Do you plan on celebrating Cinco de Mayo? Here in the United States, Cinco de Mayo usually means heading to a local Mexican restaurant for cold drinks and overindulging in corn chips, salsa and guacamole. But as it turns out, we’re not that far off the mark.
Nadia Peimbert, based in the Conservancy’s Mexico City office, shares some tips on how to celebrate with traditional Mexican ingredients:
Food is an extremely important aspect of Mexican culture. Hosting a big comida with friends and family is very popular. Here are some tips on how to include traditional and popular Mexican foods in your fiesta:
- ¡Hijos del Maiz! Forget the bread; pass the corn tortillas! The Aztec and Maya cultures worshiped corn, which originated in Mesoamerica. To this day, it is the basis of the Mexican diet. Tacos, tamales, tostadas…yum! Corn products, like tortillas, are very high in natural fiber and other nutrients and a good source of calcium!
- ¡Tomates por favor! Tomatoes were one of the most important crops of the Mesoamerican cultures and are the basis for many Mexican dishes and salsas. Make sure they are very rojo. Bonus points if you grow them at home!
- ¡Más frijolitos señor! Black, pinto, fava, kidney, lima, white, yellow, red… beans are all muy buenos! Plus, they have no cholesterol, they are low in fat, and are rich in vegetable protein. You can eat them mashed—Mexican style—or boiled, solo or with a bit of olive oil. If you are a vegetarian, you cannot live without frijolitos.
- ¡Pica este chilito! Chili peppers are used in many different cultures around the world. You can stuff them, chop them, grind them or just bite them (but cuidado!). There are dozens of different chilies, and if you mix them properly with other ingredients, you’ll come up beautiful moles or salsas. They’re easy to grow at home, too.
- Limoncito, ¡qué rico! Limes did not originate in Mexico, but they’re a must in Mexican food. In Mexico, we put lime in everything. Try squeezing it on fruits, vegetables, taquitos, all is good with a bit of lime!
- ¡Aguacates! Avocadoes are a 100% original Mexican crop. They are very high in potassium and vitamins E and B. Plus, they’re green! They will give a lot of color to your food as well as sabor. Everyone loves a good guacamole!
- ¡Pasa la salsa! A salsa is easy to make and so tasty. Finely chopped tomatoes, onions, some garlic, lime, a bit of salt, and some chilies… ¡y ya está! You can also experiment with many different tastes. Try some roasted nuts with your salsa—peanuts, pumpkin seeds, or walnuts—or a bit of cumin, cilantro or even mezcal.
- ¿Y el postre? Nothing better than to end a great Mexican feast with fresh fruit for dessert. There are dozens of healthy and delicious Mexican fruits and fruit dishes: black and green zapote, chicozapote, mamey, guava, guanabana or soursop, nanche, papaya, tuna, pitahayas, and more. One piece of advice for this Cinco de Mayo: put the pulp of fruits in the freezer for a couple of hours and then combine in a food processor with some ice and sugar… ¡Exquisito!
Great food isn’t the only thing we should take from Mexico this Cinco de Mayo—traditional ways of life in Mexico are also good for the Earth. My grandmother probably didn’t know much about climate change and carbon emissions, but she loved the planet for sure! Here is my grandmother’s advice:
Cuida la madrecita tierra! Look after Mother Earth! All Mexican cultures—and many other original peoples around the world—worshiped Mother Earth.
Ándale! Muévete! Celebrate walking. If a burro can do it, so can you.
Salte para afuera! Go outside! Visit a place with trees and listen to what they have to say, listen to the wind. Mexican indigenous communities still value Mother Earth and all its gifts.
Órale! No desperdicies! No wasting! Before throwing away anything or buying new stuff, consider the resources used to produce clothing or shoes.
Image Credit: Maiz at the Tepoztlan Market @Rosario Ibarra/TNC