Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Maiz, Chile y Raices Perdidas Entre El Valle y Fresnillo: All Mexican Food is Not Created Equal (My Lost Zacatecan Food Roots)

After hours of pestering and convincing my parents, who hadn't gone back to their home lands of the borders of Fresnillo and Valpairaso, Zacatecas Mex. in more than 25 years...I finally got to know my lost roots, food and presidential ancestors alike (apparently had a great uncle who was killed for being a "good" president, name was Mauro Talamantes).


Convenient Nixtamal machine-mashed Tortillas and products of the like.
(Gorditas, Tamales, Galleta de Maiz Crudo, Pinole. Clay-Oven baked Elotes Tatemados, Gordas de Horno, Gorditas de Cuajada...)

Stinky, glorious, fresh laborsome cheese that apparently someone in my own family has made for decades. On a side note, milking a is NOT as easy as it looks.
(Mozzarela-like Asadero and Panela. Cave-aged, stone-pressed Añejo, Chile-dipped Enchilado. Cottage-cheese like Cuajado and Requeson. Yogurt and Crème fraîche-like Jocoque...

Plethoric Chili and Legume pods, in all their infamous varieties, seasons, shapes and fibers.
Chiles: De Arbol, Puya, Ancho, Chipotle, Colorado...
Frijoles: Flor de Mayo, Flor de Junio, Vallo, Pinto, Aluvia, Patoles...

Tunas and Nopalitos in all their notorious diverse splendor. Cactus Paddles and "Prickly Pears" as they have come to be called here, even if they bear no textural or flavor resemblance to a Pear whatsoever.
(Domesticated De Castilla. Wild-foraged De Durasnillas, Chavenos, Cardonas, San Juaneras, Coconoistles.

The occasional piece of freshly-killed, grass-fed, "gamy" meat brought by a special occasion of the kind. The ultra traditional, minimalist Mole of the Asado de Boda made with a whole pig and the always present, soft as butter Barbacoa de Res made with a whole teenage cow. Birria made with Mutton, that is lamb, not goat.

And candies, oh...the candies. Now I know where my sweet tooth came from.
Thick caramel made with pure goats milk (Cajeta), Quince Paste by the name of Cajeta de Membrillo. Cloying, taffy like Queso de Tuna made by cooking and reducing the hell out of a bunch of Prickly Pears--seeds and all--forming the rich, nut butter-like confection. Coconut Macaroon like Cocadas of all types. Camotes, sweet potatoes cooked with Pilloncillo (unprocessed brown sugar) for 5-6 hours until they are heavenly.

I have lots of footage, and am thinking, just thinking of maybe....making a documentary. It's just a thought though so we'll see.

So many lost years though...

Disclaimer: I went during the abundant, lush, green rain season when everything is fresh, plentiful and full of life. I hear everything is COMPLETELY different in the off seasons...


bad-dog said...

I had the most amazing cheese in the city of Oaxaca. It was called Quesillo and was the most interesting, chewy, flavorful string cheese ball. I've been searching high and low for it since but tho I've come across things labeled "quesillo" I have yet to taste the kind I had in Oaxaca.
Guess I'll just have to go back there.

Foodeater said...

Reminds me of the yummy and strange candies I would eat in Bolivia when I was a kid. Lots of tamarind, and they were big on marzipan I remember too.

I'm looking looking forward to the documentary!