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SHORT BREAKS COOKING : MEXICO COOKING VACATIONS

MEXICO
. . . food is probably the most important element of Mexican culture

Mexico is a country of paradoxes. It produces more corn than India, more beer than Australia, more steel than Sweden, more glass than Austria and more oil than the United Arab Emirates. It has more millionaires than Germany, yet half its population is supported by traditional low technology industry and agriculture!

With nearly half of the country being over five thousand feet above sea level its geography plays a major part in its regional variations in weather. Most of the country is exceptionally dry, particularly in the northern regions and the Baja Peninsula. Southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula experience pronounced rainfall. As most of Mexico lies south of the Tropic of Cancer it has two weather seasons - rainy and dry. Generally, rainfall and temperatures rise from June through October, leaving November to May as the more temperate and drier season.

Mexico remains a nation where the past plays a prominent role in shaping the nation's present day development. Discovered by the Spanish in 1519, Mexico was home to an estimated ten million native inhabitants living in feudal but highly disciplined and organised societies. These people became the foundation upon which the Spanish conquerors built their colonial empire. Even today, Mexico is rich in ethnic diversity, with nearly fifteen million of the population being pureblooded Native Americans, speaking nearly fifty languages.

Mexican culture is a fascinating blend of Native American traditions and Spanish colonial influences. Long before the Spaniards arrived in the Sixteenth century, the indigenous civilisations of Mexico had developed arts such as ceramics, music, poetry, sculpture and weaving. After the conquest, the intricate designs and bright colors of many Native American arts were often mixed with European techniques and religious themes to create a hybrid and uniquely Mexican artistic style.

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Ancient Mexico and Central America were home to some of the earliest and most advanced civilisations in the western hemisphere. With names such as Teotihuacans, Toltecs, Mayans, Zapotec, Mixtec and Aztecs this country brings to mind many of the world's famed early civilisation and even today there are many historical sites which bear testimony to the scale and achievements of these ancient civilisations.

Food is probably the most important element of Mexican culture. This is a country which has given the world many of its favourite dishes and ingredients such as salsas, tortillas, tacos, Chile con Carne. Its cuisine is varied and full of flavour with beans, chilis and flour made from corn playing a big part in the Mexican style of cooking. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico they liked what they saw in the local food and added a few ingredients of their own, such as domestic animals, sugar and cheese. Mexican cuisine is further enhanced by an incredible array of fruits and vegetables which seem to taste better in Mexico than anywhere else . . . tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, avocado, coconut, pineapple, papaya and prickly pear cactus, to name just a few. Herbs and spices like cinnamon, clove, anise and cumin are an important part of the culinary flavours, whilst cilantro (or coriander), thyme, marjoram and the pungent tasting native herb known as epazote are also popular.

 

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