If Italian gastronomy is all about family, Japanese cuisine about purity and technique, Mexican cooking has always been, at least to me, about colour and celebration.
The bursts of pigment on a Mexican platter—brilliant golden corn, lipstick red peppers, gleaming green jalapeño—shout out a certain enthusiasm for edible bounty.
In contrast, muddy refried beans plopped from the can and flaccid, pale, store-bought tortillas are a dull facsimile of Mexican food’s flare.
If you’re going to cook Mexican, you’ve got to embrace the colour wheel and ply your kitchen with fresh, pigment-saturated ingredients.
The latest potluck in our international series was all about Mexico, celebration and colour.
In a cabin kitchen in Tagish, with a backdrop of rain clouds that occasionally gave way to slices of sunshine, we chopped bright tomatoes and pitted creamy avocados. We diced the glossy yellow flesh of mangoes and squeezed plump limes.
We celebrated the new hues of late spring—the pops of purple and sprigs of chartreuse that have been emerging from the landscape.
Summer feels as though it could bloom any moment, and how better to toast to it than with the zing of a mojito?
The hiss and sizzle of a homemade tortilla kissing the frying pan is a fond food memory of mine. Serious lovers of Mexican cuisine, my parents always made their own tortillas, guacamole, and salsa—the latter in behemoth batches made from my dad’s garden tomatoes.
My parents sweated in a steamy kitchen over boiling water, preserving dozens of jelly jars of salsa. When I went off to university, they’d send me jars in care packages and often I’d devour the whole thing in one go with a spoon.
Pure celebration of the garden and home.
These three pillars, the guacamole, the salsa and the tortillas, can make or break your Mexican potluck. Don’t cheap out; it’s worth the extra toil for piping hot, slightly greasy tortillas with the right balance of crisp and chew.
Likewise, don’t buy your guacamole—it’s all about the freshness of citrus and cilantro and the perfectly ripe avocado (slightly soft to the touch, not mushy).
And it’s dead simple to make. In fact, it’s one of the first foods I ever learned to cook as a child both because it’s so foolproof and because it has long been myfavourite food (I actually wrote a song entitled “Guacamole” at the age of eight; an early sign that I was destined to become a food geek).
And while peeling and dicing hundreds of tomatoes in a humid August kitchen may not be your bag, a bowl of fresh salsa is quick and far more flavourful than a container that’s been sitting on a grocer’s shelf for weeks.
One of the cooks at our Mexican potluck whipped up this mango salsa in five minutes flat, all the while balancing a mojito in one hand and tending to two extremely chatty babies and one slightly crazed, hyperactive dog.
Now if that’s not celebrating life, I don’t know what is.