As many of you know, my husband is from the coastal state of Veracruz. The state borders the Gulf of Mexico and has been influenced by trade from Europe and Africa for centuries. The cuisine of the Veracruz region is a direct reflection of this influence. Many recipes incorporate ingredients like plantains and peanuts (from Africa), as well as olives, olive oil, and capers (from Spain).
More often than not, I find myself making soups for dinner. I like that preparation requires very few dishes and as a result, clean up is a breeze. Soups are something that you can make ahead of time and heat up the next day, and the best part is that the flavor is usually better when they sit overnight. I love coming home from a day at school knowing that a warm and tasty bowl of soup will be waiting for me.
Over the past few weeks at school, I have been working with a 4th grade class once a week to provide an opportunity to experience some aspects of culture in Spanish-speaking countries. I pick one of the lesser discussed countries and introduce it by talking about its geography and showing a video. Then, I share an interesting cultural aspect of the country. Finally, I compile a short list of recipes of commonly eaten dishes and foods that the students can make at home. They volunteer to make different foods, and we all get to sample a taste of that country. Then they get a stamp in their “passports.”
You will almost always find one, or two, or even three cookbooks on my Christmas list. They are my weakness. I have a whole shelf full of them, and I am not ashamed of it at all. I love cookbooks, and I know I’ve struck upon a good one when I keep returning to it as a reference or source of inspiration.
One of the books that I received this year was Decolonize Your Diet by Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel. I was originally intrigued by their website/blog because they have a variety of interesting Mexican recipes such as tepache, a fermented pineapple drink and banana vinegar. When I noticed they had a book, I was super excited. Unfortunately, my local library did not have a copy, so I put it on my Christmas wish list.
During the work week, Mexico City is a humming machine. There are countless vendors on the streets selling everything from cell phone cases to candies to fresh-squeezed juices. The metro overflows with people coming and going in a hurry. Traffic is heavy, and the familiar noises of the gas and tamal trucks can be heard.
But, on the weekends, Mexico City comes to a halt. The streets become deserted, and the whole city feels almost like a ghost town. Stores close and everything is quiet. Sometimes, they even shut down Reforma, one of the main avenues, for people to ride their bikes, and life just seems to stand still. While there are very few vendors, it is on Sundays that the crowd-pleasing borrego stands make their appearance.
Being from a Greek family, I have always grown up celebrating both American holidays and Greek traditions. At New Year’s we count down to midnight and pop confetti, but we also bless the Greek vasilopita (New Year’s bread) with branches from the Christmas tree. At Easter time we hunt for Easter eggs, and when it’s Greek Easter we say “Chistos anesti” (Christ has risen) and crack dyed Easter eggs with one another. We always sing “Happy Birthday” in English and in Greek, and we celebrate our Name/Saint Days, which are kind of like a second birthday.
So, one thing I love about being married to a man from Mexico is incorporating all of his traditions with my American and Greek ones. I like to dress in green, white, and red when it’s Independence Day (September 16th) or wear red or yellow underwear at New Year’s for love and prosperity. And, I truly love incorporating El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) into our year’s ritual.