In Mexico, the Christmas season is a month-long fiesta, starting with the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12th, and continuing through the posadas, Noche Buena and Navidad, right up to the Three Kings Day on January 6th.
During this celebratory month, preparing seasonal dishes is an important part of the festivities, with each occasion having its own specialties. These can be easily adapted to holiday menus everywhere, and a Mexican culinary theme is fun, festive, and versatile.
In recent years, “seasonal” has become a culinary buzzword, something seemingly new and novel in the U.S., where just about anything is available at any time, no matter its origin or how far it must be shipped.
In contrast, Mexican cooks have traditionally relied on local availability to determine what to buy and serve. Although the rise of supermarkets and chain groceries has brought an increasing number of products that have traveled great distances, Mexicans do continue to base many meals on what has customarily been prepared and served at certain times of the year. And autumn, with its many important celebrations, is one of those times. The end of the rainy season brings the gathering of summer’s bounty, and the fall harvest yields many of the country’s characteristic ingredients.
The change of seasons in Mexico brings a shift in the kinds of produce available in the markets. The young greens, stone fruit, and baby new vegetables that appear in mercados in springtime are ideal ingredients for lighter fare in warmer weather. For unlike its north-of-the-border neighbors, Mexico experiences its hottest time of the year in spring, rather than summer.
The time between Easter and the start of the rainy season, which brings cooling relief, finds those who can manage vacations headed for the beach, and others seeking shade in parks. Both settings call for picnic food, the kind of portable meal sometimes called itacate, after the bundled mid-day meal that workers used to bring to the fields.
Besides the seemingly endless string of fiestas, weddings, baptisms and saints' days throughout the year, the warm months bring graduations galore. Everything from a kindergarten commencement to the completion of a PhD is celebrated exuberantly in Mexico. And the season's balmy weather invites merrymakers to move outside.
Even the start of the rainy season does not deter al fresco festivities.
The winter season brings with it a culinary conundrum. Part of you craves the comfort foods, mostly creamy and carby, that the cold weather seems to inspire. Some of this is induced by childhood memories of Mom baking bread and cooking hearty stews as chill winds blew outside.
Another part of you is facing the expanded waistline and added pounds that arrived as unwanted holiday gifts. This is the adult part, the one who dreads being mistaken for a beach ball on that vacation at Playa del Carmen.
Run, don't walk to the next Michoacan Traditional Food Festival (Cocineras Tradicionales) at the Convention Center in Morelia. The entrance is a stairway to heaven and you are about to eat food fit for gods and goddesses. The name "Traditional" only partially describes the Festival because it is traditional woman, in traditional clothing, cooking traditional recipes, with traditional utensils. However,...
Artichoke season has arrived in Central Mexico, the time of year known locally as the temporada de calor
, or hot season. By the standards of most other places, it really would not be called "hot," but at 7000 or so feet, it doesn't usually get much hotter.
And the arrival of this Spring weather means artichoke season, when our friend Tim, a French-trained chef and a professor at a Puebla university, makes the eagerly anticipated drive to what we call the "artichoke farm," where the odd-looking thistles are waiting to be picked...
Northern Mexican climate of Chihuahua is ideal for pistachio trees, which require only half as much water as the more common pecan trees and can survive drought conditions.
I knew that a dry climate can indeed support pistachio trees because a friend in Oaxaca bought one as a sapling some years back and it has flourished in the semi-arid Oaxacan climate and borne fruit....
I hadn't given much thought to carrots in Mexican cooking until doing a recent search for carrot cake recipes, when it dawned on me that carrots are found in just about every kind of dish in Mexico, from salads to desserts. They are a reliable standby, sold in even the smallest markets.
The carrot is a basic ingredient of countless caldos (soups and broths) and stews. It is part of the flavor base of most chicken and beef stocks, and a flavoring in itself. It is especially appreciated in such Mexican classics as...
There are several e-cookbooks that I use regularly to expand and improve upon my repertoire of Mexican dishes. Whether visiting family in Australia or sitting on a bus from Puebla to Mexico City, I can plan meals, gather information for articles, and always learn more about Mexican cuisine and culture.
Following are some suggestions for Mexican e-cookbooks that fit that criteria and are easy to use, with clear presentations and recipes that are uncomplicated while still featuring authentic flavors of Mexico...