Mexican Cuisine:

The Cuisine of Mexico

South of the United States, Mexico is advancing both culturally and economically in recent years. The devaluation of the peso in 1994 was a blow to the Mexican economy, lowering their per capita income to a mere quarter of that of the United States. Through repeated social and economic turmoil, the rich cultures of the original Yucatan civilizations has remained, though somewhat jaded after their escape from Spanish rule in the 19th century.

It isn't difficult to research the history of Mexican cuisine. When the Spaniards first landed in Tenochtitlan (which is present-day Mexico City), they studiously chronicled every aspect of life there in Mexico, especially the food and cooking techniques of the natives. They noticed in their observations that Mexicans had a lot of corn-based foods.

Consisting of such rich, heavy foods as tortillas, chili peppers, and beans, Mexican food is one cuisine that will always have a taste and sabor (flavor) all its own. Present-day Mexican food is a mixture of original Mayan and Aztec cuisine combined with the influence of the Spanish conquistadores.

Mexican food is known for its wealth of spices and intense, deep flavoring. While so-called Tex-Mex and local "authentic" Mexican restaurants have become very skilled in mastering the style of Mexican cooking, there is no comparison between the Americanized "restaurant" version and the real thing. Once you enjoy true Mexican food, you'd rather buy out Taco Bell than eat the swill at a Tex-Mex restaurant again.

The staple of Mexican cuisine is tortillas. Tortillas are made by curing maize in lime water, then kneading the mixture into a dough, and cooking the thin patties on a flat grill. The most prominent tortillas in the United States' version of Mexican food are made of corn, although this version of the corn tortilla is quite unlike the original, authentic version. Authentic corn tortillas are made by hand on a flat grill, called a comal. The corn is ground by hand, resulting in thick tasty tortillas that make the grocery store versions taste like wet paper. Interestingly enough, flour tortillas were implemented only after the Spaniards introduced wheat to the Mexican region.

Chiles are another staple of traditional Mexican cuisine, adding color and dimension to many authentic Mexican dishes. Bell peppers, tabasco peppers, and paprika peppers add the color and the flavor kick that Mexican food is reknown for.

It is also important to realize that Mexican cuisine varies in reference to the region it is made in. Northern-style Mexican food normally consists of dishes with a lot of beef, while southern-style Mexican cuisine consists more of chicken and vegetables such as bell pepper, radishes, and broccoli.

Veracruz is also another common style of Mexican food, hailing from the coastal areas in Mexico. Veracruz cuisine, which was named after a state in Mexico and its largest city, consists of seafood like fish and shrimp. More indigenous areas have even been known to add spider monkey and iguana to their meals. So next time you're in Mexico, remember "Mexican food" does not always imply tacos and burritos.

Authentic Mexican cuisine is not to be confused with the Americanized Tex-Mex or New Mexican food (grease-pit versions of Mexican food in Texas and New Mexico).

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