(Author’s Note: The following is extracted from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes, co-authored by this columnist with Adriana Almazan Lahl. As I write the introduction, it strikes me that I could very well be commenting on the situation in Mexico today. In fact, many say Mexico is ripe for another revolution. In that light, it especially makes sense that we, as her neighbor’s to the North, take a moment to remember a little bit of Mexican history. This entry is more personal that most I write, therefore, I have taken the liberty of using the first person in some parts of it.)
November 20th, Mexico commemorates Dîa de la Revolución (Day of the Mexican Revolution), which began in 1910 and lasted until 1920. By some estimates, as many as two million Mexicans lost their lives in the struggle. In the era before el Revolución, there was a wide social chasm between the classes in Mexico. Although Mexican President Porfírio Díaz brought progress and modernization to the country during his thirty-four-year rule, he also permitted foreign investors to exploit the nation’s natural resources and labor force. These same investors ran businesses that frequently paid next to nothing to Mexican laborers. The conditions on Mexico’s large estates were even worse, where workers and their families were literally prisoners of the haciendas on which they lived and labored, indebted to their patrones (los hacendados or hacienda owners) for basics such as rent and food, the cost of which often exceeded their wages.
At the same time, Porfírio Díaz, enchanted by the European lifestyle, was leading the country in a direction that threatened Mexico’s rich traditions and culture, which was widely unpopular. Removing Díaz from power became a uniting force across various factions in Mexico. Emiliano Zapata was one of many heroes of the Mexican Revolution. He organized La Bola, the Revolutionary fighting force, and led the struggle which that would eventually result in a nation where the possibility of equality and hope existed for every Mexican, claiming “La tierra para es de quien la trabajae” (the land should belongs to those who work it). His famous army became known as the Zapatistas. Other well-known revolutionary figures include Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Álvaro Obregón, Victoriano Huerta, and Francisco Madero.
Traditionally, Mexico celebrates the national holiday with parades—the Army shows off their troops and artillery—followed by kermeses (street fairs), where traditional songs from the revolutionary era, called corridos, fill the air.
This year, however, there is a call for a national strike, as a reaction to the ongoing search for answers about the kidnapping, torture and, what appears to be the subsequent murder of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. According to the Chicago Tribune,
“the violent disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college in Guerrero state has caused a political earthquake the likes of which Mexico has not seen in generations — perhaps even since the revolution of 1910…. That makes it all the more baffling how little attention most people in the U.S. have paid to the unfolding tragedy. To understand the historical significance — and the moral and political gravity — of what is occurring, think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook, of the day JFK was assassinated. Mexico is a nation in shock — horrified, pained, bewildered”.
It’s a little difficult for me, tied as I am to Mexico, its people, its food and its culture, to continue here by sharing something as benign as the menu and recipes from our book. Still, we wrote it hoping that food would open a cultural bridge between our two countries. That bridge should bring us together in good times and bad, and in that vein, I invite you to cook along side our compadres as they live their daily lives and cook and eat, even as they fight for the right to feel safe in their own country.
Dîa del Revolucion Menu
The menu presented here is reported to be the fare at the victory feast (perhaps eaten on May 25, 1911, the date when President Porfirio Diaz resigned after holding office for 35 years). Recipes for items with a * follow below. Other recipes can be found in Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes.
Entrée / Plato Fuerte
*Rabbit in Adobado/Canejo Adobado
Casseroles / Cazuelas
Bean Taquitos with Green Sauce/ Taquitos de Frijol con Salsa Verde
*Green Mole Enchiladas/ Enchiladas de Mole Verde
Beverage / Bebida
Pineapple Atole/ Atole de Piña
Green Mole Enchiladas / Enchiladas de Pipian (serves 4)
Many associate the word “mole” with the famous Poblano sauce, rich, brown, chocolatey with chiles. There are over 300 moles in the state of Oaxaca, alone. Here’s one of many recipes for Mole Verde or Green Mole. In fact, sauces like this, made with pumpkin or other seeds, are more correctly referred to as Pipianes, for which there is no common English usage or translation.
½ cup corn oil
3 tomatillos, boiled
3 Serrano chiles
¼ cup ground peeled pumpkin seeds
½ cups of epazote leaves or substitute dry 1/8 cup dry
½ cups fresh cilantro
½ cups of fresh root beer plant
½ cup sliced onion
¼ cup of radishes leaves
2 lettuce leaves
4 garlic cloves
½ stale bolillo bread or 4 in. long stale baguette
½ fresh poblano chile, seeded
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 pound Mexican zucchini (round)
1/2 pound small potatoes
1/2 pound clean young dried fava beans,
1/2 pound fresh peas
¼ pound fresh green beans
Mexican sour cream to garnish
1 onion cut into rings to garnish
1/8 queso fresco, crumbled to garnish
salt and pepper
In a large pot add 2 tbsp. of oil and fry pumpkin seeds, once brown set aside and reserve. Repeat procedure with bread, onion and garlic, once brown, set aside and reserve. Blend tomatillos with ½ of the chicken stock, chilies and bread, onion and garlic. Pour into pot, and incorporate pumpkin seeds, simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
Blend the rest of the stock with the remaining herbs and puree, add this mixture to the pot, letting it simmer for 10 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste. Steam all vegetables: fava bean, green beans and peas. Add zucchini last so it remains al dente. Set aside and then cook potatoes until done.
To prepare tortillas to make enchiladas, heat corn oil in a pan and fry tortillas until soft, and place them on a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. This process changes the texture of the tortilla, making it more pliable so they don’t break when rolled.
Next, dip tortilla in the mole sauce, add the vegetables and roll, add additional sauce and garnish with onion, sour cream onions and cheese.
Stirred Beans / Frijoles Maneados (serves 4-6)
9 oz. cooked beans (pinto or black)
3.5 oz. Monterey jack cheese shredded
3.5 oz. butter
2 tbsp. chile. ancho toasted and ground
3.5 oz. queso Oaxaca shredded or substitute mozzarella
3.5 oz. chorizo
Cook chorizo and drain fat. Fry ancho chile powder in the butter. Smash beans or use hand mixer to blend beans, then stir in chorizo, ground chiles & butter mix and add cheese at the very end prior to serving, keep stirring beans until serving. Garnish with tortilla chips