Mexican cuisine, changed and forgotten?
Mom, what are the chimicuiles and escamoles? That is a question that any child of this age would have. I don’t see this as a “bad” question but as a loss of our gastronomic entity. We have changed so much that it is difficult to discern between Mexican cuisine and Mexico as a culinary destination. Chefs of different nationalities and different customs have settled in the country for many years. So, they have left the “creators of Mexican cuisine” little room to compete, mainly for the cooking techniques they possess.
Of course, our cuisine is full of flavors and scents that few cultures have in their repertoire. But like any other activity, if we stop practicing or exercising it, the muscles will atrophy. Then, we will lose our ability to perform. This has happened with our cuisine. We have been losing the identity which defined us as one of the best gastronomies in the world. That is, one full of flavors, colors, textures, and aromas.
What happened to Mexican Cuisine?
Where did we stray from the path? The answer lies in one word: globalization. Not as a negative action, on the contrary! It is a positive change for the world, but if it isn´t bad, then what happened? The answer is within us. We opened ourselves to other cuisines and other trends. We began to experiment with new ingredients, techniques, flavors, smells and presentations. And we lost our way.
Now we have Mexican dishes that seem to come more from a comic strip than from our traditional kitchens in clay, “comales” and mortars where our “Nanas” spent the day grinding spices, “toreando” hot peppers, “tatemando” vegetables, “torteando” corn dough, among other Mexican ancient words and doings.
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We must receive changes with open arms, that is true. However, we must keep our culture and trends without changing to the point of not recognizing a delicate Mexican food item from a quick meal. We have lost that taste for our pre-Hispanic cuisine. Now it is just something we find in History books and in the talks on the table of our elders as they remember the combination of those magnificent flavors.
A clear example is that we can see on TV the dishes from a distant country like roasted scorpions, grilled centipedes, and caramelized spider, among others. Then I wonder: where are our escamoles (ant eggs compared to caviar with a sweeter flavor), chitacanas (flying ants), grasshoppers, maguey worm, jumiles among others? All were forgotten over time as an old building whose splendor no longer serves right but rather just to be a photo or a memory from a trip.
Mexico, land of flavors and textures, you are not lost! There are chefs whose passion and dedication and love for you have decided to take the books from our “Nanas” and put them to use. They are rescuing the gastronomic identity that defined us and that we pride on (and no, hot peppers are not Mexican), our quelites, insects and spice mills that gave this country its gastronomic greatness before the Spaniards arrived.
Let us leave for a while the cuisines of the world that delight us and let’s leave our children a legacy, something greater than money and any physical item. Let´s inherit them an Identity of which they can be proud. Let’s remind them that we can enjoy Mexico one dish at a time.