Every month, Diversivore launches two new thematic features. This month’s Recipe feature is all about the The Diverse Foods and Culinary Traditions of Mexico. Keep coming back for updates and recipes related to this theme, or subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on anything new.
As April rolled along, I wondered what I should talk about this month. Sometimes a theme makes itself obvious to you (like last month’s spring produce and recipe themes), but at other times nothing really seems to stick. I tossed a few ideas around before a conversation with my friend Dana from Killing Thyme set this idea in motion.
In a few days, it’ll be Cinco de Mayo, and I tend to balk a little at the idea of writing about Mexican cuisine. Don’t get me wrong – Cinco de Mayo is a fascinating holiday, and I love Mexican food, but the holiday doesn’t really seem to bring out the best in Mexican cooking. Don’t get me wrong, there might be some great recipes out there, but they’re not generally representative of Mexican cooking. It’s not really surprising actually – Cinco de Mayo has become bigger in the US than Mexico, primarily because of the way it’s been marketed. The holiday itself celebrates the unlikely victory of Mexican forces over the French during the Battle of Puebla in 1862, but little if any of that is mentioned north of Mexico. Instead, a few decades of relentless marketing have basically made it into the Mexican version of St. Patrick’s Day. Sure it’s ostensibly linked back to a holiday from another country, but it’s become more of an excuse to party and eat.
I have mixed feelings about these marketing-driven holidays, but I won’t get into that here. What I will say is this: it’s a crying shame that genuine Mexican food gets such a short shrift this month. It’s sort of an example in miniature of the problem that plagues Mexican cuisine outside of Mexico. The well-marketed fusion and fast-food versions get so much attention that the original stuff gets passed over. May 6th roles around and the tacos, guac, and salsa get put aside for another year (or until the Superbowl). Meanwhile Mexican food – which, incidentally, is one of only a handful of cuisines to be awarded status as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UN – sits idly by wondering why nobody’s talking about mole and or roast cabrito.
So instead of shying away from the whole Cinco de Mayo craziness, I’ve decided to do a whole month of Mexican food. And sure, there will probably be a taco or two (who doesn’t love tacos?), but I can guarantee that we’ll be digging a lot deeper and looking at some amazing meals from across a diverse and fascinating country. Like… puerco pibil. That’s the lovely dish that you’re looking at in the banner up top. It might look like a standard pulled pork, but it’s so much more. It’s packed with spices (including annatto, which is weirdly fun to work with), marinated with Seville orange juice, and cooked in banana leaves. And it will be up later this month (along with tips and tricks so that you can cook it in a slow cooker instead of digging a giant pit in your back yard).
If you’ve got a particularly beloved Mexican dish, or something you’ve always wanted to know more about, let me know! Feel free to fire off a comment below, or to get in touch via email ([email protected]). I’d love to hear from you. Just don’t ask me to make all 7 Oaxacan mole recipes. I’ll go broke sourcing the peppers alone.