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“The Legend of Wild Turkey Mole”. Mole is not, as recently published by BuzzFeed, “essentially a sauce made up of spices, chiles, and chocolate that gets poured over meat”. There are over 300 different moles in the state of Oaxaca, alone. The vast majority do have NOT chocolate. It is often eaten without any protein and when it is, it is usually eaten with poultry . In pre-Colonial Mexico (and even today, although more so in Mexico’s pueblos) it was often served with guacalote or wild turkey. More commonly, the wild turkey is replaced with a farm-raised one, or with chicken.Photo by Adriana Almazan Lahl from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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.

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Triquis Bride Getting Ready. The Triquis are an indigenous people who live in a mountainous region called “La Mixteca Baja” in the southwestern part of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. They number around 23,000. One of the most notable and widely misunderstood customs of Triqui people is that of female dowries. During precolonial and colonial times, this practice was common among Native Americans in Mesoamerica and other groups, like the Mixtecs of Oaxaca, continue practicing a dowry-based marriage. It is typical in Trique culture for a man to offer a bride’s family money, food, and other products in exchange for the bride’s hand in marriage. Generally, the husband and wife know each other before this arrangement, and there is no arrangement without consent. Photo by Jorge Ontiveros from Celebraciones Mexicananas: History, Traditions and Recipes ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

 

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!

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