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PENS Topics : Cooking Mexican
Mexicans pride themselves on producing and using many varieties of fiery chilies. The range of their dishes and the subtle seasoning commonly used are very wide indeed and go back several thousand years in history. Mexican cuisine and food habits are a blend of Indian, Spanish and other European influences. All Mexican food is not spicy hot. However, this is not to say that Mexicans do not take good-natured fun from watching a 'tourista' attempt to eat some of their fiery dishes. What could be funnier than the involuntary tears shed by a novice sampling a 'piquante' dish? The session today will focus on gaining a better understanding of the traditional eating patterns of Mexicans as well as the cooking facilities used in meal preparation.
To increase the knowledge of university/college students regarding the traditional meal patterns, staple foods and cooking facilities used in Mexico.
At the end of this session participants will:
Suggested Background Reading for Presenters
Common Foods Used in Mexican Cooking
Some of the main foods used in Mexican cooking include: (Overhead 2)
These staples are popular with every class level and are present in the everyday meals. In fact, there is seldom a meal that does not have TORTILLAS and FRIJOLES on the table. Canned milk is favoured over fresh, and milk cheeses are used mostly as a grated garnish to other dishes. Fish and seafood are plentiful especially in coastal areas. Fresh fruits and many seeds and nuts are used for snacking. Dried or candied fruits and sometimes candied vegetables such as pumpkin or squash are favoured treats. Salted or spicy foods are also favourites of many. Soft drinks and local beers are popular as well as tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
Milk and Milk Products
Fresh milk is available, but is not widely used. Canned evaporated and sweetened condensed milks are popular, because of their longer shelf life. They are used in beverages and especially to make the dessert 'FLAN'.
Vegetables and Fruit
There is seasonal availability of both fresh fruits and vegetables for meal preparation. Corn, many types of squash, and pumpkin are used most widely. Other vegetables include peas, onions, red and green tomatoes, JICAMA (bland, with an apple-like crispness), cactus leaves, beets, potatoes, squash blossoms, lettuce, radishes, NOPALES (prickly pear leaves), garlic and peppers. Many vegetable dishes require much preparation time. They may, for example, involve the intricate assembly of stuffed vegetables with sauces (prepared from vegetables, often with a tomato base).
Fruits include a wide variety of tropical and subtropical varieties such as pineapples, bananas, coconuts, "quince", "cherimoyas" and apples. Limes are almost everywhere and appear often as a garnish and to heighten the flavour of spice mixtures. Bananas baked as dessert are enjoyed but most other fruits are eaten as a fresh snack.
Meat and Alternatives
Pork products including sausages (chorizos) are favourites. Goat, beef, chicken, lamb, turtle and veal are also used. Fish and seafood are plentiful in coastal regions, including the 'huachinango' (red snapper) and 'camarones' (shrimp). Beans are used daily, mostly as FRIJOLES OR FRIJOLES REFRITOS (refried beans). These are eaten as side dishes with TORTILLAS or other foods, or combined as snacks. They are also sometimes finely ground and used to thicken sauces. As a snack, beans are preferred well-salted, toasted and often dusted with spicy-hot chilies. 'Cacahuates' (peanuts) are abundant, but walnuts, cashews and pistachios are also used.
Breads and Cereals
Tortillas made from MASA HARINA (freshly ground cornmeal) are the staple for every table at every meal. They are made either by hand or purchased fresh daily. 'Bolillas' are also very popular, especially in the cities. These are oval shaped white rolls with a chewy crust. They are said to be baked hourly around the clock and made from wheat flour. Dry breakfast cereals are used in some homes.
Lard is the most widely used fat for cooking, baking and deep fat frying. Thus, there is a limited use of oils. A small amount of margarine and butter are used mostly in breads (for Bolillas) or in specialty baking.
Many seasonings are widely used, especially in particular areas. These include skillful blends of various chilies, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, chocolate, nuts, coconut, limes, oranges, garlic, onions and capers. Many fresh Mexican herbs such as 'cilantro' (Chinese parsley), 'spazote', mint, marjoram and sage are also used. Red and small green tomatoes are used so frequently that they are considered to be a seasoning as well. In addition, limes are used freely everywhere as juice, seasoning and garnish.
Soft drinks are popular and inexpensive. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate are used according to taste. 'PULQUE' (fermented cactus juice) is an old favourite. Tequila, the national drink made from cactus, is traditionally enjoyed with a 'lick' of salt and a squirt of fresh lime.
Typical Meal Patterns of Mexico
COMIDA AND ALMEURZO
There are many traditional but very practical cooking utensils that are still used in Mexico. These include:
Cazuelas: earthen ware casseroles;
Ollas: earthenware jugs;
Comal: round iron or earthen ware baking sheet used to cook tortillas;
Metate: three-legged oblong stone base used with a cylindrical stone called a 'metlapil' to grind corn or chocolate.
Many people prefer to buy their produce fresh daily, therefore food storage is not generally a problem. Refrigerators are also common in some homes particularly in middle upper class areas but freezers are not widely used. (Overhead 4)
[To get a full flavour of Mexican cooking, one must sample a taste of their cuisine. Today we are preparing a recipe called Caldo De Queso Estilo Sonora as a way to end our tour of Mexico.]
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Last Modified on May 1, 2012 12:18 PM, by [DR]