Mole And Other Things You Haven’t Tried
Topics: Food and Drink
Published: Saturday, October 3, 2009
A notable thing about Mexico is the great variety of foods and dishes that can be easily identified with the country. Most of the traditional foods are available all year round, although certain dates and holidays are associated with particular dishes.
September, the Mes de la Patria because of the Independence Day, brings chiles en nogada, hot green peppers filled with walnuts and raisins, covered with cream and sprinkled with pomegranate, and pozole, a broth with large grains of corn, red or green chili, chicken or pork, radish, and other trimmings.
Christmas dishes include bacalao, specially prepared codfish, and romeritos, dried shrimp and rosemary sprigs in mole. Tamales are eaten all year round but traditionally at Candlemas, on February 2nd. October is when bakeries bring out the “Pan de Muerto” bread for the All Souls Day celebrations, although some start selling it in late August to avoid wasting commercial time, and the Rosca de Reyes cake is cut at Epiphany (Three Kings Day) on January 6th.
For newcomers to the country, some local dishes, particularly spicy ones, take a while to get used to, and some people at first turn their noses up at the different tastes and smells. Quite understandably, many Mexicans are astounded someone wouldn’t like pozole, or mole, or some other dish that people here get excited about, and they assume you haven’t tried it. If you say you have, then obviously “no has probado el que hace mi tía” – you haven’t tried the one my aunt makes.
Perhaps one of the most acquired tastes in Mexican food is mole. This sauce is made from dried and ground chile peppers mixed with other spices and ingredients – famously chocolate used in making mole poblano (from Puebla) or black mole of Oaxaca. There are many kinds of mole, which are usually mixed with meat, rice, chicken or vegetables.
Mole is one of the truly mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish) dishes of Mexico. The Aztecs were making sauces from chili peppers to which they attached the suffix mulli or molli. Following the Spanish conquest, other spices were introduced and different kinds developed.
It’s fitting then, that the town in the southeast of Mexico City where the annual national mole festival is held is San Pedro Atocpan, with its Spanish and native name. It’s located in the largely rural Milpa Alta borough, at kilometer 17.5 of the Xochimilco-Oaxtepec highway. The 33rd Atocpan mole festival runs this year from October 3rd to October 25th, with 39 restaurants and 120 stands participating. Local authorities expect more than half a million people to attend. San Pedro Atocpan itself is known as the original site of mole made with almonds.