Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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.Contents Illustrations Preface Introduction Milpa Alta. DF Organization of the book 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine The Cultural Significance of Chiles The Range of Mexican Foods Home Cooking by Profession Cooking Tradition On Learning Techniques Food and Love Recipes Chiles Stuffed with Simple picadillo with Potato. Milpa Alta Conclusion Recipes 29 29 32 36 39 43 47 49 49 50 54 66 68 vii ix 1 4 5 7 7 8 11 12 15 18 22 3 –v– . How to Peel chiles poblanos. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. he supports the observation and study of cooking at the domestic level. Yet it cannot be denied that whether food is discussed in ritual or quotidian occasions. Instead. which are deemed of higher theoretical relevance. see Sutton. it has flavour and the taste is important to the people who eat and cook the foods. However. . stating that there is a tendency to spirit away the more concrete aspects of human life. not only in food studies (e. In Goody’s (1982) analysis of hierarchy and the development of elaborate cuisines. like aesthetics. especially from the perspective of the anthropology of art. Lupton. 1999. 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’. 1997. Yet thinking of a cook/chef as an artist. 1998) but also more generally in anthropology and sociology (see Highmore. Whilst we may subconsciously appreciate very good food as superior craft. 2002). It is what matters most immediately to us when we eat and is difficult to isolate as a subaspect of food. anthropologists are not used to thinking of it as art. p. Malinowski. using this label without questioning its meaning. constitutionally. and not food as a means of defining what else it can be used for in the social order (e. by locating their interpretation only at the ‘deeper’ level. or were ceremonialized.5 Gell observes that ‘the neglect of art in modern social anthropology is necessary and intentional. But his interest is in comparative analysis over a broad historical. the artistic aspect of food production has often been ignored in favour of its shock value. sex and sacrifice. arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially. as Sidney Mintz put it. 1996). especially in areas as closely tied to the whole domestic domain as that of cooking. (p. than if they simply pleased those who were doing the cooking and eating’ (1996. The distinction between art and craft is a question of skill. In fact. 1998. he discusses ‘the art of cooking’. The same could be said about flavour in food. food and eating ‘were more interesting [to anthropologists] if they offended the observer. Without the consideration of such related areas. comparison and contrast within and between cuisines lacks an essential dimension. 3). even food. perhaps because. There is a growing trend to consider the everyday. Wiessner and Schiefenhövel. Macbeth. discussed further below.g.g. albeit lightly. Lentz. anti-art’ (1996. little is written about cooking as a form of art. 25) Strangely enough. analysing cooking in its domestic quotidian context is as important as studying food in ritual contexts. p.30 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and Kaplan.3 The topic of food in anthropology has historically been subsumed into these other areas and contexts. 1997.4 In other words. Mintz encourages anthropologists to study food in its social context as a ‘cuisine’. taste in terms of flavour seems to be particularly resistant to sociological analysis. 40). 1935). is a connection that is so easily made in societies where most anthropologists come from. it is considered to be subjective and too personal for scrutiny. 1996. or. Counihan and van Esterik. baffled him.

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

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

and how these processes are part of the larger process we call society or the network of social relations’. p. would be to take on Gell’s emphasis on agency and intention in the social milieux of works of art. or the mastery of the artwork itself as an entity. 68ff). or (eventually) the development of personhood. Each of these entities exerts agency upon others. as products of techniques’ (p. The agency of the artist. we may think of the artist as cook. the person or thing depicted in the artwork. They also are thought of as having higher value. the doing of art rather than the simple observation of semiotic meaning. This may be effected and experienced as aesthetic awe. It is art as an activity. or both. which is seen as artistic excellence or exemplary craftsmanship. 43. art objects are those that are ‘beautifully made. produced by an ‘artist’. The action performed by any of the four variables in Table 2. based on a ‘prototype’ (whatever is depicted). or as a social actor. Some objects of art are produced with the intention of capturing the viewer’s (eater’s/recipient’s) attention. Put very simply for visual art.9 Art objects.1 is also caused or put into effect by intention or the network of intentionalities in which it is enmeshed. become personified and persons become objectified. every ‘agent’ has a corresponding ‘patient’. and viewed or consumed by a ‘recipient’ (spectator). which thereby facilitates a perceptual change in the recipient. in particular. If we transpose this terminology to the study of food. including art-objects. affects the spectator in a way that may be called aesthetic. Gell emphasizes action. The index ‘abducts’ agency within its social milieu to mediate social interaction. This value is given to them by humans because of a perceived superiority. sometimes directly. The capacity of the art object to inspire the awe or admiration afforded it is a direct result of this active agency. There is another sense in which the nature of art production is active. Likewise. in Gell’s terms. 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. sometimes through art-objects. 43). the prototype as recipe. the index as the food.10 David Parkin (2006. p. The solution to this problem. and recipient as eater (see Table 2. or made beautiful’ (p. sometimes via the index/artwork. original emphasis). what Gell calls captivation (1998.1).Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 33 performs an aesthetic effect by what he calls ‘the technology of enchantment’. therefore. 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. ‘demonstrate a certain technically achieved level of excellence … as made objects. gastronomic bliss. acting as the nexus of interrelating social networks. meal or dish. whether from the position of producer. Although many objects may be thought of as beautiful. upon which/whom agency is exerted. 7) provide an example that illustrates how a cook’s agency affects eaters abducted by . p. the artwork is an ‘index’. 84) succintly glosses Gell’s theory as ‘a social anthropology of how objects. Foodwriters Dornenburg and Page (1996. for instance. We as art lovers are enchanted by our perception of the technical virtuosity entailed to produce these works of art. consumer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dishes) that a person makes as the products of her agency. p. Eating food on one’s own. 1986. Food is exchanged for money. As Nancy Munn describes for kula exchange in Gawa. If we think of the things (artworks.’ which transforms the patient’s relationship with the agent. conversely. since food transactions are inherently social activities. with the expectation of future reciprocity of a similar or different kind (e. positive extension of the agent’s ‘spacetime. and as mentioned previously. shared and distributed to others. 346). knowing how to cook. For example. unless one is sharing the food.g. then not sharing (that is. 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. eating what one cooks oneself is antisocial. there is an agent (cook. Munn. original emphasis). whether it is a special fiesta. customer). prepared by vendors (señoras) to serve commercially. which are given. a girl is said to be ready for marriage when she demonstrates culinary mastery. they are material repositories of that person and that person’s intentions. there is an immediate exchange between the social actors. p. The skill that the cook reveals through the food likewise reveals other things of social salience. vendor) and a patient (eater. As in food hospitality. a meal at a restaurant. and thus also ensures community viability. 56.22 Within the corpus of Mexican culinary culture exists a vast subset of street food and market food. 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. This is food which follows the logic that it should be prepared for an other. So cooking is an inherently social act. Food sharing is dynamic and self-extending. If sharing is a positive act. the act of sharing is a value-enhancing. ‘[T]he exchange of comestibles in hospitality is the dynamic base. Simmel perceives of eating as negative and ‘low’). and so. In this case. ‘[T]he shared meal lifts an event of physiological primitivity and inescapable commonality into the sphere of social interaction and thereby suprapersonal meaning’ (Simmel. is the opposite of sharing food with others (cook-A→cook-P). Munn explains that in Gawa. ensuring an ongoing relationship which may be based on exchange at another level of social interaction. Mauss’s time lag). though. some of which is the same as home cooking. or the warmth of home cooking. therefore. just as neglecting to offer food when hospitality is pertinent is considered to be selfish and greedy (envidioso/a). Food is shared with specific others as a means of exhibiting respect for an existing or future relationship of reciprocity. 1994. the act of eating) can be thought of as a negative act (cf. If we further accept that these things are extensions of the agent’s personhood. this infers that corresponding to the agent (donor) there must be a patient (recipient). The . how to make tortillas and salsas. whereas eating is socially static and self-collapsing.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 41 What the eater also recognizes is the socially meaningful network of intentionalities surrounding the meal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primy and her mother-in-law began to prepare lunch. Primy kneaded the dough and with the help of a tortilla press and her two small sons. green tomatoes. At the same time. After breakfasting on the chilaquiles with teleras (a type of bread roll) and hot milk with coffee or chocolate stirred in.58 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Friday: Mise en Place (Preparations). and Primy was already away at the market while her mother-in-law was at home preparing breakfast. the other two for the green and red salsas that she would make. chiles and herbs for the cooking process and also to make the salsas that would accompany the meat. Primy put all the tomatoes to soak in a plastic basin to soften the husks for easier removal. so that we could make gorditas pellizcadas when we got home. the innards. that the women had cleaned so thoroughly the day before. As we walked home from the school we passed by a tortillería. where a simple industrial gas cooker was set up. Alejandro was at his butcher block chopping all the menudencias. Indeed it is the most labour-intensive because all the preparations for the cooking and serving of the meat are done on Fridays. Her mother-in-law helped as well. The day began early. After baking them on . we made thick tortillas. one for the panzas. I arrived at their house before 7 a. Primy went to the market to buy vegetables. as usual. (I do not think he did much else that day. We were having chilaquiles verdes for breakfast that day. For green chilaquiles. the maize dough used to make tortillas. carrots. we got back to work. We all sat outside in the patio with the tomatoes and three plastic strainers and set to peeling off the husks as we rinsed them. chopping onions and carrots.) Primy rinsed out the coriander and epazote and left the herbs to soak in water. and almost all of this work was done by Primy. There we bought a kilo of masa. Primy separated them into the three containers. chiles. We carried on preparing the vegetables. that supports two large gas rings that can accommodate very large pots and pans. She brought out three little painted wooden chairs with wicker seats for me. When this was done it was time to pick up the children from school. The cooker was like those found in food stalls in the market. Meanwhile. her mother-in-law and herself. but Primy was in charge. a small shop selling machine-made tortillas. We roasted green poblano chiles over coals to peel and slice them for rajas con crema (strips of roasted chiles with crème fraîche and onions). Alejandro asked Primy to prepare them for me so that I could taste as much typical Mexican food as time allowed. sancochando la carne (Pre-cooking the Meat) Alejandro told me that Friday is the heaviest day for women in the barbacoa trade. Primy returned from her shopping with sacks of white onions. about waist height. I stayed and helped make breakfast in the airing room. These gorditas (also called sopes) are a type of snack food that is often eaten in the street.m. removing stems from the fresh and dried chiles and just chatting away. made of a metal frame. coriander and various other foods. 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 serranos. Lunch was a feast for me. Preparing the panza is always the women’s responsibility. Since she needed to make a larger amount. water flavoured with a variety of sweet lime that they picked off the tree in the garden. We returned to the vegetables we had been cleaning and divided the tomatoes and chiles for the salsas. She told me that for small tasks. and rajas con crema. She filled the pail with the tomatoes and chiles along with salt and other ingredients. they used an electric blender for making sauces and for larger tasks. she said. crisply cooked crumbled longaniza (a type of sausage). we took the pail to a salsa mill. especially in cities.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 59 a hot comal. Otherwise. When we returned home Primy had to prepare the stuffing for the panzas. For the green salsa we peeled avocados. and beans in their broth at the end. we pinched them several times on one side ( pellizcar means to pinch). then breaded chicken with boiled carrots with cream. She toasted these on a hot comal and warned me to keep clear of the smoke since the chiles always made her cough and sneeze. 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. like making the panza filling and the salsas. molino de salsas.9 The red salsa was more popular than the green in the stand where they sold barbacoa. Men in the barbacoa trade are responsible for the slaughter and preparing the meat. I had heard that some people still used it. Primy processed them in the blender in stages because she was making large amounts for the business. in a busy barbacoiero household such as this one. The meal was washed down with an agua fresca de limón. She also had procured some pork fat to add to the filling mixture so that the panza would not get too dry during . a tool that dates to pre-Hispanic times. although it was standard fare for them. rubbed them with melted lard. unless there was a power failure. such as grinding these crackers. far beyond the capacity of a domestic blender. chopped coriander and combined them with the green tomatoes. árbol seco. We had gorditas to start. as are chopping and cleaning vegetables and herbs. She knelt on the ground behind the grinding stone and in a matter of seconds reduced the crackers to fine crumbs. Although I would have the tendency to linger over such exquisite food. and pulla or guajillo angosto. She used saltine crackers instead of bread because. This was our starter for lunch on that day. green salsa and crumbled white cheese. but nowadays. there were tortillas and a lovely tomato-chile-based salsa to accompany. a short walk away. As always. She boiled green tomatoes and put the toasted chiles to soak in the cooking water. Alejandro pounded chicken breasts to make milanesas and his mother hauled out the heavy stone metate to make breadcrumbs for the chicken. I asked her if she always used the metate. she would use it. She then proceeded to make the red salsa in which she used three types of dried chiles—chile morita. garlic and salt. and topped them with refried beans. few people did so because of the effort and physical force that was required. there was a lot of work to be done after eating. Women look after the softer and more complex cooking. onions. so Primy had a 30-litre pail for this. as well as filling and unloading the oven. she preferred the effect of crushed crackers to that of breadcrumbs.

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

avocado and pickled jalapeño chiles. served with a swirl of cream. weaving cloth. tapering to a fine point like a needle. the succulent leaves of the maguey plant. All of this was served with warm corn tortillas. By the time I got up at seven o’clock. Then they must be toasted to mellow their flavour and bitterness. This last point seemed particularly impressive to them. which she made of sliced bread ( pan bimbo) spread with cream and filled with ham. They are essential in the preparation of this type of barbacoa as they both protect the meat from burning. By five o’clock the meat should be ready. This time it was less elaborate than on the Friday before. a (red) tomato-based stew with chicken. Doña Margarita lit the coals that had remained in the pit with scraps of cardboard and burnt pencas. all parts of different varieties of maguey plants. They are thick and spiny at the edges. To follow was a guisado de jitomate. coffee boiled with abundant water and flavoured with cinnamon and. if available. Alejandro’s mother gave me a sandwich for breakfast and a pint of hot milk in which I stirred some café de olla. When a bright fire was smoking in the oven we laid the fresh pencas across the top. a typical homestyle soup with short noodles in (red) tomato broth. y además come ¡con gusto!’). both pencas and sap. we attended to the oven. and even making alcoholic drinks (like pulque. I helped Doña Margarita wash the dishes from Friday and we went to buy food with which to prepare lunch. as well as add flavour and help to seal in moisture. 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. Each of these leaves. Before all this. turning them and even hanging them halfway into the oven so that they roasted evenly. Primy and Doña Margarita were not the first to comment that it was so nice to feed me because I ate everything without trouble and I obviously truly enjoyed the food (‘Come de todo. Then she asked me to accompany her to do her errands. can reach up to 2 metres in length and about 30 centimetres wide at the base. or pencas. We had sopa casera de tallarines con crema. and different varieties are used for tequila and mezcal ). The pencas must first be shaved at the base so that they are evenly thick and pliable. She accompanied me with a sandwich of her own. So we proceeded to light the oven by the side of the house. This step took a good hour or so.Barbacoa in Milpa Alta • 61 it had not overflowed and the meat was cooking nicely. however. and there were beans to follow if anyone wanted some. for preparing food. crude sugar. Saturday morning may be spent doing any sort of tasks and chores. piloncillo. Alejandro had brought home pencas de maguey. and meanwhile we carried on with other household chores. While waiting for Primy and the boys to return home. 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. Primy came home and prepared the comida quickly. In fact. have been used extensively and have been exploited all over Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. because Mexican food was thought to be notoriously difficult for foreigners . For women in the barbacoa trade. courgettes and strips of roasted and peeled poblano chiles.

she waited for Alejandro to come and reach into the oven for the tub of drippings. It was time to stack the oven. they were on their way to their barbacoa stall in a market near the centre of Mexico City. separating the meat into plastic crates lined with wax paper and the toasted maguey pencas from the oven. and therefore understand the flavours.30 a. Primy and Doña Margarita did this in the same order as in stacking the perol. Finally. Last. Primy was already unloading everything. an old cover and empty basins were arranged on the edges to secure it and weigh it down. or at least hoped. but he told me that he was dying to go. My ability to enjoy their food. la pura brasa. only this time the sides of the oven were lined with pencas. Both Alejandro and Primy would go to the market together as it was always their busiest day.62 • Culinary Art and Anthropology to eat. When all the meat was properly arranged.m. Each panza is placed individually in the centre of a toasted penca. Alejandro sold meat. She placed the heads and pescuezos into separate pails and when she finished pulling out the panzas. On a Sunday the children considered this to be a special treat. heads and panzas by the kilo. la carne sancochada. and he and his wife expected. Just before lunch. no cooking film was necessary and no water was added for the consomé. that both of their sons would maintain it when they came of age. She filled the cavity with dry logs. Afterward. while Primy made and sold tacos and consomé and also usually acted as cashier. now full of consomé. otherwise the meat would fail to cook properly.10 Already they took their 7-year-old son with them to sell. Their second son was still too young to accompany them. Primy lay the caul on top to cover all the meat so the fat could drip down as it melted and keep the meat moist. They loaded everything into the back of their truck and by 5.30 p. Sunday: Sacando la carne (Taking Out the Meat) At five in the morning I was awakened for the final stage of preparing barbacoa. With this she ignited the wood and left it to burn while we ate. which had been pre-cooking in the perol for a few hours. we unloaded the meat. It was 5. and then they slid the heavy steel cover over the opening. The two women pulled out a square of canvas filled with sand to shroud the cover. Then we left the barbacoa to stew in its own juices all night.m. The sides are folded inward and the lot is tied with string with the edges turned in so that none of the panza is exposed. Primy showed me how to wrap the panzas in pencas of maguey to protect them from burning as they cook. made me seem less foreign to them and more easily assimilated. She picked the meat from between the neck bones . and by now the logs were reduced to red-hot embers. Alejandro’s stall had been in the family for three generations. Primy lit the pit-oven with firewood. They spread the sand evenly to block any cracks so that absolutely no steam escaped the oven. more toasted pencas were lain. Then we checked the oven. and with old newspaper she grabbed a fistful of tallow that she collected every week from the meat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1991.4 By focusing on meal production as a household chore. p. Maintaining the leitmotif of cooking as an artistic practice. inevitably play a subordinate role to men. they argue. Cooking is a complex and artistic practice. Beardsworth and Keil. 1988. This chapter focuses on the role of women in the network of Milpa Alta society. 47). The work must be seen as separable from the one who does it.g. which include cooking and other domestic tasks. Though I agree that feeding a family is a skill and responsibility easily taken for granted in Mexico and elsewhere. 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 – . as wives. are devalued ‘or not regarded as skills at all’ (Charles and Kerr. home cooking is considered women’s work. we can think of women’s agency as a culinary agency. 1983). Ekström. Women are the key actors in the culinary system. p. it can lead to women’s subordination (e. these studies take food production to be directly symbolic of the reproduction of a social order where women. 1998.3 The Value of Cooking and Other Work Some feminist sociological studies argue that when cooking is regarded as women’s work. referring to the sazón de amor that is responsible for good flavour. I would differentiate cooking from other forms of housework. The root of the problem. 142). McIntosh and Zey. and go on to develop my argument in relation to how women and—or via—their cooking are valued in Milpa Alta. is how women’s skills. often ‘invisible’ skill that women take upon as ‘natural’. Delphy. DeVault writes. I hesitate to separate the act and skill of cooking from the cook. different from other kinds of housework because of the creative component involved. 1997. their husbands. and just as their agency is mobilized by the family during fiestas in community-wide sociality1 (see Chapter 5).2 I begin by describing local social relations and different kinds of women’s work in Milpa Alta.–4– Women as Culinary Agents Although many men in Milpa Alta are involved in food industries. ‘The underlying principles of housework must be made visible. 1979. Murcott. Crucially. such as when they hire domestic helpers. In her insightful and critical discussion of how ‘feeding a family’ is a complex. they can also mobilize the agency of others. instead of in the traditional way as an expression of love and personality’ (1991.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Mintz. pp. by a wife or a mother. then. as works of art (Gell. therefore. 1998). Looking more closely at cuisine and the social relations surrounding its production can be illuminating. The tasting of freedom was linked to the tasting of food. but could not themselves duplicate’ (47–8). 1998. 1994). or a devotion to culinary works of art. because machines produced inferior flavours and quality in comparison to handmade tortillas (Marroni de Velázquez. recipes) should be thought of as having social agency. it is as a provider of sex and food that women’s power becomes evident. women were left with more time and energy to devote to other activities. Both sex and food lead to the continuance (and reproduction) of individuals as well as of society.15 With the tortillas sorted out. with technological advances and political changes as women entered the extradomestic labour force. in the case of Mexico. by recognizing that cooking is active and creative. an idea also formulated by Mintz: ‘[W]orking in the emergence of cuisine legitimized status distinctions within slavery. pp. or. pp. this was specifically the demands of making fresh tortillas (see Pilcher. At the same time. Gradually. The elaborate cuisine was not the restrictive factor of their lives per se. Mexican women used to spend up to a third of their waking hours making tortillas (pp. p. or as being social actors in their own right. A woman should be able to satisfy her husband both sexually and gastronomically. Abarca (2006. forms of autonomy. in the way taught by generations of women who nourished their families as wives and mothers. 100–6). and it can even be thought of as a means toward women’s liberation. she is in control over these two fundamental . 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. While it is arguable that women’s subordination was exacerbated by the demands of the kitchen. there was resistance to machine-made tortillas. 1996. 31–2) also notes that in some ways the factory-made tortillas were more of a burden than a blessing to rural women because of their need to earn money to buy them. its outcome (food. 80–1). and because the cooks actually invented a cuisine that the masters could vaunt. dishes. put another way. which eventually led to the development of an elaborate cuisine. morality and domestic power and may even help them to trap a husband. To summarize. In effect. 99–121). culinary or otherwise. the dependence on flavour. pp. gives women the legitimacy to expand their social and physical boundaries. an elaborate cuisine is not simply a creative escape valve for otherwise restricted women. It is a license for social action in the pursuit of technical or culinary artistry. cooking was one significant way around it. Although women’s socially acceptable spaces may have appeared limited. 106–10). Ideally food is cooked at home.84 • Culinary Art and Anthropology around before freedom itself was. 1998. machine-made tortillas gained acceptance (Pilcher. 37) As I describe for Milpa Alta. Then. both because the master class became dependent on its cooks. Before wide industrialization and the spread of mechanical tortillerías.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

687). and on one’s guests. the more an object resists our possession (because. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it. Since mole is feast food par excellence.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. and Mx$20.050) for carnitas. it cost around Mx$10. 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. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. p. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. and because to a large extent.000 (£1.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. it is very expensive). i. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative.000 (£1.. for example. Not only because of the costs. Mx$15.. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s. In addition. For this reason. as far as I know.400) for barbacoa.’ (p. a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. In short. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. 54). Before then. p. 1991. So in money and in labour mole is more expensive. if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas. 29). It is therefore defined as appropriate. 91). In 2000. In effect. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. it can be considered to be in good taste. but also because of the social values. within the region. serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated.e. But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. 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 . ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. Barbacoa is a luxury food. . 29). as mentioned previously. technically difficult and valuable. the greater its social value. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. 1984. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

then. To conclude. Abarca’s (2007) recent article on Mexican food entrepreneurs argues that some successful women recreate the spirit of home and cultural heritage when they prepare and sell their food. akin to the pleasures of sex without the entanglements of love (amongst social relations). then. The goal of this and other kinds of commodity exchange is a simple transaction. Both the customer and the vendor indeed ‘sacrifice’ something of value (money/food) in exchange for something that they value more (food/money). food in the street provides the flavour of Mexican cuisine without the effort or social investment. What is given is not a gift. satisfying way. wherein each actor values the other thing more than the thing he or she gives up. rather than being an unethical commercial venture in opposition to the ethical food-giving at home. What is given over is a thing that the giver values less than what is received. without any moral obligation on the part of the buyer or the seller. In Chapter 3 I also mentioned how Primy would proffer special treatment to regular customers. completed on the spot. There will always be differences in a cook’s activities depending on her specific intentions. however. Home cooking has the status of the highly moral marital bond. and so the vendor directs her agency to this competition. Indeed. or her intended food consumers. nor is it obligatory. So the culinary agency involved in preparing food for sale or for loved ones is actually one and the same. If we follow Gell’s (1999a) logic about commodity exchange. Things are exchanged for things. buying and selling street food would constitute a food transaction of supreme reciprocity. There is quantitative equivalence. and neither I nor the vendor I choose engage in any realm wherein either of us can be judged to be generous or envidiosa. the food is transacted in a mercifully simple. This intention would be no different from the desire of a food vendor to entice customers with a certain taste to her own delicious food. especially if one eats alone at a street stand. Briefly put. is how Gell (1999a) dismantles the idea that commercial activities should be less moral than non-commercial/gift-giving and gift-receiving.126 • Culinary Art and Anthropology mothers or ‘second wives’ of men whose legitimate wives exert domestic (marital and gastronomical) rights.8 Recall now that cooking is an activity like building a trap-as-artwork. and its appeal lies in the link between eating and sex. In fact. This immediate-return exchange is instant gratification. Street food is commoditized cooking. though each leaves the transaction happier with his or her newly acquired money or food than before. there are two ways of experiencing food as delicious. Yet more pertinent to this point than Gell’s discussion of artworks as traps. with the intention of constructing bait in a particular way to ensnare the loyalty of kin and ritual kin.9 It is as delicious and clandestine as an illicit love affair. and the value of food sharing. Both the vendor and the home cook wish to attract and appease the appetite of the same consumer. I can choose to buy food from this or that vendor. A customer hands over money and the vendor hands over flavourful food. with respect to her agency. as the vendor-client relationship can blur over time to approximate friendship. . there are no social relations involved to complicate one’s enjoyment of the flavours.

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

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

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

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

Bake on both sides on a hot comal. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry. The beans should be encased in masa. dry frying pan or griddle. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas. thinner and crisper. 2. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3. Before pressing out the tortillas. fry them in hot oil till crisp. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling. chopped coriander and cream. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. Many people make thin. oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes. The next morning. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. . Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. and 1 cm thick. Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. Leave them out to dry overnight. 2.3. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. extra-long. chopped onions. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional). Top with cooked salsa. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2.4. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans. 2. grated cheese. about 10–15 cm long. 8 cm wide.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. cream and grated white cheese.

queso fresco. pork or beef or boiled potatoes chopped white onions grated cheese • Heat 1 cm oil in a frying pan beside the pan where the salsa is cooking. fry and cook the salsa with epazote. see below) bolillos or teleras (crusty white bread roll) 3. • Toss the tortilla chips in the hot salsa. rings or half-rings shredded or crumbled white cheese (queso oaxaqueño.2.1 For Enchiladas suizas Use green salsa. • One by one.2 Enchiladas corn tortillas thin cooked salsa. Arrange in ovenproof dish and bake till heated through and cheese has melted. • Sprinkle with chopped onions and grated cheese. Typical Toppings white onion.132 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Strain into hot oil. 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. sliced into very thin wedges. . When they are well coated. shredded chicken and yellow melting cheese and drizzle over crema espesa or sour cream. place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre and roll into a cylinder. Arrange rolls side by side. as for chilaquiles shredded boiled chicken. and put on toppings and side dishes before serving. • One by one. Then pass it through the hot oil to soften it a bit and make it pliable. lay tortillas on a plate or ovenproof serving dish. place on plates. 3. pork or beef filet (milanesa) fried crumbled Mexican longaniza (sausage) shredded boiled chicken frijoles refritos (refried beans. dip each tortilla in the pan of hot salsa and pass it through to quickly coat it.

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

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

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

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

2 per cent of its area. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. 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. So for her. food production depends on the skilled handling of tools. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . and vice versa. 5. . 3.489. In my case. Abarca draws from literary.5 per cent was inhabited. in fact her approach is necessarily different. Sutton (2006) also discusses how acquiring cooking skill is a matter of learning bodily habit memory and not simply following a simple set of rules. p. 2000. 21–2). . I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. 4. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican. 2.102 for Milpa Alta and 8. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. 318). The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. sazón. Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. and indeed of an anthropologist.007 for the whole city). of course. As can be expected.Notes Introduction 1. 3. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. though it occupied 19. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. ‘Where . 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. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted. She grew up with the creative artistry of Mexican cooking as part of her normal daily life. At the time of my research in the nineties. food as art. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. and indeed of one’s own person. pp.

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

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

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

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

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

Nowadays (within the last 20 years). 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. Chapter 1). where he writes of the social meanings behind serving a bad sauce among the Songhay in Niger. though Bourdieu argues a different point. For a clearer understanding of attachment to land. 31. which literally means lace. . 29. In other parts of Mexico the caul is also called encaje. 8. 9. mixiote or barbacoa. 28. they mutually imply one another (mole ↔ fiesta). 27. 63 – 4). In a way this seems to echo Simmel. Recall that going to university is a luxury only recently acquired with the increased economic prosperity in Milpa Alta. Stoller (1989. Very little material is published on the history of barbacoa in Milpa Alta or elsewhere. As explained in Chapter 4. for barbacoa. 5. Discussed further in Chapter 5. The food product transacted remains the same. Gell (1996. 24. E. Also adobo. These dishes are also technically difficult to prepare. which is used to make mixiote.Notes • 143 with food portions. As mentioned previously in Chapter 2. 6. many families who hold large celebration banquets serve carnitas. However. i. Chapter 3 Barbacoa in Milpa Alta 1. Cf. so the ‘sociality’ produced is of the kind that McCallum (2001) describes. for art. 1994. as ‘links in chains of personal rather than mechanical causation’ (2000. but perhaps with some ridicule at times. borregos criollos. locally reared sheep. 26. and the menu rarely varies beyond these three choices. pp. see Gomezcésar (1992). 4. instead of mole. Ingold also considers practical knowledge to be embedded in a social matrix of relations. See Chapter 5 for an examination of fiesta food. 32. 289). p. ‘Es una tradición que le va dejando a la nueva generación. Aztec children were disciplined by being made to inhale chile smoke as punishment (Coe. Cf. Chapter 4). he is often teased for being mandilón (tied to the apron strings) or called ciguamoncli (cf.g. See Miller (2002) on expressing love through food shopping.’ Use of this phrase to describe something seemed to indicate its importance in Milpa Alta society. He is met not with disapproval.e. since mole is to fiesta as fiesta is to mole. 3. 2. If a husband moves into his wife’s house. oftentimes people serve a small amount of mole with tamales after the main course so that guests do not leave without their ‘mole de fiesta’ (see Chapter 5). 7. 1999b). 30. 25.

This term has been used to criticize women’s entry into the capitalist labour force. although they do lead to social organization. culinary technical superiority or culinary artistry. but also by food quality. 1982). 4. This is an indication that people tend not to make gastronomic compromises. There are (immoral) actions that can lead to anti-sociality. The doble jornada. This does not necessarily mean. Alejandro hoped that one of his sons would become a traffic policeman and Primy hoped they would study medicine. and not all social relations lead to sociality. 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. those social relations that lead to sociality may be not only characterized by food generosity. See Vizcarra (2002) for a comparable account of women and food in an impoverished community in the State of Mexico. 5. I did not know anyone who had live-in domestic help. (‘to feed them’). however. but only cases where a woman was hired for a few hours a week or on an occasional basis. Likewise. where they were not only underpaid. Note that she describes how men believe that the only responsibility of women to their husbands is ‘dar de comer’. arguably. Mole probably ranks as the highest. Melhuus and Stølen (1996). but migrants from the poorer states of Oaxaca. 11) which is characterized by generosity with food as a central virtue among the Cashinaua of western Amazonia. that they are supposed to stop making barbacoa! 11.144 • Notes 10. or ‘double workday’. González Montes and Tuñón (1997). McCallum (2001). Chapter 4 Women as Culinary Agents 1. I recognize that I tread on the tenuous border between portraying culinary life as simply rosy and lovely and the dire reality of others. p. but had to do another full day’s work at home for their families or husbands. Alternatively. . that is. Puebla and Veracruz. 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. hierarchical relationships may be useful for effectively pursuing these ideals. McCallum defines sociality as ‘a temporary product of morally correct engagement in social relationships’ (1989. Gutmann (1996). Most women who worked as domestic help in Milpa Alta were not natives. For example. 13. 12. 2. Note that most of their findings were based on white middle-class Americans or Europeans. González Montes (1997). 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. 3. But because of the demands of culinary ideals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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