I feel very lucky to be part of a multi-cultural household where not only do we cook from each other’s cuisines (French and English), but also come into contact with many other nationalities through our work (I work in an international school, he works for le gouvernement), and cook dishes from around the world. Particular favourites in this house are Indian and Italian dishes, but I’m also a fan of Mexican food – mainly because there’s way more to it than meets the eye. The stereotype of Mexican food is founded on beans and brown food, and while this is part of Mexico’s cuisine, it can also show an amazingly colourful heritage.
I first sampled Mexican food in early 2004 while on a trip to Washington DC. We ate at a Mexican restaurant somewhere near the centre, and while I can’t remember where it was or even what I ate, all I remember is that I LIKED IT, and sometimes that can be enough. I remember being struck by the amazing, intense fusion of colour and spice in a totally different way to the rainbow of pigments and flavours encountered in Indian food, and it too contributed to the prism of food I now know and love today.
We’ll often cook from all around the world in a single week in this household (this week it’s Italy, India, Britain, and Turkey), and last week, we visited Mexico via our plates, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Rustic Tortilla Soup recipe (from his book Jamie’s America). I didn’t take a picture of ours, but another food blogger, girlichef, did, and ours looked pretty much the same as hers, which perhaps proves just how incredibly idiot-proof and satisfying it is to make. I’ve eaten it twice in four days and could easily eat it again tomorrow: it has a touch of warmth from the chillis, coolness from the avocados, softness from the veg, and texture from the tortilla chips. It is verily Mexico in a bowl: colourful, interesting, different, filling, varied, and memorable.
I also loooooove beans and sweetcorn, so as Mexican cuisine features a lot of both, this type of food was always going to be a winner for me. I don’t much like tequila, but am willing to bypass this beverage of filth for all the wonders brought by the nation’s cooking. Chocolate is also Mexican originally (who’d have thought it!), and so the chilli-chocolate combination that has proved popular over the past few years doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all. As an ex-veggie, too, any cuisine that features so many seeds, grains and vegetables was always going to be OK with me too – and one of my favourite cheeses, manchego, while technically Spanish, has also been developed in Mexico for use in their cuisine (particularly in quesadillas) after being brought there by Spanish settlers. I also really want to try tamale – mostly because of this video – but I guess these things can happen all in good time.
It’s therefore perhaps no surprise, then, that Thomasina Miers’ latest book, Wahaca, figures on my Amazon wishlist as part of my quest to discover more about Mexican food. But can you also recommend me something more authentic? Just who is the Delia Smith or Jamie Oliver of Mexico? I’m hearing good things about Aaron Sanchez, Zarela Martinez, Ana Garcia and Douglas Rodriguez, but maybe you can tell me more.