Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

p. What exists in Mexico is what food historian Rachel Laudan defines as a local cuisine. Mexican cooks sought the essence of their art in popular traditions rather than in formalized techniques (Pilcher. above all.. Yet in spite of this. as much of what they were used to cooking could not all be imported from Spain... p. chickens and sheep to Mexico. the bases remained Mexican. therefore. ‘The excesses and inventiveness of convent cooking reflected Mexico’s diverse flora and fauna. cows. beans and chiles. 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 . At the same time. within the convents. the Germans. the omnivorous appetites of its inhabitants.7 Given the sophistication of both the native and foreign colonial cuisines. 1995. Not just the Spanish but the French. 113). personal communication) By the nineteenth century..6 ‘But among the Aztec elite maize appeared in so many forms that it is hard to imagine them suffering from the monotony which we envisage when told of a culture which has a single staple food and eats it every meal of every day’ (Coe. the Lebanese. the basis of Mexican cuisine remained the same as it had always been—corn. 62) or of ‘baroque cuisine’ comes directly from the convents.10 • Culinary Art and Anthropology period. the process of mestizaje is not a simple fusion of Indian and Spanish. The Spaniards introduced pigs. p. and. Juárez López (2000) argues that the bases of much contemporary . 1995. (Rachel Laudan. made up of different components that have now blended together to form . They also brought onions. the later Spanish refugees from the Civil War. 63).8 Cowal points out that ‘Spanish cooking was already a mixture when it got to the Americas. such as frying. 1994. Before the arrival of the Spaniards. p. There were few Spanish who arrived during the Conquest. Spanish nuns had to learn to use the local products. a new and coherent cuisine . These popular traditions partly consist in the culinary techniques and gastronomic knowledge that have been passed down the generations through the family kitchen. the power and wealth of its religious orders’ (Valle and Valle. cinnamon. The convents were wealthy laboratories of gastronomic experimentation where the sharing of culinary influences flourished during the colonial period.. That is. Eight centuries of Arab influence had left their mark’ (1990. milk and its products were unknown. and though they did influence the local cuisines. ‘The most delicious cuisines [in Mexico] are those with more indigenous influence. On the other hand. coriander. Historian Cristina Barros states that contemporary Mexican cuisine is 90 per cent indigenous and 10 per cent other influences.. have all had much more impact than the usual indigenous/colonial story would lead one to believe. the Mennonites. 90). the Italians. 1998). as were cooking methods using fats. The idea of an ‘emerging mestizo cuisine’ (Valle and Valle. garlic. cloves and many other herbs and spices that are widely used in Mexican cookery today.’9 She asserts that the indigenous cuisines of Mexico did not undergo the miscegenation that most people claim. which integrated the new flavours and foodstuffs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

separating the meat into plastic crates lined with wax paper and the toasted maguey pencas from the oven.62 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to eat. Their second son was still too young to accompany them. My ability to enjoy their food. On a Sunday the children considered this to be a special treat. When all the meat was properly arranged. made me seem less foreign to them and more easily assimilated. la pura brasa. only this time the sides of the oven were lined with pencas. they were on their way to their barbacoa stall in a market near the centre of Mexico City. It was time to stack the oven. Just before lunch. She picked the meat from between the neck bones . 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. Afterward.m. now full of consomé. Primy showed me how to wrap the panzas in pencas of maguey to protect them from burning as they cook. which had been pre-cooking in the perol for a few hours. Primy was already unloading everything. otherwise the meat would fail to cook properly. while Primy made and sold tacos and consomé and also usually acted as cashier. more toasted pencas were lain. heads and panzas by the kilo. She filled the cavity with dry logs. and by now the logs were reduced to red-hot embers.m. or at least hoped.10 Already they took their 7-year-old son with them to sell. an old cover and empty basins were arranged on the edges to secure it and weigh it down. Then we checked the oven. no cooking film was necessary and no water was added for the consomé. we unloaded the meat. Alejandro’s stall had been in the family for three generations. la carne sancochada. Primy lit the pit-oven with firewood. The two women pulled out a square of canvas filled with sand to shroud the cover. Each panza is placed individually in the centre of a toasted penca. and he and his wife expected. Alejandro sold meat. 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. Primy and Doña Margarita did this in the same order as in stacking the perol. It was 5. Last.30 p. Then we left the barbacoa to stew in its own juices all night. With this she ignited the wood and left it to burn while we ate. that both of their sons would maintain it when they came of age. Both Alejandro and Primy would go to the market together as it was always their busiest day. They spread the sand evenly to block any cracks so that absolutely no steam escaped the oven. They loaded everything into the back of their truck and by 5.30 a. and therefore understand the flavours. but he told me that he was dying to go. Finally. and then they slid the heavy steel cover over the opening. 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. she waited for Alejandro to come and reach into the oven for the tub of drippings. She placed the heads and pescuezos into separate pails and when she finished pulling out the panzas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. Murcott. are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. their husbands. DeVault writes. which include cooking and other domestic tasks.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. 47). 1979.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework. 1988. 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 – . 1997. Delphy. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. as wives. McIntosh and Zey. Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5). Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. 1998.2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. Women are the key actors in the culinary system. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society. they argue. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. 142). 1983). 1991. instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991. home cooking is considered women’s work. it can lead to women’s subordination (e. p. such as when they hire domestic helpers. they can also mobilize the agency of others. The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it. Ekström.g. The root of the problem. inevitably play a subordinate role to men. Beardsworth and Keil. Crucially. is how women’s skills. p. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere.

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

Milpa Alta trabaja’).7 but that is only how it appears on the surface. market vendors (vendedoras) or businesswomen (comerciantes). As I discuss further below. said that women generate sustenance. Stephen. proper provision of tasty food reflects good motherhood. Lulú. This must be why several women described themselves as ‘housewives’ although if asked again.Women as Culinary Agents • 73 contrary. a journalist. Even when domestic work may appear to be devalued. sometimes defining themselves against this notion of submissiveness. 2005. Both are also valued as work. Her sensitive discussion of feminist kitchen politics is a . among other issues. and get up again the next morning before dawn. pp. They are not simple housewives but are the drive of the family businesses. on Tejanos). Indeed. 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. The example of a barbacoa household (Chapter 3) illustrates how women assume the domestic household duties along with helping in the family trade. The reasons for these competing discourses of power and submission are multiple and complex. Rather than talk of a doble jornada.8 Yadira told me that most women around her work hard at home but also invest time in labour that could be better described as extradomestic. They admirably sacrifice sleep and other comforts for the sake of their work. they take on extradomestic work and still find a way to feed their families (cf. Juanita and other women repeatedly told me that Milpa Alta women never rest. Williams. a single woman in her mid-twenties still living in her natal household.m. 260 –1). Milpa Alta works’ (‘Mientras México duerme. Milpaltense women present themselves as having various opportunities for release from oppression. women in Milpa Alta are ‘submissive’. Abarca’s (2006) recent study also argues that Mexican and Chicana women use the kitchen as a space of agency and empowerment in creative ways. they are very hardworking (‘La mujer milpaltense no descansa … es muy trabajadora’). told me that if I were to walk around Milpa Alta at 3 or 4 a. ‘While Mexico sleeps. involving changing gender relations resulting from women’s entrance into the labour force. they would say that they were barbacoieras. By four or five in the morning the market is alive. Women remain at work for twelve hours or more. They are the ones who maintain the economic control in the family. 1985. People commonly say.6 they speak with pride of how able and productive their women are. the cooking and providing of meals is not (cf. Juanita told me. teeming with women setting up their stalls and peeling nopales. often by means of their cooking. It was as natural for them to portray themselves as mothers and cooks (‘Me dedico al hogar’) as it was to call themselves barbacoieras. Women in Milpa Alta have a reputation in Mexico City for being hardworking. que crea el comercio’). returning home well after dusk. Hard work seems to be defined as commerce and extradomestic labour. and likewise. checking the barbacoa in their pit-ovens. good womanhood. I would find many women awake. Supposedly. Juanita.. including domestic tasks. and both paid and unpaid domestic and extradomestic work is acknowledged and valued.

Johnsson. In Milpa Alta. When I returned to the house. 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. I offered to go instead of Primy or one of the children. she needed someone to go to the tortillería to buy some prepared masa so that we would not have to soak. women are not quite as confined to the domestic sphere as it might appear. Trips to the market are as much a social event for exchanging news and gossip as for stocking up the larder. women’s independence and the dynamism of relationships between individuals of both or either gender. In Milpa Alta it is normal to make frequent. women do not need to be accompanied. Suárez and Bonfil. 2004. their everyday lives are not necessarily limited. They go to particular vendors or even other towns. 1986. 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. Rogers. 1975. I observed that for women who are interested in cooking well. 1985). licuado or other snack bought on the street or in the market. but expected. much work in Latin America and elsewhere dismantles the notion of women being in a rigid oppressive condition (e. Williams. Though they live with some social restrictions. 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. among others). Even in cases where women appear to be subservient to their husbands (‘Es él que manda’). and I set off without stopping. almost daily trips to the market or to different shops for fresh ingredients. Abarca. Primy mentioned that it was because I walk very fast.10 Thus. because I had done exactly as I was told—go to the tortillería and come back. I was surprised at her surprise at how quickly I had been.9 This is not only acceptable. 1996. Many women go to great lengths to collect the right foods for the dishes they wish to prepare. For culinary errands. or between staying home and being out in the streets. Working hard in the pursuit of flavour encourages a malleable boundary between domestic and extradomestic spaces. which would take too long. One of the secrets of Mexican (and any good) cooking is having top-quality ingredients at hand.g. Melhuus and Stølen. one way that they stretch their boundaries is in pursuit of culinary ideals. 1999. because Doña Margarita told me not to take too long. Fowler-Salamini and Vaughan.. 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. Sometimes we would detour for an ice cream. 2006. Since unmarried daughters in the family are often asked to buy fresh bread in the evenings for supper. 1994.74 • Culinary Art and Anthropology convincing critique of the kitchen as a site of female oppression (see also André. Roseman. By stressing complementarity between the sexes. they are not imprisoned in their kitchens or completely engulfed in household chores (cf. boil and grind more maize (nixtamal ). taco. 2001). whereas they are usually chaperoned for social outings. . but I suspect that it was more unusual not to spend more time chatting with passersby on every outing.

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

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. Yet. Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. married men depend on their wives. it is often necessary for working-class women to work extradomestically to supplement the family income. Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. Early one morning. but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. that motherhood does not actually stop women from taking on extradomestic work. especially their daughters. boasting that he could look after himself on his own. and my findings in Milpa Alta agree.76 • Culinary Art and Anthropology teased his cousin Kiko that he could do nothing without his wife: ‘¡Ni sabe calentar tortillas!’ (‘He doesn’t even know how to heat up tortillas!’). Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. 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. Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . 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. Work. Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. and a man needs a woman to bear children. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. 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. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social significance of cooking within marriage. García and Oliveira demonstrate. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife. García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main defining characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. In fact. Economic considerations play a significant role in women’s activities. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulfilment for women regardless of social class. ‘¿Entonces. At this most basic level. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

women may choose to define themselves as loving individuals who cook for their husbands or other family members. to compare. although Mintz does not specifically engage himself with Bourdieu. 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. Roseman. or have other incomegenerating activities that keep them busy away from home. who were low in class hierarchy. Yet the ability to render judgements of food. whether or not they actually do so regularly because they are food vendors. Rather than good taste (at least in food) being defined according to the habitus of the dominant class.Women as Culinary Agents • 83 given further credence by other related studies in Latin America and elsewhere that demonstrate that gender roles are not necessarily constitutive of power relationships and identity. depending on the social or local political situation in which they find themselves. By constructing a cuisine of their own. 1994. Sanders. Tasting Freedom. In contrast. they ultimately attained freedom. 1997. elaborate cuisines may in fact be a means of escaping the varied existing restrictions that are already embedded in social life. often. but that gender is in flux and power is not intrinsic to its constitution (González Montes and Tuñon. Nevertheless. In fact. the existing ideal of gastronomy makes culinary artistry a possible goal that women may strive to achieve. just staying alive was the sole challenge. In these differing tasks (and in eating). McCallum. Sidney Mintz (1996. some may choose to emphasize cooking as part of their gender identity. In Tasting Food. That is. they did so under terrible constraints. whether or not they consider it the main source of their public esteem in general. 1996. 1999. to develop comparisons. cooking is a creative activity which requires a basic freedom to perform. Not only this. as I have described previously. see also Moore. Mintz’s ‘taste of freedom’ is in direct contrast with Bourdieu’s. to elaborate their preferences. by focusing on food. Chapter 3) describes how freedom from slavery may have been partly achieved by the development of a local cuisine. 177). and they provide good food for their families however much or little they cook. women in Milpa Alta are proud to be known as hardworking. Furthermore. it is associated with economic success (economic capital). 2000). barbacoieras. Bourdieu defines the ‘taste of luxury’ as the ‘taste of liberty’ or a distance from necessity (1984. 1996. she may take the credit for providing a meal (abducting the culinary agency of the food/cook). Women’s culinary agency is not limited to cooking but may also extend to creative methods of meal provision. 2001. they were able to exercise the human potentiality to taste. Mintz describes how something judged to be of good taste can emanate from the necessity and poverty of the slaves of the American South. Whether a woman cooks for her family or has someone else do the cooking. To be sure. By virtue of its artistic nature. Ortner. This emphasizes the importance of cooking in family life. Melhuus and Stølen. Mintz suggests. p. to calibrate differences in taste—and to be prevented from doing so—help to suggest that something of the taste of freedom was .

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

for food and for sex (see Gow. 80–1) also describes a link between hunger for food and desire for sex among the Sierra Nahaut of Central Mexico. the greater social realm. 182). the domestic sphere and. creativity—in a word. or in the nature of the two most important desires. 1989). Gregor. If she is a skilful cook or can mobilize her culinary agency. and many more examples can be given to corroborate this. among other Náhuatl-speaking groups. Many people. 1985). can be both culinary and reproductive. finely chopped 1 green chile. pp. This perception hinges on the connection between the value of good cooking—of good flavour—and the value allocated to women. is accessible to anyone who cooks (see Chapter 2). 1997.Women as Culinary Agents • 85 desires (cf. or potential to culinary artistry. finely chopped 1 large tomato. as wives and mothers. I believe that such a thing as culinary agency. Whilst I cannot claim to have a formula or list of criteria for determining who is a culinary artist or who is an ordinary cook. in Mexico and elsewhere. Stephen (2005. In fulfillment of these desires social relations are made or unmade. therefore. when. finely chopped 4 eggs salt . in Náhuatl. In fact. the only men for whom women prepare food are their husbands. Recipes Huevos a la mexicana A typical recipe for almuerzo. 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. Women use their culinary agency in the cycle of festivity (described in the chapter that follows). Taggart (1992.16 The preceding discussion has indicated how home cooking is highly valued in Mexico. Chapter 9) argues. skill. Vázquez García. a woman can have actual power over her husband. it is precisely women’s cooking that is most highly valued. say that no one cooks better than their mothers. Women are arguably the most highly valued half of society (Melhuus. Gow. oil ½ onion. the word for ‘to eat’ has the double meaning of eating food and having sex (Taggart. 1992. artistry. 1989. p. Furthermore. and they use this status in imaginative and subtle ways to assert their power (over men). And fulfillment of these desires requires imagination. 80–1. pp. 1992). by extension. Women’s agency.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table 5.1

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

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

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

Days of the Dead

Lent, Advent

Chiles and seeds are easily burnt. the food served is what is considered to be ‘very Mexican’ or ‘traditional’. carnitas or mixiotes. 1999b). Mole is never made in small amounts. as I mentioned in Chapter 1.12 Almost everyone I met had a commentary or opinion about mole. Mole.11 and these extra little attentions made quite a difference to the outcome of the dish. the eaters are succumbing to an enchantment grounded in their knowledge of what it takes to make a mole. The changing or loss of such tradition may seem to indicate a decreasing significance of mole. It was the time of the Feria del Mole in San Pedro Atocpan. in short. it was better than moles from San Pedro. and that she had some of the chiles sent over from Puebla. 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. which have their roots in pre-Hispanic customs. I understood that since this mole was not commercial. No doubt mole deserved its status as quintessential fiesta food. but Doña Delfina proudly told us that she had made the mole herself. but for personal ritual events and the Days of the Dead. fruits may be underripe. It is a good example of an object of art within the art corpus of cuisine (following Gell. 1998.Mole and Fiestas • 101 Mole and tamales of different kinds are associated with specific fiestas and seasons. rather than detract from its meaningfulness. When it is so delicious that it impresses the eaters as a gastronomic climax. spices may be old and flavourless and nuts may go rancid if the weather is warm. Several women gave me culinary tips. mole was also described as a ‘gastronomical orgasm’. On another occasion. its replacement as fiesta food emphasizes and even reinforces its social meanings. What is interesting is that Spanish or Catholic customs of avoiding meat during Lent and Advent are adhered to. When serving. and a sprinkling of this added a sheen and extra flavour to properly garnish the dish. Doña Delfina. after pouring a generous amount of mole over the piece of chicken. so cooks need skill and practice to prepare it well. So what Gell (1996. and. she said it was important to take a little of the oil rendered on top of the mole. This change in the traditional menu for feasts had probably begun to occur only since the 1980s. her mother-in-law. . is a complex and socially powerful dish. The value attributed to mole is related to an awareness that it requires a certain technical mastery to prepare well. had prepared mole for us as a special welcome. p.’ The first time I went to Milpa Alta and met Yadira and her family. whether they are festivals of Spanish or indigenous origin. This way the chiles would toast gently and were in no danger of burning and therefore becoming bitter. 44) succinctly writes about art in general is true for mole in particular: ‘The power of art objects stems from the technical processes they objectively embody: the technology of enchantment is founded on the enchantment of technology. But as I will explain below. Yet my observations in Milpa Alta showed that it was more common for fiesta food to be barbacoa. She also showed me another detail which indicated her special care in producing a good mole.

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

onions and salt. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. In Figure 5.2 (green chile + tomato + onion (green chile + tomato + salt + avocado + lime juice) + onion + salt + avocado + pipicha + guajes) | guacamole 3 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves) | guacamole 4 (green chile + tomato + onion + salt + avocado + lime juice + coriander leaves + garlic + olive oil) Figure 5.1. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’.1). It has relations with other persons (salsas).1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole . or a lineage of guacamoles. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles. red tomatoes. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. 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. This is not accidental. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). an artwork (or salsa. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5.2. and thus forms a lineage. the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. or different types of barbacoas). Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole.1 guacamole 2. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. Following Gell’s theory of art. Some of these are related to each other. for example. of course. Conceived of in this way.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa.

Shown as Families .2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes.beans + lard (+ onion) maize + lime (CaOH) chile ┌───────┴───────┐ lard + masa tortillas + salsa 1 salsa 2 … salsa x │ ┌────┴────┐ refried beans + masa preparada + salsa x ┌─────┼─────┐ │ chilaquiles enchiladas pastel azteca mole – 104 – tlacoyos huaraches tamales tamales de frijol de chile Figure 5.

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

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

for example.. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. In short. 687). But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. Before then. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. the more an object resists our possession (because.000 (£1. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. p. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. In 2000. Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high..e. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. For this reason.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas. In effect. i. within the region. 1984. Not only because of the costs. and on one’s guests. It is therefore defined as appropriate. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. . but also because of the social values. 29). it can be considered to be in good taste. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. it is very expensive). The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual.’ (p.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. 91). carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway. 1991. it cost around Mx$10. 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 . Since mole is feast food par excellence. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. the greater its social value. technically difficult and valuable. serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. and because to a large extent. p.000 (£1. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. as far as I know. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head. 29). In addition.050) for carnitas. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. Mx$15. and Mx$20. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value.400) for barbacoa. Barbacoa is a luxury food. as mentioned previously. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta. 54). ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. and patting out by hand.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. topped with a variety of different things.5. 2. long or short. onions. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. The rough. beans and corn tortillas. lime. 1.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote. 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. grinding it to a soft dough. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side. sliced radish.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). large or small. pinched side is smeared with melted lard. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine. masa. Tortillas can be thick or thin. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. pressing out with a tortilla press. onions and cream. avocados. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. salsa. This is usually served with white rice. a front and a back. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza.5.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. grated or shredded cheese . Tostadas are also eaten on their own. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas.

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

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

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

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

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

Variations combine 2 or more types of fruit stir in chopped mint before serving serve with crema espesa/de rancho (crème fraîche) . To make red rice. Fry a bit before adding the optional vegetables.g. put peeled prepared fruits in to poach for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked. Strain this into the hot oil and fried rice. when it is done.136 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 5.3 Sopa de fideos/Macarrones Substitute vermicelli or pasta elbows (macaroni) for the rice and prepare as for arroz rojo.2 Arroz rojo (Red Rice) Prepare arroz blanco (see preceding recipe). peaches. and other fruits that do not disintegrate (e. When the syrup is ready. This is good for pears. frying the dry pasta in oil until it browns a little. Sometimes dry pasta ‘soups’ are served with cream (crème fraîche) drizzled over. 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. 5. The pasta should remain dry. pineapples). without a sauce. salt and water or chicken broth. Serve cold. guavas. like a smooth red salsa. add 1 or 2 tomatoes to the garlic and onion mixture and blend well. Allow the fruit to cool in the syrup and then refrigerate. before stirring in the salsa and water to cook. tejocotes. You might want to add a bit of lime juice so that it is not too sweet.

and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. . 21–2).489. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . At the time of my research in the nineties.Notes Introduction 1. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. pp. and indeed of an anthropologist. ‘Where . Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. Abarca draws from literary. As can be expected. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. p. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. 4. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. In my case. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. 2.2 per cent of its area. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. in fact her approach is necessarily different. sazón. of course. and vice versa.007 for the whole city). the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. though it occupied 19.5 per cent was inhabited. So for her. 3. 3. 2000. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. and indeed of one’s own person. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. 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. 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. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. . gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. 318). food as art. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. 5.

(1996). 3. For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine. see Muñoz (2000). 328–38). I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. . Unfortunately. as Milpa Alta has. A comparative study of another group in a different. 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. distribution (political factors. a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. 38). p. 7. Kennedy (1989. or honey water. and Muñoz (2000). Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. allocation). Villa Milpa Alta. 205).138 • Notes emigrated. would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. America’s First Cuisines (1994). 9. 15). (1991). Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. Also. 8. p. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print. 33– 49.7 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. 459 –84). 96. among others. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. Lomelí. Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. market. and van Rhijn (1993). and also Coe (1994). even neighbouring. esp. Muñoz. See Long-Solís (1986). and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. Bayless and Bayless (1987. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. and it had religious significance during Aztec times. it is called aguamiel. 2. preparation and consumption. Martínez (1992). esp. pp. His own work focuses on production and consumption. 6. The maguey is the source of pulque. Andrews (1984). These are production (economic factors). based on household and class. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. When unfermented. and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. 1997. to name a few. community of Mexico City. pp.

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

1966. see Abarca (2006).d. 21.g. globalization and local identity in Belize. 47–70). Alicia María González (1986) does not write . 1–19). knowledge and skill in relation to the topic of culinary knowledge and skill. and Richard Wilk (1999. ‘Hay que trasladar la cocina casera a la cocina restaurantera. debe utilizar los ingredientes mejores. She suggests. Some also base analysis on religious taboo or hierarchy and classification (such as Douglas. 3. In some communities this is still the case.. Entonces. 18. see Sutton (n. 4. Mennell et al. corporeal knowledge’ of sazón. In Milpa Alta I have seen women beat their egg whites in plastic bowls and the capeado still worked. sin el sazón del amor. For a discussion of cooking without written recipes. For a description of how impoverished our language is to describe our experience of flavour. como en la casa de la abuela. see Fine (1996. Abarca emphasizes what she calls the ‘sensory logic’ or ‘sensual. There are some exceptions. pp. who questions the linear transmission of cooking skill.g. pero en restaurante. Peter Gow (1989) analyzes the desires for food and sex in the construction of social relations in Amazonian Peru. p. ‘Approaching food without considering taste is like studying a mask without referring to its dance. 10 –39). especially chapter two on sazón. Deben prepararlos bien de principio. of course. ‘The Aesthetics of Kitchen Discourse’). which I am unfortunately unable to develop fully here. But see Sutton (2006). claro. 17.140 • Notes 16. Chapter 7. textual or language-based models to food and cooking. 51). Chapter 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice 1. 19. There is much to say about Ingold’s theories of habitus. which focus interest on cuisine or on eating particular foods for (gastronomical or other) pleasure. Imitar las cocinas famosas no sirve. en vez de tratar de copiar el modelo europeo. I rather prefer to avoid applying metaphorical. semiotic. Lenten. As I explain in Chapter 2. Food-related ethnographies often privilege development issues (e. For a detailed overview of the treatment of food in anthropology and sociology. (1992. 2006. My friend Primy also overturned her bowl to check if the whites were ready. p. 1976). Jonaitis provides an excellent discussion of how the sense of taste has been neglected in ethnographic writing. see Goody (1982. 2006) examines food for understanding cultural change. 1993) or are more about economic issues and gender than cuisine itself (e. See Vizcarra (2002). which she also describes as a ‘discourse of empowerment’ (2006. tal y como es. For a critical discussion of how culinary knowledge is transmitted. 1989). see also Warde (1997). 2. Beardsworth and Keil (1997. Babb. pp. or analyzing a drum without hearing the music it plays’ (Jonaitis.). pp. y debe ser un currículo en las escuelas de cocina. 162).’ 20. Caplan (1997b). livelihood. Khare.

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

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

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

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

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

7. also see Adapon (2001). especially the excesses of food given to compadres to take home. 8. see Greenberg (1981. In Milpa Alta. hot tamales verdes and atole champurrado. 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. This is comparable to what Stephen (2005) describes occurring in Teotitlán. and elsewhere in Mexico.’ 10. Just as Lomnitz argues that ‘compadrazgo strengthens social ties between equals. women. 4. see Martinez R. For thorough analyses of compadrazgo as a principle for networking and reciprocal exchange. This idea of homemade products being better than their commercial counterparts is prevalent and put into practice more by suburban. 5. In urban . Sault (1985. Chapter 9) also describes how relationships of compadrazgo are ‘inherited’. The dictionary definition of this word. p. 6. ties amongst barrios are strengthened and aggression can be averted when mayordomías bring promesas to other town or barrio fiestas. porque no hay tiempo. Their fiestas are occasions when they can socialize freely when the residents of the barrios ritually visit one another bearing salvas. and affords a magic symbolic protection against latent personal aggression’ (1977.146 • Notes 2. for members of the public who attend the singing event at this cold. see Lomnitz (1977). entonces es un lujo quedarte a comer en la casa. 160). 9. this is commonly done at home for breakfast the day after a fiesta as part of the recalentado. furthers social mobility and economic advancement. is pleasure-seeking. fiestero. Y es por eso que es un pueblo tan fiestero—para mostrar a los demás que sí tiene dinero para festejar y hacerlos bien. juggle their ritual responsibilities with quotidian needs. Stephen (2005. Because of how guests are fed during fiestas. 1987). fond of parties. San Mateo and Santa Martha are rivalling barrios from within which there is much intermarriage as well as competition. For a theoretical analysis. where some women spend their money on their compadrazgo gifts and obligations rather than on their daily meals. Chapter 1). The señoritas are also expected to provide typical breakfast foods. For example. and Stephen (2005). For a thorough history and description of the cargo systems in Milpa Alta. 3. ‘La gente de Milpa Alta es muy trabajadora porque la naturaleza no les dió tanto. Hay que trabajar desde la madrugada hasta la noche para salir adelante. 11. early hour. For more on compadrazgo and the mayordomía in Milpa Alta. They begin at around half past four in the morning of the feast day (21 September for San Mateo). (1987). as central figures in ritual community life. For a town or barrio fiesta in Milpa Alta the unmarried youths are organized to get involved in preparing for the fiesta. rural or lower-middle-class people than central urban or upper-middle-class to upper-class people.

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

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

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

34 judgement of. 14–17. 75. 117. 71–2. 74. 9. 34. 36. 47. 77–85. 21. 102–6 traditional cookery. 95 street food. Richard. 47. 29. 99. 98. 119 boundaries and restrictions on. 116 . 46. 120 development of. 48. 67 culinary. 74. 41–7 passim. 36–7. 71–2. 106. 120. 99–104 passim. 33. 75. 43 see also skill tradition. 102. 77 see also motherhood women. 84. artworks as. 82. 98. 75. 116 value of. 122. 45. 82. 71–8. Lynn. 72–3. 53. 113. 83 technical mastery. 125 Simmel. 44. 34. 83. 124 power of. 89. 124–7 Mintz. 120 traps. 73. 125 Vargas. 3. 4. 115 flavour and. See mayordomía skill. 33.160 • Index Pilcher. 38–9 as feast food. 43–4. 14. 6. 85. 48. 38–9. 42 Bourdieu. 45. 126 food as. 13–14. 17. 121 Stephen. 102. 71. 67. David. 13. Jeffrey 10. 89. 76. 32. 43–7 passim. Fray Bernardino de. 108 on learning. 2. 45. 107. 122–7 Sutton. 106 womanhood. 3. 17. 123 agency and. 75 love and. 30 tamal(es). 117 Wilk. 14. 46. 79. 48. 21–2. 54. 9. 119 sistema de cargos. 96. 12 sazón. 5. 21. 71–85 barbacoa and. 77 as cooks. 9. 119–22 work. 80. 71. 116. 98. 101. Georg. 121 roles. 4 expectations of. 114. 109 barbacoa. 75. 41. 5. 92. 89. 58–60. Luis. 85. 84. 101. 30. 122 economic activity of. 124 technique(s). 85. 107. 12–15 and restaurants. 116. 120 women’s. 14. 15–17. 46. 40. 37. 123 taste. 75. 82–3. 80. 53. 71. 109 street food. 85 cooking and. 37. 73. 3. 92. 89. 117 angry. 98 Sahagún. 116. 52. 82–3. 22. 113–14. 29–30. 124. 120. 40–1.

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