The Cooking of Mexico

by Matthew Locricchio

The Regions of Mexico and How They Taste

Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It remains purely Mexican even though several different cultures have introduced ingredients and culinary influences over thousands of years. The most consistent ingredient may be the pride the Mexican cook takes in preparing the dishes of Mexico and sharing them with friends and family.

Officially called the United Mexican States, Mexico is an impressive landmass covering more than 750,000 square miles. Its thirty-one states are home to some 100 million people. Mexico is a mixture of majestic ruins, remote villages, modern industrial centers, and cosmopolitan Mexico City, the largest metropolitan area in the world.

Mexico is part of a region around the Pacific Ocean called the "Ring of Fire." Volcanoes and earthquakes are common here. The scenic Baja California and Yucat√°n Peninsulas, rainforests, deserts, dazzling seashores, and awesome mountain ranges make this land a geological wonder. Remarkable food, an appealing climate, and some of the world's most beautiful beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean, and Gulf of California make Mexico a favorite vacation spot.

Mexico's contributions to the world's table have been significant. It was in Mexico and neighboring Guatemala that, centuries ago, the wild corn plant was successfully cultivated into a high-yielding domestic crop. That golden beauty is now the third most important crop in the world, after wheat and rice. Other foods that have become favorites worldwide, such as vanilla, tomatoes, chiles, and chocolate, also came from Mexico.

There is always a reason to celebrate in Mexico. Family and friends come together to honor Mexican traditions on national holidays. The Feast of theEpiphany (January 6), Cinco de Mayo (May 5), Mexican Independence Day (September 16), the Day of the Dead (November 1 and 2), and a number of saints' feast days are all official reasons for a fiesta. Across the country, Mexicans take part in preparing for and celebrating these holidays. Feasts, fireworks, kaleidoscopic costumes, and the music of the mariachis (Mexican street bands) make these traditional festivals truly spectacular.

The Mexicans have created a special style of cooking just for festivals, or so it seems. Antojitos are an assortment of snacks eaten out of the hands. A familiar sightall over Mexico are the street vendors selling favorite antojito treats such as tacos, crispy tortillas, tamales, and the giant stuffed sandwiches on hard rolls called tortas. A fresh fruit drink called agua frescais refreshing after sampling spicy roasted corn on the cob with chiles and a squeeze of fresh lime. Sliced watermelon, cantaloupe, and pineapple are carried in small bags and nibbled as celebrants take in the festivities.

The Cooking of Mexico is a collection of favorite Mexican dishes, some of which you will recognize and others that might surprise you. There is even a section of recipes to help you create a taquisa - a taco party. For simplicity, we have divided the cooking of Mexico into three culinary regions: the north, central Mexico, and the south.


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