Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Development of an Authentic Mexican National Cuisine

Patterns of cuisine evolution can often be compared from one country to another. Mexican cuisine is one such evolving cuisine that has evolved throughout the centuries from one that was based solely on an originally Native American diet, to a forced Spanish diet which continued to evolve to something altogether different that can be called a modern national cuisine with regional differences. This evolution of cuisine can be compared to similar evolutions through chefs that occurred in France when haute cuisine sub planted regional cuisines and then regional cuisines reemerged in importance to co-exist with the national cuisine.

The social elite of Mexico during the early 19th century often scoffed at the native cuisine of Mexico. They considered it low-class and unfitting for their banquet tables. In an attempt to create a national cuisine for Mexico, chefs created culinary texts that emphasized refined flavors but left out many of the native dishes of the
country, such as tamales, enchiladas and quesadillas. Those writing the early cookbooks seemed to emulate the styles of chefs like Antoine CarĂªme and those before him who wanted to eradicate simplistic food from the tables of the elite, in favor of over-stylized dishes with complex techniques and ingredients. The first culinary text emerging from Mexico, El cocinero Mexican (The Mexican Chef) published in 1831 written just ten years after the countries independence created an elite cuisine with European influence and no native influence.

However, with time other books would be published during the 19th century, numbering at about fifteen in total with multiple editions printed in country and most importantly overseas. Toward the end of the century books began to emerge that adopted some of the native dishes. Their interpretation of them was with a refined European influence given to them. This draws a comparison to Le Guide Culinaire published by Georges Auguste Escoffier in 1903, at just about the same time frame as the books were being published in Mexico. Escoffier took many of the regional peasant dishes of France and adapted them to a haute cuisine palate much in the way that cookbook authors were doing with native Mexican foods in their books. Another interesting correlation was the exportability of these cuisines through these books. Just as Escoffier's book brought high French cuisine with its adapted regional dishes to the world, the Mexican equivalents were also published not just in Mexico, but in Paris, France as well.

Finally in the early 20th century regionalism began to emerge enforce in Mexico. Locals argued that their cuisine was superior to their neighboring cities' cuisine and vice-versa. Books began to proliferate written not just by chefs, but by wives and housekeepers as well. No longer was the high cuisine that adapted their native dishes the only one to be exported, but their culinary manuals and memories began to be seen outside of Mexico as well. Similarly again in France, professional chefs and bourgeoisie wives began to publish their peasant origin dishes. Prosper Montagne publishing Larousse Gastronomique as-well-as published gastro-tourism guides negated much of the refinements given to French cuisine through Escoffier as well.

Through the centuries most cuisines have been attacked in some way, then adapted and then they seem to eventually come into their own. Through the work of chefs, housewives and culinary enthusiasts we have been able to see cuisines such as French and now even Mexican come into their own. Through this comparison one can surmise that Mexico, much like France has developed two separate styles of cuisine, one of nationalism and one of regionalism, and both of equal importance and exportability.

Currently reading :
Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity (Dialogos Series)
By Jeffrey M. Pilcher
Release date: 01 April, 1998

1 comment:

Foodizmo said...

I couldn't find your email, so I'm posting my blog address here.
Nice posting btw. Food and culture is really an interesting topic to write about. Maybe you could answer what worldwide cookers have in common. Drop us a comment :)

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