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Everything posted by caroline

  1. Hi John, Sorry for the incredibly long lapse of time before this reply. I was confined to bed (lovely old fashioned phrase) for nearly a month and am only now struggling back to consciousness. I could not agree more that many Mexican intellectuals, perhaps most, are concerned about GM crops. I hear it in seminars at the National University all the time. The question, though, is what to make of that. Most Mexico City intellectuals (though I am sure not your friend Amado Ramirez) know about as much about either the peasant cultivation of maize or about modern plant breeding as the average reader of Michael Pollan's articles in the NY Times. That is to say, nothing. They hear the same rumors as their American and European equivalents and they are also constantly and understandably looking over their shoulders at aggressive moves from the 10,000 pound gorilla to the north of the border. But the net result is that in general I trust their opinions on this about as much as I trust those of a (say) jazz player in New York or a (say) editorial writer in a European newspaper. That is, not much. Sure the companies are not in business for humanitarian reasons. Most NGOs and governments in the last generation have got out of the business leaving it to the businesses. They could get back in if they wished. But yes the primary business of businesses is profit. I think I am less worried than you are about farmers buying seed. When I was a child, my family who farmed a considerable acreage in England, always bought their seed. It was just better than anything they could replant. In fact they grew crops explicitly to be sold as seed, a high margin, high risk business. And that was back in the Dark Ages more or less. Improved seed is great. I mean how many gardeners don't buy much of their seed for exactly this reason? You may find one that does really well on your soil. Nor is it clear that (say) GM maize (which is not grown for human consumption in Mexico) competes well with land races of maize if left to themselves. GM is developed for reducing costs of fertilizer, pesticide etc in the US. Landraces probably out perform them for properties such as drought resistance, poor soils, etc. And it's worth remembering that the biodiversity of maize fluctuates constantly, maize being an entirely man made and highly malleable plant. And perhaps you could be a tad more specific about the sustainable maize practices. I've spent a good bit of time chatting with campesinos with just a few acres. Right now the economics don't work out as you can see from the results of this informal interview. I want all these people to be able to eat meat from time to time, send their kids to school, and have a car and a television. Utopian perhaps, All best, Rachel
  2. There really aren't any at the moment. Ruth Alegria who posts here quite often is hoping to offer them in the future but at the moment does not have a kitchen. Try her tours though. They're the real thing. Rachel
  3. Well, sure, any action we take in life, whether adopting a new technology, a new wife, a new president, a walk down the street, or posting on eGullet, is going to have unanticipated results and unintended consequences. So that leaves us with a choice of inaction or taking what seems to be the best action given our limited knowledge in the full realization that some unintended consequences will ensue. So I'd be hesitant about using this as an argument against GM though it seems to have wide currency. Rachel ← It depends on what the potential may be for the unintended consequences and the likelihood of them happening. It also depends on the potential benefits and the likelihood of them happening. I have yet to see anything to indicate that GM of plants is beneficial to anything other than the companies doing the GM. Meanwhile, the potential negative consequences are disastrous. I think encouraging biodiversity makes more sense on many levels. ← Well, until now the benefits are clearly not to the consumer in the rich world because the technologies were designed to reduce costs to the farmer. Food is so cheap in the US that improvement in productivity, however desirable from the farmer's point of view, is not perceived by the consumer. But their potential for helping farmers in other parts of the world, particularly Africa, seems to me enormous and one of the most promising ways of lifting people out of poverty. I'm not at all sure what the potentially disastrous negative consequences of action are. I do believe though that the potentially negative consequences of inaction are huge. I'm all for encouraging biodiversity too. But I'm not sure how this translates into better crops for poor farmers. Perhaps I'm missing something.
  4. Well, sure, any action we take in life, whether adopting a new technology, a new wife, a new president, a walk down the street, or posting on eGullet, is going to have unanticipated results and unintended consequences. So that leaves us with a choice of inaction or taking what seems to be the best action given our limited knowledge in the full realization that some unintended consequences will ensue. So I'd be hesitant about using this as an argument against GM though it seems to have wide currency. Rachel
  5. Jeez, I rushed to my book case and yes I have a pristine 1997 edition. I am going to wrap it in cotton wool. I don't see how there can be a difference in content. Same publisher, same number of pages, Rachel
  6. Fine Devotay. Just pm me whenever you want. I'm happy to chat in private or in public. But since Slow Food has such visibility, I'd prefer public since in my book any institution--culinary or not--with wide visibility should be subject to criticism and scrutiny. Rachel
  7. Well, at the risk of, of what I'll have to wait and see, let me put in my two cents' worth. Like everyone else I was enthused when Slow Food first came along. What I know of what many convivia are up to sounds pretty good. But, and that's what this is leading up to, I was asked to write a lengthy review of Petrini's boook, Slow Food. As I tried to sort out what Petrini was arguing for in that book, I found I liked it less and less. Because Slow Food has attracted so much attention, I felt it important to work out why I was unhappy with the distance between the rhetoric and reality. This, of course, says nothing about all the thousands of people associated with Slow Food, just about the argument of the book itself. So if anyone is the faintest bit interested in plowing through fifteen or twenty pages in which I try to sort out my ideas, here's the link. A warning though. It was for an academic journal, Food, Culture and Society (which has some pretty interesting articles though truth in advertising means that I have to fess up to being on the editorial board). In the early stages, this was designed by an eager beaver young designer so that the first page looks black and all the pages are long and thin and impossible to scan well. No references to Bourdieu in my review though. I'm not one for academic language. http://www.rachellaudan.com/wp-content/upl...food-review.pdf All the best, Rachel
  8. Just saw this thread and thought I'd jump in since no one from Hawaii seems to be doing so. Pupu is widely used for snacks/appetizers in the islands and has been for some time. For example, a book published in 1986, called Pupus to the Max full of esoteric humor about the food that Locals (that is people born and raised in Hawaii) eat, could assume that its title stood as shorthand for Local Food (as opposed, say, to mainland food, Hawaiian food, Chinese food, etc). Heavy pupus is a technical term for snacks sufficient to make a meal. It is common to be invited for heavy pupus which would be likely to include Local favorites such as poke, sushi, sashimi, spam wontons, teri anything. Locals in Hawaii however do not eat flaming pupu platters. Rachel
  9. Thanks Steve and Gautam, This is all very interesting and I'm going to have to print it out and absorb it all. Just off the top of my head, there are some terrible grindstones being sold in Mexico now too. Just concrete painted black and terrible for the health. But more when I've mulled all this over. Rachel
  10. Thanks to both of you. Very informative and thought provoking. I've made a note that it should be an Ultrapride I buy. It does seem that the texture of masa and other doughs is different from the batters of South India. All very puzzling. I am dying to get my hands on an Indian grindstone but have not been able to find any in the United States. Any ideas? Steve, I'm looking forward to seeing you on Thursday, Rachel
  11. I've had an Indian wet grinder on my list for the next time I'm in the US so I'd love to hear more about their prowess or not with maize. I'm not sure why maize would be heavier. We are talking about wet maize here. Steve, are you saying that it was when you prepared the nixtamal in a certain way that you got a good masa? ie that it was the nixtamalization not the grinding that made the difference? Rachel
  12. I'm not sure Steve. When I saw Ricardo in February he was full of gloom about writing cookbooks and foodbooks in Mexico since all of his are out of print. Rachel
  13. If you go to Mexico City, try contacting Ruth Alegria who posts on eGullet sometimes. She will do you a great personalized tour. http://www.mexicosoulandessence.com/ Rachel
  14. And may I gently suggest that there are other possibilities not yet mentioned about the origin of mole, particularly of the classic mole poblano, namely that it owes more to Spain or rather al-Andalus than it does to the prehispanic tradition in the Americas. This has been discussed before on eGullet. Or you can find my articles on the subject as well as a lot of subsequent clarification, if you go to my blog and look at the page on the history of Mexican food and if you click "Mole and the like" in the categories section. www.rachellaudan.com Cheers, Rachel
  15. And may I gently suggest that there are other possibilities not yet mentioned about the origin of mole, particularly of the classic mole poblano, namely that it owes more to Spain or rather al-Andalus than it does to the prehispanic tradition in the Americas. This has been discussed before on eGullet. Or you can find my articles on the subject as well as a lot of subsequent clarification, if you go to my blog and look at the page on the history of Mexican food and if you click "Mole and the like" in the categories section. www.rachellaudan.com Cheers, Rachel
  16. Hi Sharon, I agree that that's not what popular is translated as in dictionaries. But just last week a friend, when asked if I should take the grandkids to a certain swimming pool, replied no, "es muy popular" by which he did not mean just crowded but crowded with people he thought, for one reason or another, we would not feel comfortable with. And certainly Iturriaga's series is not limited to that of clases populares; it's incredibly eclectic and all the better for being so. And certainly I for one would not want to denigrate any part of Mexican cuisine. I simply put that note in to explain to English-speaking readers what I believe it would convey to Mexican readers. That this was not the cuisine of Mexican elites. To ramble on, it seems to me that one reason it is often so difficult to understand cookbooks of Mexican cuisine written for non-Mexican audiences is that, like it or lump it, cuisine here is still very class based. Of course explaining that does not go down well with, say, Americans, though Diana Kennedy will occasionally let slip a phrase about the simple peasant cooking of her servants. Anyway, I'll shut up because this ventures on to sensitive territory. But it's great to be in touch again, Rachel
  17. Well, here it is. My last post. Thanks all of you for reading this and for the provocative comments. I've learned a huge amount doing this, which is one of my major standards for whether or not something's worth doing. As an expatriate, I've been lucky, like many expatriates, to have a certain anonymity in Mexican society, to be able to mix more easily with different groups than an local can. And I realize that my blog reflects this, because all the time I'm veering off into talking about people not about my assigned task, what I cook and eat. What I cook and eat, though depends on those people. So more thanks to Emilia and Don Bruno, to José Luis Curiel and Mayán Cervantes, to Mario Casanuevo and Susanna, to Carmelita, Lupita, and Angelita, and to countless others. I hope that I've been able to use their generosity to introduce you to my rich and exciting culinary life in Mexico. No one can live here though and not be aware of La Malinche, the (probably Nahuatl woman) who was Cortés's mistress and translator. Her position is Mexican history is ambiguous, a great woman and a great betrayor. I'm not Nahuatl, I'm not great anything. But I am horribly aware that I am bridging cultures. It's not easy or simple and it's full of pitfalls. So to all my Mexican friends, please know I'm doing the best I can. And to all, what better way than cuisine? When language, history, customs, don't make bridges, there's always food. Hurrah. My blog's www.rachellaudan.com. It's not about Mexican food but about the world view through cuisine. Or you can pm me. But for now it's over and out. Thanks all and great eating. Rachel
  18. Sure, other chiles are used in red sauce. Pasilla, sometimes ancho and doubtless many others in different parts of Mexico. I've never heard of stock in a Mexican salsa. For me one of their great joys is that you are free of all that awful stock mess, expensive, time consuming and not really good for home cooking in my opinionated view. Here you've got great-tasting, fat free, easy to prepare sauces that anyone can afford. If you go to the blog that I've sorely neglected for the past week, you can find the original articles and discussion--try the food history page and last month's postings. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Rachel
  19. Absolutely. We´re in the middle of trying to work out a new way of organizing cooking. Because the disappearance of servants is the appearance of a much larger middle class. That's who they--wrong--probably all of us participating in this list actually are. Rachel
  20. Well, dinner tonight will be slightly titivated leftovers. So I'm going to stretch the bounds of the blog a bit and do a flashback to a dinner that I had two weeks ago that I'd like to share with you. Background. Ten miles away and 3000 feet up from here (10,000 feet) is the village of Santa Rosa. Like mountain villages through history, it's poor. It's hard to farm, it's hard to get into the city to work. The men cut the forests for charcoal for the carne asada that are popular across Mexico, selling it to middle men who make all the money. There are a few restaurants campestre, country restaurants, that specialize in cecina (superlative paper thin beef jerky) and home-made mezcal. And in the last few years, there have been signs of increasing prosperity. The women's co-op that I mentioned that makes truly fine pickles and preserves. A talavera (pottery) factory that ships all over and has provided employment for quite a lot of people. Even so when we heard rumors that a truly fine restaurant had opened there, we were skeptical. Even more skeptical, of course, that it had any chance whatever of succeeding. In the Sierra de Guanajuato? No. The two wealthy towns that might support it, San Miguel which is full of rich gringos, and Leon which is full of rich Mexicans, are both about an hour and half's drive away. And the road through the Sierra is not a road to drive after a fine bottle of wine. Anyway, we had friends visiting from Mexico City who were celebrating their engagement. So off we went. Sure enough there it was in a lovely wooded setting. I had the tasting menu for $50 ($50 in the Sierra de Guanajuato!), Vivette had the $30, and Larry and Juan chose from the menu. Of course we all shared. Wow. When we got to the parmesan ice cream over ravioli, Vivette turned to me and said, "Me mató." It killed me (it's to die for), and pulled out the little leather book where she records the most important events of her life. It's run by two young (30s-ish) Mexican chefs who have worked in many of the best restaurants here and in Spain, including El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain which has been extensively discussed on the Spanish board here on eGullet. We were taken to Can Roca by friends in Girona this spring. If you rank restaurants, really good restaurants, I mean, on a scale of 1-10 with Can Roca getting 9, I'd give this a 7 1/2. Seriously world class. The happy group taken by Vivette. I don't have more photos of the dishes. But may they survive and may they only get better. Here's their web site. www.ik-etznab.com with lots of pictures. Rachel
  21. I'd just like to add something about servants in the kitchen. It's a bit of a taboo subject for those who live in the US and (I think) Europe and many other parts of the world at all. Here's they remain omnipresent in the middle class. As I've heard friends say, you either have a servant or you are a servant. There's not a whole lot of other paid employment for the Emilia's of the world who leave school after secundaria. I'm not going to address the social, economic and political issues involved here because it's out of bounds on eGullet. But the culinary issues, yes. Because servants are such a taboo they are either over-estimated or under-estimated. Let's deal with the over-estimating first. I've heard expatriates in Mexico chatter excitedly about how they are going to be able to hire someone who will do their cleaning and cooking. Well if you want someone to really cook, you are going to have to pay a fair bit even in Mexico. Most young girls from the country, which is where most come from, don't have the experience to run a kitchen and have not had access to the kinds of ingredients and dishes that their employers want to eat. A Mexican housewife who wants help in the kitchen spends a good bit of time teaching, supervising, and usually reserves certain tasks for herself: desserts, very often, the final seasoning and so on. More commonly in the English-speaking world they are underestimated. If you read "ethnic" cookbooks (a term that I wish would go away) published for an English language audience, whether they are Indian, Chinese, Mexican or what have you, servants are the ghosts in the kitchen. You'll find the odd mention. The simple peasant soup they prepare. The mother who consults with them in the morning. The author who loved to go into the kitchen and talk to them as a child. What they don't say, and it's one reason, though not the only one why the recipes often seem so complex, is that there is someone in the kitchen who can wash the vegetables, shell the peas, make the juice, and do a lot of the ordinary everyday chores. I think if you are interested in the fine cuisine of many traditional parts of the world or of earlier periods in our own history, it's worth bearing in mind this shadowy presence. Not only do the servants do a lot of the work, they bring their own knowledge to the kitchen, they take ideas from their employers back to their own families. They tie together the cuisines of different classes in society. That's why I wanted to bring Emilia out of the shadows and say up front that she's there, that she's an important part of my culinary life, that I learn a lot from her. That's why I wanted her and Don Bruno to see I wasn't just snapping their pictures but that they were participating in this blog too. Rachel
  22. So, to our meals. If these seem rather few it's because we don't normally eat a midday meal. We have something in the morning (for me, today, the first breakfast of a couple of buttered hand made tortillas inspired by the tortillas with mayonesa, and the second a couple of strips of bacon with tomatoes and mushrooms). Then we don't eat again until about 6, thus remaining quite out of synch with the Mexican midday comida between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. I love cooking but usually prepare fairly simple meals. We keep certain things on hand. Emilia makes the salsas, the fresh OJ (incredibly good) in the gorgeous aluminum hand-pulled machine you see in the background of some of the photos, and the aguas frescas. Today she's also making breadcrumbs saying to me this morning that she thought she'd better since she'd polished off the whole supply yesterday for the milanesas. I make yogurt since all the dozens of yogurts on the grocery store shelves are sweetened. I'm out of starter at the moment though and have to wait until I get to San Miguel to get some absolutely fantastic yogurt from Remo who is Mexican-Italian and makes the best Italian cheeses you can imagine. I make endless cakes and cookies and pies and puddings for my husband who regards meat and vegetables as a condiment. I usually have basic braised cubed beef in the freezer to turn into goulash, beef vegetable soup, beef stew of various kinds, even curry. Ditto kheema to eat alone or to stuff vegetables, and a ground beef/tomato sauce that can be used for spaghetti, shepherds pie, moussaka etc with various additions. These are helpful as we commute back and forth from Mexico City. I make bread of various kinds and keep a backlog in the freezer: dinner rolls, spiced breakfast rolls, slicing bread since I can't stand Bimbo. I only make breads that are good softish, the very idea of making crackling crusts in my oven is unthinkable. The bolillos we buy at intervals and freeze. Finally last night's dinner was beef ribs with pickled walnuts, mashed potatoes, salad, spinach. The pickled walnuts I drag back from England. They are wonderful with cheese. Here they are alongside other young walnuts, the peeled young walnuts I bought in the San Angel market for making nogada sauce. Rachel
  23. Susan asked me early on about salsas and I asked her to wait. Finally I am getting around to answering. I do not regard myself as an expert on Mexican salsas. I don't yet have that instinctive understanding of them that someone who has been born and bred in Mexico has. So what I am going to do here is simply talk abut the salsas we use day in, day out: salsa verde and salsa roja. First though let's get two out of the way. Occasionally I or Emilia will make what I think is called in most parts of the US salsa mexicana or pico de gallo: that is chopped onion, tomato, chile serrano, and cilantro. This is a very quick simple sauce. Men working on construction projects, for example, will whip it up for their meal. Second, we will sometimes make a tomato sauce. Chop the tomatoes, onions and garlic (how often do my walking companions when exchanging recipes start out: se pica su jitomate, su cebolla, su ajo . . . .) and chile serrano if you want it, fry in lard or oil, blend. This is the sauce for capeados, the best known of which in the US is chile relleno. Sometimes I freeze this to have it on hand. As to the powerhouse sauces, Emilia makes these in one quick swoop. (Note this is a simple village method. Fine cooking might well make all kinds of changes). Also you can vary the chiles, fry them after cooking, all kinds of things, just like, say, you can do all kinds of things to a basic bechamel. Tomates (tomatillos) and chiles serranos ready to boil. Boiled, about 20 minutes at this altitude. Pour off the water, add a bit of chopped onion and a handful of cilantro. Blend. It should be semi-solid though some people like it more liquid. And here's the salsa. For the red, Emilia also boils the tomates (but one doesn't normally mix green and dried chiles in the same salsa). Meanwhile she heats the chiles to release the aroma. These are soaked. Then she picks out the seeds and the veins, drains the tomatoes, and blends them. Behold, a salsa roja. We keep one container of each in the fridge for up to a week. They can be used as a sauce on the side, they can be cooked with eggs, you can add them to chorizo, you can use them to cook beef or pork or chicken and so on. I find them incredibly useful for non-Mexican cooking. Depending on the type of curry, a spoonful of one or the other substitutes for the picante and acid ingredients in the curry. A spoonful of the red in goulash or beef vegetable soup helps a lot. They are not necessarily particularly picante. The thickening comes from the pulp of the chile and the tomate. Just wonderful. Couldn't live without them now.
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