One day I got my hands on an invaluable book, “Culinary Art 19th century Mexican Cookbook” Collection, warning and indexing by Luis Mario Schneider.
If you have a chance and find it there, I think anyone who calls himself a fan or connoisseur of Mexican cuisine should have it in his library. Meanwhile, let me share with you some texts that I consider beautiful in its content and history to whom we admire and have great passion for the cuisine of Mexico.
So it begins one of the stories written by Guillermo Prieto one of the great chroniclers of this country.
Guillermo Prieto walked through neighborhoods, suburbs, parks, markets, in and out like he owned the place, accessory stores, enjoyed fandangos, weddings, parties and popular treats in “Memories of My Time” (1828 – 1853), basking his memories to give us news of what the middle class ate and drank, and also the ordinary mortals.
Mexicans who had the fortune to eat well more than three times a day – tells Prieto – started everyday by taking in water or milk chocolate, or traditional beverage as champurrado, the Anton parado (very thick porridge) or simple chileatole or white gruel with a piece of sweet bread or acitrón.
The chocolate had to be prepared with one part of cinnamon, one of sugar and one of cocoa without the aid of cake or egg yolk. From time to time, breakfast was adorned with coffee, toast and muffins, biscuits, butter bones, chips, tamales and cacahuatzintli corn biscuits.
At ten o’clock lunch was roasted lamb or chicken, mixed tail, manchamanteles, zucchini, marinated or stewed, or one of the many moles or large cakes from the kitchen and, of course, beans.
If around eleven o’clock a visit came, it was costume to present a gift – being a Lady – with sweet wines: Malaga, Pajarete or Pedro Ximénez (Spanish wine), with corresponding puchas (donut-shaped biscuit topped with sugar to make them wine or chocolate), rodeos (cakes of wheat or corn, surrounding with these the chocolate cups or glasses of wine), macaroons (change of marzipan, which is made of almond paste, sugar and spices, bragging different ways), Soleto and cheese strips. The lords were content with wine called Catalan or unbranded Jew; at odds with baptism.
The food between one and two in the afternoon consisted on soup with lemon juice, crushed chile verde, rice and noodle soup, omelette, stew brimming with turnips, cabbage, peas, green beans, ham, shoulder, etc.
Other dishes included the almond chicken cooked with raisins, small pieces of citron and capers, or young wine and hare or rabbit on pebre – surely the common – broth seasoned with pepper, saffron and other spices.
Ture was not disdained (sort of corn timbale or other with various fillings), the curd cake, keg legs, boned and stuffed turkeys, recent works of art of high school cooks.
As a snack between four and five in the afternoon, after praying the rosary, it was a good moment for another chocolate. At ten in the evening dinner with salad with roast of breast mole.
At a party with family or friends it was usual to offer dumpling soup, rice with boiled egg and casters fried brains. Then it was followed by the mole poblano, pip or green and manchamanteles.
For a holy day, they threw the house away, as it is said, the favorite dish was the rotten pot, which Prieto regarded as the fandango and a total culinary upheaval.
There -Prieto tells us- they put mutton, veal, pork, rabbit, chicken, shoulder, tongues, gizzards, legs, ham, brain, cabbage and turnips, chickpeas, beans, carrots, shallots, pears, bananas and apples .
The potpourri was served in two huge platters: one with meat and the other with vegetables. In the midst of these large and deep plates there was tomato sauce and tornachiles, onions, avocado, chili sauce with or without cheese and oil – the olive oil from Hacienda de los Morales.
The food was accompanied with cascarron wine, sangria in pip glasses and stews were served in very pretty porcelain from Saxony and China, and there were silverware or silver sauce fountains. If the potpourri dish was exceptional, the desserts were wonderful, unimaginable delicacies in forms of encolateados, cocada, goblets, royal eggs, stuffed zoconoxtles either with coconut, lemon or mint.
All of the above Prieto tells that represented the ideal food, as for the middle class, the everyday was the chocolate ear, anisette atole at eleven, a soup of bread, rice or tortillas, a ridge of anemic meat, with a few chickpeas, mustard sauce, parsley and chile. They also could have mixed tail, chilaquiles, zucchini in different ways, quelites, purslane, huauzontles, nopales, potato cakes, cauliflower, pork carnitas and beans, homeland beans occupied an honorable place and it was seasoned with chopped onion, cheese, avocado sauce.
Dinner was reduced to a breast mole, a fried tenderloin barely saved from the pot with three or four leaves of lettuce and parraleño (red beans and yellow striped highly regarded in the trade).
The poor class was content with beans, tortillas and chiles, and in the days of good luck with the nenepile, fat gut, menudo and other things that put fear in any stomach.
Prieto doesn’t left out what it was sold in restaurants: roasted chicken with salad, stuffed chilis, mole and refried beans. Stews anathemed in 1833 -says Prieto- by General Martinez, a.k.a. Macaco, District Governor, as a result of cholera which appeared in that year, 1833, fulminated with tremendous prohibitions to taverns, fruits , food, described as enablers of evil. On that side there was also a curse against the chills that stuffed chilis produced.
In the taverns and outdoor restaurants located in Portal de las Flores everyone proclaimed chorizones, chicken, roast donoso (cold meats with hot tamales), cakes and pies.
The people would come to fonduchas or outdoor dining in the alley of “duck” Porta-Coeh (Pino) and Balvanera (Uruguay) to eat arvejones, beans and lean meats. In the taverns in Prieto’s time called “Las Cañitas”, “Los Pelos,” “Nana Rosa,” “Tio Aguirre,” the enchiladera was not enough to attend the clients.
Prieto does not forget the treats that were made in the convents ofnuns. But he gives us a more comprehensive list of Met Calendar for the year 1837 on “Work of nuns. Curiosities that are made in the nunneries of this city for the public “
In Regina there are special powders for purging, and given a free water efficient for the evil eye. – On the Conception of the Immaculate scapulars, words of it, all kinds of flowers and pies. -In Jesus, Mary, delicious sweets, especially by imitating all kinds of stews. – In San Jeronimo, calabazate. – In the Incarnation, the best beer and rose water. – In San Lorenzo, weaklings and special sweets. – In San Bernardo, toast for the sick, preserves and bowls. – In Enseñanza meals and ground chocolate.- In Bethlehem College also meals and ground chocolate.
Being invited to lunch at a nunnery was a great distinction, this is told by Frances Erskine Inglis testimony, Marquise Calderon de la Barca, who in April 1840, presents in the convent of the Incarnation – the most rich and sumptuous of the convents of Mexico, with the exception of Bangalore – with a dinner. In the great hall, tells the Marquise, was a very well set table and illuminated where she highlighted, of course the desserts: cakes, chocolate, ice creams, puddings, pies, jellies, rice milk, orange juice, lemonade and other ornated profane delicacies with flags and scraps of paper gold.
Prieto also refers to the rides and what it was sold during them. The Walk of Bethlehem or the Bethlehem Meadow, tamales, chile, sweet, wild cherry, masks and rolls of eight, and charamuscas.
In the villages surrounding San Angel, famous for its hawthorn, apples, pears and fibula, such as El Cabrío -then a waterfalls and wooded area amidst volcanic rocks, now part of University Campus- passers buy cheese Panochitas and milk. Those who came to Santa Anita could get tamales and atole, drink sangria, anisette, punch and savor the rodeo.
In the days of field ‘favorite day of the year for Mexican families to celebrate in its Corpus Christe, the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Passover of the Holy Spirit “in the words of another writer, Mark Arróniz, families were to wander to the beam side of the great channel of Chalco, the Pieta, Chapultepec, Villa de Guadalupe, Tacubaya, Mixcoac – known for its beautiful roses -Santa Anita or Mexicalcingo. Then, they ate two dishes each family had made and drank wine from Bordeaux, Rhine, champagne.
Some family bragging fanciness made the trip to San Cosme, beautiful place full of trees and flower gardens to take “a Frenchdéjeuner already required – Arróniz Marcos writes in 1851 – the addition of a rib and a couple of eggs, besides a bowling party and a bunch of violets to take to the master.”
To be continued…