For those of you who don’t know, I will be in Mexico for the next three weeks with fellow teacher and food blogger, Daniela Cho of The Spiced Kitchen, studying Mexico’s gastronomic traditions. We received a Fund for Teachers Fellowship to study the intersection between Mexican food, culture, history and community, and we will be bringing our experiences back to the classroom in the fall to share with our students. This means that we will be taking cooking classes, visiting markets, talking to locals, and traveling throughout Mexico for the next few weeks. I am going to do my very best to give you an update each day, and I hope that the pictures can do a lot of the talking.
It’s 9:19 PM right now, and as I look outside, I can still see a faint blanket of light weaving through the dark outline of the treetops. That can only mean one thing — it’s summer, the season of long days, sticky skin, and sweet treats.
Paletas are Mexico’s version of the popsicle, but the main difference is that they are made with fresh fruits (and vegetables!). Unlike their high-fructose corn syrup counterparts in the U.S., paletas burst with flavor thanks to the use of peak-season produce. When it comes to food, the final product is always a reflection of the ingredients used to make it, and paletas are no exception.
I usually know that Cinco de Mayo is approaching when I begin to see the lilac bushes blooming. This is one of my favorite times of the year because the trees are painted with pops of white, pink, and purple and the grass looks like a lush green carpet–of course our lawn is dotted with dandelions which makes me happy because we are fertilizer-free and dandelions are great for our pollinator friends. 😉
Cinco de Mayo means that my favorite season is right around the corner, and the school year is coming to a close. Longer, warmer days mean I get to be outside in the garden dreaming of all the fun projects I will be doing in a little over a month.
And although Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, I still like to celebrate it because it serves as a kind of gate to a wonderful season ahead.
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.”