Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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.Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta. DF Organization of the book 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine The Cultural Significance of Chiles The Range of Mexican Foods Home Cooking by Profession Cooking Tradition On Learning Techniques Food and Love Recipes Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato. Hospitality and Exchange Flavour and Value Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Barbacoa in Milpa Alta Eating barbacoa Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta The Process of Preparing barbacoa in Barrio San Mateo.

Love Affairs and the Morality of the Meal Culinary Agency Recipes Huevos a la mexicana. Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo. Chiles and albur Daily Meals. Batter for Coating Fish.’ Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela. Buñuelos de lujo. 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. Taco placero. 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 . 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. Barbacoa 4 Women as Culinary Agents The Value of Cooking and Other Work Marriage and Cooking Work. Home Cooking and Street Food Appetite. Motherhood and Virtue • Contents Commercial Green Salsa for barbacoa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

while the original inhabitants considered them a dietary cornerstone. The combination of the three makes a nutritionally balanced meal.1 but even a brief perusal of Mexican cookbooks indicates that chiles are significant in Mexican life. which the outsiders viewed as a mere condiment. beans. except that with the exclusion of the chile. It has outlasted religions and governments in Mexico. and the proof of this is to be found in the omission of chile peppers. too numerous to list here. It is part of the landscape. and we know that even then they were prepared in a number of ways to make them palatable or even edible. It’s magic. Chile makes the gastric juices run for a dinner of beans and tortillas. Clearly these three crops are basic foodstuffs in the Mexican diet. It also provides the vitamins they lack. The Aztecs of central Mexico had . beans and squash. The power of the chile in this Mexican ‘culinary triangle’ is wonderfully described by Zarela Martínez. a New York restaurateur.. Without each other. emphasis added) Mexican cuisine uses many kinds of chiles in diverse ways. and not just in their use as flavouring for food. p. It is the ingredient that can determine the flavour of a dish. Together they would be good basic sustenance. the cuisines of Mexico have been based on corn. Corn is an incomplete protein. 218. none of the three would be what it is. pp. p. 10.8 • Culinary Art and Anthropology many meals. who wrote in the sixteenth century that without chiles Mexicans did not believe they were eating. literally . 1989. 38–9) asserts that ‘[t]his triad was invented by foreigners and imposed on the high cultures of the New World. there was agricultural abundance. with beans and squash. Food historian Sophie Coe (1994. cornfields.. (Muñoz. and chile.2 Diana Kennedy echoes Bartolomé de las Casas. p. who enthuses that Chile is history. especially vitamins A and C. The Range of Mexican Foods Since pre-Hispanic times. without which food was a penance. It belongs to the holy trinity that has always been the basis of our diet: corn. but any Mexican interested in eating would place the chile above the squash in a list of priorities for the dining table. The image of a basic culinary triad is tempting. but hopelessly monotonous. 1996. it fails to adequately describe Mexican cuisine. 460). beans are difficult to digest.’ The possible reason that squash was included is because of the traditional style of planting milpas.3 In the sixteenth century when the Spanish first arrived. my translation) Some writings on Mexican cooking state that the ancient Mesoamerican victuals were based on a ‘holy triad’ of corn. beans and chiles. ‘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. (1992.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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and second. 1997a.–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. creativity and agency. and a point of departure. Chefs acquire skill by professional training in schools or working with masters. identity or symbolic staple foods. or to describe and discuss flavours. which ultimately results in their producing food (artwork/artefact) that is successful in its rendition (that is. I use Gell’s theory of art as a model. meaningful. In this chapter I put forth the argument that we should think of food as art in order to analyze it productively anthropologically. for my approach to food differs from that of Bourdieu and Goody. Caplan. in the sensual/social relations (Howes. Chefs and home cooks both perceive and appreciate the knowledge acquisition of each other. who focused primarily on class distinction and social hierarchy. the ‘technology of enchantment’ and his notion of the ‘art nexus’. I then move on to examine Gell’s broadly defined notion of art. Yet many people. 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. poverty. memorable). cookery and cuisine. Though the results are comparable. delicious. including culinary professionals. This is because of the perceived skill involved in its execution. see Brown and Mussell.2 Though much has been written about food in anthropology. 2003) of life in Milpa Alta. by taking into account the production. for a fruitful anthropological examination of food and flavour. often find it difficult to articulate their reasons for preferring some foods over others.g. 1985.1 This may be why there are few attempts to analyze flavours anthropologically. the means by which each of these groups acquires this skill are completely different. I develop these ideas by first establishing how food has been treated previously. consumption and exchange of foods within social networks. Counihan – 29 – . Food and Culinary Art in Anthropology Chefs and gastronomes talk passionately about food. there has been more focus on issues such as gender. 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). and often in the context of ritual occasions (e.

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

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

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

The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. sometimes directly. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe.1). or both. original emphasis). in particular. Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. whether from the position of producer. Likewise. 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’. sometimes through art-objects. for instance. p. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. the prototype as recipe. or (eventually) the development of personhood. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction.9 Art objects. the artwork is an ‘index’. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. gastronomic bliss. what Gell calls captivation (1998.10 David Parkin (2006. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks. based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. p. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. 43. The agency of the artist. we may think of the artist as cook. in Gell’s terms. Gell emphasizes action. the index as the food. consumer. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. or as a social actor. They also are thought of as having higher value. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. The solution to this problem. become personified and persons become objectified. therefore. sometimes via the index/artwork. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. including art-objects. and recipient as eater (see Table 2. or made beautiful’ (p. Put very simply for visual art. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. p. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). 43). It is art as an activity. 68ff). upon which/whom agency is exerted. 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. or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. as products of techniques’ (p. which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. meal or dish.

the notion of culinary artistry remains elusive. its lineage). physically enhancing their experience of life. It is an extension of a person whose biography can be traced via the whole body of art. which will become clearer as this book progresses. p. An artwork has the power not only to inspire awe. Food prepared by a culinary artist makes diners feel that ‘Life is wonderful’ rather than ‘That was delicious. They categorize cooks as ‘burger-flippers’. and their effects. 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. to produce social effects on or conduct social relations with other social beings (patients). hearing and that extra-special something (sazón?). Gell constructs a table (1998. The perception that ‘Life is wonderful’ would be something that eaters would experience through their senses. 29) of what he calls the ‘art nexus’. This is because. smell.11 It is helpful to use Gell’s terms to understand the active nature of bringing out the flavour in food. In effect. an object has the power (agency) to act. though examples can be given for the other instances of when agency is abducted via the index. in the way that I use the term ‘culinary artistry’. sight. It is the flavour of the food. wherein he demonstrates the differing relations among the previously mentioned four entities. which belongs to families. ‘accomplished chefs’ or ‘culinary artists’. a social agent. the art corpus (its family. Our interpretation of a food event depends on the perspective we take. 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. Thinking of it in this way. and Corresponding Food Terms Artist Artwork Object or person depicted by artwork Spectator. an art object can be thought of as equivalent to a person. even extra-sensorially. lineages and so on. we can think of the art nexus as a food nexus. food) are the primary transactions. texture. following Gell (1998. replacing the corresponding terms that Gell uses with food-related ones. What is important to keep . depending on which is the primary agent (with the suffix ‘-A’) and which is the primary patient (with the suffix ‘-P’). 153). This allows us to construct a table based on his (see Table 2.2). however. dish. patron Cook Food. the artist’s technical mastery gives the object of art this social ability. By its artistic nature.34 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Table 2. Crudely put.1 Artist Index Prototype Recipient Terminology Employed by Gell. meal Recipe Eater the food consumed. p. For my purposes. that means that the construction of an artwork is like the construction of a person. encompassing taste. and these interpretations can change with time or the position we take in relation to the social actors involved. which chefs/culinary artists are able to manipulate to make the eater’s experience transcend the moment. Of course. difficult to describe. The relations directly involving the index (in our case.’ Therefore we recognize culinary artistry by the power of the food to perform a perceptual change in the eaters.

a made thing’. host eating food prepared on his/her behalf Source: Table 1 from Gell (1998). barbacoa/mole as feast food Recipe-A→Eater-P Concept of mole controls eaters’ experience.g.‘Life is wonderful’ effect by chef. 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. meal Food-A→Cook-P Food dictates cook’s action with it. controls cook’s action Recipe-A→Food-P Recipient Eater Eater-A→Cook-P Hired cook prepares food. By permission of Oxford University Press. ‘tamal as. dish.g. .Table 2. following tradition Index Food. food is ordered in restaurant or at street stand Eater-A→Food-P Ordering food or asking cook to make particular dishes Index Food. e. eats own cooking. © Oxford University Press. as witness to act of preparing food Cook-A→Food-P Basic act of cook making/preparing dishes.g. avocado. making barbacoa bestows prestige Food-A→Food-P Prototype Recipe Recipe-A→Cook-P Recipe dictates what cook does. eater dislikes food or does not finish what is served Eater-A→Eater-P Hiring a cook. e. dish. makes/defines meal as special 35 Prototype Recipe Cook-A→ Recipe-P Cook ‘invents’ recipe Recipient Eater Cook-A→Eater-P Captivation by cook’s skill. food-A→recipe-P Recipe constrained by physical characteristics of food/ingredient. meal ‘tamales needing special care Recipe dictates form taken by not to anger them so dish/food that they can cook’. e. Modified/Adapted. e. and affected by food/ingredient.2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus Agent→ Patient↓ Artist Cook Artist Cook Cook-A→Cook-P Cook shares meal. diner in awe eater-A→recipe-P Rejection of food.g.

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

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

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

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

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

If we further accept that these things are extensions of the agent’s personhood. The skill that the cook reveals through the food likewise reveals other things of social salience. positive extension of the agent’s ‘spacetime. As in food hospitality. 56. shared and distributed to others. Simmel perceives of eating as negative and ‘low’). 1986. As Nancy Munn describes for kula exchange in Gawa. eating what one cooks oneself is antisocial. the act of sharing is a value-enhancing. how to make tortillas and salsas. Food is shared with specific others as a means of exhibiting respect for an existing or future relationship of reciprocity. and as mentioned previously. conversely. since food transactions are inherently social activities. Munn. p. For example. they are material repositories of that person and that person’s intentions. and condition which underlies kula shell exchange between partners’ (1986.22 Within the corpus of Mexican culinary culture exists a vast subset of street food and market food. knowing how to cook.g. though. ‘[T]he exchange of comestibles in hospitality is the dynamic base. whereas eating is socially static and self-collapsing. 1994. So cooking is an inherently social act. whether it is a special fiesta. then not sharing (that is. the act of eating) can be thought of as a negative act (cf. is the opposite of sharing food with others (cook-A→cook-P). If sharing is a positive act. 346). a meal at a restaurant. ‘[T]he shared meal lifts an event of physiological primitivity and inescapable commonality into the sphere of social interaction and thereby suprapersonal meaning’ (Simmel. original emphasis). This is food which follows the logic that it should be prepared for an other. there is an immediate exchange between the social actors. with the expectation of future reciprocity of a similar or different kind (e. just as neglecting to offer food when hospitality is pertinent is considered to be selfish and greedy (envidioso/a). 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. In this vein I must emphasize that food giving is a basic form of generosity in Milpa Alta. In this case. dishes) that a person makes as the products of her agency. Eating food on one’s own. Munn explains that in Gawa. this infers that corresponding to the agent (donor) there must be a patient (recipient).Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 41 What the eater also recognizes is the socially meaningful network of intentionalities surrounding the meal. unless one is sharing the food. and so. or the warmth of home cooking. some of which is the same as home cooking.’ which transforms the patient’s relationship with the agent. and thus also ensures community viability. vendor) and a patient (eater. prepared by vendors (señoras) to serve commercially. Food is exchanged for money. there is an agent (cook. customer). ensuring an ongoing relationship which may be based on exchange at another level of social interaction. Food sharing is dynamic and self-extending. If we think of the things (artworks. This notion of cooking and eating also explains why a lone person in Mexico almost never cooks for oneself to eat alone. a girl is said to be ready for marriage when she demonstrates culinary mastery. which are given. p. Mauss’s time lag). therefore. The .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The salsa is served in a bowl decorated with crumbled fresh white cheese and green olives. usually a red and a green one (often either a typical guacamole or one made with avocado and green tomatoes. and sometimes dried oregano. tomatoes. salt and vinegar or lime juice. the main provider of barbacoa (as served in the markets) is Milpa Alta. Around three thousand sheep are slaughtered and prepared in Milpa Alta each week. cooked prickly pear cactus paddles dressed with onions. but they regularly prepare several animals to sell in markets every weekend. In Milpa Alta. as the main meal at lunchtime or as dinner. or sliced avocado may be served). Others order the meat to take home with a small plastic bag of the accompaniments. and salsa borracha made especially for barbacoa. Sometimes there is also a side dish of nopales compuestos. Villa Milpa Alta. but the methods are basically the same. which are ordered by the piece. although the livestock are raised elsewhere (Departamento de Distrito Federal. 22). Stalls typically offer bowls of both red and green salsas (but not the black salsa borracha). 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. coriander leaves and salsa to mitigate the richness of this intense soup. and a sprinkling of grated white cheese. Barbacoa Makers in Milpa Alta Many Milpaltenses have middle-class professional jobs or higher education. crema espesa. The salsa borracha. For the Federal District of Mexico. Barbacoieros can be commissioned to slaughter and cook the lambs that another family has bought or reared. Other areas in the region famous for making barbacoa are Texcoco in the state of Mexico and parts of the state of Hidalgo. a mildly fermented drink made of maguey sap. For eating barbacoa in the market. Cooking styles and flavourings vary regionally. p. oregano or coriander leaves. Salsas are offered on the side. meaning ‘drunken sauce’. as I have already mentioned. but the vast majority of residents are still somehow involved in the family trade. many families prepare barbacoa de borrego for a living. As already mentioned. The soup is followed or accompanied by tacos or flautas of the succulent meat. chopped onions and coriander. The meal is served with warm corn tortillas and can be eaten as a late breakfast (almuerzo). This is served with boiled rice and chickpeas stirred in. 1997.50 • Culinary Art and Anthropology during the long cooking process in the pit. Customers find a space in front of the stalls and order consomé de barbacoa and tacos or flautas. the busiest time of day is the late morning. Flautas are long tacos that are rolled closed and fried. are nopal . and the eater has the option of squeezing in a little lime juice and adding chopped onions. usually served with a drizzle of green salsa. sliced limes. the particular trades in Barrio San Mateo. and it is drunken because it is traditionally made with pulque. is a black sauce whose colour comes from pasilla chiles.

the greater the difficulty of access to an object [of art]. when water was needed for the fields. [1996.1 Doña Margarita. the dung could be easily collected for use as fertilizer. Almost all nopal growers now use cow dung to fertilize their fields. She had memories from the 1940s of how the Jurados brought their flock down from the mountains once a week. This way. as running water has become normal in most homes. but most people looked up to barbacoieros. The barrio appears almost deserted as most people are busiest during the weekend. They had modern kitchen appliances but often had an extra outdoor kitchen with simple industrial gas hobs. Since most of the houses are surrounded by walls. this practice has died out. a barbacoiera with whom I lived. The smell begins to fade as the sun rises and the barbacoa is transported to markets in all reaches of Mexico City. sometimes quite large. barbacoiero families could afford to build their own houses. In Milpa Alta over the decades the barbacoa business boomed.2 Preparing barbacoa is more laborious and also has more flavourings. and barbacoa ranked higher in prestige than carnitas. (This is an example of Gell’s ‘halo effect of technical difficulty’. They scattered the whole street with salt from one end to the other and fed the animals with salt and water.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 51 farming. 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. where they did most of the actual cooking. 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 first family in Milpa Alta to produce barbacoa for a living in the 1930s was the Jurado family. pork butchery (tocinería) and especially the cooking and selling of barbacoa de borrego. although locals know which families live in which houses and what their trades are. carnitas and barbacoa grew in popularity as typical fiesta favourites. Now that few people cultivated maize and fewer still reared their own sheep. 46–9].) Barbacoa became the trade of highest honour (above butchery and nopal farming). Economically. to accommodate an extended family. pp. and thus is valued higher. and those who remain behind are at home preparing for the sales of the following day. In those days there was no running water in the houses. 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. told me that they raised their own sheep which they would leave to graze in the mountainous pastures of Milpa Alta. As mole became more and more expensive to prepare for large fiestas. The barbacoieros built corrals around these watering taps so that their sheep could graze there and leave their droppings. . The modern stoves were used more for heating up food and tortillas. 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. but also because of the financial prosperity associated with its sales. Because of this. the higher its value. it is impossible to see what is going on behind the gates.

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

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

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

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

giving it a bitter flavour. the blood and bile that may remain in the throat attract large flies which enter the pescuezo and may become embedded there. There she emptied the stomach. It is cleaned and later stuffed with the tripe and other innards mixed with herbs and spices. 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. It is tied closed and cooked in the pit oven along with the meat to be later served in tacos. A soft popping noise was made as the body separated from its skin at the neck. Primy hosed the panza inside and out and tossed it into another aluminium tub before returning to the carcass. She knotted them together at the centre. covering the hole and tying it well. catching each arms’ length in either hand. When Alejandro was ready he tugged the coat off each animal. These were at least 12 metres long. thus holding the centre of several separate lengths of intestine. He slung each hide on the low wall and carried on with the slaughtering. and she pulled them out as if she were measuring yarn. but in any case the pescuezo must be protected with gauze. . el redaño. The odour was rancid and repulsive as the contents of the panza splashed onto the ground. This is the start of the real cleaning process. swaying from side to side.56 • Culinary Art and Anthropology more of the fur and peeled it down so that it hung in a thick fold just below the hip. She 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. Primy proceeded to unravel the small intestines. She tore off about a half metre’s length and carefully wrapped the pescuezo with the gauze. la panza. and she began to pull out the entrails. which Primy described as being like a cloth. the caul. el pescuezo. pulling it inside out with all his strength and using his body weight for the final yank. keeping grip of the other end. Having clarified this. Primy brought a small plastic pail of water toward each animal and washed the blood from the neck. She explained how important this was because when the meat is still fresh. squeezing out the part-digested fodder and gastric juices. Then she squeezed out any waste that may have remained before tossing them into the aluminium tub with the panzas. This can ruin the meat. Primy warned me to get out of the way. The hide is heavy and toughly attached to the flesh. and in fact it looked like a square of pale pink lace8 and could be peeled off the stomach in one piece. I offered to help. despanzar. From the pail she pulled out a rectangle of gauze and wrung out the excess water. First Primy pulled out the stomach. but Primy and Alejandro told me that this job was not for me and recommended I keep my distance to protect my clothes. and she carried the panza to the far corner of the slaughter area where there was a large metal rubbish bin. As soon as she had all the tripe looped in her hands she cut one end. about half a metre long and 20 centimetres wide. ‘como una telita de grasa’. so she stood aside and waited for her husband. It was covered with a layer of fat. and it was a grey-green colour. la tripa delgada. she proceeded to slice a long vertical hole through the centre of the skinned carcass. The panza was much bigger than I expected it to be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mole and Fiestas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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parties are considered incomplete without mole, and mole (poblano) is incomplete without its sprinkling of sesame seeds, to say that someone is like the sesame seeds of all moles implies that that someone is highly social and attends all parties. The mole poblano is considered the Mexican national dish, although it is popular and well-known only throughout the central area. There has been much speculation about its origin. It is often portrayed as a mestizo dish, with strong indigenous Mexican roots. The most popular story is that mole poblano was invented at the end of the seventeenth century by Spanish nuns, although it is improbable that a Spanish nun would kneel on the ground in front of a heavy stone metate to grind out a thick sauce. Given the difficulty of obtaining Spanish ingredients in New Spain, what the Spanish could not make the native Mexicans grow, they had to import. The scarcity of these ingredients led to the Spanish Creoles adopting and adapting to the local foods available. Thus they would necessarily have had to hire native women to help them and to teach them how to use these ingredients which were so different from anything with which they were familiar. The only ones who could have taught the nuns or any non-natives to make such a sauce, or a molli, using the metate, would have had to be the local women. These local women therefore had the easiest access to the newly introduced foodstuffs that the Spanish brought with them to the New World. Thus, the culinary learning was a mutually enriching education for the Spanish and the locals. It is known that there were native Mexicans helping in the convent kitchens, so it is more likely that they did the most strenuous manual labour, especially if they were already experienced and indeed expert at the exercise of grinding a sauce on a metate. So, while it may be more poetic to think of mole poblano as an invention of inspired religiosity, surely the development of the recipe was a slower process of culinary incorporation and experimentation rather than a Catholic miracle. Laudan and Pilcher (1999) argue that the mole poblano is actually the New World version of Creole interpretations of eighteenth-century European cooking, and Laudan (2004) further convincingly argues that at the base of many Mexican dishes there is a Persian element. Furthermore, as Wilk discusses, creolization in cooking cannot be a simple process of ‘effortless mixing’ (2006, p. 109), as the crafting of ‘tradition’ is as dynamic as the manufacture of ‘modernity’ (Wilk, 2006, esp. chapters 6, 8). Whatever the case may be, in Milpa Alta the debate on the recipe’s origin or authenticity is not considered relevant. For Milpaltenses in the late 1990s, mole was thought of as a celebratory dish of family tradition. The quintessential festive dish is mole, whether it is in Pueblan style or a family recipe.

Mole and Celebration
It goes without saying that mole is quite a difficult dish to prepare, and its presence at a meal usually indicates that some sort of occasion is being celebrated, such as

Mole and Fiestas • 99
someone’s birthday or saint’s day. All over Mexico, mole is served every Christmas, Easter, and Days of the Dead and at birthdays, baptisms, weddings and funerals. The classic accompaniments for mole are turkey (mole de guajolote, deliberately referred to using the Náhuatl-derived word guajolote and not the Spanish word pavo), rice (usually red, especially for dark moles), beans, and tortillas. For most families, chicken is now more commonly used instead of turkey, because chicken is cheaper and more readily available. Sometimes as a first course, consomé, or the broth of the chicken or turkey, is served with rice, chopped onions, chopped coriander, fresh green chile and limes. In Milpa Alta, they also serve tamalates (plain tamales) or tamales de frijol or alberjón, tamales with beans or yellow peas. To drink there might be pulque, though it is no longer widely available despite Milpa Alta being in a zona pulquera. Since not everyone develops a taste for this sour, viscous alcoholic drink, it is also common to have a glass of tequila with mole, or beer. Friends from outside of Milpa Alta told me that it is important to accompany mole with tequila or a fizzy soft drink; otherwise it causes an upset stomach. But in Milpa Alta and in professional kitchens, I was told that this happens only if it is a badly prepared mole. Properly prepared, as at home, mole would not have any ill effects. The commercial moles, which are prepared in bulk with less attention to detail, are those which may be dangerous. This was because the chiles used in commercial moles were not cleaned well, and the bad chiles and stems were not discarded, as would be normal practice at home. Apart from Puebla, where mole poblano is from, famous regions for mole are the southern province of Oaxaca and the municipality of Milpa Alta in Mexico City, specifically the town of San Pedro Atocpan. Every year they hold a weeklong mole fair, La feria del mole, and I have been told that San Pedro moles are exported as far as Israel. Mole is everyone’s family business in San Pedro, and not only do they sell prepared pastes or powders to later be diluted with chicken broth or water, they also sell the necessary spices, dried fruits and chiles so that women can make their own moles at home. In the roving markets (tianguis) that are set up in the streets every day in all reaches of Mexico City, there is always a stand supplying mole and dried groceries set up by a resident of San Pedro. While Mexicans from all over go to San Pedro to shop for ingredients, there is hardly a clientele of people from Milpa Alta for moles prepared in San Pedro. All over Milpa Alta, as well as Xochimilco, it is more common for mole to be homemade, although in other parts of Mexico City it is almost unthinkable to attempt it. Relatively few urban dwellers have the time or the skill to make their own moles for birthdays or other celebrations, and so it is easier to buy a good-quality paste from the market than spend several days toasting, frying, drying, grinding, stirring, cooking and recooking the sauce. It is precisely this elaborate effort and the number of ingredients required that make mole an expensive dish reserved for special occasions. Not only this, leftover mole is sometimes made into enchiladas10 or mixed with shredded chicken to fill bread rolls (tortas or hojaldras de mole), or even used

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to make tamales at home. Some people prefer the varied preparations made with leftover fiesta food to the feast itself, and these variations are easily available in inexpensive eateries throughout Mexico City, like cafes and fondas. So, although it is possible to eat mole every day without spending too much money, it is not always easy to find a well-made mole, and it remains a dish highly imbued with celebratory meanings. It is not a symbol of celebration in a semiotic sense, though its presence at a meal indicates that there is a significant event which has caused the host (cook/ wife/mother/artist) to prepare (or even buy) and serve it as an action of respect for the occasion. Mole never appears on the table by accident, because it happened to be in season and available in the market. It appears because its presence carries the collective intentions of the community to commemorate a life cycle or fiesta cycle event with kin and non-kin. Some people deliberately stain their shirts with mole so that their neighbours or colleagues see the mark and think to themselves, ‘Hmm, he must be rich or lucky because he obviously ate mole today’ (Luis Arturo Jiménez, personal communication). Different kinds of moles and other dishes typically are served during the different fiestas of the year. These are listed in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1

Feast Food in Milpa Alta, Arranged According to Type of Celebration Specific fiesta Birthdays, weddings, quinceaños, town fiestas, Christmas, Easter Sunday, ninth day after funeral Holy Week, Christmas Eve, funerals Typical food served Mole con pollo o guajolote Tamales de alberjón or de frijol or tamalates Arroz rojo Barbacoa, mixiote or carnitas Revoltijo (meatless mole with shrimp fritters) Tamales con queso or tamalates Tortitas de papa Pescado capeado Mole con pollo or guajolote Tamales verdes, de rajas Atole Arroz rojo Dulce de calabaza, local sweets, candied fruits Pescado a la vizcaina Chiles rellenos de queso o atún Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo’ Capirotada or torrejas Buñuelos, calabaza en tacha

Type of fiesta/practice Life cycle celebrations, Catholic, anniversaries, rebirth of dead souls (quintessential Mexican feast food) Very Catholic practices

Festival with clear pre-Hispanic origins (dishes with pre-Hispanic origins, or those considered very Mexican) Catholic seasons (most dishes with clear Spanish origins, all meatless)

Days of the Dead

Lent, Advent

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

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

such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles.2. for example. It has relations with other persons (salsas). Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole.1.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . This is not accidental. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe.1). Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. 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. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. Following Gell’s theory of art. Conceived of in this way. Some of these are related to each other. onions and salt. an artwork (or salsa. or different types of barbacoas). red tomatoes.1 guacamole 2. of course. In Figure 5.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa.2 (green chile + tomato + onion (green chile + tomato + salt + avocado + lime juice) + onion + salt + avocado + pipicha + guajes) | guacamole 3 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves) | guacamole 4 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves + garlic + olive oil) Figure 5. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles. or a lineage of guacamoles. and thus forms a lineage.

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 .

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

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

The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. In effect. it cost around Mx$10. and on one’s guests. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. Not only because of the costs. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. In 2000. 54). as far as I know. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. Barbacoa is a luxury food. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. and because to a large extent. Mx$15. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. 29). or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway. i. it is very expensive). technically difficult and valuable. and Mx$20.000 (£1.000 (£1.. for example. It is therefore defined as appropriate. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. 1991.050) for carnitas. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. In short. 29). the more an object resists our possession (because. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. Since mole is feast food par excellence..’ (p. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head.e. But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. In addition. p. Before then. the greater its social value. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. p. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. 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 . He continues that ‘[I]n fact. . serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta.400) for barbacoa. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. it can be considered to be in good taste. as mentioned previously. Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high. but also because of the social values. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it. within the region. For this reason. 1984. 687). The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. 91).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. comal or frying pan. chiles. and proceed as for raw red salsa. • With dried chiles and spices. 1. Use some of the soaking liquid in the blender. Heat oil or lard in a saucepan. onions and garlic should be roasted unpeeled until the skin blackens (green tomatoes should have papery husk removed). cumin. fresh coriander. • Add herbs (use one): dried oregano. smooth cooked salsas or caldillos. • Before blending. as the charred skin contributes a nice smoky flavour.4 Cooked Salsa Blend salsa ingredients until fairly smooth. • Serve with avocado pits in the sauce to prevent blackening—but a surer way to prevent blackening is to peel and pit the avocados and leave them in fizzy water or iced water for 30 minutes before using. roast tomatoes. 1. omelettes or vegetable or fish tortitas (croquettes) are cooked into or served heated in thin. epazote. stuffed chiles. onions. to roll into tacos or use in sandwiches. fresh chiles. about 10 to 15 minutes. black pepper. to soften them. pour in the liquefied salsa. • If using dried chiles. garlic and spices on a dry griddle. and when the oil begins to smoke. Variations for Cooked Salsa • Add spices (use all): cloves. vegetables. • Boil tomatoes (peel husks off green tomatoes first) and fresh chiles before liquidizing. cinnamon (‘true’ or Ceylon cinnamon sticks.5 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Other Ingredients Often meat. Cook until it changes colour and the flavour changes. not cassia). marjoram. be careful not to let them burn or they will taste bitter. • Serve as a dip with tortilla chips (totopos) or alongside grilled or fried meat or fish. 1. soak them in hot water for a few minutes after roasting. • Tomatoes. with soft thin bark. Variations are endless. allspice. It is not necessary to peel tomatoes or chiles after roasting them. using some of the boiling broth in the blender.3 Salsa Verde (Green Salsa) Substitute green husk tomatoes (tomates verdes or tomatillos) for red tomatoes.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 129 • Mash all together with fork. You may need to add a little water. Examples follow.

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

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

• One by one. • Toss the tortilla chips in the hot salsa. • One by one.1 For Enchiladas suizas Use green salsa. lay tortillas on a plate or ovenproof serving dish. and put on toppings and side dishes before serving. see below) bolillos or teleras (crusty white bread roll) 3.2. pork or beef filet (milanesa) fried crumbled Mexican longaniza (sausage) shredded boiled chicken frijoles refritos (refried beans. Then pass it through the hot oil to soften it a bit and make it pliable.132 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Strain into hot oil. 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. When they are well coated. Arrange in ovenproof dish and bake till heated through and cheese has melted. Arrange rolls side by side. . mild feta) crema espesa/de rancho/crème fraîche chopped coriander/cilantro Variations: optional side dishes to place on or beside chilaquiles • • • • • • fried egg fried or breaded thinly pounded chicken breast. queso fresco.2 Enchiladas corn tortillas thin cooked salsa. place on plates. as for chilaquiles shredded boiled chicken. dip each tortilla in the pan of hot salsa and pass it through to quickly coat it. fry and cook the salsa with epazote. sliced into very thin wedges. place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre and roll into a cylinder. • Sprinkle with chopped onions and grated cheese. shredded chicken and yellow melting cheese and drizzle over crema espesa or sour cream. 3. Typical Toppings white onion. rings or half-rings shredded or crumbled white cheese (queso oaxaqueño.

the beans will never soften.3 Enfrijoladas Use thin. very smoothly liquefied beans ( frijoles de olla or frijoles refritos) instead of salsa. 3. 3.2. cover and simmer over medium heat with some onion and lard or vegetable oil. • The beans—black turtle or Veracruz beans. thin refried beans. place grated melting cheese on top and bake in oven till cheese melts and all is heated through. They are also served together with the main course or with rice as well. ham and/or cheese.4 Pastel azteca Arrange tortillas in layers in an ovenproof dish like lasagna. • If you need to add water. The other layers: shredded boiled chicken. Only after they are very soft may you add salt. or with any sauce that remains on the plate after the meat or fish of the main course is finished. Adding cold water will temporarily halt the cooking process.2. 4 Frijoles de olla (Brothy Beans Cooked in an olla) • An olla is a traditional pot used in Mexico for cooking beans or preparing coffee. use leftover mole that has been thinned down with water or chicken broth. • Beans are best prepared in advance since you cannot be sure how long they will cook (this depends on how old they are). .The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 133 3. crumbled white cheese and crema espesa.2 Enmoladas or Enchiladas de mole For salsa. They also taste better after they have settled. the filling can be shredded chicken. If water needs to be added. a small clay olla with water is placed on top of the big clay olla where the beans are cooking. pinto or any other beans—should be rinsed and all stones and empty beans removed.2. and either corn or wheat flour tortillas (flour tortillas need not be passed through hot oil). crema espesa. and top with sliced onions. add hot water. and after at least 2 hours the beans should be soft. If you add salt too soon. Traditionally. use shredded chicken as filling. the water in the small olla is at the same temperature as the cooking beans. • Put beans in a pot with about triple the amount of water. Stir occasionally. They do not need to be soaked. • Beans are often eaten after the main course.

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

epazote or chile to the top of the rice toward the end of the cooking time. salsa. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked. 5. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course. if you wish. and sometimes avocado and lime. It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas. It should not be soft and milky like risotto.3 above. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). Sometimes. often eaten on its own with salsa on the side. • Add coriander. Add to rice. soaked in hot water.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4.3 Enfrijoladas See 3. peas. Note: This rice should be dry. rather it should be more like pilau. with separate grains. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook. Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice. . Add salt to taste. • Stir well and allow to cook.2. drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion. 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. then lower the heat to a very low flame. cubed potatoes (soaked in hot water) (all optional) 2½ cups water or chicken broth salt sprig of coriander or epazote (optional) 1 whole green chile (optional) • Heat the oil until it begins to smoke. usually served as a first or second course. Fry the rice (and carrots) until it is lightly golden. corn kernels. • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture. chopped 1 clove garlic.

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

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

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. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. Lomelí. Villa Milpa Alta. and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. America’s First Cuisines (1994). (1991). 328–38). 9. esp. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. 8.7 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. The maguey is the source of pulque. Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. 1997. 96. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. and also Coe (1994). A comparative study of another group in a different. 33– 49. to name a few. These are production (economic factors). Martínez (1992). Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. esp. 6. Andrews (1984). See Long-Solís (1986). and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. allocation). based on household and class. Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. 3. I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. (1996). it is called aguamiel. as Milpa Alta has. Also. market. p. . 7. community of Mexico City. Bayless and Bayless (1987. pp. When unfermented. see Muñoz (2000). Kennedy (1989. preparation and consumption. or honey water. 205). for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print. even neighbouring. and Muñoz (2000). 459 –84). His own work focuses on production and consumption. and it had religious significance during Aztec times. 38). among others. Muñoz. distribution (political factors. For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine.138 • Notes emigrated. 15). would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. 2. Unfortunately. and van Rhijn (1993). p. pp.

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

Jonaitis provides an excellent discussion of how the sense of taste has been neglected in ethnographic writing. 1989). 19. tal y como es. see Fine (1996. who questions the linear transmission of cooking skill. 1–19). 2. Chapter 7. which focus interest on cuisine or on eating particular foods for (gastronomical or other) pleasure. See Vizcarra (2002). There is much to say about Ingold’s theories of habitus. For a discussion of cooking without written recipes. Lenten. 10 –39). 2006) examines food for understanding cultural change. My friend Primy also overturned her bowl to check if the whites were ready. ‘Hay que trasladar la cocina casera a la cocina restaurantera. which she also describes as a ‘discourse of empowerment’ (2006. Beardsworth and Keil (1997. In some communities this is still the case. corporeal knowledge’ of sazón. (1992. or analyzing a drum without hearing the music it plays’ (Jonaitis. y debe ser un currículo en las escuelas de cocina. see Sutton (n. Abarca emphasizes what she calls the ‘sensory logic’ or ‘sensual. which I am unfortunately unable to develop fully here. 4. 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. pp. I rather prefer to avoid applying metaphorical. She suggests. textual or language-based models to food and cooking. ‘Approaching food without considering taste is like studying a mask without referring to its dance. Babb. 3. As I explain in Chapter 2..’ 20. Entonces. pp. pero en restaurante. 18.d. and Richard Wilk (1999. claro. 1966. But see Sutton (2006). There are some exceptions. Some also base analysis on religious taboo or hierarchy and classification (such as Douglas. For a critical discussion of how culinary knowledge is transmitted. For a description of how impoverished our language is to describe our experience of flavour. Caplan (1997b).). Alicia María González (1986) does not write . 2006. Chapter 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice 1.g. of course. pp. knowledge and skill in relation to the topic of culinary knowledge and skill. como en la casa de la abuela. 1976). p. see also Warde (1997). 162). globalization and local identity in Belize. 51). especially chapter two on sazón. 21. Deben prepararlos bien de principio. Food-related ethnographies often privilege development issues (e. 47–70). Mennell et al. In Milpa Alta I have seen women beat their egg whites in plastic bowls and the capeado still worked. semiotic. p. Khare. sin el sazón del amor. debe utilizar los ingredientes mejores. livelihood. en vez de tratar de copiar el modelo europeo. 17.140 • Notes 16. Peter Gow (1989) analyzes the desires for food and sex in the construction of social relations in Amazonian Peru. see Goody (1982. see Abarca (2006). ‘The Aesthetics of Kitchen Discourse’).g. Imitar las cocinas famosas no sirve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fray Bernardino de. 38–9 as feast food. 98. 43–4. 85. 52. 75. 120 traps. 21–2. 21. 34 judgement of. 117 angry. 33. 89. 96. 22. 36. 85. 44. 14. 107. 75. 71. 47. 41–7 passim. 120. 46. 71. 58–60. 122–7 Sutton. 117. 77–85. 119 sistema de cargos. 41. 113. 9. 82. 38–9. 116. 122. 107. 40. 14. 109 street food. 113–14. 17. 73. 98 Sahagún. 114. 42 Bourdieu. Lynn. See mayordomía skill. 124 power of. 120 women’s. 30 tamal(es). 74. 124. 106 womanhood. 83. 33. 109 barbacoa. 37. 82–3. David. 92. 17. 99–104 passim.160 • Index Pilcher. 102. 36–7. 71–2. 106. 21. 122 economic activity of. 12 sazón. 45. 108 on learning. 53. 75. 98. 4 expectations of. 47. 43–7 passim. 89. 77 see also motherhood women. 115 flavour and. 75 love and. 82. 83 technical mastery. 34. Luis. 54. 77 as cooks. 9. 80. 71–2. Richard. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 3. 124 technique(s). 45. 84. 74. 71–85 barbacoa and. 116 . artworks as. 71–8. 46. 125 Simmel. 99. 3. 80. 85 cooking and. 102. 32. 30. 3. 43 see also skill tradition. 15–17. 120 development of. 67 culinary. 6. 45. 123 agency and. 71. 89. 117 Wilk. 98. 48. 84. 34. 40–1. 75. 79. 76. 116. 2. 14–17. 14. 12–15 and restaurants. 116. 95 street food. 29. 13. 53. 126 food as. 29–30. 124–7 Mintz. 4. 46. 92. 116 value of. 120. 121 roles. Jeffrey 10. 73. 5. 123 taste. 5. 125 Vargas. 48. 9. 37. 82–3. 89. 13–14. 119–22 work. 121 Stephen. 72–3. Georg. 102–6 traditional cookery. 101. 67. 85. 101. 48. 75.

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