Throughout the world, the special blend of Mesoamerican and European cooking (primarily Spanish influence) has led to one of the world’s most popular food stuffs. Officially a UNESCO-recognized item of “intangible cultural heritage,” Mexican cuisine has warmed the hearts and bellies of people the world over. What sumptuous and delicious sweets led to delicatessen inventions like mole sauce, enchiladas, and the ever-sweet churro?
Basic elements of Mexican cuisine include corn (maize), chili peppers (not always the hot kind), tomatoes, avocado, cocoa and vanilla. Spanish contributions include meat, fish, and cheese – and today the Mexican regions of Chihuahua, Oaxaca, and Chiapas have a reputation for their delicious cheese-making ability. Home based meals are often different than what you might find in a restaurant, and street food is as big a thing in Mexico as it is anywhere in the world.
Festivals of food are big in Mexico City and elsewhere. Food preparation is considered part of the joy of the meal, and looked upon as a strengthening of social bonds within families and friends. The famous Day of the Dead festival involves mole making and placing enchiladas and other foodstuffs onto the graves of those dearly departed, and the Three Kings Festival (January) in Mexico City is a celebration of the Epiphany which includes a king’s ring (aka a King Cake for you New Orleanians out there) within which lies a little figurine. Come the Epiphany, in Mexico City’s zocalo, more than 200,000 portions are doled out – not a small celebration.