Culinary Art and Anthropology

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Culinary Art and Anthropology Joy Adapon Oxford • New York .

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

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

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

2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. Arranged According to Type of Celebration Figures 5.1 Feast Food in Milpa Alta.Illustrations Tables 2.2 The Art Nexus as Food Nexus 5.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole 5.1 Terminology Employed by Gell. and Corresponding Food Terms 2. Shown as Families 103 104 34 35 100 – vii – .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine • 27 • With practice. you can splash the top of the chile constantly with oil so that it will no longer be necessary to turn the chile to fry the other side. you may need two spatulas to turn the chiles without breaking the egg coating. though the bottom part will always be a little darker. • If you are inexperienced. • The batter should cook until it is lightly golden (never brown). place them on paper towels to absorb excess oil. you can hold them by the stem to turn them without using a spatula. it is possible! • When frying small chiles and those that do not have a heavy filling. Yes. • Once you remove the chiles from the pan. though it may be better to turn them by holding the stem. . You may need to change the paper towels two or more times as you continue frying.

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

Malinowski. 1999. But his interest is in comparative analysis over a broad historical. constitutionally. not only in food studies (e. However. Wiessner and Schiefenhövel. 1996. as Sidney Mintz put it. p. Yet thinking of a cook/chef as an artist. taste in terms of flavour seems to be particularly resistant to sociological analysis. Whilst we may subconsciously appreciate very good food as superior craft.g. 2002). 1998. perhaps because. or were ceremonialized. sex and sacrifice. . analysing cooking in its domestic quotidian context is as important as studying food in ritual contexts. 1997. it is considered to be subjective and too personal for scrutiny. is a connection that is so easily made in societies where most anthropologists come from. 1996). 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’. Lentz. The same could be said about flavour in food. he discusses ‘the art of cooking’. 1997.5 Gell observes that ‘the neglect of art in modern social anthropology is necessary and intentional. which are deemed of higher theoretical relevance. p. (p. 3). anti-art’ (1996. like aesthetics. 40). by locating their interpretation only at the ‘deeper’ level. Instead.30 • Culinary Art and Anthropology and Kaplan.4 In other words. Without the consideration of such related areas. discussed further below. or. Mintz encourages anthropologists to study food in its social context as a ‘cuisine’. 25) Strangely enough. 1998) but also more generally in anthropology and sociology (see Highmore. Counihan and van Esterik. he supports the observation and study of cooking at the domestic level. especially from the perspective of the anthropology of art. it has flavour and the taste is important to the people who eat and cook the foods. even food. The distinction between art and craft is a question of skill. In Goody’s (1982) analysis of hierarchy and the development of elaborate cuisines. There is a growing trend to consider the everyday. stating that there is a tendency to spirit away the more concrete aspects of human life. albeit lightly.. Yet it cannot be denied that whether food is discussed in ritual or quotidian occasions. arising from the fact that social anthropology is essentially. little is written about cooking as a form of art. food and eating ‘were more interesting [to anthropologists] if they offended the observer. anthropologists are not used to thinking of it as art. see Sutton.g. Lupton. comparison and contrast within and between cuisines lacks an essential dimension. and not food as a means of defining what else it can be used for in the social order (e. using this label without questioning its meaning. 1935). especially in areas as closely tied to the whole domestic domain as that of cooking. than if they simply pleased those who were doing the cooking and eating’ (1996. Macbeth. It is what matters most immediately to us when we eat and is difficult to isolate as a subaspect of food. baffled him.3 The topic of food in anthropology has historically been subsumed into these other areas and contexts. In fact. the artistic aspect of food production has often been ignored in favour of its shock value.

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

p. 6). and the cuisine demands a certain discipline and lifestyle which partly structures the daily. therefore.32 • Culinary Art and Anthropology Technical mastery is what defines the art object. focusing on culinary practice. These are important points which could lead to further investigation. 6 –7) Put into context. emphasis added) which . If foods are full of meaning. I mainly draw upon Alfred Gell’s theory of art. but also acknowledge the artistic quality of the act of cooking. which is the efficacious aspect. rather than trying to explain why one foodstuff may ‘stand for’ something else. pp. Thinking of food as art which is based on action (Gell. Instead. 1999b). Another way of looking at it is Munn’s definition of meaning. and my approach attempts to respond to such a gap. 6). Thus I avoid analysis of semiotic relations such as corn with blood or chiles with penises (in the wordplay albur). 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. my research focuses on the meanings of interrelating cultural forms—the corpus of cuisine. I am taking cuisine as art in the way that Gell sees art. essential to the reproduction of human societies’ (p. (1986. So. the social meanings or meaningfulness of foods can be better understood if we analyze cuisine as a whole. the perspective of food as art may help us understand some of the meanings that foods carry. weekly. 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. and social interaction and hospitality in fiesta and quotidian occasions. as he developed it in several publications (e. To help in thinking about food anthropologically. the cultural meanings of culinary activity as part of women’s work is different from a semiotic analysis of foodstuffs. ‘as a system of action. Thus. 1998. p. What Mexican cooking actually appears to ‘mean’ is a harmonious family and socio-cosmological life.g. Gell’s Theory of Art Gell (1996) suggests thinking of art as a ‘vast and often unrecognized technical system. 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. monthly. or repository of social meaning. then. and yearly timetables of women as well as men. Women do the cooking. and therefore meaning ful. women’s domestic and extradomestic roles. 1998) allows for using Nancy Munn’s conception of ‘meaning’ that is not static: ‘actors construct this meaningful order in the process of being constructed in its terms’ (1986. and recognizing this puts due emphasis on the flavour of food. 43. as being the relational nexus that enters into any given sociocultural form or practice (of whatever order of complexity) and defines that practice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in fact. cooking). and as Goody has argued.24 Although I cannot determine exactly where or when it began to be served during fiestas. aware that he deliberately ignores the cooking aspect of cuisine. as he approaches art from another perspective. Taste. judgement of something cannot be separated from an understanding of the process of its production (for food. which it manifests in several ways. It is an incorporated principle of classification which governs all forms of incorporation. I suggest focusing primarily on the art world (cuisine) and the artists. he does not analyze particular ‘works of art’ in relation to their own ‘art world’. 190) Thus. in other words. I argue that form is necessarily related to function. then flavour is socially functional. Perhaps this is better explained with Gell’s method of analyzing art. and ‘life’ with function (and necessity). it also has limitations. and not just the isolated dishes (see Chapter 5). which he describes as a dimension of habitus and systematic choices produced in practice. how it comes about that a society places value on an object and judges one thing to be in better taste. and then considering the audience and how this informs an artist to modify an artwork. having observed its widespread use I found that its acceptance is related to the prestige attached to barbacoieros. or to taste better. In a sense. But the cooking is crucial to the achievement of its artistic status. In contrast. and also for the homologous . at least in Milpa Alta (food-A→cook-P). then some constituting artworks should be discussed as well. choosing and modifying everything that the body ingests and digests and assimilates. than another. 5).25 He separates form from function by associating ‘art’ with form (and luxury). Bourdieu approaches artworks by arguing that value is allocated through the ‘stylization of life’ or ‘the primacy of forms over functions’ (p. It follows that the body is the most indisputable materialization of class taste. So in the case of food. The skill required in culinary labour is the kind of technical mastery which Gell refers to as necessary for the production of an artwork. therefore. a class culture turned into nature. Following Gell. the link between form and function can also be concluded from Bourdieu’s own concept of habitus and self-presentation. Because of his defined concern with judgement. rather than beginning with social classifications. that is embodied. if form is constituted by flavour. helps to shape the class body. physiologically and psychologically. and if the topic is an ‘art world’.44 • Culinary Art and Anthropology To some extent this perspective helps to explain why barbacoa began to be accepted as feast food in Milpa Alta (recipe-A→recipe-P). In an analysis of taste and aesthetics. this should also be observed. So although Bourdieu’s perspective can be applied convincingly to the context in Milpa Alta. class and hierarchy. form and function are merged when externally exhibited in bodily action via the ‘aesthetic’. he is. Focusing exclusively on classifications. (p. that is. He explains. This can be explained more fully after an examination of the social dynamics surrounding the cuisine.

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

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

Food and eating constitute such a domain wherein social settings exist for people to eat together. 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. hovering in the background. and persons and persons via things’ (1998. p. Failing that. For this reason. Conclusion: The Meaningfulness of Food Food carries meaning. [the spectator] is obliged to posit a creative agency which transcends his own and. that the ‘aesthetic stylization’ (1994.Cooking as an Artistic Practice • 47 particular). Furthermore. that is. making social relations between persons via the meal. a concept which is taken to be the opposite of loving in Milpa Alta (see Chapter 6). it is an insult to the host. the power of the collectivity on whose behalf the artist exercised his technical mastery’ (pp. 12. but in fact it is most relevant. I follow Gell’s theory ‘to explore a domain in which “objects” merge with “people” by virtue of the existence of social relations between persons and things. the emotional outcome of keeping culinary tricks or recipes secret is that a cook would be considered to be ‘greedy’ (envidiosa). if a guest comes without warning. whether you like it or not. foods prepared with the highest technical skill possible. If a guest leaves food. An eater’s appreciation of a masterfully prepared dish can be summed up once more with a quote from Gell (1996) which describes how the ultimate meanings of a work of art may be embedded deeper in social processes than the initial aesthetic effects: ‘In reconstructing the processes which brought the work of art into existence. prestige is allocated to a cook and her family when she is known to be an extraordinary cook. the cook continues to aim for the ideals of flavour. 51–2). The relevance of flavour is evident because whether or not a cook is successful. some good cooks hide their culinary secrets viciously. This suggests that flavour is irrelevant to proper social behaviour. indicating that the food had poor or no flavour and was therefore inedible (eater-A→ cook-P). a cook tries to serve only foods of superior flavour to a guest. p. and with the food literally ‘merging’ with these persons as they eat it. is so important in Milpa Alta that many people attend parties with a plastic bag or piece of Tupperware hidden in their handbags. a host/cook serves what there is at home. neither the artwork and the ideas and meanings surrounding . Accepting food offered to you. This actually recalls Simmel’s gastronomic paradox mentioned earlier. and what is served at home also is prepared with technical mastery and love. 347) of the meal manifest in flavour is part of the social nature of food transactions. original emphasis). so that they can take home whatever is served to them that they are unable to eat. The food transaction takes precedence over the particular food served. In turn. and foodstuffs can be social or cultural symbols. if it must be received regardless of personal taste. that is. however. By thinking of cooking as an artistic practice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard work seems to be defined as commerce and extradomestic labour. a single woman in her mid-twenties still living in her natal household. They are the ones who maintain the economic control in the family. They are not simple housewives but are the drive of the family businesses. often by means of their cooking. Stephen. que crea el comercio’). on Tejanos).7 but that is only how it appears on the surface. women in Milpa Alta are ‘submissive’. they take on extradomestic work and still find a way to feed their families (cf. sometimes defining themselves against this notion of submissiveness. they would say that they were barbacoieras. They admirably sacrifice sleep and other comforts for the sake of their work. and get up again the next morning before dawn. Women in Milpa Alta have a reputation in Mexico City for being hardworking. Supposedly. involving changing gender relations resulting from women’s entrance into the labour force. Even when domestic work may appear to be devalued.Women as Culinary Agents • 73 contrary. It was as natural for them to portray themselves as mothers and cooks (‘Me dedico al hogar’) as it was to call themselves barbacoieras. proper provision of tasty food reflects good motherhood. The example of a barbacoa household (Chapter 3) illustrates how women assume the domestic household duties along with helping in the family trade. a journalist.. This must be why several women described themselves as ‘housewives’ although if asked again. 260 –1). pp. Abarca’s (2006) recent study also argues that Mexican and Chicana women use the kitchen as a space of agency and empowerment in creative ways. they are very hardworking (‘La mujer milpaltense no descansa … es muy trabajadora’). Rather than talk of a doble jornada. The reasons for these competing discourses of power and submission are multiple and complex. and likewise. By four or five in the morning the market is alive. 2005. good womanhood. Juanita and other women repeatedly told me that Milpa Alta women never rest. including domestic tasks. among other issues. Both are also valued as work. said that women generate sustenance. the cooking and providing of meals is not (cf. teeming with women setting up their stalls and peeling nopales. returning home well after dusk. Williams. As I discuss further below. Milpa Alta works’ (‘Mientras México duerme. Milpa Alta trabaja’). Indeed.6 they speak with pride of how able and productive their women are. ‘While Mexico sleeps. and both paid and unpaid domestic and extradomestic work is acknowledged and valued. Milpaltense women present themselves as having various opportunities for release from oppression. Women remain at work for twelve hours or more. 1985.8 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. People commonly say. Lulú. Her sensitive discussion of feminist kitchen politics is a . told me that if I were to walk around Milpa Alta at 3 or 4 a. I would find many women awake. Juanita. checking the barbacoa in their pit-ovens.m. 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. Juanita told me. market vendors (vendedoras) or businesswomen (comerciantes).

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

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

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. especially their daughters. 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. For women who feel that their duties as mothers are a burden or hindrance. to pursue more education so that they would have better chances of finding work should they be deserted by their husbands in future and be left to look after children on their own. Miguel said that he knew how to cook as well as how to clean and wash clothes. Yet. he replied. as we drove to the market where they sell their barbacoa. neither the desire for a professional extradomestic career nor the desire to remain home to raise children (and cook and clean) are ‘natural’ for women. and unmarried men depend on their mothers. motherhood has been suggested to be another cause of women’s subordination. In fact. and a man needs a woman to bear children. Motherhood and Virtue Based on their investigation of motherhood and extradomestic work.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!’). but rather seem to consider it as an unfortunate necessity. ‘Para mis niñas’ (‘For my daughters’). Many women consider extradomestic work to be detrimental . Levine (1993) also notes that urban Mexican women in the 1990s were more likely to encourage their children. and my findings in Milpa Alta agree. tying women to their homes and children when they would rather join the labour force. that motherhood does not actually stop women from taking on extradomestic work. Economic considerations play a significant role in women’s activities. pa’ qué te casaste?’ (‘So what did you get married for?’) Coty taunted him. although some women also feel ambivalent about their roles as mothers. ‘¿Entonces. Working-class women taking on jobs outside the home do not think of this freedom to work as any sort of liberating agency. buy a plot of land or provide things for their children. Miguel and Coty provide another example of the social significance of cooking within marriage. Cooking knowledge (and practice) is almost meaningless without a family. they talked lightly about their skills and roles as husband and wife. García and Oliveira demonstrate. it is often necessary for working-class women to work extradomestically to supplement the family income. García and Oliveira (1997) found that motherhood is still the main defining characteristic or source of identity for women in urban Mexico. At this most basic level. boasting that he could look after himself on his own. Their study shows how motherhood is considered to be a source of fulfilment for women regardless of social class. married men depend on their wives. Early one morning. Work.

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. because they and/or their husbands thought it best for them to dedicate their time to child rearing. despite problems with her husband. then. largely because of the governmental support of the project. a larger percentage of both women and men in Milpa Alta neglected to practise their professional careers in favour of ‘traditional’ Milpaltense occupations. who wanted her to spend more time in the house. free) or their husbands as mandilón (tied to the apron strings.Women as Culinary Agents • 77 to the development of their families despite their capitalist productivity. but also about her kind and faithful husband. In the community’s reaction against this. therefore. Other women told me without any indication of shame that they stopped working after marriage. can also be demonstrated by the following example. including good cooking. They did so by emphasizing their exemplary behaviour with respect to other images of womanhood. such as motherhood and being good homemakers (which includes cooking). The dominant discourse of male power and female weakness is used often in reference to Latin America. but Petra.’ In Jalisco. For the sake of their children.11 Eventually land was grudgingly given to the women beekeepers. she describes that the government encouraged peasant women’s participation in an entrepreneurial scheme which required the allocation of ejido land. and Villareal (p. with wives who are loose and free). Although some did talk of professional fulfilment. Villareal’s (1996) analysis of women beekeepers in Jalisco. illustrates how attempts to restrict women’s social spaces may draw on gender imagery that plays upon male ideals and women’s morality. The virtues. henpecked and in effect. often boasted about her cooking skills and was proud of the way she had reared her children. 184) argues against this assumption: ‘In overemphasizing “dominant” imagery. the way they went to church on Sundays. women may stop working outside the home or engage in work that can largely be done from home. a scarce resource for the community. Mexico. these women were attacked in an indirect expression of community dissatisfaction over giving up this land. values and ideals of motherhood and domestic work. 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. and how she walked kilometres across the . 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). Women who wish to pursue extradomestic activities can use a discourse of homemaking and cooking to subvert moral and social criticism. The boundaries of women’s accepted movements were threatened by gossip that labelled them as libertina (loose. the president of the group. Yet women can also use these notions to their advantage. or in particular after having their first child. researchers tend to assume that ideas pertaining to those in hierarchical positions are oppressing passive victims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mole and Fiestas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

The changing or loss of such tradition may seem to indicate a decreasing significance of mole. whether they are festivals of Spanish or indigenous origin. its replacement as fiesta food emphasizes and even reinforces its social meanings. and. but Doña Delfina proudly told us that she had made the mole herself. the eaters are succumbing to an enchantment grounded in their knowledge of what it takes to make a mole. the food served is what is considered to be ‘very Mexican’ or ‘traditional’. This way the chiles would toast gently and were in no danger of burning and therefore becoming bitter. is a complex and socially powerful dish. as I mentioned in Chapter 1. and a sprinkling of this added a sheen and extra flavour to properly garnish the dish. . Several women gave me culinary tips. it was better than moles from San Pedro. 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. mole was also described as a ‘gastronomical orgasm’.Mole and Fiestas • 101 Mole and tamales of different kinds are associated with specific fiestas and seasons. rather than detract from its meaningfulness. and that she had some of the chiles sent over from Puebla. What is interesting is that Spanish or Catholic customs of avoiding meat during Lent and Advent are adhered to. She also showed me another detail which indicated her special care in producing a good mole. It is a good example of an object of art within the art corpus of cuisine (following Gell. p. spices may be old and flavourless and nuts may go rancid if the weather is warm. Chiles and seeds are easily burnt. Doña Delfina.’ The first time I went to Milpa Alta and met Yadira and her family. I understood that since this mole was not commercial. but for personal ritual events and the Days of the Dead. which have their roots in pre-Hispanic customs. she said it was important to take a little of the oil rendered on top of the mole. Yet my observations in Milpa Alta showed that it was more common for fiesta food to be barbacoa. Mole. This change in the traditional menu for feasts had probably begun to occur only since the 1980s. Mole is never made in small amounts.12 Almost everyone I met had a commentary or opinion about mole. her mother-in-law. The value attributed to mole is related to an awareness that it requires a certain technical mastery to prepare well. When serving. It was the time of the Feria del Mole in San Pedro Atocpan. carnitas or mixiotes. after pouring a generous amount of mole over the piece of chicken. so cooks need skill and practice to prepare it well. 1999b). 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. 1998. had prepared mole for us as a special welcome. So what Gell (1996.11 and these extra little attentions made quite a difference to the outcome of the dish. fruits may be underripe. But as I will explain below. in short. On another occasion. No doubt mole deserved its status as quintessential fiesta food. When it is so delicious that it impresses the eaters as a gastronomic climax.

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

or a lineage of guacamoles. an artwork (or salsa. that a linear progression or family tree is an inadequate means of mapping out all the recipes in a cuisine. it can ‘marry’ and ‘have offspring’. it can still be seen as a precursor to the development of the recipe. Following Gell’s theory of art. Reasoning that one recipe develops into another makes sense. Adding avocado to this mixture makes the salsa into guacamole.1 guacamole 2. I illustrate a simplified plan of this in Figure 5.Mole and Fiestas • 103 A green chile can be elaborated on to develop it into a simple salsa. and adding more ingredients makes varieties of guacamole of increasing complexity (see Figure 5. Some of these are related to each other. others seem to have nothing to do with one another as they are completely different and do not mix. of course. there are extensive families of recipes (different types of guacamoles.1). onions and salt. 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. and thus forms a lineage. or different types of barbacoas). red tomatoes. In Figure 5. in this case) should be thought of as just like a person. but what of other dishes with different ingredients? It is not surprising. for example. which is a mixture of roughly chopped green chiles. such as salsa mexicana cruda (pico de gallo). the arrangement of recipes may look very much like a family tree. Although chile is no longer the main ingredient of the salsa called guacamole.1 Linear Progression from Green Chile to Complex Guacamole .1. Conceived of in this way.2.2 (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 has relations with other persons (salsas).

beans + lard (+ onion) maize + lime (CaOH) chile ┌───────┴───────┐ lard + masa tortillas + salsa 1 salsa 2 … salsa x │ ┌────┴────┐ refried beans + masa preparada + salsa x ┌─────┼─────┐ │ chilaquiles enchiladas pastel azteca mole – 104 – tlacoyos huaraches tamales tamales de frijol de chile Figure 5.2 An Example of Some Interrelations among Recipes. Shown as Families .

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

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

29). it can be considered to be in good taste. 1984. as mentioned previously. and can replace mole in value as a tasteful alternative. So if barbacoieros in Milpa Alta have the greatest economic capital locally and constitute the dominant class. when the value of the peso dropped phenomenally in relation to the US dollar (see graph on the exchange rate in Meyer and Sherman. The adoption of these other dishes as suitable festive foods must have been gradual. 1991. 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 . Before then. the more an object resists our possession (because.e. In spite of its status as an appreciated artwork in the cuisine. So in money and in labour mole is more expensive.Mole and Fiestas • 107 a special occasion. as far as I know. and because to a large extent. it is very expensive). but also because of the social values. In 2000.400) for barbacoa. and on one’s guests. It appears that the substitution of mole with these three other dishes occurred only since the 1980s.. But if the prices of all the accompaniments are added up and put in relation to cost of food per head. In short. Recalling that honour and value are sometimes related to Simmel’s notion of resistance as a source of value. the fact that mole is made as a paste and then diluted. He continues that ‘[I]n fact. or it may be the family business to prepare these dishes anyway.050) for carnitas. In effect. Mx$15. 687). to prepare mole for five hundred people costs less than it would to prepare barbacoa. technically difficult and valuable. The aesthetic disposition is associated with economic capital (Bourdieu. The aesthetic point of view or aesthetic intention is ‘what makes the work of art’ (p. Not only because of the costs. For this reason. It is therefore defined as appropriate. i.000 (approximately £700) to make mole for five hundred people. the greater its social value.000 (£1. the acceptance of barbacoa as feast food can partly be explained by Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘aesthetic disposition’. 91). a dish like barbacoa becomes more desirable as festive food. p. within the region. Since mole is feast food par excellence. 54). many people delay holding their weddings until they have enough money to hold a proper feast. although it has a different ‘taste of luxury’ from how Bourdieu defines it.. it would then make more sense to serve mole rather than barbacoa at a wedding banquet. . if they decide to serve barbacoa during their fiestas.000 (£1. 29). serving barbacoa became prestigious for fiestas because of the prestige (or ‘distinction’) associated with being a barbacoiero in Milpa Alta. the menu of a feast had been more or less consistent over time and space. ‘only because choices always owe part of their value to the value of the chooser. carnitas or mixiote for five hundred people. Since the costs of hosting a fiesta are high.’ (p. one kilo of mole is enough for more people than one kilo of the meat dishes. it would seem more logical to serve mole during a fiesta. in that it bestows value on the occasion being celebrated. In addition. and Mx$20. this value makes itself known and recognized through the manner of choosing’ (p. Barbacoa is a luxury food. which is the time of great economic crisis in Mexico. it cost around Mx$10. But barbacoa or carnitas can be bought already made. p. for example.

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

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

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

with peels 3 ripe bananas. about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook over high heat. This is a very refreshing dish that people prepare only during Lent and Advent.25-cm slices. cut into cubes and reserve the cooking water. adding the bananas half an hour before serving. or baguettes) • In abundant olive oil. 1 kg beetroot. finely chopped 1½ cups parsley. shredded ½ –1 L extra virgin olive oil ½ kg (about 3 cups) onions. until the oil surfaces. peeled 5 oranges. Add garlic and let brown. blanched. peeled. peel them and discard the skins. Cook 5–10 minutes. combine the rest of the ingredients with the cubed beets and cooking water. sliced in ½-cm rounds. finely chopped 2–2½ cups (about 4 large heads) garlic. • Add fish and almonds. sauté onions until golden. Pescado a la vizcaína al estilo de la abuela Chef Abdiel Cervantes ¾ kg salt cod (bacalao). Serves 8–10. soaked several hours. In a large bowl. finely chopped 300 g almonds. shredded sugar to taste The beetroot must be very clean and boiled in abundant water with the skins. cut into thick sticks 200–250 g peanuts. stirring frequently. finely chopped 1½ –2 kg tomatoes. finely chopped To serve: 1 jar green olives 1 tin chiles güeros (or any pickled yellow chiles) crusty bread (teleras or bolillos. Allow to cool. .Mole and Fiestas • 111 Ensalada de betabel ‘sangre de Cristo’ Yadira Arenas Berrocal ‘Sangre de Cristo’ means the blood of Christ. When cooked. with their peels ¼ –½ iceberg lettuce. Serve in bowls with abundant broth. leaves removed and well-scrubbed 500 g (1 large) jícama. drained. about 20 minutes. It is important to keep the orange and banana peels on the fruit so that the bananas do not fall apart and the beet water is infused with their flavours. in 1. represented by the water in which the beetroot is boiled.

4 slightly stale teleras. . Serves 12.112 • Culinary Art and Anthropology • Add parsley and mix well. warm the fried bread pieces in the syrup to impregnate them with the flavours and to heat them through. cooking until fish completely falls apart into small bits. To serve. Primy’s version contains no milk. Fill each space with cheese and proceed with the capeado as for stuffed chiles. 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. Serve in low bowls with lots of syrup. Serve with crusty bread. like French toast. cut into 6-centimetre slices 250 g queso cotija. Most recipes for torrejas are reminiscent of Spanish torrijas. Doña Margarita. or 1 baguette. This is something that she rarely prepared because her mother-in-law. like the capeado for chiles rellenos. separated vegetable oil for frying Hollow out each piece of bread by removing some of the central crumbs. and it probably would not matter if the bread used was very fresh. This is the way ΄ Primy makes them. Primitiva Bermejo Martínez Torrejas are a Lenten dessert typical of the state of Michoacan. Torrejas Ma. • Let rest until cool and decorate with olives and chiles. or use an aged white cow’s milk cheese like Romano or Sardo 3 eggs. she liked them so much that she had seconds. leaving an open pocket. did not like the idea of a sweet made with spices. When Doña Margarita was persuaded to try these torrejas. which is a bit unusual in that they are coated in the egg batter called a capeado. each cut into 3 pieces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Chicharrón en chile verde (Fried Pork Rinds in Green Salsa) This is very common in Milpa Alta. Break fried pork rinds into pieces. Tortillas can be thick or thin.1 Gorditas or Tortillas Pellizcadas These are fat tortillas which have been pinched on the thin side to make a rough surface. They are served alongside pozole (hominy soup) with crema espesa. The rough. masa. pressing out with a tortilla press. Serve with boiled beans and warm corn tortillas. grated or shredded cheese . avocados.5. sliced radish. Well-made tortillas puff up as they bake and have two different sides. Heat in cooked salsa verde until soft. salsa. Tostadas are also eaten on their own.130 • Culinary Art and Anthropology 1. onions. Some other optional toppings that can be combined as you wish are as follows: refried beans shredded lettuce shredded boiled chicken or pork salpicón avocado sliced onions crema espesa crumbled. This is usually served with white rice. lime. pinched side is smeared with melted lard. onions and cream. 2.5. 1. then topped with refried beans and things like crisply fried crumbled longaniza. a front and a back. or putting masa through an industrial tortillería machine. 2 Tortillas Tortillas can be made by boiling corn with lime (CaOH). grinding it to a soft dough.2 Tostadas Fry whole day-old tortillas until crisp. shredded lettuce and chopped coriander. keeping them flat—these are now called tostadas. always with some kind of salsa or chile on the side. and patting out by hand. long or short. beans and corn tortillas. large or small. topped with a variety of different things. 2.2 Calabacitas con queso (Courgettes with Cheese) Cook cubed courgettes and panela cheese in red tomato caldillo with fresh epazote.

Leave them out to dry overnight. extra-long. . oblong tortillas from fresh masa so that the flautas will be long like flutes.3 Tacos dorados Roll shredded chicken in corn tortillas.1 Huaraches Huaraches are like tlacoyos but are much wider. Before pressing out the tortillas. place a length of beans in the centre of a ball of masa and press it out into an oblong shape. 2. 3 Variations with Cooked Salsa and Tortillas 3.4 Tlacoyos This is typical street food in Mexico City. They are usually bought in the market or in a street stall. Bake on both sides on a hot comal. and 1 cm thick. Many people make thin. Make sure to liquefy it long enough to get it very smooth. chopped coriander and cream. Secure each roll with a toothpick and deep-fry.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 131 chopped coriander crumbled. They can be up to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide and are served with the same toppings as tlacoyos. Prepare masa for tortillas and refried beans.3. about 10–15 cm long. • Make thin red or green salsa in any way you wish. dry frying pan or griddle. chopped onions. 8 cm wide. Top with cooked salsa. cut leftover corn tortillas into 8 triangles each.1 Variation: Flautas Make tacos dorados using shredded barbacoa de borrego as filling.4. cream and grated white cheese. 2. crisply fried longaniza or chorizo (sausage) 2. Flautas de barbacoa are sometimes served alongside a bowl of consomé de barbacoa. The beans should be encased in masa. coriander and grated white cheese (all optional). Drizzle the fried tacos with green salsa. Señoras sell them on street corners and outside metro stations in Mexico City. The next morning. Serve drizzled with salsa and cream and with chopped onions. thinner and crisper. You may use chicken broth or water to thin it out further.1 Chilaquiles • The night before. fry them in hot oil till crisp. grated cheese. 2.

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

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

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

often eaten on its own with salsa on the side. corn kernels. Note: This rice should be dry. . 5 Sopa seca (Dry Soup) This is rice or pasta without broth. usually served as a first or second course. then lower the heat to a very low flame. rice is stirred into the broth or eaten with the main course or with the beans after the main course. salsa. • Cover the lid of the pot with a tea towel before placing it over the pot to absorb excess moisture. with separate grains.3 Enfrijoladas See 3.1 Arroz blanco (White Mexican Rice) 1½ cups long-grain rice. peas. Keep the heat high for a few minutes so that the veggies cook. and sometimes avocado and lime. soaked in hot water. 5. cover and let simmer until the rice is cooked. Fry the rice (and carrots) until it is lightly golden. • Add coriander. rather it should be more like pilau. • Stir well and allow to cook. Add salt to taste. cubed potatoes (soaked in hot water) (all optional) 2½ cups water or chicken broth salt sprig of coriander or epazote (optional) 1 whole green chile (optional) • Heat the oil until it begins to smoke. epazote or chile to the top of the rice toward the end of the cooking time. Add to rice. • Blend onions and garlic with a bit of water until smooth. Add vegetables and salt and top up with enough water or broth to cook the rice well. drained well ¼ cup oil ½ white onion.3 above. It is served after a vegetable soup or meat or chicken broth with hot corn tortillas.The Centrality of Gastronomy in Social Life • 135 4. chopped ½ cup each carrots (soaked in hot water). chopped 1 clove garlic. It should not be soft and milky like risotto. Sometimes. if you wish.2.

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

489. 318). Our different perspectives can only further enrich our understanding of food and cooking and Mexican gastronomy. sazón. pp.102 for Milpa Alta and 8.Notes Introduction 1. The regional cuisines of the Middle East. p. her experience was intellectualized before she revalued and reevaluated her appreciation of the Mexican kitchen. given our different disciplinary training and personal backgrounds. 2000. sense of adventure and discovery of an outsider or tourist. This is very well explained by Wilk (2006. India and China are comparable in their complexity of everyday cooking. Yet while her treatment of these subjects appeared to overlap with mine. Abarca draws from literary. 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 production depends on the skilled handling of tools. there are certain things which non-natives notice that natives may not immediately see or may take for granted.007 for the whole city). . In my case. The people of Milpa Alta rarely – 137 – . Chapter 6) in his discussion of the creolization of Belizean food. Most of this land was put to agricultural use. food as art. in fact her approach is necessarily different. of course. and indeed of an anthropologist. and cooking as a source of women’s agency and empowerment. The mixing of cuisines and culinary culture is far from a simple matter. 3. So for her. . 4. and vice versa. gender and cultural studies and is herself a native Mexican.2 per cent of its area. 3.5 per cent was inhabited. the productive forces appear as the embodied qualities of human subjects—as their technical skills’ (Ingold. the population was only about 1 per cent of the Federal District (81. As can be expected. though it occupied 19. 2. ‘Where . 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. I approached Mexican cuisine with the curiosity. 5. and indeed of one’s own person. 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. Any researcher of Mexican food would find them to be part of the reality of Mexican culinary culture. and 1 per cent was used for urban buildings and other purposes (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografía e Informática 1997. 21–2).

See Sophie Coe’s brilliant book. while I have been unable to treat the topics of food production and distribution at a level beyond the barrio. p. 96. Also. ‘the arts of cooking and the cuisine’ (p. 205). America’s First Cuisines (1994). Lomelí. and van Rhijn (1993). When unfermented. 1997. Bayless and Bayless (1987. Martínez (1992). market. 38). 328–38). even neighbouring. Andrews (1984). 33– 49. as Milpa Alta has. pp. (1996).138 • Notes emigrated. 9. Pulque used to be a common drink in this region. a mildly fermented viscous drink made of the maguey sap. it is called aguamiel. p. for the barrio level there are no demographic figures in print. community of Mexico City.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. 6. A comparative study of another group in a different. Kennedy (1989. see Muñoz (2000). I draw my main conclusions from my data of the local system of Barrio San Mateo in relation to the rest of Milpa Alta. The maguey is the source of pulque. based on household and class. Chapter 1 Perceptions of Mexican Cuisine 1. 8. to name a few. Unfortunately. pp. and it had religious significance during Aztec times. His own work focuses on production and consumption. Villa Milpa Alta. . 3. or honey water. would surely provide a broader perspective than my limited research allowed. Muñoz. 15). allocation). preparation and consumption. 2. For an idea of the variety of uses of chiles in Mexican cuisine. 459 –84). esp. Lynn Stephen describes similar differences between how women describe their occupations as recorded in the national census and what they actually do (2005. and on a comparative perspective of cuisines since cultures must be situated within the world system. See Long-Solís (1986). 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. Goody (1982) highlights four main areas of investigation for studying food. so my data here is reliant upon personal communication with Enrique Nápoles of Barrio San Mateo. or another community of central Mexico with Náhuatl roots. and acknowledging that there is insufficient space for me to include a comparative analysis with other cuisines or other cultures. 7. and also Coe (1994). These are production (economic factors). esp. and Muñoz (2000). distribution (political factors. among others. (1991).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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