Why do Mexicans get so heated about their food?

Mexico City - Local Market - source JM.jpg

Mexico has to be one of my favourite destinations in Latin America. Not just for its coast, although of course it boasts some sublime scenery, but mostly for its passionate embrace of all things that offer enjoyment of life: art, music, celebrated culture, history & tradition, colour, wildlife and, of course, food.

Mexicans get pretty heated about their food and I am not just referring to the spice they add in. Their delicious traditional recipes have been amended by their North American neighbours which is what most people outside Mexico know as their food.

The real thing is considerably lighter, more diverse and yes, often spicier than the Tex-Mex you may be familiar with. All this adds up to a wonderful journey of taste sensations when you come to Mexico.

It is hard for me to pin down my absolute favourite culinary experiences as I have plenty to choose from. I think great food combines with great company and a fabulous location helps to provide those poignant memories we look back on so fondly.

Mexico City is often the starting point for many journeys through Mexico and it is a surprisingly pleasant city. My absolute favourite day was exploring the house of artist Frida Kahlo.

Afterwards we stopped in the bustling little square of Coyoacan to experience my first torta, washed down with Agua de Jamaica (a gorgeous drink made with hibiscus flowers). Don’t expect to finish it and just ordering one is itself a challenge – there are so many things you can have in it – watch out for the spicy sauce!

  • Mexico - Yucatan - Handmaking Tortillas - source JM.jpg

For an altogether more urbane experience I headed out with some friends for dinner in Polanco, a very smart central district of the city which has some gorgeous small boutique hotels, more personal than the usual large luxury hotels. We went to Dulce Patria, run by the effervescent and dynamic Martha Ortiz, who produces quite extraordinary modernist takes on Mexican classics.

Delving into the heart of Mexico’s interior brought me to stunning colonial towns brim-full of classic baroque architecture, cobbled alleyways and flower filled squares. In amongst these would be intriguing little local shops selling a vast array of weird and wonderful powders, chillies and bowlfuls of a mysterious, almost black, thick paste, spooned into plastic bags to take away.

  • Mexico - Colonial Heartlands - Mole Poblano - source JM.jpg

I later discovered it was to make a sauce called ‘mole’, a dark and smoky mix of chillies and chocolate that is served with meat – a delightful discovery that fabulous quality pure chocolate works as well for savoury as for sweet dishes!

A fellow diner from Mexico remarked that if I were in Oaxaca further south the taste would be sweeter and lighter in colour and in fact that it would be different in every region one visited in the country. Had I had the time, I would have tried a cooking class at a beautiful school around the corner to learn how to make the local version myself.

My final few days on a most recent Mexico journey was spent on the stunning coast of Baja California, a long peninsula that sticks out below the US border and encompasses the Sea of Cortez looking over to Mexico’s mainland.

There is no surprise then that the sand is white, the sea is blue and the fish and seafood are ridiculously fresh, from mussels and oysters literally brought to table from the sea to spicy seafood tacos.

  • Mexico - Baja California - Fresh seafood - source JM.jpg

And when in Mexico, you do have to do as the locals do and wash it down with a Michelada – an incredibly refreshing mix of ice cold local beer, fresh lime juice and a salt rim around the glass.

What I find most delightful about Mexican dining is that, formal or informal, everything you taste is served with passion and flair. It is truly a feast for the senses.

Images courtesy of Journey Mexico.

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My other favourite culinary experiences in Mexico:

Best local cooking and cookery school – Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende.

Best fresh fish, shellfish and vintage tequilas – Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Baja California.

Best contemporary Mexican Cuisine – Dulce Patria at Las Alcobas Hotel.

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Posted by: Louise Mumford

Posted on: 15th September 2016

Read more: Posts about Latin America

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