A Festival Of Food For Cinco De Mayo

Molesko Studio

May is one of the nicest months of the year; the weather is warming up, flowers are in bloom and summer is near – also during the month of May one of the most colorful and happiest holidays are celebrated by a fun loving group of people who love color, song and dance and good food. The month of May boasts Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican national Holiday which celebrates the Mexican Victory over the French at Puebla in 1862.

Imagine the sound of mariachi bands, the delightful echo of children’s laughter, colorful clothing and the tantalizing aroma of delicious food. You have now transported yourself through your imagination into a celebration of Cinco de Mayo. On the fifth of May celebrations will be held throughout Mexico and for those of us fortunate enough to be there, it will be a delightful time. However, those of us here at home in Southern California and other border states do not need to feel left out, for there will be many celebrations going on in these areas.

The famous Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles | Kit Leong

If you are in the Los Angeles area, the most obvious place to find a Cinco de Mayo Celebration would be at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. Olvera Street is right across the avenue from Union Station and easily accessible by auto or by the subway which runs from the Valley area. Olvera Street has many shops with colorful gift items from Mexico as well as tantalizing restaurants. During Cinco de Mayo there will be song and dance as well as food. There will be artisans displaying their crafts, mariachi bands and Aztec and Spanish dancers. Olvera Street is a part of La Puebla de Los Angeles State Historic Park, which is the hub of the original portion of the City of the Angels. Similar festivities will be held at various other areas and in the Border States of Arizona and Texas as well as in the City of Chicago and Denver. Many other cities throughout the United States will have celebrations as well. To locate a Cinco de Mayo Celebration near you, check the Internet; the information will be there.

For those who prefer to do their celebrating at home, Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful excuse to have a party as Mexican food lends itself very easily to entertaining. True Mexican cooking is quite different from the Mexican-American cooking which used to be served in many American Restaurants. Fortunately, ethnic cuisine today is becoming more and more authentic and good Mexican restaurants can be found in many cities throughout the United States and elsewhere.

Mexican Cuisine has its origins in the pre-Hispanic cultures of Mexico, namely the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec Indians. Mexican cooking relies heavily on foods that we have come to think of as indigenous to California, but which actually are native to Mexico. One such food the ‘California Avocado’ is actually a member of the Laurel Family and is known in Mexico as Ahuacatl, a name given to it by the Aztecs. The Avocado used to be known in the eastern United States as an alligator pear and were referred to as ‘Green Gold’ because they were a very lucrative crop and could command a high price. So many farmers have gotten into the Avocado business today, that the supply has increased to the point that the avocado is now affordable by all.

Guacamole | lunamarina

Learn how to make guacamole in “100 Guacamole Recipes In One: A Guide To Making Guacamole Dip.”

The best tasting Avocado has a pebbly skin and when ripe should be soft to the touch. The ripening of an avocado can be hastened by placing it in a brown paper bag along with a lemon, lime or orange. The citrus fruit gives off a gas known as ethylene which accelerates the ripening process. Avocado is the main ingredient in guacamole, (literally translated as Avocado mixture) which makes an extremely tasty appetizer along with vegetable crudités and or tortilla chips. In Mexico, dried avocado leaves are used as seasoning in soups and stews and is an indispensable ingredient in barbecuing.

Another food which we have come to think of as being a California native, which also had its origins in Mexico, is the tomato. Tomato seeds were brought back to Europe from Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadors and were quickly adapted into the cooking of the Mediterranean countries, Spain, Portugal and Italy. As the tomato was brought into Northern Europe, more exotic names such as ‘The Apple of Love’ and ‘The Apple of Paradise” were attached to it, although the British and early American colonists believed the tomato to be poisonous! Today there is good reason for us to think that the tomato is a California native. It flourishes rampantly throughout the dry, warm inland regions and one-third of all the tomatoes consumed in the United States are grown in California.

Chicken mole

Find a recipe for mole here.

Another food native to Mexico and which some people will claim they literally cannot live without is chocolate which is made from the Cacao bean, which again, was first used by the Aztecs. Chocolate is a major ingredient in such Mexican dishes as Chicken mole and some versions of chili. Hot Chocolate Milk, also a popular beverage in Mexico is prepared with eggs and cinnamon which give it quite a different taste from the hot chocolate that we are accustomed to.

Many authentic recipes call for unusual ingredients which are difficult to find in the ordinary supermarket, but which can be found in Mexican groceries and delicatessens. Tortillas, both corn and flour are available in almost all markets around the country. It is fun to try and make your own and flour tortillas are pretty simple to make but making corn tortillas is an art which takes a long time to perfect. Nowadays tortillas come in a variety of flavors such as spinach and tomato, but these are a new innovation and certainly would not be considered authentic.

Chile Rellenos

Find an easy recipe for chile rellenos here.

The chili which is a must in most Mexican cooking can usually be had in most markets. Jalapenos are very popular and can be purchased either green or red. The red ones are a riper version of the green ones and cannot always be found. Summer time is when you would most likely find them. Another chili which is popularly used in Mexican cooking is the Serrano. The Serrano is considerably hotter than the Jalapeno. Whereas the Jalapeno is tangy, it almost has a kind of sweetness to it, but the Serrano is hot! The poblano is a large chili and is often used for Chile Relleno, a popular dish in which the chili is stuffed, battered and then fried.

Enchiladas

Find two easy enchilada recipes here.

If you have never cooked Mexican food before start out with something simple such as tacos or enchiladas. Enchiladas are usually made with cheese, chicken or beef and are served with a tomato based sauce and melted cheese on top. To make it simple for first timers, you can purchase canned enchilada sauce or if you prefer you can make it yourself. Making enchilada sauce is really not hard; all you need is a recipe, powdered chili, garlic, chicken broth and tomatoes.

Cheese is another ingredient which is important in Mexican cuisine. Some people use Jack Cheese but nowadays it is fairly easy to purchase authentic Mexican Cheese or Queso. There is soft cheese, crumbly cheese and cheese which looks like Mozzarella and is usually used for enchiladas.

Cilantro | Africa Studio

Herbs and vegetable products that you will need are cilantro (also known as Chinese parsley or Coriander – depending on the part of the world from which your recipes come), garlic, scallions (green onions), and of course tomatoes and avocados. The list can go on and on but these are the essentials.

Try your hand at some Mexican cooking or seek out a really good restaurant and enjoy Cinco de Mayo!

I have been a children’s cooking teacher and educator for over 35 years. I teach monthly classes in Westlake Village, California for children, teens and their parents. I love to share my ideas to help kids be safe, learn and have fun in the kitchen. I hold a MS in Nutrition Education and Food Sciences from California State University.

Please check out my website at http://www.sylveeeskitchen.com

1 comment

  1. Yummy food 😋

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