Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Thoughts On REAL Mexican Food
Mole Verde is my favorite Mexican dish.  I eat it about twice a year.

Rick Bayless bores me.  And so do all those foodies who come here to find “REAL” Mexican food.  They wax rhapsodic about finding the best tacos, write blogs and columns about street food and where to find the perfect pozole, or the most authentic mole.  They contradict each other and frequently themselves on food forums and get bent out of shape and highly defensive at the slightest hint that someone knows more than they do, or has found the most authentic place in which to drink the true, the original, the REAL pulque (why they would would waste the time and  energy to even bother is beyond me because the stuff is beyond nasty.  The Aztecs might have had a great calendar and empire, but their alcoholic beverage of choice is the rudest...seriously).  They post colorful photos of the markets in Oaxaca, where the REAL smoked chiles are sold.  Unless you have been to that market and bought those chiles, and cooked REAL mole with them, you are not even worthy of a commercially prepared tortilla from Superama.  

The truth is, I like Mexican food.  I like it about as much as I like any other food.  I don’t eat that much of it lately, because I have begun doing more cooking on my own.  For many years, my housekeeper Mari lived with me and did most of the cooking, and it was all Mexican.  And it was all perfectly delicious.  But when I returned from a leave of absence last year, I found a great apartment across from my office; the only thing that was missing was a maid’s room.  Mari and I worked out a deal where she comes in the morning in time to wake me up with coffee in bed and leaves after lunch, for which I come home.  It is working out for both of us.  And when I have friends come to visit from abroad, she stays around in the evenings to cook REAL Mexican food for them and everyone is happy.

My take on Mexican food is this.  It is best prepared and enjoyed in the home, by home cooks who know what they are doing.  By the maids who learned from their mothers and grandmothers in the villages where they grew up.  The maid culture here is hard to explain, so I will say this.  Almost everyone has one.  Even some of the maids have one, because they are off at work and someone has to take care of the family at home.  Maids are part of the culture...and part of the family.  For me, it is both a luxury and a blessing.  Mari and I have a bond that goes far beyond our employment relationship.  She is part mother, part sister and part friend.  And she makes a REAL mole verde.

When I go out to eat with my local friends, we almost never go to a Mexican restaurant.  Why?  Because everyone has Mexican food at home daily, prepared by their maids or the few who cook themselves or have spouses who do, and it is better than in the restaurants.  Of course there are exceptions to this and if you are in the mood for seafood or tacos, going out, at least among my friends, is more common than staying in.

I am sure as time goes on I will write about Mexican food and Mexican restaurants, but that is not what this blog is about.  For those who are coming to the D.F. and interested in finding good Mexican food and places to eat, check out and buy Nicholas Gilman’s book, Good Food in Mexico City.  I’ve lived here for 20 years and it’s the best REAL advice I can give you.

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