By Daisha Hart

Mexican cuisine is made up of different native foods that are combined into different styles of dishes that originate from the native people of the country of Mexico. Mexican cuisine is not the same style of food as Tex-Mex, which is what most people in the United States refer to as “mexican food”.
The two main foods that make up the foundation of Mexican cuisine are corn (Mexico's main grain) and beans; however, there are many other foods and flavors that add to the true meaning of Mexican cuisine.
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Corn and Beans


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History
In 1519, the first Spanish conquistadors arrived in Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, which is modern day Mexico City. When the conquistadors entered into the capital, they noticed the emperor, Montezuma enjoying a drink made up of vanilla and chocolate, accompanied by a small amount of honey. This drink was a native dish to Mexico which would later go on to be accepted worldwide. “Vanilla is a substance derived from the fruit-pod of a certain species of Mexican orchid, and chocolate comes from the fruit of the Mexican cacao tree” (mexicanmercados.com). Shortly after the conquistadors began invading Mexico in the 1520's, they imported different plants and animals that were unfamiliar to the Mexican people. The animals imported “included horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chicken”(mexicanmercados.com). The Spaniards also introduced “olive oil, cinnamon, parsley, coriandor, oregano, and black pepper"(mexicanmercados.com). Different nuts, fruits and vegetables were also introduced and began main ingredients in many Mexican dishes. All of the new items that were imported into Mexico by the Spaniards were adapted into the Mexican way of life and they all heavily influenced the Mexican's way of cooking. It can be seen through the many Mexican dishes that Spanish foods and ingredients had the most influence on Mexican cuisine.
Mexican cuisine, however, is also influenced by French cooking. Ferdinand Maximilian , Mexico's ruler between 1864 and 1867 “was kept in power by French troops” and although his rule was short-lived, “...French cooking left its mark on many Mexican-restaurant dishes”(mexicanmercados.com). Some of the French-inspired dishes include: “chiles en nogado (stuffed chilies in a walnut sauce), and conejo en mostaza (rabbit in mustard sauce)”(mexicanmercados.com).

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Ferdinand Maximilian




Varieties of Mexican Cuisine
Mexican cuisine is not just one type of food or style of cooking. There are many different varieties of Mexican cuisine that can be seen in the different regions of the country. These varieties of Mexican cuisine arise from the different geographical locations of each region, the climate of the region, and the ethnic differences among indigenous inhabitants.

Central Mexico, due to it's geographical position, is heavily influenced by the rest of the country. Because of it's central location, many travelers from other regions in Mexico pass through or come into Central Mexico for trade purposes. These travelers introduce new food, spices, and ingredients; however, Central Mexico also has it's own unique dishes. Among these dishes are barbacoa , pozole , menudo, and carnitas.

Southeastern Mexico cuisine is largely influenced by Caribbean due to it's geographical location. Seafood is commonly used in dishes in Southeastern Mexico as well as vegetables and chicken. Typically the dishes prepared in Southeastern Mexico are spicier dishes than some due to the Caribbean spices that have influenced the cooking in this region.

The Yucatan region is known to add sweetness to their dishes rather than prepare spicy foods which appear in most of the other regions in Mexico. This is due to the Yucatan people's love for the achiote seasoning. Achiote is “a shrub from the tropical region of the American continent”(Bixa orellana). Honey is also used in many Mexican dishes in the Yucatan region due to people's involvement with beekeeping. A popular dish in this region that uses honey as a main ingredient is the rosca de miel, which is a very sweet, bundt-like cake.

More exotic dishes are seen in the Pueblos (villages) of Mexico and the dishes are prepared Mayan style which is known as comida prehispanica. The dishes prepared in these areas use ingredients that are not typically seen being used in the other surrounding regions such as rattlesnake, grasshoppers, and other kinds of insects.



Traditional Dishes

Tamales
Tamales are packets of corn dough that either contain savory or sweet filling. These corn packets are wrapped up in either corn husks or banana leaves. The tamale packets are steamed and traditionally they are served plain; however, tamales can also be seen served with sauce which has become very popular in many American-Mexican restaurants.
Like most Mexican dishes, there are many different varieties of tamales . Large tamales that are wrapped in banana leaves and served with black mole are the specialty of the Oaxaca region. In contrast, tamales made up of pineapple, sweet brown beans, and corn are the specialty in the Culiacan, Sinaloa region.

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Tamales


Menudo
Menudo is a traditional soup dish that is often prepared on New Years morning. Menudo is a spicy soup that is made up of tripe (cow's stomach) along with lime, onions, cilantro, and crushed red peppers. Menudo is traditionally served with corn tortillas that are often rolled up and dipped into the soup.

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Menudo



Carnitas
Carnitas, meaning “little meats” is a typed of braised pork. The pork used for carnitas comes from the upper and lower sections of the front shoulder of the hog. The pork is braised for a long period of time, usually close to 8 to 10 hours, in order for the meat to easily be pulled apart. Carnitas can be a dish on its own, or it is also typically seen used in tamales, tacos, burritos, and tortas.

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Carnitas


Further list of dishes
Drinks
  • Atole
  • Bacanora
  • Aquas Frescas
  • Mezcal
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    Rajas con crema
  • Pulque
  • Tequila

Main Courses
  • Arroz con pollo
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    Pulque
  • Barbacoa
  • Cecina
  • Chalupa
  • Chile relleno
  • Enchilada
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    Enchiladas
  • Flautas
  • Gorditas
  • Rajas con crema
Desserts
  • Churros
  • Arroz con leche
  • Empanadas
  • Flan
  • Dulce de leche
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    Sweet Empanadas






Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos , which is also known as “Day of the Dead” is a holiday celebrated in Mexico where families honor and remember their loved ones that have passed on. November first begins the festivities with All Saints Day, which is the day where the deceased children are remembered. Following this day on November second, All Saints Day is celebrated which remembers the adults that have died. Dia de los Muertos combines these days to celebrate all of the people who have passed and enjoy their memories and past times. It is thought that the spirits of the deceased pay a visit to their families during this day and the families prepare an alter which is usually covered with offerings (ofrendas) for the dead. These offerings include personal items for each person that they can take with them om their journey, candles to light the way, as well as traditional Dia de los Muertos dishes to help feed the traveling spirits. The most popular offering or ofrenda prepared for this day are the sugar skulls.

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Alter


Sugar Skulls
“Sugar skulls are a traditional folk art from Central and Southern Mexico...” (Kenyon) These skulls are made up of a sugar mixture that is pressed into molds and then dried. The families of the deceased decorate the skulls with edible items such as colorful icing and even non-edible items such as feathers and sequins. Although the skulls are made of a sugar mixture which is edible, the skulls are generally used for decorative purposes. The skulls vary in size and on All Souls Day, the smaller skulls are placed on the altars to remember the children who have died. The smaller skulls are then replaced by larger ones on All Saints Day to represent the adults who have deceased. The names of the deceased are carved onto the foreheads of the skulls and icing is used to create realistic features of the skulls. The skulls are decorated with many bright colors and are not scary skulls, but skulls that are used to remember the deceased in a positive, spiritual way.SugarSkulls.jpg


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Sugar Skulls














Grito de Dolores: Mexican Independence Day

On the morning of September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest from the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato gave out a “cry of independence” to the townspeople. His cry was for the people to join together and rise up against the Spanish Crown, which had been ruling the people since the Spaniards invasion. Hidalgo's grito initiated Mexico's War of Independence which lasted a decade and the country of Mexico finally achieved their independence in 1821. "Independence Day...", which is known as the Grito de Dolores "is celebrated every year across Mexico", filled with festivities and foods that are representative of Independence Day (Barbezat).
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Grito de Dolores



A favorite Mexican dish that is representative of Independence Day is pozole , which is a soup that is made of hominy and pork. Many other foods are prepared on this day that have the colors red, white and green which are the colors of the Mexican flag. Chiles en nogado which are poblano chiles stuffed with meat and dried fruit, covered in walnut sauce and then garnished with pomegranate seeds is a traditional dish that represents the colors of the flag. Mezcal and Tequila are popular drinks that are consumed especially on the 16th of September. Mezcal is made from the agave plant which is roasted, crushed and then distilled. Tequila is a specific type of mezcal that is made from blue agave and it is one of the national symbols of Mexico.



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Mexican flag



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Pozole
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Chiles en Nogado
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Mezcal
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Tequila








The content of this video is an interview with Guilian Del Rio whose family is from Mexico. Her mother is from Sinaloa , Mexico and her father is from Nayarit , Mexico; however, her parents moved to the United States and today reside in San Diego, California. Sinaloa is located in the northwestern area of the country. The land area is broken up by many rivers which create large valleys in the foothills. The weather in Sinaloa can be categorized as subtropical, on the plains, and cold near the mountains. Sinaloa is culturally known for the style of music called banda and Sinaloa is also the only place is Mexico where the ball game called Mesoamerica is still played. One of the most popular dishes prepared in Sinaloa is tamales which Guilian describes as one of her favorite dishes of Mexican cuisine. Guilian's father is from Nayarit, Mexico which is located on the central west coast of Mexico. Nayarit is one of the smaller states of Mexico, however, it contains hundreds of miles of rain forest. There is also a vast amount of wildlife in Nayarit which includes mountain lions, armadillos, and bears. The religion practiced by the majority of the people residing in Nayarit is Catholicism, which explains why family and being together at meal time is extremely important in Guilian's family.Like in Sinaloa, tamales are also a traditional dish in Nayarit, Mexico.



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Sinaloa

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Nayarit











References
"A Thumbnail History of Mexican Food ." mexicanmercados.com . N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2009. <http://www.mexicanmecados.com/food/foodhist.htm>.
Barbezat, Suzanne. "Independence Day in Mexico ." about.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2009. <http://gomexico.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/p/independence.htm>.
Kenyon, Chelsie. "Sugar Skull History ." about.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2009. <http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/history/a/SugarSkullHistory.htm?once=true&>.
Kenyon, Chelsie. "Dia de los Muertos "Day of the Dead"." about.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2009. <http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/history/a/dayofthedead.htm>.
"Grito de Dolores." wikipedia.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grito_de_Dolores>.
"Bixa orellana." wikipedia.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bixa_orellana>.
"Sinaloa ." wikipedia.org. Web. 4 Dec. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinaloa>.
"Nayarit ." wikipedia.org. Web. 4 Dec. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayarit>.
"Mesoamerican ballgame ." wikipedia.org. Web. 5 Dec. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesoamerican_ballgame>.