I don’t think I have been this mad since I read an article titled “Mexican Food Chains Spread, Bad Breath Comes Along for the Ride” (not posting a link!), which was circulated in 2011 by TheraBreath (whatever they make, don’t buy it!). This week, BuzzFeed published another brilliant critique of one of Mexico’s culinary gems, titled “It’s Time To Admit That Mole Is Actually Fucking Terrible” written by Sandra Mendez, whom they seem happy enough to claim as a member of their staff. Ok, I get it, everyone wants clicks, and readers and an audience and fame, etc. etc. But, this is exactly the kind of thinking on the part of media that got us the current Republican presidential nominee. Giving voice to hate and ignorance takes a toll!
So, I am responding out of my deep love for Mexico, her culture and cuisine with information and education, which we all know to be the opposite of ignorance.
MEXICO IS NOT A SPANISH-SPEAKING COUNTRY
The word mole comes from the Nahuatl molli, which means concoction.It is considered the quintessential fiesta dish and typically served at weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, and other important rites in central and southern Mexico.
(Note: the following is excerpted from my book, Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes). In Mexico there are over sixty-three distinct indigenous peoples, speaking more than 653 languages and dialects: about twelve million indigenous Mexicans, representing 10 percent of the total Mexican population, scattered throughout the country from small villages to enclaves of four or five houses in municipalities or urban centers. The Nahuas live in every state of Mexico and form the largest group of indigenous peoples (over 20%) in the country. An estimated 1,376,026 Mexicans spoke one of the twenty-eight Náhuatl languages as of 2005; including some 190,000 Nahuatl speakers who are monolingual. Some of the most important Mesoamerican civilizations were of Nahua ethnicity, including the Toltec and Aztec cultures. As the Spaniards sought to extend their political dominance into the most remote corners of Mesoamerica, the Nahua accompanied them as foot soldiers, often forming the bulk of the Spanish military expeditions that conquered other Mesoamerican peoples, such as the Maya, Zapotecs and Mixtecs.
MOLE IS NOT A CHOCOLATE SAUCE
Mole is a thick sauce is typically made from various chiles with any number of other ingredients, depending upon type (red, green, yellow, black, de Oaxaca, Poblano; and, in fact, there is a “white” mole called “Mole de Novia” or “Bride’s Mole” which is made with white chocolate) and the particular family recipe. These can include almonds or other nuts, bread, tortillas ground up into something resembling breadcrumbs, raisins, plantains, chocolate, cloves, cinnamon, pepper (sweet and/or black), cumin, and other ingredients. There are over three hundred moles prepared in the various towns of Puebla alone, each with its special variation. Recipes are closely held family secrets and passed down through the generations. It is not unusual for the abuelitas (grandmothers) to hide their mole recipes from the younger women, especially their daughters-in-law.
Follow me for more on moles, with a recipe for Pumpkin Mole coming next in my “Recipes from the Mission” series!