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Mexican Cuisine

by Kirsten Hawkins

Copyright 2005

Just south of the United States and bordering the Gulf of

Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, Mexico is quickly advancing both

culturally and economically. The devaluation of the peso in

1994 threw the Mexican economy into a frenzy, lowering their

per capita income to a mere quarter of that of the United

States. Through repeated social and economic turmoil, the rich

cultures of the original Yucatan civilizations has remained,

though somewhat jaded after their emersion from under Spanish

rule in the 19th century.

It isn't hard to research the rich history of Mexican cuisine.

When the Spaniards first landed in Tenochtitlan (present-day

Mexico City) they carefully chronicled every aspect of life

there in Mexico, especially the food and cooking techniques of

the natives. During their observations, they noticed that the

Mexicans had a lot of corn-based foods. This was due to the

fact that maize was Mexico's chief crop at the time. A lot of

these notes have carefully been preserved in the name of

history--not that that is necessary. The Mexican culture has

continued to live on through food, if through nothing else at


Be warned: Mexican food is not for the faint of stomach.

Consisting of such rich, heavy foods as tortillas, chili

peppers, and beans, many bodies cannot take the richness and

spiciness of Mexican cuisine.

Mexican food is one cuisine that will always have a taste and

sabor (flavor) all its own. Present-day Mexican food is a

mixture of original Mayan and Aztec cuisine combined with the

influence of the culture of the Spanish conquistadores. While

Tex-Mex and local "authentic" Mexican restaurants have become

very skilled in mastering the style of Mexican cooking, there

is no comparison between the Americanized "restaurant" version

and the real thing. Mexican food is known for its wealth of

spices and intense, deep flavoring.

Tortillas are the staple of Mexican cuisine. Tortillas are made

by curing maize in lime water, kneading the mixture into a

dough, and cooking the thin patties on a flat grill. The most

common tortillas in the United States' version of Mexican food

are made of corn, although this version of the corn tortilla is

quite unlike the original, authentic version. Authentic corn

tortillas are made by hand on a flat grill (called a comal).

The corn is ground by hand, resulting in thick tasty tortillas

that the grocery store versions pale in comparison to. Flour

tortillas were implemented only after the Spaniards introduced

wheat to the Mexican region.

Chiles are another staple in traditional Mexican cuisine,

adding color and dimension to many traditional Mexican dishes.

Bell peppers, tabasco peppers, and paprika peppers add the

color and the flavor kick that Mexican food is so known for.

It is also important to take into consideration that Mexican

cuisine varies in reference to the region it is coming from or

being made in. Northern-style Mexican food normally consists of

dishes with a lot of beef, while southern-style Mexican cuisine

consists more of chicken and vegetables such as bell pepper,

radishes, and broccoli, more than anything else. Veracruz is

also another common style of Mexican food, coming from the

coastal areas in Mexico. Veracruz cuisine, which was named

after a state in Mexico and its largest city, consists of

seafood such as fish and shrimp. More indigenous areas have

even been known to incorporate spider monkey and iguana into

their meals. Especially while in Mexico, "Mexican Food" does

not always imply tacos and burritos.

Authentic Mexican cuisine is not to be confused with the

Americanized Tex-Mex or New Mexican food (versions of Mexican

food in Texas and New Mexico).

About The Author: Kirsten Hawkins is a food and nutrition

expert specializing the Mexican, Chinese, and Italian food.

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