentionally’ (p. Although the way that they prepare some dishes may be nuanced by their own taste and pleasure. Although other living . women cook with particular eaters in mind. Mole with chicken is always present. What they prepare is dependent upon their relationship with the eaters. as well as yellow fruits. 1991. The dead are believed to eat the essence of the food when they come. p. sweets and some favourite foods of the dead. it no longer has any ﬂavour. why ﬂavour is a social (and also cultural) aspect of food. Agency and Intention Thus cooking is an activity performed for the sake of social interaction (cf. the ofrenda. So this is why food has ﬂavour. 101). Hence. Whilst the unit of wife and husband is crucial to the establishment of links of compadrazgo. Married women cook for their husbands and children. 101). it is thought to occur in this way. ‘[I]ntentions cause events to happen in the vicinity of agents’ (1998. and this is how it has been reported to me by people in Milpa Alta (see also Lok. Rather than searching for a chemical or physical explication of why something caused another thing to occur. In this case of food for the dead. in Milpa Alta. It is not because of inherent biochemical properties in the foodstuffs themselves. 2005. tamales. The explanation for this is no more mystical than the relationship between the cook (culinary agent) and the expected recipient of the food. 150). rather it is in the deliberately induced reaction of foodstuffs when cooked or combined in a particular way.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 117 in the market).
eventually may eat the food. Competitively bigger and better versions of the same meal are circulated endlessly amongst compadres. but they accept the food nonetheless. neighbours. and they expect elaborate food and entertainment at these events. 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. 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. Mole. though competition and one-upmanship exist as well. related to the cook. Whether compadres. no one need demand to be fed upon arrival at a ﬁesta. are divisible and indivisible. This means that special foods are signiﬁcant. towns) to maintain the circulation of value (food/virtue) in the indeﬁnitely enduring cycle of festivity. individual and group. is coercively given and received. art objects are exuviae. all assume that they will be. which are detachable and also exchangeable. individuals act on behalf of social groups (families. or a socially approved substitute. in a sort of Maussian social contract. and actors expect an ultimate balance of give and take. this means that food is involved in interrelating social networks amongst individuals or groups. including visual appearance and things he or she produced. 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. mayordomos. the food was cooked with the intention of feeding the dead. Part and whole. These gifts of food are offered by obligation and their acceptance is obligatory as well.4 . the same personhood—is awaited on each occasion. the same gift. and not to feed the living. Food giving and receiving occurs in different directions amongst individual actors who perform the roles of hosts or guests on speciﬁed days during the year. mayordomos or other guests. the same kind of food—effectively. In effect. is detachable from that person and can be physically touched as well as seen. Not only this. 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.118 • Culinary Art and Anthropology people. but only in relation to how they compare with other dishes in the cuisine. Therefore the ﬂavour was cooked in for the dead to take away. relatives and neighbours and thereby maintain community viability. The ﬁesta cycle revolves around the religious timetable and notions of respect. so much so that even those who do not attend are given food in their absence. Guests may even be reluctant recipients. social distance and hospitality amongst the relevant actors. Anything that comes from a person.2 Gell’s theory of art uses a conception of a body of artworks as if it were a body of a person. and with the social relationships of the cooks and eaters.3 Hospitality begets further hospitality. During ﬁestas. With respect to Mexican cuisine. Rather. a ‘distributed person’.
vis-à-vis the wider public. The dish can be judged as delicious or ﬂavourful because it is accepted with gastronomic awe from the perspective of the eater. then. the value of mole can be understood as effectively equivalent to the value of women in Milpaltense society. The individual actors who take responsibility as ofﬁcial representatives are highly respected church-married couples. In the ﬁesta cycle. or the everyday and the ritual. this effect is encapsulated in Gell’s notion of the ‘technology of enchantment’(1996). the mole of the feast. The whole cuisine. When people in Milpa Alta talk of ‘el mole de ﬁesta’. 1985). 1998. mediates the domestic realm with the public sphere. Sault. the luxury of barbacoa. 1984. becomes representative of the whole distributed object of Mexican cuisine. on whom they depend for their food and on whose behalf they are expected to perform minor duties such as shopping. As should be clear by this point in this book. As the relational node of a culinary matrix of interrelating social spheres. ﬁesta hospitality and the corresponding food are products of gender complementarity and family cooperation. in fact. produced through daily cooking. although women are thought of as the family cooks. Munn. In the same way children and unmarried adults are not responsible for food provision. So in other words. 1982). In the wider social context. 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. family honour can be distributed and properly enacted only with ﬁesta commensality. current popularly served dishes like barbacoa are prepared jointly by women and men. the power and value of women (or cooks) are transformed into ongoing social relations. 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. 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. or ‘el lujo de barbacoa’. But while women are in charge of cooking for feasts. morally recognized as capable of cooking the mole de ﬁesta and able to legitimately reproduce the next generation. which all effectively . 1986). As an example. women’s culinary agency is distributed and shared amongst her family. in the ﬁesta sphere. fetching or delivering things. the hosts’ decision to serve these dishes to others in formal hospitality bestows value on their guests. mole. Finally. or its substitutes. similar to how Simmel (1994) allocates value to daily meals. who can imagine the complexity of the production of the dish from his or her informed culinary knowledge. In fact. including gifts of food.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 119 Children and unmarried adults do not formally participate in these systems of reciprocity. even after many years of cohabitation and the birth of several children. they are treated as extensions of their families. except for the occasional unmarried woman who is asked to be a comadre (cf. Indeed. Goody. Gell. serving mole. In short. though they may help married women who are. A particular recipe is placed in a hierarchical relation to the indexes of other dishes in the corpus of its cuisine (cf.
women in Milpa Alta have two kinds of responsibilities: housework and cooking (production) and family (reproduction). cooked with culinary artistry (or technical mastery). which revolve around women and their roles in the family. This means that social interaction is effective when food is offered.120 • Culinary Art and Anthropology represent the whole cuisine. women. women are representing the family. In one recipe the interrelating value systems and complex of intentionalities that exist in Milpa Alta are found: ‘tradition’. which represents women. Recognizing the deeply symbolic value of cooking as a part of women’s work. Mole represents salsa. an understanding of traditions and Mexican culture and. altering social interaction while simultaneously altering women’s relationship with food and cooking. Therefore social interaction circulates around women and women’s culinary labours. the fulﬁllment of gastronomical ideals or desires is central to social life in Milpa Alta. Mole as a special dish indicates celebration. which represents ﬂavour. although men may be the public or ofﬁcial representatives. compadrazgo. via women’s culinary agency. 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.5 The teaching of cultural events and Mexican history were included in the curricula of some cookery schools. Urban students were encouraged to go back to the pueblos to search for unwritten recipes and culinary tips from anonymous mayoras and señoras who were unrecognized culinary artists. there are two kinds of human desires: for food and for sex. sexual. Other dishes in Mexican cuisine are difﬁcult to make. loved ones. Food and Love. 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. To recapitulate. According to them. superior ﬂavour could be achieved by technical culinary skill. and who inﬂuenced the religious and domestic realms. 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. If the preceding are the ingredients necessary to successfully prepare mole (or any other recipe). religious and maternal love. and especially ﬂavour. partners. as a ﬁnal garnish. Its complex history involves the invasion of foreigners who brought ingredients and technical knowledge to Mexico. we can take sex into account as part of the socialization of women as members of the community as well as in their relations . Chiles and albur In different ways throughout this book I have discussed the interconnections between notions of love and food in Milpa Alta. Equivalently. but it is special not only because it is difﬁcult to make. a sazón de amor (a sprinkling of love). land. In effect. In this way. who are ultimately governed by an honour code of giving and respect to their children. top-quality ingredients.
as a husband should also value and prefer his wife’s cooking. As long as a man is the one penetrating. perhaps even more than his mother’s. It is very rare for women to speak using albur. 20–6). Home cooking is highly valued because of the moral value of women. One of the central metaphors used is the chile. If they do. though sometimes the analogy is more obscure. or. He can continue to consider himself to be heterosexual. Thus an individual would be prone to prefer his mother’s cooking over others’. which stands for the penis. 568. Chiles are central to Mexican gastronomy and are arguably the basic unit of the cuisine. 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. As I explained in Chapter 1. In Gow’s (1989) article on the Piro. even if there is only a small proportion of chile in the recipe for the salsa. At the same time. rather than the one penetrated. put another way. In this way women are understood to be powerful agents within their local social spheres. 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. even macho (see Gutmann. and yet also are considered funny. Lomelí. The marital relationship is both moral and imbued with social obligations. 1991. Usually it is obvious why they are chosen. For the vagina there are words such as . Men are able to speak with their friends (cuates. it is amongst other women (not in mixed company) and is of a milder sort. However. who are the producers of this food. in Milpa Alta people use the words salsa and chile interchangeably. 568). They are also central to a variety of jokes in which the chile is spoken of metaphorically as a man’s penis. ‘[R]elationships are predicated on the satisfaction of particular desires experienced by the partners in the relationship’ (p. italics added). Once girls are able to cook. he argues that the desires for food are linked to speciﬁc food providers. food that is thought of as particularly delicious is food cooked with love. as well as on linguistic twists. they are ready for marriage. 1996). there is ample opportunity for innuendo. 1991. Yet one other dynamic of food and love is worth describing for a more nuanced picture of how ﬂavour and morality are intertwined. and depends on speed and wit. Albur is a kind of wordplay used almost exclusively amongst men (see Jiménez. most used in albur. those en conﬁanza) in terms of sexually penetrating them without being considered homosexual. This is because there are overt sexual connotations in the speech games in albur. he would still be performing within what is considered normal male behaviour. A man using albur plays upon these sensibilities. He continues. Since chiles come in so many different shapes and sizes.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 121 with men. ‘systematically related to certain types of social relations’ (p. Albur and derivative word games can be used in mild to increasingly aggressive ways. pp. In Chapter 4 I discussed the kind of sexual/gastronomical reciprocity that exists between husbands and wives. people use other food metaphors in joking conversation to refer to male and female sexual organs.
tacos or tamales. too lazy to prepare a meal at home.. … these metaphors are not structured simply by direct reference to the objects themselves. Rather. Eating out in Milpa Alta is uncommon. the chile is manipulated in another. p. is subject to linguistic and conceptual manipulation by men. Some other food metaphors for the penis are longaniza (a type of sausage). even random. mamey (a type of fruit). 202). and is explicitly related to eating and ﬂavour. On the other hand. they travel to the centre of Mexico City. for native people have standard. 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. Jiménez. I would agree. The use of food metaphors in joking. The signiﬁcance of albur is that food. panocha (crude sugar). especially the chile. and they cater mainly to outsiders (from Mexico City) who work in the municipality rather than to locals. rather than that between food objects and genitals as objects. These restaurants serve comida casera.122 • Culinary Art and Anthropology papaya. 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. that is because they are not used in an alternate discourse to encode another arbitrary symbolic structure.e. 82. culinary way. Local Milpaltenses go home for their meals. Home Cooking and Street Food I have already explained at length that food prepared at home (i. 1991. or mondongo (a dish made of tripe. Though not speciﬁcally . non-euphemistic. p. with some pride. Daily Meals. homestyle food. if they really wish to eat out. names for the genitalia. more generally and among women. (1989. Having established that the values and virtues of women are materialized in home cooking. Those usually found eating in market stalls are youths having a snack after school or people who do not live in Milpa Alta and thus have no family nearby to go home to for their meals. continuously draws attention to the metaphoric relationship between oral and sexual desire. ejote (young corn on the cob) and zanahoria (carrot. with love) has connotations of being tastier and better for you (nutritionally and socially) than food prepared commercially. 201). as Gow argues. pp. but at the level of desire. I was told that eating out in the street indicates that the women of the house are lazy (‘son fodongas’ ). that there are only two restaurants in Villa Milpa Alta. A few Milpaltenses told me. The use of foods as metaphors for the genitals occurs only in joking. whether foods or genital organs. pescado (ﬁsh). If these metaphors appear unsystematic. partly because of the belief that food prepared at home is better. 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. explicitly relating it to sex. or. camote (sweet potato).
In Milpa Alta. 93) also emphasizes this point. so that busy housewives or working women will avoid this effort by feeding their families street foods’ (p. pp. referring to Silva. Another eater makes a cook more willing to go through the trouble of preparing the several parts that make up a meal (cf. The words envidia and envidioso are used to describe a range of characteristics from envy to greed to being overprotective over family . So although there may be times when a woman is too tired. she may be teased as being envidiosa. huaraches. The food sold by the vendor might be particularly delicious. too cumbersome for the domestic kitchen or for daily cooking. A social activity by nature. however. nor would this be normal behaviour in Milpa Alta. such as barbacoa. like different kinds of tacos. Chinaquear means to eat snacks in the street and it encapsulates shirking one’s household. Some things are not easily made at home. Another instance when Milpaltenses might eat in the streets is when they eat alone or with only one other person. she tries to be discreet about it. she most likely will buy it to take away. quesadillas. Abarca (p. for instance. pambazos. most women know how to make many of the foods that can be bought in the streets. In Milpa Alta there is a speciﬁc verb for this idea of eating out that is used only in the region: chinaquear. In Milpa Alta. effectively failing to fulﬁll her obligation to feed her family or guests. Perhaps there is also an element of taste involved in the decision to buy food in the street. food preparation entails an emotional commitment from cooks and eaters. keeping all the ﬂavour to herself. Mexican street food is one of the broadest-ranging parts of the cuisine. 92–3). if a woman forgets to place salsa on the table. 2006. because we could have or should have prepared food for ourselves. 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. Tinker (1987) observes that ‘[i]n most countries the traditional foods eaten at home take a long time to make. or even womanly. At the stand she chatted guiltily with the food vendors as if they shared a naughty secret. 55). she would suggest to me that we eat in the market. too busy or indeed too lazy to cook for her family. If she decides to buy ready-made food in the market. garnachas and various other snacks. one of her ‘critical thinkers’/informants: ‘The desire to have her family surround her table gives her the impetus to create laborious meals … The merit of culinary creation for Silva is inseparable from the participation of her audience. perhaps could not be the same if made at home. duties. or was more work to prepare than we wished to do. Sometimes when Doña Margarita and I were on our own. ‘Vamos a chinaquear’. Cooking is almost never done for the sake of the cook alone. part of the social signiﬁcance of a meal prepared at home stems from the caring involved in cooking food with ﬂavour for speciﬁc eaters.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 123 investigating Mexico. Abarca. A complete Mexican meal requires much time and effort and is difﬁcult to prepare in single servings.’ In other words. She would have a mischievous glint in her eye as she said. tamales. She also notes that some street foods take longer to make than some typical daily meals.
and then all of it is eaten. in daily meals food is not circulated. not because of some deep-seated subordination of women to men. Failure to feed their husbands can be judged as shirking marital as well as womanly duties. food is demanded by children. Appetite. though of course. on a daily basis. Within the family.124 • Culinary Art and Anthropology members. Flavour and variety are sought after for everyday meals. Parents do not expect anything from children in exchange for feeding and raising them. someone who somehow displeased another was often described as being envidioso.6 A person who is envidioso/a refuses to share or lend food or other material belongings. Morality and Taste In a perhaps simpliﬁed way. Raising children is more simply a moral obligation and. and in this way good cooking works like a well-designed trap. In Milpa Alta. enticing the family and ritual kin to maintain their ties to the cook. Ideally. For daily meals. and I have also described how love is the instigation for culinary activity. but because of the centrality of the marital bond as the source of social (and sexual and gastronomical) fulﬁllment. Envidia is conceptually opposed to the notions of generosity. While community relationships are characterized by respect and social expectations. given and received. all different kinds of food are demanded and supplied. a woman supplies it. 1999a. I have already described how the full artistry of Mexican cuisine is explored daily in the family kitchen. as I mentioned earlier.7 Unlike in the ﬁesta cycle. This is partly because of the asymmetrical relationship between parent and child or married woman and her in-laws (see Gell. family relationships are characterized by love. Gow. food in this case is not actually exchanged between culinary agents and recipients. it is only within the domestic realm. women’s culinary agency becomes directed to their husbands and their new households. and it is not exchanged for an expected return of food reciprocity on another occasion. the eater is more likely to judge the food as tastier and better because of the social relationship that exists between them. I have used the word love to explain how culinary technical mastery is achieved. but if they do. love and hospitality of home. women prepare food for their husbands and children and other members of the household. 1989). He or she lacks conﬁanza. It also then follows that when the relationship between cook and eater is very close. However. a cook’s . at least not until many years later in old age. children are considered as extensions of their parents in the community-wide systems of (food) reciprocity and exchange that do exist in ﬁestas. husbands and in-laws. Daughters rarely take full responsibility for meal provision. I think that that is far too long-term to establish an exchange relationship via food. Once they marry. moral obligation and gender role expectations. like family. 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.
hence the importance of a home-cooked meal. commercially viable and delicious. Munn. Understanding this. instrumentalized for the production of legitimate members of society. 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. it makes more sense that the appeal of home cooking is based upon its intrinsic meaningfulness. 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. somehow. as socially controlled. loyalty and appreciation of family members. As I described in Chapter 4. A home-cooked meal should then taste better and should also be better than snacks bought in the street.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 125 talent must also be considered. 171. In other words. Yet street foods are known to be desirable. marketable. I dare say that home cooking is offered in a most complex bounded way. We can think of food-giving as generating positive social meaning (community viability) and eating as correspondingly negative (cf. the ﬁnal product’ (p. She notes that men inherit land and women receive kitchen equipment upon marriage. other cooking. is meaningful in a different way. this extends to the gastronomical and sexual loyalty of potentially unfaithful husbands. Among other writers. 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. Applying the same logic to cooking. home cooking generates positive social ends. 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. Vázquez García (1997) describes the marital relationship as reciprocal in a Nahua community in southern Veracruz. Mexico. This implies that in the case of home cooking. Since giving food is as much an obligation as receiving it. there is a moral obligatory force involved in giving and receiving food. economic ends. whereas commercial cooking would then generate antisocial (individual) ends. and not for a return of yet undetermined food hospitality in future. among family and friends. then why is it that street food is considered to taste so good? Though any woman who cooks may know how to make the same antojitos. this food may seem to taste better in the streets. my translation). the food is exchanged for the love. but men depend on women for the tortilla. Rather. 1986). Vázquez discusses the domestic economy of ﬁrst and second wives in both monogamous and polygamous unions. as a sophisticated culinary trap couched in the ideology of generosity and the virtue of women’s suffering and sacriﬁce. presumably prepared for selﬁsh. socially sanctioned sexual desires. She also observes that many women who sell home-cooked food in the streets are unwed . 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. This being the case.
satisfying way. In fact. food in the street provides the ﬂavour of Mexican cuisine without the effort or social investment. What is given over is a thing that the giver values less than what is received. without any moral obligation on the part of the buyer or the seller. Street food is commoditized cooking. and its appeal lies in the link between eating and sex. and so the vendor directs her agency to this competition. buying and selling street food would constitute a food transaction of supreme reciprocity. is how Gell (1999a) dismantles the idea that commercial activities should be less moral than non-commercial/gift-giving and gift-receiving. This immediate-return exchange is instant gratiﬁcation. as the vendor-client relationship can blur over time to approximate friendship. there are two ways of experiencing food as delicious. There is quantitative equivalence. In Chapter 3 I also mentioned how Primy would proffer special treatment to regular customers. Both the customer and the vendor indeed ‘sacriﬁce’ something of value (money/food) in exchange for something that they value more (food/money). with the intention of constructing bait in a particular way to ensnare the loyalty of kin and ritual kin. 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. Things are exchanged for things. What is given is not a gift. and the value of food sharing. nor is it obligatory. Home cooking has the status of the highly moral marital bond. The goal of this and other kinds of commodity exchange is a simple transaction. the food is transacted in a mercifully simple. completed on the spot. though each leaves the transaction happier with his or her newly acquired money or food than before. So the culinary agency involved in preparing food for sale or for loved ones is actually one and the same. Both the vendor and the home cook wish to attract and appease the appetite of the same consumer. rather than being an unethical commercial venture in opposition to the ethical food-giving at home. with respect to her agency. 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.8 Recall now that cooking is an activity like building a trap-as-artwork. If we follow Gell’s (1999a) logic about commodity exchange. however. A customer hands over money and the vendor hands over ﬂavourful food. or her intended food consumers. and neither I nor the vendor I choose engage in any realm wherein either of us can be judged to be generous or envidiosa. akin to the pleasures of sex without the entanglements of love (amongst social relations). . wherein each actor values the other thing more than the thing he or she gives up. then.9 It is as delicious and clandestine as an illicit love affair.126 • Culinary Art and Anthropology mothers or ‘second wives’ of men whose legitimate wives exert domestic (marital and gastronomical) rights. Brieﬂy put. There will always be differences in a cook’s activities depending on her speciﬁc intentions. then. To conclude. there are no social relations involved to complicate one’s enjoyment of the ﬂavours. I can choose to buy food from this or that vendor. Indeed. especially if one eats alone at a street stand. Yet more pertinent to this point than Gell’s discussion of artworks as traps.
interrelated with the social systems of compadrazgo and the mayordomía. and quantities can vary with every cook’s taste. being seen in the streets invites digression and the potential for extramarital love affairs. if a woman does not cook at home for her family. and men and women are known to have extramarital affairs. A man should ﬁnd the greatest pleasures with his wife. 1994. eating to satisfy appetite without emotional entanglements. naughtily enjoying someone else’s cooking as she shirks her own duties to cook. it is an act of freedom. McCallum. almost sinful sense. Recipes: Variations on a Theme Despite the apparent impossibility of learning to cook Mexican food with only recipes. More speciﬁcally. Milpa Alta society is characterised by gender complementarity. there are deviances from the norm. Because of the meanings attached to home cooking (food prepared by women. I invite readers to experiment with some variations on the theme of basic dishes in Mexican cuisine. 1997). married women prepare food for their husbands and the rest of the household as part of their domestic role. primarily for their husbands). . In contrast. Likewise. Please note that this is just a sampling of recipes. 1985). to eat in the street is equivalent to having an illicit love affair—equally or arguably more delicious food prepared by others. without the social signiﬁcance attached to eating in someone’s home. Vázquez García. To summarize. After all. it would be naive to suggest that sex is solely for the sake of procreation. but of course. 1991. an individual practice more commonly engaged in than openly admitted. the meal is heavily emotionally laden. not one’s wife. Descola. food that is not cooked at home is also considered to be delicious in a different. but they both provide temporary satisfactions of desires fulﬁlled for the sake of pure pleasure. just as we have preferences for and opinions about people with whom we socialize. there is no contradiction if it is accepted that we have preferences and opinions about food. or to cook tradition. she can be criticized. as Ricardo says. and if she chooses to eat in the streets. to snack in the streets is considered a pastime.g. she is chinaqueando. 2001.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 127 even if under a coercive system. Furthermore. Eating in the streets is thus an illicit pleasure. in Milpa Alta. Though different vendors produce different qualities of ﬂavours. Chinaqueando is an occasional delight. Neither are necessarily offered for the purpose of nourishment or the propagation of society. Gow. 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. as has been shown to exist in other Latin American societies (e. Because of the many rules of greed and generosity surrounding home cooking. and some things do taste better when prepared at home. given that I have been arguing throughout this book that we do not eat solely for the sake of nutrition. rather than there being a power struggle between genders (Gregor. to join in the activity. Likewise.
grilled meats or ﬁsh. cut into pieces ½ medium onion. chopped salt to taste • Chop all ingredients and mix well. 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. roughly chopped 2 small green chiles. this is the classic salsa mexicana. This is a perfect accompaniment for guacamole and tortilla chips as well as for eggs. raw salsas are nice left chunky. If left chunky.1 Salsa roja cruda (Raw Red Salsa) 2 large ripe red tomatoes. • The ingredients can be more mashed or liqueﬁed and other ingredients added. which is often used to accompany grilled ﬁsh or meat or eggs. Blend to desired consistency. • Mash in a mortar with a pestle or put all in a blender with a little water if necessary. ﬁnely chopped (optional) salt to taste coriander (cilantro). or anything.1 Guacamole 2 large ripe avocados 1 small tomato.128 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1 Variations on Salsa 1. ﬁnely chopped 1 small green chile (serrano or jalapeño). ﬁnely chopped (optional) lime juice (optional) . • Fresh. In any case.2. 1.2 Guacamole Raw red salsa with mashed avocado added. this is a table salsa. as with raw red salsa 1. ﬁnely chopped ¼ white onion. Variations or optional ingredients.
onions and garlic should be roasted unpeeled until the skin blackens (green tomatoes should have papery husk removed). vegetables. comal or frying pan. cumin. soak them in hot water for a few minutes after roasting. onions. 1. omelettes or vegetable or ﬁsh tortitas (croquettes) are cooked into or served heated in thin. • Before blending. Variations are endless. roast tomatoes. about 10 to 15 minutes. Cook until it changes colour and the ﬂavour changes. • Tomatoes. It is not necessary to peel tomatoes or chiles after roasting them. • With dried chiles and spices. and proceed as for raw red salsa. allspice. 1. Use some of the soaking liquid in the blender. with soft thin bark. pour in the liqueﬁed salsa. • 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. black pepper. • If using dried chiles. Heat oil or lard in a saucepan. stuffed chiles. 1. to soften them. • Add herbs (use one): dried oregano. You may need to add a little water. using some of the boiling broth in the blender. • Serve as a dip with tortilla chips (totopos) or alongside grilled or fried meat or ﬁsh. chiles. to roll into tacos or use in sandwiches.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 129 • Mash all together with fork. Variations for Cooked Salsa • Add spices (use all): cloves.5 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Other Ingredients Often meat. smooth cooked salsas or caldillos. and when the oil begins to smoke. garlic and spices on a dry griddle. cinnamon (‘true’ or Ceylon cinnamon sticks. . Examples follow.4 Cooked Salsa Blend salsa ingredients until fairly smooth. be careful not to let them burn or they will taste bitter. not cassia). as the charred skin contributes a nice smoky ﬂavour. marjoram.3 Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) Substitute green husk tomatoes (tomates verdes or tomatillos) for red tomatoes. epazote. fresh chiles. • Boil tomatoes (peel husks off green tomatoes ﬁrst) and fresh chiles before liquidizing. fresh coriander.
large or small. salsa.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. The rough. Tostadas are also eaten on their own.5.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. Some other optional toppings that can be combined as you wish are as follows: refried beans shredded lettuce shredded boiled chicken or pork salpicón avocado sliced onions crema espesa crumbled. 2. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. This is usually served with white rice. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. sliced radish. onions. and patting out by hand.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote. avocados. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. pressing out with a tortilla press. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. a front and a back. topped with a variety of different things. masa.5. lime. 2. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. 1. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). long or short. keeping them ﬂat—these are now called tostadas. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. grated or shredded cheese . pinched side is smeared with melted lard. grinding it to a soft dough. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. beans and corn tortillas. onions and cream. Tortillas can be thick or thin.
Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. 2. extra-long. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. grated cheese. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. Before pressing out the tortillas. chopped onions. chopped coriander and cream. about 10–15 cm long. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. 8 cm wide. Many people make thin.3. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. cream and grated white cheese.4. .3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. and 1 cm thick. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. Bake on both sides on a hot comal.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as ﬁlling. 2. The next morning. Leave them out to dry overnight. The beans should be encased in masa. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional).The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. thinner and crisper. Top with cooked salsa. dry frying pan or griddle. 2. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the ﬂautas will be long like ﬂutes. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall.1 Chilaquiles • The night before.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. fry them in hot oil till crisp.
dip each tortilla in the pan of hot salsa and pass it through to quickly coat it.132 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Strain into hot oil. and put on toppings and side dishes before serving. rings or half-rings shredded or crumbled white cheese (queso oaxaqueño. queso fresco. as for chilaquiles shredded boiled chicken. • Sprinkle with chopped onions and grated cheese. • Toss the tortilla chips in the hot salsa. lay tortillas on a plate or ovenproof serving dish. see below) bolillos or teleras (crusty white bread roll) 3. place on plates.1 For Enchiladas suizas Use green salsa. sliced into very thin wedges. • One by one. place about a tablespoon of ﬁlling in the centre and roll into a cylinder. Then pass it through the hot oil to soften it a bit and make it pliable. Arrange in ovenproof dish and bake till heated through and cheese has melted. • One by one.2 Enchiladas corn tortillas thin cooked salsa. shredded chicken and yellow melting cheese and drizzle over crema espesa or sour cream.2. . When they are well coated. Arrange rolls side by side. 3. fry and cook the salsa with epazote. 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. Typical Toppings white onion. pork or beef ﬁlet (milanesa) fried crumbled Mexican longaniza (sausage) shredded boiled chicken frijoles refritos (refried beans. 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.
The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 133 3. and after at least 2 hours the beans should be soft. • The beans—black turtle or Veracruz beans. They are also served together with the main course or with rice as well. crumbled white cheese and crema espesa. 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. If water needs to be added. . Only after they are very soft may you add salt. • Beans are best prepared in advance since you cannot be sure how long they will cook (this depends on how old they are). 3. thin refried beans. The other layers: shredded boiled chicken. place grated melting cheese on top and bake in oven till cheese melts and all is heated through. crema espesa.2 Enmoladas or Enchiladas de mole For salsa. very smoothly liqueﬁed beans ( frijoles de olla or frijoles refritos) instead of salsa. • Put beans in a pot with about triple the amount of water. the beans will never soften. the ﬁlling can be shredded chicken.2.2.2. the water in the small olla is at the same temperature as the cooking beans. ham and/or cheese.4 Pastel azteca Arrange tortillas in layers in an ovenproof dish like lasagna. • Beans are often eaten after the main course. • If you need to add water. cover and simmer over medium heat with some onion and lard or vegetable oil. They also taste better after they have settled. pinto or any other beans—should be rinsed and all stones and empty beans removed. or with any sauce that remains on the plate after the meat or ﬁsh of the main course is ﬁnished. a small clay olla with water is placed on top of the big clay olla where the beans are cooking. use leftover mole that has been thinned down with water or chicken broth. Adding cold water will temporarily halt the cooking process. use shredded chicken as ﬁlling. and top with sliced onions. Traditionally. 3. If you add salt too soon. and either corn or wheat ﬂour tortillas (ﬂour tortillas need not be passed through hot oil). Stir occasionally.3 Enfrijoladas Use thin. add hot water. They do not need to be soaked.
or you can scramble them into eggs. • Only then add the beans with some of their broth. Chopped coriander also goes well with any beans. 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 . Stir these and cook them until they are dark brown and almost burnt. • You can serve these with scrambled eggs and salsa. 4. 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. They are also often served with crumbled white cheese (queso fresco or queso añejo.134 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • For black beans. heat lard or oil in a frying pan.1 Frijoles refritos (Refried Beans) • Over a medium ﬂame.2 Sopa de frijol (Bean Soup) Prepare beans with a lot of water or add chicken or other stock before liquefying them. most people add a sprig of epazote to the pot toward the end of the cooking time. red. 4. • Beans cooked like this go well with any dish with a sauce and are also used to spread into sandwiches made with crusty bread. a slice of avocado. Mash them continually in the lard and incorporate the onions until a smooth paste is formed. add some sliced white onions. or substitute feta or white Lancashire). some pickled chile and cheese and/or cured or roasted meat to make tortas. When it begins to smoke. Optional ingredients to add.
usually served as a ﬁrst or second course. • Add coriander. if you wish. 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. often eaten on its own with salsa on the side. It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas. rather it should be more like pilau. with separate grains. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked. then lower the heat to a very low ﬂame. It should not be soft and milky like risotto.2. Sometimes.3 Enfrijoladas See 3. Note: This rice should be dry. soaked in hot water.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook. Fry the rice (and carrots) until it is lightly golden. Add to rice. epazote or chile to the top of the rice toward the end of the cooking time. chopped 1 clove garlic. drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion. 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well. salsa. and sometimes avocado and lime. .The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4.3 above. peas. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. corn kernels. • Stir well and allow to cook. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course. 5. Add salt to taste.
3 Sopa de ﬁdeos/Macarrones Substitute vermicelli or pasta elbows (macaroni) for the rice and prepare as for arroz rojo. Variations combine 2 or more types of fruit stir in chopped mint before serving serve with crema espesa/de rancho (crème fraîche) . Strain this into the hot oil and fried rice. Allow the fruit to cool in the syrup and then refrigerate. 5.g. like a smooth red salsa. and other fruits that do not disintegrate (e. without a sauce. Sometimes dry pasta ‘soups’ are served with cream (crème fraîche) drizzled over. frying the dry pasta in oil until it browns a little. The pasta should remain dry. To make red rice. salt and water or chicken broth. Serve cold. put peeled prepared fruits in to poach for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked. Fry a bit before adding the optional vegetables. guavas. peaches.2 Arroz rojo (Red Rice) Prepare arroz blanco (see preceding recipe).136 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 5. tejocotes. When the syrup is ready. pineapples). This is good for pears. 6 Frutas en almíbar (Poached Fruits in Syrup) Make a light syrup by boiling and simmering sugar in abundant water with some grated lime rind and a stick of Ceylon cinnamon. when it is done. You might want to add a bit of lime juice so that it is not too sweet. before stirring in the salsa and water to cook. add 1 or 2 tomatoes to the garlic and onion mixture and blend well.
3. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. So for her. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. p. of course. 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. pp. Any researcher of Mexican food would ﬁnd them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture.007 for the whole city). given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. Abarca draws from literary.Notes Introduction 1. . I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. 5. At the time of my research in the nineties.2 per cent of its area. ‘Where . This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. food as art. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. 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. 3. and indeed of an anthropologist. As can be expected. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. In my case. 2000. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. and vice versa.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. 318). 21–2). sazón. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. 4.5 per cent was inhabited.489. and indeed of one’s own person. though it occupied 19. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. . in fact her approach is necessarily different. 2.
Also. Kennedy (1989. allocation). and acknowledging that there is insufﬁcient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. for the barrio level there are no demographic ﬁgures in print. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. or honey water. 7. I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. and Muñoz (2000). A comparative study of another group in a different. 328–38). pp. Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. The maguey is the source of pulque. p. These are production (economic factors).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. esp. market. ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. pp. 6. (1991). Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. esp. to name a few. preparation and consumption. His own work focuses on production and consumption. America’s First Cuisines (1994). see Muñoz (2000). 8. and van Rhijn (1993). 2. even neighbouring. 459 –84). 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. Bayless and Bayless (1987. Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. 1997. Muñoz. 33– 49. among others. 3. and also Coe (1994). 38). 15). p. and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. and it had religious signiﬁcance during Aztec times. community of Mexico City. based on household and class. . See Long-Solís (1986). 96. distribution (political factors. Martínez (1992). 205). For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. Villa Milpa Alta. When unfermented. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. 9. Unfortunately. Andrews (1984). it is called aguamiel. as Milpa Alta has. Lomelí.138 • Notes emigrated. (1996).
2005. 3). within the realm of the highest culinary art. 11. and on the edges of the city the divisions of the municipalities are called pueblos (which may be further subdivided into barrios). The word pueblo refers to a small town or village. p. 29. one’s life can easily be contained within the boundaries of one’s pueblo. p.). Coming from a pueblo implies a connection with a community of people who share a common hometown. 10. ‘The cooking of corn in Mexico with all its elaborations and ramiﬁcations is. more urbanized areas.Notes • 139 4. 1981. . culture contact and creolization. She argues that depictions of traditional recipes as rural and natural is romantic nostalgia. which is made up of several residential districts. In a thought-provoking article. ‘The culinary merit is perhaps more if one considers. Diana Kennedy’s work would fall into this category. See also Long and Vargas (2005). National pride and identity are qualities which a people’s cuisine can sometimes help determine. these are called colonias in the central. Rachel Laudan (2001) questions the meaning of ‘authentic’ cuisine. see Long (1996). and that the foods we think of as traditional and authentic actually depend upon the modern. For an excellent discussion of culinary blending. beyond that of any other country’ (Kennedy. 15. analyzing the texts carefully. For a comprehensive compilation of papers on different aspects of the cultural/culinary inﬂuences between the Old and New Worlds. See also Cruz Díaz (2000) and the regional ‘family cooking’ series published in 1988 by Banco Nacional de Credito Rural (Banrural). usually in a non-urban context. my trans. Public talk in Universum. 29 September 1997. see Wilk (2006). 5. See also Wilk (2006) and Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). See Pilcher (1998). industrial global economy that supporters of the ‘authentic’ criticize. 7. 12. For a lighter account. 14. and Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). In Mexico City. Mexico City. Using the word pueblo to describe the residential area where you live actually has other connotations that living in a colonia does not. A chinampa is a very fertile type of artiﬁcial island. p. 6. see Sokolov (1991). and Brown and Mussell (1985). Appadurai (1988). that the variety [of foods] was not as great as it ﬁrst appears at ﬁrst sight’ (Corcuera. See Wilk (2006). 9. 1989. Furthermore. See also Long and Vargas (2005) for an excellent overview of food in Mexico. in spite of work-related movement and interaction with other parts of the city. Pilcher (1998). and always has been. inaccurately referred to as a ‘ﬂoating garden’ (Long and Vargas. 4). 8. 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. 13. I am grateful to Kai Kresse for pointing this out to me.
Some also base analysis on religious taboo or hierarchy and classiﬁcation (such as Douglas. ‘Hay que trasladar la cocina casera a la cocina restaurantera. Mennell et al. 1976). Chapter 7. 2. 51). see Fine (1996. Peter Gow (1989) analyzes the desires for food and sex in the construction of social relations in Amazonian Peru. For a discussion of cooking without written recipes. see also Warde (1997). 1–19). There are some exceptions.g. 47–70). Imitar las cocinas famosas no sirve. Jonaitis provides an excellent discussion of how the sense of taste has been neglected in ethnographic writing. especially chapter two on sazón. ‘Approaching food without considering taste is like studying a mask without referring to its dance.d. 2006) examines food for understanding cultural change. claro.). of course. sin el sazón del amor. p. en vez de tratar de copiar el modelo europeo. 17. tal y como es. Alicia María González (1986) does not write . 10 –39). pp. debe utilizar los ingredientes mejores. see Sutton (n. which she also describes as a ‘discourse of empowerment’ (2006. For a detailed overview of the treatment of food in anthropology and sociology. 1993) or are more about economic issues and gender than cuisine itself (e. Chapter 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice 1. semiotic. (1992. My friend Primy also overturned her bowl to check if the whites were ready. Lenten. Beardsworth and Keil (1997. In some communities this is still the case. Entonces. pp. She suggests. which focus interest on cuisine or on eating particular foods for (gastronomical or other) pleasure. Caplan (1997b). como en la casa de la abuela. There is much to say about Ingold’s theories of habitus. 162). 21. corporeal knowledge’ of sazón. As I explain in Chapter 2. p. livelihood. In Milpa Alta I have seen women beat their egg whites in plastic bowls and the capeado still worked. ‘The Aesthetics of Kitchen Discourse’). globalization and local identity in Belize. 3. Babb. See Vizcarra (2002). who questions the linear transmission of cooking skill. I rather prefer to avoid applying metaphorical. y debe ser un currículo en las escuelas de cocina. 2006. knowledge and skill in relation to the topic of culinary knowledge and skill. pp. 4. Khare. see Abarca (2006). and Richard Wilk (1999. 1966. or analyzing a drum without hearing the music it plays’ (Jonaitis. For a critical discussion of how culinary knowledge is transmitted. Food-related ethnographies often privilege development issues (e. 18. But see Sutton (2006). 19. which I am unfortunately unable to develop fully here. 1989). see Goody (1982. pero en restaurante.140 • Notes 16.’ 20. Deben prepararlos bien de principio.. 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.g. textual or language-based models to food and cooking.
and the prey animal. because the aesthetic cannot be isolated from (Islamic) social or cultural values. focusing on the panadero. 285). Lévi-Strauss (1966. ‘[A]nimal traps … might be presented to an art public as artworks. and therefore creates a social relation between them. nor was he the ﬁrst. p. see Weismantel (1988). Layton. aesthetics and body rituals among women. Bayless and Bayless. See. the main difference between feast food and daily fare was abundance rather than special preparations of dishes.. These devices embody ideas. but at least there is an attempt to understand the artistic notions attached to cooking tasty food. 1987). 1996.g. 1996. 9. who specializes in so-called traditional or authentic Mexican cooking (see Bayless. including perfumes. See Sutton (2006). convey meanings. 7. She emphasizes the artistic nature of foods and personal adornment. 52). by its very nature. for a particularly effective and convincing ethnographic analysis. . 12. both had ‘simple’ cuisines. and for a successful use of semiotics in analyzing cuisine. ‘Objects are really the end result of a long process of negotiation between the material world. 10.Notes • 141 about art. This is possibly because the two cultures in which he did ﬁeldwork. See Chapter 4. 1996. and Mintz (1996. Chapter 3). Her analysis locates the source of aesthetic meaning on the recommendations of the Prophet Muhammad. although not on cooks as artists. baker. 1993. As Andrew Martin describes Latour. 11. its 5. Ingold. ‘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. Dornenburg and Page (1996). p. and his craftsmanship in making bread with particular names and shapes. 6. Douglas (1975). for example. Gell was not the only one to emphasize the technical aspect of art. For them. historical associations and people—who give things names and relationships’ (2005. 14. 2003). and is also used to avoid pollution and to restore oneself to a state of purity. This conclusion may seem unsatisfying. which in turn provides a channel for further social relations and inﬂuences’ (Gell. and beauty is pleasing to Allah. It is also interesting to note that one of the chefs represented as culinary artists in this book is Chef Rick Bayless. 1981. Chapter 3). Gell was also neither the ﬁrst nor the only one to ascribe agency to objects or artworks (see Latour. Kanafani’s (1983) ethnography of women in the United Arab Emirates focuses on the culinary arts. She argues that aesthetic satisfaction enhances the experience of the senses. but her thesis analyzes the symbolic meanings of Mexican wheat bread. because a trap. See also Abarca (2006. 2000). describing the interconnections among sensory experience. see Hugh-Jones (1979). 1994). 1973. 8. 13. Firth. the LoDagaa and the Gonja. the hunter. is a transformed representation of its maker. E. It is a received notion that one cannot assess art without looking at techniques (see Bateson.
see Hobsbawm and Ranger (1999). given meaning in human terms by comparative associations. questioning the dichotomy between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. Abarca (2006. Wilk (2006) discusses the construction and recuperation of ‘traditional’ cooking and other practices in Belize. They made them breathe it to remove their anger as well (Clendinnen. 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. In a way. Not to share it with others is “to kill its essence”. hospitality can be thought of as a form of sacriﬁce. p. but only when the form is mobilized for human purposes. Kennedy’s outlook and attitude toward cuisine is more holistic than many other cookbook writers or culinary investigators. 20. ‘It is in the nature of food to be shared out. via material forms and mechanisms’ (Gell. in that she has built up an ecologically friendly oasis in her home in Michoacán. It is essentially form. 19. Raymond Firth recognizes art in a comparable way. render superior culinary results. That is to say. is a complex. p. these traps communicate the idea of a nexus of intentionalities between hunters and prey animals. is because ‘the ancestors’ had more contact with food and so their wisdom must be respected. mushrooms and all types of plants from the whole country. The ancient Aztecs used chile smoke as a punishment for naughty children (Coe. 53). 1990. 16. 21. pp. 18). . In a talk at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana on 3 June 1996. as having human involvement with the material: ‘Art is a product of human commitment. 23. she explained. The case of the cook as eater is discussed below. 22. 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. 203). The reason. p. determined by man’s social existence. Cf.142 • Notes victim. In fact. the transaction may continue if a customer becomes a regular and then becomes recognized by the vendor as deserving of occasional special favours. 1994). p. 17. among hunting people. with speciﬁc regard to the Days of the Dead. See Lok (1991) for a discussion of sacriﬁce and exchange. 57). maize. can one properly speak of art’ (1996. which. quintessentially social one. There she raises bees for honey and grows her own wheat. 1991. 1999b. when put into practice. Diana Kennedy said that she herself believes in these culinary methods. She said that you must sing to moles in the same way that you must talk to your plants. 92–3). and of their mutual relationship. which. 18. For the general theme of invention of tradition. Her love of the art of Mexican cookery eventually led to her greater understanding of and care for environmental issues. it is to destroy it both for oneself and for others’ (Mauss.
but perhaps with some ridicule at times. See Miller (2002) on expressing love through food shopping. 6. as ‘links in chains of personal rather than mechanical causation’ (2000. See Chapter 5 for an examination of ﬁesta food. 5. If a husband moves into his wife’s house. though Bourdieu argues a different point. Chapter 1). 7. 29. . 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. 31.g. so the ‘sociality’ produced is of the kind that McCallum (2001) describes. 2. locally reared sheep. He is met not with disapproval. and the menu rarely varies beyond these three choices. As mentioned previously in Chapter 2. As explained in Chapter 4. 63 – 4). 26. 8. Nowadays (within the last 20 years). 30. 3. Cf. 4. Aztec children were disciplined by being made to inhale chile smoke as punishment (Coe.’ Use of this phrase to describe something seemed to indicate its importance in Milpa Alta society. i. The food product transacted remains the same. 24. Chapter 4). Also adobo.Notes • 143 with food portions. 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). 9.e. Discussed further in Chapter 5. Recall that going to university is a luxury only recently acquired with the increased economic prosperity in Milpa Alta. ‘Es una tradición que le va dejando a la nueva generación. instead of mole. E. These dishes are also technically difﬁcult to prepare. p. for art. which literally means lace. 289). since mole is to ﬁesta as ﬁesta is to mole. mixiote or barbacoa. borregos criollos. 1994. where he writes of the social meanings behind serving a bad sauce among the Songhay in Niger. Cf. In a way this seems to echo Simmel. For a clearer understanding of attachment to land. they mutually imply one another (mole ↔ ﬁesta). Very little material is published on the history of barbacoa in Milpa Alta or elsewhere. pp. In other parts of Mexico the caul is also called encaje. 1999b). 28. which is used to make mixiote. Stoller (1989. 27. for barbacoa. 32. Chapter 3 Barbacoa in Milpa Alta 1. he is often teased for being mandilón (tied to the apron strings) or called ciguamoncli (cf. Ingold also considers practical knowledge to be embedded in a social matrix of relations. many families who hold large celebration banquets serve carnitas. see Gomezcésar (1992). Gell (1996. However.
is a term used in Latin America to refer to the labour of women who have paid full-time jobs and yet also do all the housework and cooking at home. This is an indication that people tend not to make gastronomic compromises. Alternatively. For example. See Vizcarra (2002) for a comparable account of women and food in an impoverished community in the State of Mexico. Note that she describes how men believe that the only responsibility of women to their husbands is ‘dar de comer’. 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. 11) which is characterized by generosity with food as a central virtue among the Cashinaua of western Amazonia. McCallum deﬁnes sociality as ‘a temporary product of morally correct engagement in social relationships’ (1989. This term has been used to criticize women’s entry into the capitalist labour force. hierarchical relationships may be useful for effectively pursuing these ideals. however. culinary technical superiority or culinary artistry. 12. arguably. that is. 6. where they were not only underpaid. Most women who worked as domestic help in Milpa Alta were not natives. 4. those social relations that lead to sociality may be not only characterized by food generosity. 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. or ‘double workday’. . but only cases where a woman was hired for a few hours a week or on an occasional basis. Melhuus and Stølen (1996). González Montes (1997). 13. but had to do another full day’s work at home for their families or husbands. But because of the demands of culinary ideals. 2. Puebla and Veracruz. but migrants from the poorer states of Oaxaca. Likewise. There are (immoral) actions that can lead to anti-sociality. I did not know anyone who had live-in domestic help. Gutmann (1996). p. (‘to feed them’). 3. that they are supposed to stop making barbacoa! 11. 1982). although they do lead to social organization. The doble jornada. Alejandro hoped that one of his sons would become a trafﬁc policeman and Primy hoped they would study medicine. This does not necessarily mean.144 • Notes 10. I recognize that I tread on the tenuous border between portraying culinary life as simply rosy and lovely and the dire reality of others. and not all social relations lead to sociality. González Montes and Tuñón (1997). but also by food quality. Note that most of their ﬁndings were based on white middle-class Americans or Europeans. McCallum (2001). Chapter 4 Women as Culinary Agents 1. Mole probably ranks as the highest. 5.
practice which aided the survival of the species. para que la gente no habla mal de ella. Stephen (2005. Lulú’s words were. esp. Debe a su familia. but see.’ 14. Una mujer se hace tonta por pendeja. Gell. Chapter 9) explains that unlike in business. which is conducted in Spanish and requires mathematical skills. There was apparently also a compromise on taste. 11. 8. wherein planning the food is foremost. Women had restrictions on their movements outside the house as any errand could be construed as an excuse for an illicit rendezvous. 13. Almost everyone I met still maintained that handmade tortillas taste better than factory made. 1996). For a vivid comparative account. it is not privately owned and it cannot be sold. Chapter 3). See Levine (1993. A comparative case is what Stephen (2005. Like communal land. el timón de la familia. a los hijos. conducted in Zapotec. women’s culinary agency gives them their ritual power. Roseman (1999) describes a similar ambiguity in rural Galicia. this relative freedom can be seen as problematic in regard to relations between jealous husbands and wives. ‘special’ and ‘extra-ordinary’ (cf. . Zapotec women play a strong role in ritual decision making. The power of human artistry hinges upon the crucial aspect of making something artistic. see Levine (1993. no son buenas personas. ‘La mujer es el eje conductor. 1992. In Milpa Alta the stereotype of self-sacriﬁcing women exists: la mujer abnegada is a woman whose husband controls family decisions. Yet in practice. for example. 1990). In an article called ‘¿Quién manda? … ’. where there is a discourse of gender hierarchy and women’s submissiveness but also of egalitarianism. naturally selected. the response is not so clear. Ejido land is distributed by the government in accordance with the law on agrarian reform. p.Notes • 145 7. ‘Regularmente cuando un hombre se hace tonto es por tanto amor que le tiene para su mujer. 9. Martin. Chapter 5 Mole and Fiestas 1. and I also agree. para guardar las apariencias.’ (See also Melhuus. In other words. 10. Si no sufren. chapters 2 and 3) for more on courtship and marriage. This is a large topic that goes beyond the scope of this discussion. 12. J. decorated. Chapter 7) describes for women in Teotitlán. Mujeres trabajan el doble de sus maridos. In some cases. ¿Quién es él que manda? (‘Who is in charge?’) is a rhetorical question the answer to which is supposed to be ‘the husband’. Dissanayake (1995) argues that human artistic behaviour is a necessary. 16. Mummert (1994). 15. y tiene que sufrir. Son persinadas.
Y es por eso que es un pueblo tan ﬁestero—para mostrar a los demás que sí tiene dinero para festejar y hacerlos bien. p. is pleasure-seeking. hot tamales verdes and atole champurrado. furthers social mobility and economic advancement. San Mateo and Santa Martha are rivalling barrios from within which there is much intermarriage as well as competition. for members of the public who attend the singing event at this cold. For example. The señoritas are also expected to provide typical breakfast foods. fond of parties. and Stephen (2005). Stephen (2005. Just as Lomnitz argues that ‘compadrazgo strengthens social ties between equals. Because of how guests are fed during ﬁestas. For a theoretical analysis. 11. In Milpa Alta. also see Adapon (2001).’ 10. as central ﬁgures in ritual community life. entonces es un lujo quedarte a comer en la casa. juggle their ritual responsibilities with quotidian needs. The dictionary deﬁnition of this word. Chapter 9) also describes how relationships of compadrazgo are ‘inherited’. ﬁestero. and affords a magic symbolic protection against latent personal aggression’ (1977. This idea of homemade products being better than their commercial counterparts is prevalent and put into practice more by suburban. early hour. Chapter 1). In urban . 3. where some women spend their money on their compadrazgo gifts and obligations rather than on their daily meals. Hay que trabajar desde la madrugada hasta la noche para salir adelante. 6.146 • Notes 2. this is commonly done at home for breakfast the day after a ﬁesta as part of the recalentado. see Martinez R. For a town or barrio ﬁesta in Milpa Alta the unmarried youths are organized to get involved in preparing for the ﬁesta. especially the excesses of food given to compadres to take home. 8. see Lomnitz (1977). This is comparable to what Stephen (2005) describes occurring in Teotitlán. For a thorough history and description of the cargo systems in Milpa Alta. They begin at around half past four in the morning of the feast day (21 September for San Mateo). (1987). ‘La gente de Milpa Alta es muy trabajadora porque la naturaleza no les dió tanto. 7. 160). rural or lower-middle-class people than central urban or upper-middle-class to upper-class people. Their ﬁestas are occasions when they can socialize freely when the residents of the barrios ritually visit one another bearing salvas. For more on compadrazgo and the mayordomía in Milpa Alta. see Greenberg (1981. women. 4. Sault (1985. 1987). and elsewhere in Mexico. 9. porque no hay tiempo. 5. 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. For thorough analyses of compadrazgo as a principle for networking and reciprocal exchange. ties amongst barrios are strengthened and aggression can be averted when mayordomías bring promesas to other town or barrio ﬁestas.
) for a thought-provoking article on how culinary knowledge and apprenticeship are not necessarily passed from mother to daughter. 18. 97).d. more ﬂavourful and of higher quality. I once went to a barbacoa restaurant in the city. This relates to an anecdote I mentioned in Chapter 1. The barbacoa was ﬁne. and … in the long or short term these favors should somehow be balanced. p. See Sutton (n. things. Chapter 6) for a convincing attempt to deﬁne the style of Belizean food. When we warmed it up and ate it. whether in the public ﬁesta domain or the private daily domain. Apart from this. and which I consider to be useful. which was double the price per kilo that they charged in their market stall. strengthen one another. although the restaurant barbacoa was quite good. These messages. when I was told. it is so that we can use up what is in the fridge’. 16. ‘[T]o write about art … is … to write about either religion. 2. the whole family was unanimous in their opinion. Primy’s young son said that they must have used goat meat instead of lamb. This is a notion that Mary Douglas (1983) and David Sutton (2001) have both explored in different ways. The meal concluded with the opinion that this was a commercial barbacoa. Chapter 6 The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life 1. 17. but it just was not as good as what they made themselves at home. 14. Wilk also notes that consistency is just as difﬁcult to maintain as innovation (2006. 3. I brought the leftovers to Milpa Alta for my friends to try it and compare. p. arguing that ‘reciprocal favors are critical to survival. as ‘traditional’ and ‘authentic’ Mexican cuisine is growing in popularity. Michoacán (Mexico). They . interest and disinterest are all merged. or the substitute for religion which those who have abandoned the outward forms of received religions content themselves with’ (Gell. though as a means to another end.Notes • 147 centres this is starting to change. See Wilk (2006. made for wealthy customers who did not eat it regularly and who were detached from it. She was one other person who conﬁded in me that her culinary secret was that she ‘cooks with love’. 13. where the spirit of the town ﬁesta is reproduced for tourists or urban dwellers. 122). In my opinion the barbacoa that Primy and Alejandro made was much better. As Parry (1986) explains it. Stanley Brandes analyzed the ﬁesta cycle in Tzintzuntzan. persons. 4. This is what Munn calls the ‘relative extension of spacetime’. ‘It is not because we want to stop following traditions. 1998. they were also appalled at the price charged at the restaurant. 12. 15. If she were making mole poblano she would also sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
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. or at least did not share their income with their husbands. As mentioned in Chapter 4. who are involved in a wider discourse of taste than local Milpaltenses. In a study of seven countries in Africa and Asia. because of the links between Nahuat conceptions of eating and sex. 1992). 81. 8. See Woodburn (1998) for a view which refutes the idea of (food) sharing as exchange. Here I would also classify cookbook writers. they reduce the price considerably (see Flores Aguilar. 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. women still often contributed their labour from home. persuade villagers to live according to prevailing contractual norms’ (1988. Tinker (1987) shows that in four countries street food vendors were usually middle-aged women (32 to 41 years old). In these cases. but if a Milpaltense is interested in the land. Their income was mainly used for their children and school fees. which he bases on early childhood relationships with parents. Women vendors were often in polygamous unions or unmarried and were the primary earners in the family. 6. there were religious or customary reasons for this. They discourage non-Milpaltenses from buying property in the municipality by keeping the prices high. 5. Where vendors were mostly men. Taggart (1992) also describes a link between eating and sex in his analysis of the Sierra Nahuat. 9. 7. p. preparing the food for their husbands to sell. through frequent repetition. ‘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. His data on Mexico emphasize cooking as part of women’s role and link cooking and eating with the relationship between husband and wife. emphasis added).148 • Notes pervade all of social life and. . 87).
New York: William Morrow. Women’s Studies. Health and Identity. Appadurai. London: Oxford University Press. (2001). Between Field and Cooking Pot: The Political Economy of Marketwomen in Peru. and Mussell. Babb. Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking in the Heart of Mexico. – 149 – . Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. London: Routledge. Bourdieu. Social Anthropology. 30/1: 3–24. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Teresa (1997). ‘How to Make a National Cuisine: Cookbooks in Contemporary India’. (2006). Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press. in Anthony Forge. London: Routledge. Gregory (1973). University of London. ‘Charlas culinarias: Mexican Women Speak from Their Public Kitchens’. Beardsworth. Berkeley: University of California Press. Doreen Groen (1987). Food. Rick (1996). Meredith E. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 15: 183–212. and Keil. María Claudia. xxxii. Brandes. Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States: The Performance of Group Identity. Mexico. Abarca. ed. Art Worlds.. Sociology on the Menu: An Invitation to the Study of Food and Society. Food and Foodways. Bayless. Rick. PhD dissertation. Brown. (1982). Andrews. Leonora Joy (2001). Pierre (1984). Austin: University of Texas Press. Chicanas and Latin American Women Writers Exploring the Realm of the Kitchen as a Self-Empowering Site. ed. Kay. The Art of Mexican Cooking: Culinary Agency and Social Dynamics in Milpa Alta. Stanley (1988). Linda Keller. Bayless. Bateson.Works Cited Abarca. Voices in the Kitchen: Views of Food and the World from Working-Class Mexican and Mexican American Women. Alan. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. (1989). College Station: Texas A&M University Press. Power and Persuasion: Fiestas and Social Control in Rural Mexico. Becker. eds (1985). Florence E. Pat. Austin: University of Texas Press. ‘Style. Caplan. Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine. ed. (1997a). and Bayless. André. Howard S. Jean (1984). London School of Economics and Political Science. Grace and Information in Primitive Art’. (2007). Meredith E. Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicum. Arjun (1988). Adapon. Primitive Art and Society. New York: Scribner. Comparative Studies in Society and History.
and Kaplan. ed. DeVault.. Richard. ‘Deciphering a Meal’. Mary (1983). Health and Identity. Garden City. Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why. In the Society of Nature: A Native Ecology in Amazonia. Douglas. Carole. Wendy (1973). tr. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Culinary Artistry. Manchester: Manchester University Press. D. Ellen (1995). Recetario nahua de Milpa Alta. Pat (1997b). Cocina Indígena y Popular. Clendinnen.150 • Works Cited Caplan. Victoria Robbins (1990). Food and Gender: Identity and Power. ‘Approaches to the Study of Food. America’s First Cuisines. Nickie. in Morris Freilich. Health and Identity’. Mary (1966). Philippe (1994). Sonia (1981). Culturas Populares. ‘Culture and Food’. The Pleasures of Anthropology. New York: New American Library. New York: Routledge. . in Pat Caplan. Sophie D.. master’s thesis. ‘Class and Gender in the Kitchen’. Keele: University of Keele. in Implicit Meanings. Food and Families. Corcuera de Mancera. Marion (1988). Kjaernes. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ed. Marjorie L. (1994). Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. Carole. London: Ark Paperbacks. Delphy. Charles. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Douglas. Dornenburg. Sociological Review Monograph 28. in Chris Harris. and Page. and van Esterik. Nora Scott. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Food in the History of Central Mexico: A Living Tradition. and Kerr. Food in History and Culture. L. Oslo: Solum Forlag.. tr. Food and Culture: A Reader. Steven. Aztecs: An Interpretation. (1991). Inga (1991). Feeding the Family: The Social Organization of Caring as Gendered Work. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic. Cowal. and I. eds (1997). Departamento de Distrito Federal (1997). Elpidia Elena (2000). Mexico City. Prattala. Ekström.. R. Entre Gula y Templanza: un aspecto de la historia mexicana. Fürst. Penny. M. Counihan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. eds. Counihan. Food. Marianne (1991). Coe. xix. Dissanayake. Faculty of Social Studies. The Sociology of the Family: New Directions for Britain. Mary (1975). Descola. L. in E. Milpa Alta: monografía. Condon. Palatable Worlds: Sociocultural Food Studies.F. Andrew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Librado.. Karen (1996). Cruz Díaz. London: Routledge. Diana Leonard. Silva G. and Bennet. Douglas. Austin: University of Texas Press. The Mexican Stove: What to Put On It and In It. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. ed. ‘Sharing the Same Table: Consumption and the Family’. Holm. University of the Americas. i. Christine (1979). New York: Doubleday. Women. New York: Wiley. tr. eds (1998). Ekström.
F. i–v. Gary Alan (1996). Tom. The Art of Anthropology: Essays and Diagrams. DF: Centro de Estudios Históricos del Agrarismo en México. in Jeremy Coote and Anthony Shelton. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Aída (1986). Fowler-Salamini. ‘Inter-Tribal Commodity Barter and Reproductive Gift Exchange in Old Melanesia’. Gell. Iván. and Ravago. Anthropology. Texas: Shearer. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Berkeley: University of California Press. ‘The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology’.. Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art. Mexican Family Cooking. (1992). Firth. and Home Remedies. Alfred (1998). Laura (1992). Timothy J. Living and Cooking ii. Alfred (1996). Gomezcésar. eds. i. ed. Gilliland. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Julián (1992). ‘La etnia de Milpa Alta’. in Eric Hirsch. eds. Gell. Gell. ed. Art and Aesthetics. ‘Doing-Cooking’. Anthropology. Raymond (1996). Austin. Luce (1998). 67.: Centro de Estudios Históricos del Agrarismo en México. 67. The Practice of Everyday Life. México. tr. Bulletin of Latin American Research. ‘ “El pan de cada día”: The Symbols and Expressive Culture of Wheat Bread in Greater Mexico’. Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work. Alfred (1999a). London: Athlone Press. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments. México. González. and Vaughan. Heather. Historia agraria. Tomasik. Brígida. tr. University of Texas. London: Athlone Press. Historias de mi pueblo: concurso testimonial sobre la historia y cultura de Milpa Alta. Gabilondo. ‘Vogel’s Net: Traps as Artworks and Artworks as Traps’. in Michel de Certeau. and de Oliveira. LSE Monographs on Social Anthropology. in Eric Hirsch.Works Cited • 151 Esquivel. eds (1994). PhD dissertation. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. in Jeremy Coote and Anthony Sheldon.). Alicia María (1986). Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen. Art and Aesthetics. New York: Doubleday. Flores Aguilar. Romances. Orlandina (1997). Women of the Mexican Countryside. LSE Monographs on Social Anthropology. 16/3: 367–84. D.. . Historias de mi pueblo: concurso testimonial sobre la historia y cultura de Milpa Alta. 1850–1990: Creating Spaces. Alfred (1999b). ed. New York: Fawcett Columbine (Ballantine). ‘Art and Anthropology’. Fine. in Iván Gomezcésar.. ‘Motherhood and Extradomestic Work in Urban Mexico’. García. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ed. The Art of Anthropology: Essays and Diagrams. Giard. Fredericksburg. with Recipes. Miguel (2005). Luce Giard and Pierre Mayol (ed. Shaping Transitions. Mary Kay. Gell.
Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory. London: Kegan Paul International and United Nations Educational. Cooking. Gudeman. Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI) (1997). Tim (2000). Greenberg. González Montes. Jelin. 5: 229–46. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Thomas (1985). comp. Hountondji. October/November 1981. Mexico City: El Colegio de México. ‘Gordon Childe. and Tuñón. . Odera Oruka and D. Berkeley: University of California Press.152 • Works Cited González Montes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City. Programa Interdisciplinario de Estudios de la Mujer. Terence. Hobsbawm. and Ranger. The Invention of Tradition. Soledad. Cuaderno Estadístico Delegacional. Highmore. ed. Alberto (1990). Matthew C. Julia. Mujeres y relaciones de género en la antropología latinoamericana. Goody. Piro Designs: Painting as Meaningful Action in an Amazonian Lived World. Hugh-Jones. Ben. Christine (1979). Familias y mujeres en México: del modelo a la diversidad. Nairobi. Eric. in H. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Man. eds (1999). Society for Comparative Study of Society and History. Soledad. (1997). and the Haute Cuisine: An Anthropo-Archaeological View of Modern History’. Milpa Alta. Santiago’s Sword: Chatino Peasant Religion and Economics. Ingold. and Rivera. Paulin J. Gow. Conversations in Colombia: The Domestic Economy in Life and Text. Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology. Masolo. Goody. Household and Gender Relations in Latin America. Nairobi: Bookwise. eds. Berkeley: University of California Press. (1983). Programa Interdisciplinario de Estudios de la Mujer. Jack (2006). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Peter (1991). ‘Reason and Tradition’. (1991). London: Routledge. 24: 567–82. David (2003). 6: 503–19. the Urban Revolution. From the Milk River: Spatial and Temporal Processes in Northwest Amazonia. Elizabeth. (2002). Of Mixed Blood: Kinship and History in Peruvian Amazonia. Philosophy and Cultures: Proceedings of Second Afro-Asian Philosophy Conference. A. Peter (1989). Stephen. Gow. Scientiﬁc and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Family. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Distrito Federal. The Perverse Child: Desire in a Native Amazonian Subsistence Economy. Gregor. Cambridge University Press. Anxious Pleasures: The Sexual Lives of an Amazonian People. coord. Gow. Gutmann. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Jack (1982). Mexico City: El Colegio de México. (1996). London: Routledge. Peter (1999). The Everyday Life Reader. Dwelling and Skill. Howes. (1997). Cambridge: Canto. James (1981).
‘The Mexican Kitchen’s Islamic Connection’. . Stockholm: Alqvist & Wiksell. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Oxford: Berg. Lenten. St Albans: Granada. Rachel. Food and Culture among Bolivian Aymara: Symbolic Expressions of Social Relations. and Race in New Spain: Glancing Backward to Spain or Looking Forward to Mexico?’. Aldona (2006). and Nieto. Khare. Mexico City: Editorial Diana. Claude (1966). Cooking under the Volcanoes: Communal Kitchens in the Southern Peruvian City of Arequipa. (2000). (1983). 2nd rev edn. The Taste Culture Reader: Experiencing Food and Drink. New York: Wiley. Amsterdam: Centro de Estudios y Documentatión Latinoamericanos. ambiqüedades criollas 1750–1800. Carola. Bruno (1993). Johnsson. 33: 586–95. Cuisines of Hidden Mexico: A Culinary Journey to Guerrero and Michoacán. ‘Smoked Fish and Fermented Oil: Taste and Smell among the Kwakwaka’wakw’. Laudan. ‘Art and Agency: A Reassessment’. Food in History and Culture. The Hindu Hearth and Home. Lentz. 9/3: 447–64. Kanafani. in collaboration with Clara Sunderlan Correa. ‘A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New. The Art of Mexican Cooking: Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aﬁcionados. Partisan Review. New York: Bantam. Bruce. Changing Food Habits: Case Studies from Africa. Fast. S. Jeffrey M. Sarah (1993). ‘Chiles. Chris Gosden and Ruth B. Levine. Layton. The Anthropology of Art.). Armando (1991). Layton. ‘The Culinary Triangle’. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. ed. (1999). Robert (2003). 32–9. Laudan. (1976). Eighteenth-Century Life. Latour. Kennedy. R. Aesthetics and Ritual in the United Arab Emirates: The Anthropology of Food and Personal Adornment among Arabian Women. Sensible Objects: Colonialism. Processed Food’. Mick (1986). Beirut: American University of Beirut. Dolor y Alegría: Women and Social Change in Urban Mexico. ii. Kraig. Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology 7. Lévi-Strauss. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. Saudi Aramco World (May/June). La lenta emergencia de la comida mexicana. Robert (1981). Dudley (1996). 1/1: 36–44. Juárez López. Mexico City: Miguel Ángel Pomía. (1999). Roelie (1993). José Luis. South America and Europe. Picardía Mexicana.Works Cited • 153 Jiménez. Oxford: Berg. Rachel (2001). Korsmeyer. Laudan. in Elizabeth Edwards. We Have Never Been Modern. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic. Jonaitis. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. and Pilcher. New Delhi: Vikas. Carolyn (2005). Museums and Material Culture. Aida S. Phillips (eds. Diana (1989). Rachel (2004). 23: 59–70. Chocolate.
Malinowski. Shaping Transitions. Mexico City: Libros de Contenido. Arturo (1991). Lupton. Food Preferences and Taste: Continuity and Change. Mexico City: Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales. Networks and Marginality: Life in a Mexican Shantytown. El arte de cocinar con chile. Bronislaw (1935). ‘Changes in Rural Society and Domestic Labor in Atlixco. Oxford: Berg. (1997). Food from My Heart: Cuisines of Mexico Remembered and Reimagined. Coral Gardens and Their Magic. ‘Agents in Inter-Action: Bruno Latour and Agency’. The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science of Mythology. Food Culture in Mexico. Marroni de Velázquez. American Ethnologist. Mauss. Austin: University of Texas Press. Providence: Berghahn. ‘Motherhood and Power: The Production of a Women’s Culture of Politics in a Mexican Community’. Maria da Glória (1994). Tucson: University of Arizona Press. PhD dissertation. Cuaderno de Sociología 1. Social Anthropology. Personhood and Social Organization amongst the Cashinaua of Western Amazonia. Long-Solis. University of London. Capsicum y Cultura. Martínez Ruvalcaba. Women of the Mexican Countryside. The Virgin’s Children: Life in an Aztec Village Today. 2 vols. Journal of Archaeological Theory. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. in Heather Fowler Salamini and Mary Kay Vaughan. Lok. Rossana (1991). Luis Alberto (2005). Food. Cecilia (2001). 2nd edn. Zarela (1992). New York: MacMillan. ed. W. Lomelí. eds. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Gender. Lomnitz. Marcel (1990). tr. and Vargas. New York: Academic Press. William (1960). María de Jesus (1987). Leiden University. 1940–1990’. Sierra Norte de Puebla. Gifts to the Dead and the Living: Forms of Exchange in San Miguel Tzinacapan. McCallum.) (1996). Leiden: Centre of Non-Western Studies. Westport. LSE. Larissa Adler (1977). Connecticut: Greenwood Press. London: George Allen and Unwin. Joann (1990). Martínez. Cecilia (1989). Deborah (1996). London: Sage. Janet. 17/3: 470 – 90. Helen. Conquista y Comida: consecuencias del encuentro de dos mundos. Puebla. Madsen. Andrew (2005).154 • Works Cited Lévi-Strauss. . Mexico. ‘El Sistema de Cargos y Fiestas Religiosas: tradición y cambio en Milpa Alta’. Halls. Long. McCallum. London: Pimlico. 1850 –1990: Creating Spaces. Gender and Sociality in Amazonia: The Making of Real People. 12/4: 283–311. London: Routledge. the Body and the Self. Martin. Long. Claude (1994). D. Macbeth. Janet (coord. Janet (1986). rev edn. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Martin. originally El chile y otros picantes.
Henrietta (1994). in Roman Loimeier and Rüdiger Seesemann. David (2006). London: Heinemann Educational. Murcott. (1991). Marit (1992). Cambridge: Polity Press. Mealtimes and Gender in Some South Wales Households’. 1850–1990: Creating Spaces. The Everyday Life Reader. Nancy (1986). David Morgan. Meyer. Kaplan. 2: 56–73. ‘It’s a Pleasure to Cook for Him: Food. (1996). Muñoz Zurita. ‘From Metate to Despate: Rural Mexican Women’s Salaried Labor and the Redeﬁnition of Gendered Spaces and Roles’.Works Cited • 155 McIntosh. Department and Museum of Anthropology. ‘Making Love in Supermarkets’. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Marit. and Zey. (1979). Diet and Culture. Alex. Marxist Perspectives. in Carole M. and Sherman. Moore. The Public and the Private. Shaping Transitions. The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value Transformation in a Massim (Papua New Guinea) Society. Princeton.. ingredientes y usos. Ricardo (2000). The Course of Mexican History. Berlin: Lit Verlag. University of Oslo. Michael C. Diccionario enciclopédico de la gastronomía mexicana: utensilios. . London: Routledge. Jane Purvis and Daphne Taylorson. in Eva Gamarnikov. Los chiles rellenos en México: antología de recetas. Daniel (2002). PhD dissertation. ‘Art That Dances and Art That Patrols: Two Groups in Zanzibar’. Sidney W. Gail (1994). Women of the Mexican Countryside. Faculty of Social Sciences. Mexico City: Editorial Clio. Tasting Freedom: Excursions in Eating. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic. Identity and Space in 19th and 20th-Century East Africa. London: Verso. Munn. Tasting Food. Food and Gender: Identity and Power. Miller. Boston: Beacon Press. ‘Time. Mexico City: UNAM. and Kristi Anne Stølen. B. Counihan and Steven L. Ortner.. eds. 4th edn.’: Morality. Meaning and Change in a Mexican Context. Mummert. Mintz. Parkin. A Passion for Difference. Sugar and Sweetness’. Muñoz Zurita. Anne (1983). eds. Rice as Self: Japanese Identities through Time. The Sociology of Food: Eating. New York: Oxford University Press. Mennell. Ricardo (1996). ed. Anneke H. (1992). ‘Todos tenemos madre. Sidney W. London: Sage. Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. in Ben Highmore. Emiko (1993). Murcott. eds (1996). Machos. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. S. Melhuus. Dios también. eds. Ohnuki-Tierney. Melhuus. Mistresses. ‘Women as Gatekeepers of Food Consumption: A Sociological Critique’. The Global Worlds of the Swahili: Interfaces of Islam. William L. Culture and the Past. in Heather Fowler-Salamini and Mary Kay Vaughan. and van Otterloo. eds. Boston: Beacon Press. Anne. Mintz. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Mary (1998). Stephen. Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery. (1996).
(1999). Mexico. Pescatello. 6: 49–61. Michael Symons. Los Angeles. and Valenzuela. 21: 453–73. 220 – 42. Deborah Edith (1993). Nicole (1987). tr. ‘¿Quién Manda? (Who’s in Charge?) Household Authority Politics in Rural Galicia’. ‘La festividad religiosa: atadura de una cultura mestiza de la Sierra Alta de Hidalgo’. En muchos lugares y todos los días: vírgenes. Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technologies of Enchantment. Jeffrey M. . tr. Rutter. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Sault. Georg (1994). tr. Pinney. Zapotec Godmothers: The Centrality of Women for Compadrazgo Groups in a Village of Oaxaca. Joining Kinship and Gender’. and Ochoa. New Mexico: School of American Research. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. University of California. Female and Male in Latin America: Essays. the Indian Gift and the “Indian Gift” ’. ‘Female Forms of Power and the Myth of Male Dominance: A Model of Female/Male Interaction in Peasant Society’. Adam (2005). New York: Summit. Anthropologica. paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Simmel. PhD dissertation. ed. Ann. Bernardino de (1950–1982). Pilcher. José Manuel (1997). Salles. Rains Gone Bad. Antropológicas. Arthur J. Raymond (1991). Christopher. 2: 727–57. Lorenzo (1991). Anderson and Charles Dibble. Nicholas. Sanders. ‘Godparenthood in Latin America. Social Anthropology. ¡Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity. Octavio (1967). Sharon R. ‘ “My Blog Is Me”: Texts and Persons in UK Online Journal Culture’. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. (1973). Todd (2000). The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico. Centro de Estudios Sociológicos. Chicago. November 18–22. Nicole (1985).s. 6: 469–86. Mexico City: El Colegio de México. 13 vols. santos y niños Dios: mística y religiosidad popular en Xochimilco. Vania. Lysander Kemp. Reed. ‘The Gift. Why We Eat What We Eat: How the Encounter between the New World and the Old Changed the Way Everyone on the Planet Eats. (1998). Food and Foodways 5/4: 345–50. Susan Carol (1975). Perez-Castro. Rogers. LSE. O. Roseman. eds (2001). Ana Bella. Man (n. Eating the Seed: The Use of Foods in the Structuring and Reproduction of Social Relations in a Nepali Chhetri Community. London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press. ‘The Sociology of the Meal’ (originally published 1910). Women Gone Mad: Rethinking Gender Rituals of Rebellion and Patriarchy. PhD thesis. Sokolov. and Thomas.). American Ethnologist. Santa Fe.156 • Works Cited Parry. Oxford: Berg. Jonathan (1986). Sahagún. General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex. Sault. Ethnos 70/2. 41/2: 117–32. Paz. University of London.
David (1998). Weismantel. resistencia e identidades. in Elizabeth Edwards. Vázquez García. Paul (1989). Memories Cast in Stone. ‘Gender Segregation and Cultural Constructions of Sexuality in Two Hispanic Societies’. David (2006). Oxford: Berg. Patricia (1993). Suárez. in Marit Melhuus and Kristi Anne Stølen.d. London: Sage. Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. van Rhijn. Food.). Machos. Mexico City: Suari. London: Sage. Entre el taco mazahua y el mundo: la comida de las relaciones de poder. The Taste of Ethnographic Things: The Senses in Anthropology.Works Cited • 157 Stephen. special issue Current Sociology. J. Sensible Objects: Colonialism. Emahaia. Warde. Alan (1997). M. ‘Does It Really Pass from Mother to Daughter? Cooking Skills. 19/1: 75–96. (1992). Toluca: Ed. eds (1996). Sensuous Scholarship. Vizcarra Bordí. Blanca. Serie Programa de Estudios Microeconómicos. Valle. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Phillips. Oxford: Berg. Mexico City: El Colegio de México. Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory. Consumption. Mistresses. 35/3. Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery. eds. Taggart. Providence: Berghahn. Verónica (1997). Sutton. Magdalena (1996). London: Verso. Knowledge Control and Apprenticeship on a Greek Island’ Unpublished paper. (1988). and Taste: Culinary Antinomies and Commodity Culture. Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine. Sutton. and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. . Programa Interdisciplinario de Estudios de la Mujer. Irene (1987). David (n. the Senses. Class. eds. Sutton. and Valle. ‘Cooking Skill. Food. eds (2004). La cocina del chile. ‘Power and Self-Identity: The Beekeepers of Ayuquila’. Chris Gosden and Ruth B. Durham: Duke University Press. Lynn (2005). DF: Grupo Interdisciplinario sobre Mujer. Paul (1997). Stoller. and Schiefenhövel. ‘Street Foods: Testing Assumptions about Informal Sector Activity by Women and Men’. and Ethnicity in Globalized Oaxaca. in González Montes and Tuñón (comp. Trabajo y Pobreza. Paloma. Oxford: Berg. México. Sutton. and Bonﬁl. and Memory: The Fate of Practical Knowledge’. Entre el Corazón y la Necesidad: Microempresas Familiares en el Contexto Rural. Mary Lau (1995). Zapotec Women: Gender. Wiessner. American Ethnologist. Sociales Aplicados 4. 2nd edn. Stoller. Polly. Gender. Museums and Material Culture. New York: New Press.). David (2001). with foreword by Elena Poniatowska. Wulf. Victor. James M. ‘Mujeres que “respetan a su casa”: estatus marital de las mujeres y economía doméstica en una comunidad nahua del sur de Veracruz’. Ivonne (2002). Familias y mujeres en México: del modelo a la diversidad. Villareal. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Tinker.
. City Fondas. Property Relations: Renewing the Anthropological Tradition. Nancy (1995). in Linda Keller Brown and Kay Mussell. ‘Why Migrant Women Feed Their Husbands Tamales: Foodways as a Basis for a Revisionist View of Tejano Family Life’. Wilk. Hann. American Anthropologist. Richard R. Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States: The Performance of Group Identity. M. (1999). Oxford: Berg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. in C. Woodburn. ‘ “Sharing Is Not a Form of Exchange”: An Analysis of Property-Sharing in Immediate-Return Hunter-Gatherer Societies’. ‘ “Real Belizean Food”: Building Local Identity in the Transnational Caribbean’. 101/2: 244–55. Richard R. Brett (1985). eds. Zaslavsky. (2006).158 • Works Cited Wilk. New York: St. ed. and Home Kitchens. A Cook’s Tour of Mexico: Authentic Recipes from the Country’s Best Open-Air Markets. Williams. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. . Martin’s Press. Home Cooking in the Global Village: Caribbean Food from Buccaneers to Ecotourists. James (1998).
29. 34. 78 – 82 sex and. 40. 95. Sonia. Laura. 10. fusion. 47. 117–8 albur. 47. 108 –9. 113. 119–25 passim as coercive. 117–20 motherhood. 97 Brandes. 75. 79. 121–2 lovers and. 119 as ﬁesta food. 17. 13 – 159 – . 95. 20 –1. 1. 32– 6. 11. 109. 13. 42. 89. 29. 16 culinary. 32. 124 cookbook(s). 117 love. 8. 50. 100–2. 40. 116 intention. 31 Corcuera. 124–7 albur and. 101. 45. 3. 127 guacamole. Rachel. 3. 113. 113 mestizaje. 44. 106. 9 Cowal. 12. 127 greed. Wilk. 127 Goody. 71–6 passim. 5. 29. 124. 100. 45. 125 hospitality. 126 on sazón. 89–92. 95. Larissa Adler. 85. 1–2. 72–4. 127 Melhuus. 45. 22. 75. 49–70. 7–11 passim. 18. 90. 21 street food and. Meredith. Alfred. 30. 46. 123. 124 see also greed Esquivel. 90. 114. 45. 119 theory of art. 11–13. 125 Muñoz. 119. 87. Claude. 15. 3. 78. 98. 114. Jack. 16. 124 intention and. 124. Diana. 95 cargo system. 126 women and. 102 Lévi-Strauss. 118 Howes. 123. 47. 51. 120 chilaquiles. 39– 42. 8. 128 home cooking. 75. 113 barbacoa. 89. 10 see also mestizaje. 41. 115 see also technical mastery Firth. 3. 38–9 mole and. 113 agency. 90. 51. 82. 7– 8. 82 Munn. 92. Victoria. 121. 11–12. 105 intentionality. 13. 7. 29– 48.Index Abarca. 108. 124–7 value of. 3. 118 mayordomía. 117 style. See love art nexus. 125 restaurants and. 91. 10 culinary agency. 101–5 passim. 41. 106 –8 chefs. 81. 113. Cecilia. 89 –109. 46. 93–7. 123. 6. 18–21. 5. 39– 40. 118 generosity. 1–2. 68. 105 intersubjectivity. Marcel. Peter. 16 Laudan. 127 conﬁanza. 85. 106 –9 Bayless. 94. 46. 37. 108. 104. 122 see also sazón McCallum. 126 on commodity exchange. 122–3. 41. 106. 31. 46. Sophie. 107. 116 Mauss. 3. 126 intentionality and. 108. 21–2 on women’s empowerment. 113 envidia. 2. 92. 11. 96. 29. 2. 115–26 passim see also agency decoration. miscegenation Gell. 106. 121. 30. 71–2. 4–5. 3. 42. 75. 3. 92. 10 compadrazgo. 21. Raymond. 113. 29. 46. 40 Ingold. See mayordomía carnitas. Janet. 31. 36. 37 fusion. 33. 2. 71. 108 technology of enchantment. 90. 38 expertise. 44 Gow. 12–21 passim. 10 see also miscegenation. 125. 15. Nancy. 42. 118. 41. 46. 67 distributed object. 121. 115–16. Tim. 10 see also mestizaje. 83. 123–7 Coe. 76 – 8. 95. 113 Lomnitz. 71. 105. 120. 101. 9. 106. 117–20 passim. 82–5. Richard miscegenation. 31–3. 45. 120 see also agency Kennedy. 76. 114 –15. 103. 22–7 nueva cocina mexicana. 122. 41. 46. 84. 113 artworks as traps. 121. 18 –22 passim. 116 on sharing. Stanley. 20. 67. 82. 126 on decoration. 58. 35. 41. 32. fusion mole. 103. 19–21 recipes. 46. 73. 131–2 chinaquear. 67. 89–92. 92. 95 Long-Solís. 41–2. 9. Ricardo. 80 –5 passim. 14. Rick. 119 concept of meaning. 34. 2. 113. Marit. 32. 11. David.
53. 36. 43 see also skill tradition. 36–7. 122–7 Sutton. 58–60. artworks as. 4. Jeffrey 10. 5. 95 street food. 17. 80. 120. 84. 48. 72–3. 43–4. 89. 12–15 and restaurants. 15–17. 120 development of. 117 angry. 3. 30 tamal(es). 42 Bourdieu. 21. 115 ﬂavour and. 2. 85. 92. 3. 113. 109 street food. 85. 34 judgement of. 82. 33. 106 womanhood. 33. 89. 46. 124. 120. 67 culinary. 47. Fray Bernardino de. 41–7 passim. 120 women’s. 38–9 as feast food. 74. 45. 75. 14–17. 123 taste. 44. 85 cooking and. 98. 117. 82–3. 109 barbacoa. 48. 76. 13–14. 82.160 • Index Pilcher. 84. 30. 122 economic activity of. 40–1. 29. 75. 119 sistema de cargos. 114. 89. 75 love and. 47. 21. 119–22 work. David. 124 power of. Luis. 125 Simmel. 75. 21–2. 34. 71–2. 77 see also motherhood women. 14. 122. 99–104 passim. 83 technical mastery. 41. 113–14. 43–7 passim. 98. 108 on learning. 46. 71–2. 121 Stephen. 46. 82–3. 4 expectations of. 77 as cooks. 75. 77–85. 106. 120 traps. 52. 102. 102. 107. 71–85 barbacoa and. 6. 102–6 traditional cookery. 32. 71. Georg. 116. Lynn. 83. 107. 80. 9. 40. 37. 38–9. 54. 116 . 71. 123 agency and. 96. 53. 121 roles. 101. 125 Vargas. 99. 14. 34. 74. 29–30. 92. 3. 71. 79. 22. 45. 124–7 Mintz. 5. See mayordomía skill. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 124 technique(s). 14. 67. 116. 73. 116. 9. 85. 101. 98. 13. 17. 75. 117 Wilk. 12 sazón. 48. 37. 126 food as. 71–8. 9. 45. 98 Sahagún. Richard. 89. 116 value of. 73.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.