Today it’s Cinco de Mayo, and an excellent day to remember some amazing facts about the fascinating history of Mexican cuisine.
Chili Peppers are Superstars
Chili Peppers play a key role in Mexican cuisine. According to some estimations chili peppers are part in some form or another of about 90 percent of Mexican dishes. Chili peppers have always been important to Mexican everyday life. The oldest evidence of peppers in Mexico dates back to 6900-5000 B.C. Some codices (books written by pre-Columbian and colonial-era indigenous people) show scenes of naughty children being forced to inhale the smoke of burnt peppers as a form of punishment.
The Corn People
Corn is another important ingredient of Mexican cuisine. So much so that the ancient peoples of Mexico found ways to cultivate it under the most varying circumstances. There were cornfields in the jungle, in the forest, and even in shallow lake beds (chinampas) in Xochimilco! Tortillas are a symbol of the bond between corn and Mexican cuisine. From pre-Columbian codices to pictures taken during the Mexican revolution, you can always spot someone enjoying a nice, warm tortilla.
Two Worlds Meet
The Spanish conquest was an earth-shattering event. The diet of the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica included tortillas, pineapple, chili, turkey, duck and fish. The Spaniard conquerors brought with them wheat, lard, cows, goats and pork. The result is Mexican cuisine as we know it. Tamales, for example, existed before the arrival of the Spaniards, but the addition of lard gave them their characteristic texture.
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
If you think these facts are fascinating, you’re not alone. In 2010 The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to their presentation, “Traditional Mexican cuisine is a comprehensive cultural model comprising farming, ritual practices, age-old skills, culinary techniques and ancestral community customs and manners.”
The First Taco Bar Ever?
A Taco bar is a convenient and fun way to serve food, and the idea behind it may be as old as Mexican culture itself. Moctezuma, the ninth tlatoani (ruler) of Tenochtitlan (today’s Mexico City) was offered every day a meal that consisted of about 25 different dishes kept warm by clay braziers. The delicacies included duck and edible herbs. Tortillas were already an important part of Aztec gastronomic culture, so it’s possible that the great tlatoani was enjoying one of history’s first taco bars!
What best way to celebrate Mexican culture than a Taco Night? Our Family Meal includes 3 Street tacos with all the fixings, choice of meat (carnitas, chicken tinga or veggie), rice, black beans, homemade roasted salsas, chips, pickled red onions, fresh guacamole, tortillas and Mexican slaw. All for $50.00! (valid 5/6-5/9).