Chalupas were brought to Taco Bell for a short time almost a year ago and honestly found a special place on my taste buds for someone who did not know much about Mexican food. As we took this course I honestly had forgotten about them until I interview Javier for our last project and he mentioned how it was not a real chalupa. Their back at Taco Bell so I decided to look into the history of the chalupa. Chalupas are meant to resemble “canoe-like boats that the Aztecs used to navigate the canals” (Graber). They are supposed to small cheap corn tortillas fried in lard. Already there is a strak difference because the tortilla used in Taco Bell’s shell is thick and crunchy. They are not really supposed to have meat in them but they can. Taco Bell adds sour cream, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, and ground beef. Definitely not a real chalupa but there other items are not authentic either.
Puebla Style Chalupas
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Tajin seasoning is a mix of Mexican spices which give off a citrus like and spicy taste to anything you add it to. It is commonly seen in elote, extra flavor Mexican paletas, margaritas, and so much more. According to a quick Wikipedia search the company originates in Zapopan, Mexico. Their products come in many fruity flavors but the most popular is the spicy one made with “…chile peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice” (Wikipedia). Another food blogger described it being as essential as jerk seasoning is to Caribbeans and curry seasoning to South Asians (Falkowitz). The article also gives examples on how to use it in foods and how popular it is for Mexican food. I have had this before with mango at home but I did not know of its origins.
Mexican Salsa Powder
Irwin Sanchez was the only guest in our class who seemed a bit nervous speaking in front of all of us. He spoke to us about saving a endangered language called Nahuatl and how he is teaching his son the language so as to preserve it. Sanchez talked about being bullied when he was younger for being different and how it was emotionally and physically draining and hard to keep to ones roots while being treated harshly for doing so. His resilience to letting his language die stood out to me. I also liked how he broke down a few words to teach us. We had used this concept of looking at the roots of words for our first assignment. He explained to us well these words.
I came into class just a bit late but when I saw our guest speaker I was wondering her ethnicity. I came in just in time to hear that her parents are Greek. Her take on journalism and exploring food was different from our other speakers. She cared more about the connections she made with people to ensure they trusted her. Her work also seemed a bit more dangerous or intense because she mentioned going into neighborhoods where murders happened.
I originally was trying to find out why Mexican restaurants used Magnolia Condensed Milk as decor. I know the brand and how to use it to make fruit custard but I had never thought of its roots being Mexican. I decided to do some research on it for a blog post and it only deepened the mystery. For starters, the website for Magnolia has a mini history on how it has been serving the Hispanic community for over 45 years. It also provides examples of what Mexican sweets to put the condensed milk in such as flan. It boasts its bilingual marketing on the can.
I did a bit more research on it and found about Magnolia Park. It is located in Houston, Texas and it holds a very large community of Mexican immigrants. It was “annexed to Houston in October 1926” (Wikipedia). With more and more Mexican immigrants and their restaurants opening there it was called “Little Mexico” (Wikipedia). I have yet to find out whether this had a influence in naming the brand but I found these two sites interesting.
I just have to mention my deep fear of crawling objects aka bugs. Walking into a 9 am class on a empty stomach to see dried grasshoppers was a pleasant surprise for me. After all the treats we get in class this was a challenge for me to even take a good look at. For the brave souls who tried it and said the seasoning went well with the crunchiness of it all I applaud you. I found a very detailed article on this treat and the ways to eat it for anyone who is interested.
Beatris Zapata was a guest speaker in our class who spoke about her family restaurant called, Taqueria Coatzingo in Queens. Hearing someone our age speak about her experience growing up in her family’s restaurant was different because we got to hear about her perspective on identifying with her culture and how she grew onto it. She was proud of everyone who helped grow her family’s business and what made me happy was to hear that she wanted to open her own bakery. It was inspiring to hear how she was influenced watching her family’s restaurant as she grew older. She also mentioned how her restaurant does not discriminate against immigrants who have no papers or are not fluent in English.
She brought with her tamales de mole and when I learned mole had chocolate in it I was expecting something sweet. I also was not too sure how it would taste mixed with chicken. This was my first time having a tamale and it did taste good with not a lot of spice. I was confused on whether or not the corn husk was edible or not so I waited on fellow classmates to begin eating first and then followed suit.
Mazapan or as Wikipedia informed our class, Marzipan is a sweet, brittle, delicate treat we also had in class. I have had this before and seen it in Mexican restaurants but used as decor. I was glad to have a class on it to explore its ingredients which were almonds, sugar, and or honey. I remember on my 21st birthday this past November I had visited a Mexican restaurant called Tortaria. The walls were decorated with De La Rosa boxes and other Mexican snacks. I definitely will be revisiting the place because their food was deserves further inspection with my knowledge from this class.
I wanted to find out more about its importance in a more personal context and found this blog post by Norberto Briceno on Buzzfeed. There were plenty of GIFs and he described very perfectly how to unwrap the Mazapan and how important it was to him during his childhood. I find personal articles such as these very informing to find out the meaning of Mexican food and snacks.
De La Rosa Mazapan
Earlier in the semester we had a tamarind candy called Pulparindo. Tamarind has its own variations and meanings in not only Mexico but also the Middle East and India. The flavor of it is a mix of sour, sweet, and spicy. When I tried the candy I immediately thought of “thethul” which is also a snack/ candy that people from Bangladesh has. Matter of fact their is also a sauce that we make with tamarind and use on crackers filled with chickpeas, cilantros, and onions.
This is a video on how to make the sauce which we call Pani Puri and feel free to skip to one minute into the video to see how tamarind is used with other ingredients to create a tangy sauce.
The Bengali candy is made with more spices than the ones we had tried in class and here is a video on how they are made
The similarities I noticed were how flexible the candy is to make. You can make it as spicy as you need or as sweet as you like. I also will add in a video of how the Mexican candy is made so everyone can see the similarities and how many forms a tamarind can take. Side note, my mom was especially pleased to have discovered Pulparindo because she can skip the whole process of making thethul at home.
Although the taste of Mexican food is always the main point of eating it, the presentation of the food is just as important. If a taco, burrito, or enchilada is not wrapped or rolled the right way it is a problem. When doing my research on Tex-Mex food I noted that it was said to be presented on huge messy platters with lots of yellow cheese and I wondered why. So I found this quote by Gustavo Arellano in his book, Taco Usa,
“Hold it wrong, squeeze it a bit much, trust another to fold the flour tortilla that encases any number of ingredients, and the burrito collapses, its contents hopefully falling on the plate in front the eater…this toothsome torpedo can make grubby kindergartners out of the most refined men (Arellano 152).”
Let’s address the elephant in the room first. The quote refers to a burrito not a enchilada but in my defense a enchilada is also the same form as a burrito. Or it was given to me as such when I tried a enchilada. Wrapped in a flour tortilla and dripping in cheese I knew exactly what Arellano meant when it unwraps. I have had a burrito before and I am not a clean eater. I expected the same with the enchilada only to realize that the cheese held it together. Although Tex-Mex food slightly alters regular methods of making Mexican food I believe the cheese was done purposely and for good intentions. Tex-Mex altered the ingredient from red chili sauce to cheese to make sure the eater would not break up the form of the food. That to me is some serious food for thought.