Dining a la Mexicana

Every respectable barbecue chef knows that you may have a difficult time barbecuing Mexican dishes. The beans continually fall through the grill. Maybe it has something to do with all of the Coronas during the food-preparation process.

Mexico is a great place to eat if you like to eat alfresco. Eating from the food carts on the streets and in the marketplaces is a wonderful experience, especially if you like refried beans. And you can’t just sit around eating garlic shrimp – morning, noon and night – no matter how tempting it might sound.

During Semana Santa (Easter or Holy Week), every single Mexican citizen feels it is their sacred duty to put on a very large straw hat, join a mariachi band and stay in tents on the beach. It’s a cultural thing. Loud noisemaking is not only mandated, but it is carried off with such élan that it may be looked upon as a strange form of high art.

On one evening walk along the sea wall an extremely friendly shopkeeper accosted us for a dance while a four-piece mariachi band, complete with very large straw hats, played something like music.

To this day, I am convinced that a significant number of cervezas (beers) played a major role during the band’s warm up session.

Chiapas in the south of Mexico is the home of the traditional mole sauce. There is not a definitive recipe, but variations may be coloured white, red, green or black and have very complex flavours.

The sauces can be used to stuff tamales (we had tamales after our dance) or for simmering chicken. It is not necessary to wear a very large straw hat while preparing your mole sauce, although a few Tecates will make the meal more authentic.

If you want to take the easy way out, like I did this week, purchase a ready-made mole marinade containing chiles, sesame seeds and cocoa. Marinade chicken drumsticks for a couple of hours and toss on a medium heat grill while keeping an eye on them.

You may get a few flare-ups as you begin to cook, but this will stop after you turn them a few times and the fat that was under the skin is gone. And what fun is cooking without a little fire to keep the proceedings lively!

To accompany this dish, make a simple marinated tomato and cucumber salad. Cut up four tomatoes, peel and cube two cucumbers; and peel and slice a large onion, putting them in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whip half a cup of olive oil, a tablespoon of sugar, one-quarter cup of cider vinegar, half a teaspoon of salt and one-eighth of a teaspoon of oregano until all ingredients are dissolved. Then pour over the vegetables. Let the salad stand in the fridge for about an hour before serving with your mole chicken.

I am not exactly sure what Cinco de Mayo means, but If Trois-Rivières means three kinds of rivers and quattro fromaggio means four kinds of cheese, then Cinco de Mayo must mean five kinds of mayonnaise.

Remember to shop locally and always keep a very large straw hat available for festive occasions.

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