Mexican Food

Green and Red Peppers

The Taco Bell drive through menu isn’t foreign to most Americans from Washington State to
Washington D.C. Now, I’m not saying that Taco Bell serves actual Mexican food; it does have some ingredients that would be familiar to Mexicans.

Several years ago, a friend from New Zealand told me he never ate Mexican food. Well, off to Taco Bell.

First we shared a soft shell burrito, then a hard shell taco. He thought they were ok, but preferred his “mouse trap” grilled open faced cheese and tomato sandwich. Tortillas (made from corn) are the bread of the Mexican kitchen.

Mexican food staples are – corn, beans, rice, squash, bell peppers, and chili peppers…and cheese. One always thinks of cheese with Mexican food. Although, cheese and other dairy products weren’t found in Mexico before the Spanish invaded and brought cows, goats and

These two cultures collided and a new fused cuisine resulted in the combining of Spanish and Aztec flavors and ingredients. Avocado and tomatoes are used for guacamole and salsa.

Corn in the Field

Mexican Staples

Corn - a key Mexican food ingredient, and Aztec influence on Mexican cooking, is perhaps the most important ingredient in Mexican food. Corn was the main ingredient of the Aztec diet. Consequently, the Aztecs were very dependent on a successful corn harvest.

Tomatillos - another basic ingredient of Mexican food, are commonly referred to as husk tomatoes. Tomatillos are often used in sauces with fruit or chiles and are thought to cool the spiciness of hot peppers. Unlike tomatoes, tomatillos are best used when they are green and not ripe.

Beans - are considered a staple in Mexican kitchens. Beans are cheap and very nutritious. Beans are served with almost every meal in Mexico. They can be included in soups, eaten plain, wrapped in tortillas, or served as refried beans.

Chiles - are a mainstay in Mexican fare. Turn on the heat. You can go
from warm to hot hot hot!

Mexican Spices

Fresh Spices

The most frequently used herbs and spices in Mexican cuisine are chili powder, oregano, cilantro, epazote, cinnamon, and cocoa. Many Mexican dishes also contain garlic and onions. The Spanish fused their cheese and rice dishes with the traditional Mexican food. Corn probably originated in Mexico and is now one the world’s major grain crops.

Chocolate - played an important part in the history of Mexican cuisine and the word chocolate originated in Aztec cuisine. Chocolate is used in many dishes not just desserts. Mole sauce is used in savory dishes to add a very wrm rich flavor.

Cilantro - is actually the strong smelling leaves of the coriander plant. The Spanish introduced cilantro to Mexico. Oregano, an herb commonly associated with Italian cooking is used often in Mexican cooking as well.

Mexican oregano - has a stronger flavor than the Mediterranean oregano used in Italian-American dishes.

Cumin - gives an earthy flavor to Mexican. Cumin originated in the Mediterranean also

Cinnamon - is added to Mexican dishes that are savory and sweet.

Because Mexico is such a large country, each region is influenced by

different foods and cooking techniques. If you move a few miles over the US border, you find Tex Mex cuisine that has it’s roots in Mexico, but changed for American tastes. Chimichangas are an American dish that takes it’s inspiration from Mexican cuisine.

A Well Stocked Mexican Kitchen

  • Cans of chili sauce and whole chilis, tomato sauce, beans, stock or broth

  • Dried or powdered chilies

  • Dried beans (pinto, black) and rice

  • Seasonings dried or powdered garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, parsley, saffron, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla

  • Breads/Flours- wheat flour,corn flour,cornmeal and hominy

  • Fresh - tomatoes,tomatillos,onion,potatoes,cucumber,limes,lemons,chilies,bell
    pepper,avocado,garlic,plantains, cheese and dairy,eggs and meat

  • Misc- tortilla chips,sugar,honey,chocolate and Tequila!

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