Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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

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

Shown as Families 103 104 34 35 100 – vii – .Illustrations Tables 2. and Corresponding Food Terms 2.1 Terminology Employed by Gell.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole 5.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes.2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus 5.1 Feast Food in Milpa Alta. Arranged According to Type of Celebration Figures 5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
life I experienced in Mexico City, mostly in the homes of barbacoa makers and other families in the district of Milpa Alta. With this perspective, I address questions such as these: why is it that no one cooks better than my mother? Or, in other words, why does food taste better when it comes from home? Also, why—seemingly contradictorily—does street food have such an appeal? Why are fiestas incomplete without mole? And so why is barbacoa, pit-roast meat, served instead?

Milpa Alta, DF
Milpa Alta is the smallest municipality of Mexico City (Federal District), in the southeastern edge, adjacent to Xochimilco.5 Yet Milpaltenses talked of Mexico City as a separate entity, and they were self-consciously attached to their land and traditions. Milpa Alta is a semi-rural, mountainous area spoken of as the ‘province of Mexico City’. The name literally translates as ‘Highland Cornfield’ in that it is a region of high elevation, formerly dedicated to maize and maguey (agave/century plant) production.6 The word milpa refers to a maize plantation, whose borders were traditionally delineated with a border of magueys. The maize was planted in rows and intercropped with beans, chiles, squash and sometimes tomatoes. Plantations were organized like this since before the Spanish came to Mexico, and Milpa Alta began to produce less maize only since the latter half of the twentieth century. The population was fairly young; 79.8 per cent under 40, and those in the most active productive ages made up 61.9 per cent of the population (Departamento de Distrito Federal (DDF), 1997, pp. 15–64). According to the figures for 1990, among the 45,233 who were over the age of 12, 43.4 per cent were economically active. Among them, three-quarters were men and a quarter were women (p. 77). Three-quarters of the economically inactive were women, more than half of whom were classified as housewives (dedicated to housework; p. 83). As I later explain, a large proportion of these people may actually contribute their labour to the family business, although they did not officially represent themselves as wage earners, consciously choosing to define themselves as dedicated to their homes and families rather than as businesswomen (comerciantes).7 Around half the inhabitants of Milpa Alta lived in Villa Milpa Alta, the municipal capital. Villa Milpa Alta has seven barrios called San Mateo (the site of this research), La Concepción, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Agustín, Santa Martha and La Luz. Barrio San Mateo is one of the largest barrios, with around 1,000 families residing there. Following the census of 1990, each household contained an average of 5.2 occupants (as opposed to 4.6 for the whole Federal District; DDF, 1997, p. 83), making the population of Barrio San Mateo an estimated 5,000–6,000.8 Milpa Alta’s barrios are each dedicated to a particular trade. In Barrio San Mateo, most people prepare barbacoa de borrego, pit-roast lamb, for a living. Barbacoa is usually eaten on special occasions since it is a dish made in large amounts because

Introduction • 5
whole sheep or goats are cooked overnight in an earth oven. There are restaurants in Mexico City which serve only barbacoa, but it is more commonly prepared like a cottage industry by families called barbacoieros. Unofficially, barbacoieros earned an estimated Mx$3,000 per week (equivalent then, in the mid-1990s, to around £214 per week). Several families earned more, because the barbacoa business can be very lucrative, but since all transactions were in cash, they needed not declare all their earnings. This meant that though they enjoyed considerable economic comfort, at least on paper they were consistently portrayed as among the poorest of Mexico City.

Organization of the Book
Chapter 1 focuses on Mexican cuisine and how it is commonly thought of as art in published material as well as in casual conversation. I also discuss the issues of skill and learning techniques and the key notions of sazón and love. In Chapter 2 I describe the theoretical framework of this book. I outline my perspective that cooking is an artistic and technical practice and therefore Mexican cuisine can be analyzed as a body of art. Gell’s theory of art premisses that almost anything can be defined as an art object, anthropologically speaking. Indeed, I am not the only one who has been inspired to use his theory in areas that we normally think of as non-art (Pinney and Thomas, 2001; Reed, 2005). The next three chapters provide perspectives of how people in Milpa Alta cook and eat informally, at home, in the street and during private or local fiestas. I describe the process of preparing barbacoa in detail in Chapter 3. The work is shared between husband and wife and is one demonstration of how culinary practices are a means by which actors construct their social world (cf. Munn, 1986). Weekly and daily life is structured by the rhythms of the kitchen, and the production of barbacoa as a trade also dictates the spatio-temporal forms of barbacoiero social interaction and relative status in Milpa Alta. In Chapter 4 I explore the notion of culinary agency as powerful and meaningful by looking at women’s social and physical boundaries. Women do most of the cooking in the household, and in some ways it seems that a proper woman is thought of as one who knows how to cook, especially if she cooks well. Because of this ideal of womanhood, there is a saying about marriage and cooking in Mexico which takes the form of a criticism: No saben ni cocinar y ya se quieren casar (‘They don’t even know how to cook and yet they already want to marry’). I describe society’s expectations of women to assess how food and cooking are related to marriage and to a woman’s sense of identity and morality in Milpa Alta. This chapter demonstrates how the agency that effectuates social interaction and change is a culinary agency. As any book about Mexican food should do, I also discuss mole, the famous sauce that combines chile and chocolate, which is complex in both preparation

6 • Culinary Art and Anthropology
and meanings. Chapter 5 is about feast food, the coerciveness of hospitality and the static or dynamic nature of cuisine. Although fiestas are releases from daily routine (Brandes, 1988, p. 1; cf. Paz, 1967) and recipes of fiesta dishes are more elaborate than any everyday meal, the food consumed during festivities is actually controlled and bound by a set of rules. For fiestas, a strict menu needs to be followed (i.e. mole, tamales, rice, beans); otherwise the meal is not properly perceived as festive. I use the example of mole to illustrate how food can have meanings which transcend time (cf. Mintz, 1979). Festive dishes can easily be thought of as culinary works of art, but if artistry is determined by action (see Chapter 2; Gell, 1998), then the greatest culinary artistry characterizes the domestic or quotidian sphere. Though much work goes into the preparation of food for fiestas, women cook relatively elaborately every day in Milpa Alta for their regular family meals. Daily domestic culinary activities can be thought of as preparatory sketches or training in the culinary arts, without which the production of culinary works of art would not be possible. Thus the artistic nature of cooking is embedded in domestic activity, in food preparation, and is appreciated in its consumption.9 Chapter 6 concludes this study with a discussion of the difference between snacks and home-cooked meals, the centrality of gastronomy to social life and thus the power of cooks as culinary agents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cook until the meat is crispy. Few families have recipe collections. Panela. Chiles rellenos de picadillo sencillo con papa Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato (Muñoz. pp. Oaxaca and Chihuahua cheeses are commonly used. peeled and cut into ½-cm (⅛-inch) cubes ½ cup corn or canola oil 1 cup white onions. Add the garlic and as soon as it is fried. 51–2) Serves 15 María Elena Trujillo This is a typical home-style preparation of chiles stuffed with picadillo that is served in any house on any day of the year in Mexico City. stir in the beef and pork. and everyone learns to cook according to the regional style. 1996. to taste • Blanch the potatoes in water and set them aside. María Elena was born in Coahuila. and she soon learned to make local dishes. Picadillo 3 cups potatoes. but she came to live in the capital when she was very young.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 23 here can be substituted with cheese. but a mother or mother-in-law knows that her daughter or daughter-in-law should someday inherit her culinary secrets. below. They should be cooked but not very soft. just by watching. finely chopped 300 g (11 oz) minced beef 350 g (12 oz) minced pork sea salt to taste black pepper. . stirring from time to time to separate the lumps and to avoid it sticking to the pan. Chiles 15 chiles poblanos. finely chopped 1 tablespoon garlic. freshly ground. Formal classes of authentic Mexican cooking are never taken. especially the kinds that melt. • Heat the oil until it smokes lightly and fry the onions until soft and golden. ready for stuffing • See ‘How to Peel chiles poblanos’.

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

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

if the egg whites move or slip. • The eggs must always be at room temperature because cold egg whites do not rise sufficiently. in stages. • The stuffing should be cold or at room temperature. avoid overstuffing them. the chiles should be totally dry inside and outside. overturn the bowl. Do not heat it too much or the batter may burn. because they are difficult to handle if they are too heavy. they are not yet ready and should be beaten some more. pp. • If you need to coat large amounts of chiles. To determine whether they have reached this point. This also helps the egg to adhere to the chile and not slip off when you fry it. incorporate the yolks one by one with folding movements. it should smoke lightly. splash the oil over the top of the chile to seal it. It should also be dry so that no liquid will spill out. but not too much because it is easy to overbeat them. • As soon as the whites have been beaten to the required point. They very easily collapse or separate. prepare the batter in small amounts. Add one or two tablespoons of sifted flour if you wish to have a thicker batter. because these bowls retain flavors and odors and often cause the egg whites to collapse. Pay special attention to drying the inside very well. . • Coat the chiles in the batter quickly. turn the chile to cook the other side. • Beat the egg whites only until they form soft peaks ( punto de nieve. 112–3) • For the egg to stick well to the chiles. • Before placing the chiles in the oil. even if it has previously been strained. • Do not stuff the chiles too far in advance since the juices of the filling may spill out. • Roll the chiles in sifted flour (make sure to shake off the excess). • If the batter spreads beyond the sides of the chile. It is very difficult to beat many egg whites stiff at the same time. if not. If the eggs have been in the refrigerator it is necessary to remove them two hours before using them. make sure that the oil is hot enough. the batter will separate. though copper bowls are expensive and difficult to find. Metal or glass bowls will also give good results. use a spatula to push it back to stick to the chile so that it remains uniform and without drips. moisture will deflate the stiffly beaten eggs. Afterward. 1996. lay it with the opening facing up. • Never beat egg whites in plastic bowls. and with a spatula. • When stuffing the chiles. At this stage you may add salt.21 A copper bowl is ideal. just stiff ).26 • Culinary Art and Anthropology How to Achieve a Perfect capeado (Muñoz. since it helps the whites to reach the required or ideal point. • The flour should be sifted because lumps remain raw and give a bad taste to the capeado. • When placing the chile in 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. though the bottom part will always be a little darker. . • The batter should cook until it is lightly golden (never brown). though it may be better to turn them by holding the stem. you may need two spatulas to turn the chiles without breaking the egg coating. you can hold them by the stem to turn them without using a spatula. it is possible! • When frying small chiles and those that do not have a heavy filling. place them on paper towels to absorb excess oil. • Once you remove the chiles from the pan. Yes.Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 27 • With practice. • If you are inexperienced. You may need to change the paper towels two or more times as you continue frying.

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

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

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

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

become personified and persons become objectified. gastronomic bliss. It is art as an activity. 43).10 David Parkin (2006.1). in particular.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. sometimes via the index/artwork. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. 68ff). consumer. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. as products of techniques’ (p. p. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. and recipient as eater (see Table 2. p. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. sometimes directly. Likewise. They also are thought of as having higher value. which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). 43. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. meal or dish. we may think of the artist as cook. what Gell calls captivation (1998. The solution to this problem. Gell emphasizes action. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. in Gell’s terms. or made beautiful’ (p. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks. the index as the food. and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. The agency of the artist. Put very simply for visual art. including art-objects. whether from the position of producer. or as a social actor. or both. or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. the prototype as recipe. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’. produced by an ‘artist’. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. for instance. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. therefore. or (eventually) the development of personhood. But aesthetics is as abstract as taste and cannot easily be put into context anthropologically unless we consider the social relations of the actors who perform these judgements of taste or aesthetics. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. p. 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. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. upon which/whom agency is exerted.9 Art objects. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by .Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. sometimes through art-objects. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. original emphasis). the artwork is an ‘index’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1975. women’s independence and the dynamism of relationships between individuals of both or either gender. but expected.. Suárez and Bonfil. 1994. women are not quite as confined to the domestic sphere as it might appear. They go to particular vendors or even other towns. I observed that for women who are interested in cooking well. In Milpa Alta it is normal to make frequent. but I suspect that it was more unusual not to spend more time chatting with passersby on every outing. 1999. their everyday lives are not necessarily limited. Abarca. Johnsson. Sometimes we would detour for an ice cream. whereas they are usually chaperoned for social outings. 2001). Trips to the market are as much a social event for exchanging news and gossip as for stocking up the larder.g. 1985). Williams. 2006. For culinary errands. women do not need to be accompanied. Many women go to great lengths to collect the right foods for the dishes they wish to prepare. Working hard in the pursuit of flavour encourages a malleable boundary between domestic and extradomestic spaces. 2004. I offered to go instead of Primy or one of the children. I was surprised at her surprise at how quickly I had been. Fowler-Salamini and Vaughan. By stressing complementarity between the sexes. Rogers. When I returned to the house. One of the secrets of Mexican (and any good) cooking is having top-quality ingredients at hand. she needed someone to go to the tortillería to buy some prepared masa so that we would not have to soak. much work in Latin America and elsewhere dismantles the notion of women being in a rigid oppressive condition (e. In Milpa Alta. which would take too long.74 • Culinary Art and Anthropology convincing critique of the kitchen as a site of female oppression (see also André. because Doña Margarita told me not to take too long. 1996.10 Thus. Roseman. or between staying home and being out in the streets. Melhuus and Stølen. Once when Doña Margarita was making tamales and her dough came out a little too thin. Since unmarried daughters in the family are often asked to buy fresh bread in the evenings for supper. .9 This is not only acceptable. 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. 1986. licuado or other snack bought on the street or in the market. boil and grind more maize (nixtamal ). because I had done exactly as I was told—go to the tortillería and come back. Primy mentioned that it was because I walk very fast. and I set off without stopping. they are not imprisoned in their kitchens or completely engulfed in household chores (cf. 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. 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. one way that they stretch their boundaries is in pursuit of culinary ideals. taco. Even in cases where women appear to be subservient to their husbands (‘Es él que manda’). Though they live with some social restrictions. almost daily trips to the market or to different shops for fresh ingredients. among others). When I accompanied one or another friend or acquaintance on a visit to the market.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The main course is often meat served in a sauce or with some other hot salsa on the side. live music and dancing. This would be followed by beans and all accompanied by tortillas. The main meal of the day. As I explain in the section that follows. often chicken broth with pasta. 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. 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. young corn kernels. the first thing that a host says is. Whatever is for breakfast is served along with beans. People take it seriously and remember hosts who do not offer a soft drink or a glass of water (‘¡Ni siquiera te ofrecen un refresco o un vaso con agua!’). is usually served between two and five in the afternoon. Before noon a guest is offered breakfast. in both fiestas and everyday settings. or perhaps enchiladas or thinly sliced beef steaks with a salsa and potatoes sautéed with onions. ‘¡Adelante! ¡adelante! ¿Qué les ofrezco?’ (‘Come in! Come in! What can I offer you?’). In the mornings a guest may also be served leftovers from the day before. a complaint expressed with derision toward the subject of conversation. What is served depends on the time of arrival. or may be held on the day of the barrio fiesta.Mole and Fiestas • 93 old) or presentation (when a child is 3). peas and/or potatoes may be added. or it may be something rather more complex such as mole verde con pollo (green mole with chicken). as well as agua de frutas. even if it is only a piece of fruit or agua fresca. which are crucial to social interaction. la comida. Since each fiesta should have the same kind of feast food. teleras and hot milk. It starts with a soup or sopa aguada. it is acceptable to celebrate them together with a single feast. Since someone might arrive for whatever reason at any time. however long overdue the wedding may be. such as a bowl of pancita accompanied by tacos of broad beans or nopales compuestos. however infrequent. and after six is suppertime. It may be as simple as breaded chicken breasts accompanied by cooked vegetables. sweetened diluted fruit juice. Hospitality and Food When guests arrive at the house. something to eat or drink must always be available. If they have run out of milk the hosts apologize and ask if coffee would be all right. because this is all . and/ or sopa seca (dry soup). there are forceful fundamental rules of food hospitality in Milpa Alta. What would be unacceptable is to have a wedding or baptism without the mole de fiesta to offer to guests. from around noon to about six it is lunchtime. sometimes refried. and there is an abundance of food. or chicharrón en chile verde (pork crackling in green sauce). All occasions require the same menu for the banquet to accommodate hundreds of people. which is either pasta or rice flavoured with onions and garlic and sometimes tomatoes to which carrots.

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

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

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

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

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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

When serving. had prepared mole for us as a special welcome. . but Doña Delfina proudly told us that she had made the mole herself. Doña Delfina. carnitas or mixiotes. I understood that since this mole was not commercial. the eaters are succumbing to an enchantment grounded in their knowledge of what it takes to make a mole. her mother-in-law. She also showed me another detail which indicated her special care in producing a good mole. as I mentioned in Chapter 1. p. On another occasion. its replacement as fiesta food emphasizes and even reinforces its social meanings. 1999b). The changing or loss of such tradition may seem to indicate a decreasing significance of mole.Mole and Fiestas • 101 Mole and tamales of different kinds are associated with specific fiestas and seasons. fruits may be underripe. It is a good example of an object of art within the art corpus of cuisine (following Gell. Mole is never made in small amounts. When it is so delicious that it impresses the eaters as a gastronomic climax. 44) succinctly writes about art in general is true for mole in particular: ‘The power of art objects stems from the technical processes they objectively embody: the technology of enchantment is founded on the enchantment of technology. No doubt mole deserved its status as quintessential fiesta food. whether they are festivals of Spanish or indigenous origin. it was better than moles from San Pedro.’ The first time I went to Milpa Alta and met Yadira and her family. she said it was important to take a little of the oil rendered on top of the mole. which have their roots in pre-Hispanic customs. so cooks need skill and practice to prepare it well. The value attributed to mole is related to an awareness that it requires a certain technical mastery to prepare well. spices may be old and flavourless and nuts may go rancid if the weather is warm. So what Gell (1996. Guille told me that to make a good mole she would toast her chiles in the sun for a week rather than use a flame and comal. This way the chiles would toast gently and were in no danger of burning and therefore becoming bitter. Several women gave me culinary tips. the food served is what is considered to be ‘very Mexican’ or ‘traditional’. and a sprinkling of this added a sheen and extra flavour to properly garnish the dish. after pouring a generous amount of mole over the piece of chicken. Yet my observations in Milpa Alta showed that it was more common for fiesta food to be barbacoa. This change in the traditional menu for feasts had probably begun to occur only since the 1980s. Chiles and seeds are easily burnt. and. 1998.12 Almost everyone I met had a commentary or opinion about mole. But as I will explain below. and that she had some of the chiles sent over from Puebla. What is interesting is that Spanish or Catholic customs of avoiding meat during Lent and Advent are adhered to. It was the time of the Feria del Mole in San Pedro Atocpan. but for personal ritual events and the Days of the Dead.11 and these extra little attentions made quite a difference to the outcome of the dish. mole was also described as a ‘gastronomical orgasm’. Mole. in short. is a complex and socially powerful dish. rather than detract from its meaningfulness.

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

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

2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. Shown as Families .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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

separated vegetable oil for frying Hollow out each piece of bread by removing some of the central crumbs. did not like the idea of a sweet made with spices. like French toast. cooking until fish completely falls apart into small bits. which is a bit unusual in that they are coated in the egg batter called a capeado. Torrejas Ma. cut into 6-centimetre slices 250 g queso cotija. each cut into 3 pieces. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez Torrejas are a Lenten dessert typical of the state of Michoaca ΄n. Most recipes for torrejas are reminiscent of Spanish torrijas. warm the fried bread pieces in the syrup to impregnate them with the flavours and to heat them through. Serve in low bowls with lots of syrup. Doña Margarita. When Doña Margarita was persuaded to try these torrejas. Spiced Syrup 1 cone of piloncillo (crude sugar) or 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 8 cm of Ceylon cinnamon (not tough Cassia) 5 whole cloves 5 whole allspice berries around 750 mL of water Boil all the ingredients in enough water to make a light syrup. . 4 slightly stale teleras. This is something that she rarely prepared because her mother-in-law. leaving an open pocket. like the capeado for chiles rellenos. she liked them so much that she had seconds. Serve with crusty bread. To serve. and it probably would not matter if the bread used was very fresh. Primy’s version contains no milk. or 1 baguette. This is the way Primy makes them. Fill each space with cheese and proceed with the capeado as for stuffed chiles.112 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Add parsley and mix well. or use an aged white cow’s milk cheese like Romano or Sardo 3 eggs. • Let rest until cool and decorate with olives and chiles. Serves 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. pressing out with a tortilla press. and patting out by hand. long or short. 2. masa. grated or shredded cheese . pinched side is smeared with melted lard. 2.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. a front and a back.5. 1. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. salsa. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. onions. large or small. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas. avocados. The rough. grinding it to a soft dough. Tostadas are also eaten on their own. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. beans and corn tortillas. lime. topped with a variety of different things.5. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. sliced radish. Tortillas can be thick or thin.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides.1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. onions and cream. 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. This is usually served with white rice.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote.

cream and grated white cheese. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. chopped coriander and cream. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each. Bake on both sides on a hot comal. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. dry frying pan or griddle. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. 2. grated cheese. extra-long. Leave them out to dry overnight. 8 cm wide. The next morning. about 10–15 cm long. Before pressing out the tortillas. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. .1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. The beans should be encased in masa.3. 2. 2. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. thinner and crisper. Many people make thin. chopped onions. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional).4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. fry them in hot oil till crisp. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. and 1 cm thick. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. Top with cooked salsa.4.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling.

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

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

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

Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well. peas.2. It should not be soft and milky like risotto. 5.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook.3 Enfrijoladas See 3. epazote or chile to the top of the rice toward the end of the cooking time. salsa. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas. • Add coriander. Sometimes. then lower the heat to a very low flame. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course. Note: This rice should be dry. and sometimes avocado and lime.3 above. Add to rice. 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. . • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture. if you wish. Fry the rice (and carrots) until it is lightly golden. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. Add salt to taste. chopped 1 clove garlic. often eaten on its own with salsa on the side. rather it should be more like pilau. soaked in hot water. with separate grains. usually served as a first or second course. corn kernels. cubed potatoes (soaked in hot water) (all optional) 2½ cups water or chicken broth salt sprig of coriander or epazote (optional) 1 whole green chile (optional) • Heat the oil until it begins to smoke. drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion. • Stir well and allow to cook.

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

sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. 3. 318). In my case. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. At the time of my research in the nineties. though it occupied 19. pp. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. Abarca draws from literary. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. p. 21–2). and vice versa. and indeed of an anthropologist. food as art. .2 per cent of its area. . 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. 2. 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. 3.007 for the whole city). The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . As can be expected. So for her. sazón. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. and indeed of one’s own person. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican.489. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. 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. 2000. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. ‘Where . the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. 4. of course. in fact her approach is necessarily different.5 per cent was inhabited.Notes Introduction 1. 5.

America’s First Cuisines (1994). 7. These are production (economic factors). pp. 96. see Muñoz (2000). Also. Villa Milpa Alta. 1997. See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. Muñoz. and also Coe (1994). ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. to name a few. and it had religious significance during Aztec times. His own work focuses on production and consumption. Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. or honey water. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. p. community of Mexico City. 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. 2. 3. even neighbouring. (1996). Lomelí. market. allocation). Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. among others. Andrews (1984). 15). . would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. (1991). Bayless and Bayless (1987. and Muñoz (2000). Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. 9. and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. 33– 49. p. it is called aguamiel. Unfortunately. preparation and consumption. 6. esp. esp. and van Rhijn (1993). 328–38). 205). Kennedy (1989. Martínez (1992). 38). and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. pp. I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print. based on household and class. A comparative study of another group in a different. When unfermented. 8.138 • Notes emigrated. distribution (political factors. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food.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. as Milpa Alta has. See Long-Solís (1986). a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. 459 –84). The maguey is the source of pulque. For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine.

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

Entonces. For a detailed overview of the treatment of food in anthropology and sociology. Lenten. and Richard Wilk (1999. como en la casa de la abuela. Abarca emphasizes what she calls the ‘sensory logic’ or ‘sensual. ‘The Aesthetics of Kitchen Discourse’). see also Warde (1997). Chapter 7. For a description of how impoverished our language is to describe our experience of flavour. There are some exceptions. globalization and local identity in Belize.). which I am unfortunately unable to develop fully here. Chapter 2 Cooking as an Artistic Practice 1. semiotic. 1–19). As I explain in Chapter 2. ‘Hay que trasladar la cocina casera a la cocina restaurantera. 2006) examines food for understanding cultural change. see Abarca (2006). knowledge and skill in relation to the topic of culinary knowledge and skill. For a critical discussion of how culinary knowledge is transmitted. 2006. or analyzing a drum without hearing the music it plays’ (Jonaitis. 1966. In Milpa Alta I have seen women beat their egg whites in plastic bowls and the capeado still worked. 17. tal y como es. 47–70). Alicia María González (1986) does not write . debe utilizar los ingredientes mejores. especially chapter two on sazón. who questions the linear transmission of cooking skill. 19. which she also describes as a ‘discourse of empowerment’ (2006. y debe ser un currículo en las escuelas de cocina. See Vizcarra (2002). p. corporeal knowledge’ of sazón. ‘Approaching food without considering taste is like studying a mask without referring to its dance. Babb. which focus interest on cuisine or on eating particular foods for (gastronomical or other) pleasure. 51). There is much to say about Ingold’s theories of habitus. Beardsworth and Keil (1997.. Food-related ethnographies often privilege development issues (e. For a discussion of cooking without written recipes. My friend Primy also overturned her bowl to check if the whites were ready. Mennell et al. 3.’ 20. 18. Jonaitis provides an excellent discussion of how the sense of taste has been neglected in ethnographic writing. 2.140 • Notes 16. 21. p. Imitar las cocinas famosas no sirve. 4. Caplan (1997b). 1993) or are more about economic issues and gender than cuisine itself (e. pp. 1989). see Fine (1996. en vez de tratar de copiar el modelo europeo. Some also base analysis on religious taboo or hierarchy and classification (such as Douglas.g. pp. textual or language-based models to food and cooking. see Sutton (n. pero en restaurante. Khare. 10 –39). pp. 162).d. livelihood. Peter Gow (1989) analyzes the desires for food and sex in the construction of social relations in Amazonian Peru. But see Sutton (2006). claro. of course. She suggests. In some communities this is still the case. I rather prefer to avoid applying metaphorical. (1992. sin el sazón del amor. 1976). see Goody (1982.g. Deben prepararlos bien de principio.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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