photo-5If the fact that San Francisco’s Mexican Museum is literally like having a little piece of the Smithsonian in our backyard hasn’t let lured you (the museum is associated with the Smithsonian), surely this will: a Mezcal tasting, Mexican food and a Mercado or market, in this case selling Mexican handcrafts just in time for Christmas. Plus there’s a fascinating exhibition of Rosa Covarrubias’ personal collection of traditional Mexican cooking ware and utensils!
A Little History
The original home of the Mexican Museum was in San Francisco’s Mission District. It was founded in 1975 by San Francisco resident and artist Peter Rodríguez, “a realization of his vision that an institution be created in the United States to exhibit the aesthetic expression of the Mexican and Mexican-American people.” Since the museum’s relocation to Fort Mason it has  “amassed a permanent collection of over 14,000 art objects. This spectacular collection is unique in the nation and includes Pre-Hispanic, Colonial, Popular, Modern and Contemporary Mexican and Latino, and Chicano Art”. Soon, the Museum will move again, to its permanent home, fittingly located in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts District.

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CHRISTMEX! Mezcal, Mercado y Más
This coming Saturday, December 6, the museum will be hosting a special event, from 10am-4pm at La Tienda, the museum store, featuring specialty items from Mexico, Central America, as well as some local San Francisco artisans. “In addition to some great holiday gifts, [the museum invites you to] celebrate the season with a Mezcal tasting and delicious Mexican food. Among the items offered for sale are a stunning collection of lead-free Mexican clay ollas and cazuelas (pots and casseroles dishes) as well as serving platters and other tabletop items from Mexico by Hand.

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What’s fascinating about ollas de barro (clay pots) is that, in Mexican cuisine, they are as much an ingredient as a cooking vessel. Ask any Mexican cook and they will tell you that an olla de barro (clay pot) imparts a subtle but perceptible flavor to foods. A well-made olla or cazuela is one whose bottom is not too thin, so it cooks well without burning. You should have different pots, one for beans could be a bit bigger and one for coffee that’s a bit smaller (see slide show) and cazuelas for rice and moles. For bean recipes, see my post about Steve Sando’s newest cookbook, Supper at Rancho Gordo. For Cafe de Olla recipe, click here. There are many more recipes utilizing clay pots and casseroles in the award-winning cookbook, Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes (by this columnist and Adriana Alamzan Lahl).

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For more information on how to care for your clay pots, please see post Cafe de Olla- making coffee in a clay pot adds flavor

A wonderful way to learn more about Mexican culinary traditions is through this unique exhibit. The methods of production have changed little over time; exploring this exhibit you’ll feel the connection between what is available to you in the gift shop and the continuum of Mexican cuisine and handcrafts. “From the Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias Collection of over 2,500 objects including paintings, works on paper, ceramics, photographs and folk art, this exhibition highlights one very important aspect of the collection: Rosa Covarrubias’ traditional, personal collection of Mexican cooking ware and utensils. Miguel was an avid collector of Pre-Hispanic objects and ceramics, while Rosa became enamored with acquiring utilitarian objects for her kitchen and home. During the 1930s, she made numerous trips throughout Mexico to visit Pre-Colombian sites, buying folk art pottery from local marketplaces – items that became part of this collection”.

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