Friday, October 03, 2014

Independence Day

Mexico's Independence Day... ah, what an opportunity to touch on complex issues like the construction of the Mexican national identity, the real history and stories behind national myths, and whatnot. And there being countless people that are way more knowledgeable than me, and that have written plenty and wisely about that, I believe I can avoid that thorny road and take the pretty path of simply focusing on how we celebrated, right?

Darn, OK, I do have some responsibility to my non-Mexican readers, I guess.  A few facts:  the date to commemorate is September 16th 1810.  See?  Not Cinco de Mayo, which is a completely different affair I'll mention some other day.  So, September 16th.  And that's actually just the date when the call for independence was made.  Although it took took a decade of war and Spain didn't acknowledge Mexico as independent until 1821, the 1810 date is the one used to celebrate Mexico's independence.

Now, the Independence Day affair is somewhat elaborate BUT I wasn't there and have no pics, of course.  Next year, most probably.  So, for now, I'm afraid all I can write about was how I myself celebrated it.  Which is not that bad, as plenty of people don't go to the main ceremonies at their local government offices.

Anyhow, like at plenty of celebrations, food is central.  And, after all these years away, I had a single dish in mind.  Nothing really extraordinary.  But I wanted that really bad.  And so I ended encouraging family and the huz to go to a restaurant so I could have this very Mexican dish.  It took a few calls to find a place we could go to (I mean, who plans a night out just an hour or so before dinner time on a holiday?).    But that impromptu plan led to me enjoying another important element - friends and family!   The huz, the sis, her partner, my nephew, a friend, his girlfriend... and me, the instigator.      

So, at this restaurant called Los Sifones (nothing fancy at all, just your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant), I began with... an horchata!  A rice drink with cinnamon and some other spice I couldn't identify.  But oh so good!   Yeah, I know, that drink has a Spanish origin.  So many things in Mexico do, unsurprisingly.  But I bet that extra spice made a huge difference and is not used in the old continent.  I guess?  

Drinks were followed by escamoles, which I didn't eat, but here they are for you to meet:  ant pupae or larvae.  No, really.  And these antes are immense!  They live under agave plants, which are the kind of cactus used to make tequila.  And people LOVE them.  In tortillas.  With some salsa.  Yup.

And then what I had come for (hell, what I made everybody go out for!), pozole!  So, pozole is a pre-Hispanic dish, which was called pozolli, which meant hominy.  It's a pretty simple stew: nixtamalized cacahuazintle maize (that is, a kind of corn that is big and white that has been hulled and soaked and cooked in limewater), some meat, and then garnish (usually white onion, cabbage, oregano, and chile powder or chile peppers).  I guess some people might find it even slightly ordinary.  Which it is.  But you just can't order this anywhere anytime, so it was darn special to me!  (oh, yeah, and some mezcal, as you can infer from the pic, of course)

Finally, no celebration of Mexican identity would be complete without some mariachi music.  I bet almost anybody has heard mariachis sometime (and if not, that's just a youtube click away).  The folksy-elegant costume, the folk themes (often very sentimental), the sheer charisma of the singers... Yeah, a perfect addition to the night.  

I cannot, by any means and by any measure, complain.  Au contraire, what a great way to celebrate this date in Mexico itself!  But I do promise to get more into the numerous rituals that go with the more official and formal celebration next year!

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