Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Authentic Mexican?

I would love to be more knowledgeable about ‘real’ Mexican cuisine. I understand that what is commonly claimed as ‘Mexican’ cuisine outside of Mexico itself is more accurately described as ‘Tex-Mex.’ I also must confess confusion about the definition of ‘fusion cuisine.’ Who coined that phrase, anyway? Some cuisines have been fused for so long that they can surely claim an authenticity all of their own - Anglo-Indian and Pennsyvania Dutch, for example - and Tex-Mex too, perhaps?

I am equally confused about the definition of ‘authenticity’ too, as regular readers will know. Regular readers will also probably note that I have used a couple of particular examples previously, but without shame at repeating myself, I would like to know why tomatoes (a New World food, not known in Europe until the early sixteenth century) are considered an indispensible ingredient in ‘authentic’ Italian food, or potatoes (also from the New World) are essential to Irish stew.

I have no trouble actually living with paradoxes, dichotomies or a myriad other inconsistencies however, and can state without (much) fear of contradiction that the following ‘Mexican’ recipes are hardly authentic – the first on account of the inclusion of the very English ingredient of Worcestershire sauce, the second because of its liberal topping of cheese. The recipes come from Fifty choice recipes for Spanish and Mexican dishes (1905)

Mexican Chili Stew.
Four medium-sized potatoes, four large tomatoes, one good-sized onion. Cut all in small pieces; two pounds of lean beef cut in dice. Put beef in pot with two tablespoonfuls of heated butter and the onion, and stew half hour; then add rest of vegetables with one quart of hot water, one tablespoonful of chili powder and three of Worcestershire sauce; salt and pepper to taste with one clove of garlic; cook on slow fire until thoroughly done.

Mexican Round Steak.
BAKE in oven for half hour a two-pound slice of the tender side of round steak, in half -pint of water, basting often; season with salt and pepper; take from oven, cover top of meat with finely chopped onion; cook again for fifteen minutes, then add a covering of tomatoes, cut fine. Cook a quarter of an hour, then cover with grated cheese; put back in oven until cheese melts. This must be cooked in moderate oven. The meat will be very tender, and have a delicious gravy.

Quotation for the Day.
If I moved away, I would definitely miss the Mexican food. Every region has its own Mexican food, and they're very chauvinistic - they believe their food is the real Mexican food.
Russ Parson.


Les said...

I've recently wondered how polenta became a traditional Italian dish. My guess is that if the Italians can give us the Renaissance and good opera they are certainly capable of doing great things with tomatoes and corn.

I was exposed to a wider variety of Mexican foods when I lived in Galveston since there are many first and second generation Mexican in that part of Texas and little changes when it crosses the border. Tamales are sold by street vendors in Mexico and in the southwestern US as are tacos de trippa. Empanadas are popular everywhere but the fillings vary from place to place. There was one restaurant I enjoyed going to since it served traditional dishes like lengua, menudo, tripa, and beef heart. Menudo tastes pretty gross to me but it's a popular dish in some parts of Mexico.

A traditional dish that I make at home from scratch is mole. It's a spiced chocolate and chili pepper based sauce served with enchiladas or over any cooked meat, usually chicken, pork or turkey. Mole recipes vary widely by region so it a bit like asking for a curry recipe from someone from India. You will get hundreds of recipes.

I'm trying to learn more traditional Mexican cooking since it's usually gluten free.

john said...

Diana Kennedy's books are quite good.

Although her husband was in the diplomatic service, & her peers gave her somewhat refined versions of autentico recipes from their natal regions, her culinary curiosity was insatiable. Many of her recipes came from her young cooks or street vendors.
After her husbands untimely death, she traveled widely throughout
Mexico, eating & collecting recipes.

Your blog is "muy sabrosa", Juan

Ferdzy said...

Part of the problem of "authentic Mexican" is WHICH "authentic Mexican? Mexico is a big place; wanting authentic Mexican food is like saying you want "authentic European" food.

Furthermore, the cuisines described as "Cal-Mex" or "Tex-Mex" are not inauthentic; it's just that they're "authentic" for their region, and not reflective of traditional Mexican cooking in other regions, or even just across the border.

Add that "Mexican" food in the U.S. has often been seen as poor people's food, and you get a lot of intersecting food snobbery and defensiveness that makes the whole topic a bit of a minefield.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks all for the insightful comments. I obviously have to visit Mexico sometime to satisfy my curiosity - but in the meanwhile will have to get a copy of Diana Kennedy's book.

Tsu Dho Nimh said...

Mexican Chili Stew. --- if you used roasted green chiles and left out the "chili powder" and Worcestershire sauce, you would have "chile verde con papas" (green chile stew with potatoes) which is locally popular in New Mexico and up into Colorado.

I'd give it 4 stars out of 10 for even trying.