Influence of Mexican Cuisine – San Francisco Bay Area - USA Essay Example

Influence of Mexican Cuisine – San Francisco Bay Area

Introduction

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Food if one of the aesthetic identification of culture and tradition as it marks its progress from generation to generation, and history to history. Mexican cooking began with the arrival of humans in Mexico and as various cultures influence their cuisine, the tradition and cultural background of their menu have began to evolve. Mexican food, as we know it today, has had its primary origin in the 16th century from the introduction of European plants and food products by Spanish conquerors. This traditional mix-up has provided modification in their cuisine, which is currently evident in the Mexican food tradition.

Mexican food has been a popular choice in the menus most especially to Mexican restaurants in San Francisco California Bay. The primary influence of wine and food itself in the Mexican culture has established exceptional uniqueness in the field of dining experience. The installation of various Mexican restaurants that offer traditional Mexican specialties has kept the survival of the culture.

In the course of our discussion, the Mexican culture, evidently in terms of food- wine and restaurants, shall be the primary focus of the study. The involvements of wine and food as the primary traditional influence shall be elaborated and defined in the study. The influence of food and herbs in Mexican traditions shall be also tackled in the course of discussion. Lastly, we shall explore the San Francisco California Boy for exquisite and famous Mexican restaurants that are still reigning in the current time.  The Mexican culture possesses a heritage in every unique aspect that greatly denounces its aesthetic value.

Mexican Culture: The Basics of Mexican Food

Mexican diet in the sixteenth century and can still be observed in the Mexican food tradition today can be reduced to six major items particularly wheat, meat and its derivatives, such as milk, cheese, and eggs; sugar, citrus fruits; new vegetables, such as onions and garlic; and the herbs parsley and coriander. These are the main ingredients found in the Mexican food list of ingredients. The Mexican cuisines are primarily influenced by Spanish and European orientations that greatly altered the essence and style of food preparation and aesthetic value (Vargas, 2005 p.66).

Mexican cooks make a daily trip to an outdoor market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Homes in rural areas of Mexico often have no refrigeration; hence, food cannot be store for very long. Even if storage is possible, many Mexican cooks believe that food tastes best when it is prepared fresh every day. In parts of United States with large Mexican American populations, there are stores that sell special ingredients such as dried chiles and Mexican chocolates (Coronado, 2002 p.17). Mexican food has become fashionable not only internationally but in Mexico City as well, which evidently can be measured by the great number of good restaurants specializing in Mexican food that have opened their doors in recent years. This interest in fine Mexican food is relatively recent in restaurant circles and can be traced to some 25 years ago (Vargas, 2005 p.113).

Among the usual or typical meals of these Mexicans are tortillas, hot chiles, tacos, and burritos, while their usual staple food are corn combined with beans, squash, chile peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos to form the basic diet of the  country (Coronado, 2002 p.17; Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222; Vargas, 2005 p.83). Secondary foods, which are eaten less frequently but are consumed throughout the country, are represented by native vegetables such as cactus paddles (nopales); avocados (aguacates); vegetable pears (chayotes); jicamas; and greens known as quintoniles, verdolagas, or quelites. Peripheral foods may include seasonal crops and exotics such as insects, mushrooms, chokecherries, the fruits of the prickly pear (tunas), and small cactus fruits known as biznagas. These foods are produced during the rainy season and are vastly collected by the rural folks (Vargas, 2005 p.83).

Tortillas and hot chile sauces accompany meals throughout Mexico in all social levels. These two elements can be considered a common food denominator among social classes. The pungency sauces are critically affected upon the type and amount of chile utilized, based upon regional or own preferences. Small plates of salt and cut limes are common table condiments (Vargas, 2005 p.83).

Traditional Mexican Food

Sopas, as the second course in any well-oriented Mexican lunch or dinner is a soup which is generally the common denominator of almost every culture. Mexican broths are called caldo, but a liquid soup with meat, vegetables or seafood is also called caldo. Clear, strained broth is bouillon or consome, and chilled vegetavle soup is gazpacho. Herbs, such as coriander and oregano, are frequently added to the ingredients of these soups in order to provide delicate and unique aroma. Mexican cooks go heavy on pork fat, and it is this lard that frequently leads to stomach upset among tourists rather than the food itself. Mexican food, aside from the beans, are usually light (Booth, 1996 p.14). Some examples of the typical soup of the Mexicans are Albondigas or the meat ball soup, and Sopa de Arroz or the rice soup, which are the most popular dishes of Mexicans that have been adapted by various cultures, particularly Asian (e.g. Filipinos, Thais, etc.) (Coronado, 2002 p.17; Booth, 1996 p.14).

Mexico is a land suited to stock and has become the general good, and with government encouragement and supervision, the quality is upgrading constantly. Mexican methods of grilling, spitting, frying, boiling, roasting, stewing and baking meats are similar to ours, but there are still variations. The Mexican cook is great hand to boil pork, and anything baked in the oven, al borno, is uncovered. An asado or roast, is similar to the common pot roast, which is cooked in cazuela on top of the stove (Booth, 1996 p.14). However, vegetables and greens are seldom cooked with meat except in soup dishes (Coronado, 2002 p.17; Booth, 1996 p.14). Another common and popular Mexican tradition is barbecue or barbacoa, which is a stroke of genius that comes from pre-conquest days and is almost identical with luau in Hawaii. In order to prepare this traditional viand, large pit is dug and lined with lime stone or volcanic rock, and a blazing fire is maintained for five or six hours until the stones are almost red hot. The fire is allowed to die down, then the pit is partially filled with maguey stalks. A dressed goat, pig, sheep or part of beef wrapped in leaves is laid on top. The pit is covered, and the meat cooks in the aromatic steam of the maguey juice (Booth, 1996 p.14).

Spiciness: Mexican Unique Flavor

The basic feature of Mexican foods is its unique way of expressing its spiciness and traditional aroma. One of the spices that provide therapeutic effects in the body is the Capsaicin, which is a primary constituent of peppers such as the jalapeño and the habañero. Capsaicin has several uses, including use in personal defense sprays and as to relieve arthritis pain. When first applied to skin, capsaicin causes local heating and irritation. However, after repeated use, the area becomes desensitized to pain without loss of the sense of touch (Fox & Whitesell, 1997 p.550).

Capsaicin pepper has been found to work as an anticoagulant, thus possibly helping to prevent heart attacks or strokes caused by the formation of clots in blood vessels. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which is the body’s natural painkillers, and kills the stomach bacterium known to cause ulcers. Another pepper is the Cayene, which is an important constituent of Mexican hot sauce. Cayene adds the spicy zip to many ethnic foods, such as Thai and Mexican food, and can be used in marinades and barbecue sauces. This pepper is rich in vitamin C, A, B-complex, E and other minerals (Balch, p.147 2003).

Another food ingredient of Mexican foods that possesses therapeutic aid is the pumpkin seeds. The seeds from the pumpkin, also known as pepitas, are popular ingredient in Mexican dishes, and are available with or without their shells (Gilbert, 2000 p.178). Mexican cuisine is dynamic enough by itself. Its source is in simple, no-frills food from a vast number of climates (deserts, mountains, rainforests, and temperate coastlines), and it honors the traditions of native Americans and Europeans, primarily Spanish. Nevertheless, Mexican cuisines ranks as one of the world’s most complicated and varied cuisines, especially if one bases such assessments on the variety and refinements of sauces. With hundreds of salsas and moles, Mexican cuisine can strike as many chords as French or Chinese (Stuart, 2000 p. 15).

The Wines: Mexican Brewery

In terms of Mexican wine, it provides unique blends of tradition served in stemmed glasses. Wine is the usual pair of Mexican foods in order to suit the spiciness of the dishes. Mexican wine classifications possess the usual red and white wine, which are primarily obtained from fruits mixed with spices. The northern end of Baja California is one of the places in Mexico that is known to brew wine at its best (Dumois, n.d). Citizens of Mazahua and Otoml living in Central Mexico drink pulque from childhood, because of both its nutritional properties and scarcity of water. Pulque is an alcoholic beverage obtained from maguey, which composes primarily of complex fruit sugars (Peele & Grant, 1999 p.93).

Mexican Food: Traditional Preparations

Mexican cuisine is based on fresh, and seasonal produce, which primarily provide distinct character to their menus. Chefs love to create dishes full of color and texture and typically present their plates in a simple fashion. Common culinary practices vary from state to state within Mexico. As you encounter restaurants outside the borders of Mexico, both authentic and derivative styles of Mexican cuisine maintain similar ingredients, while potentially incorporating different methods of preparation (Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222).

The most common form of food preparation in Mexican setting, especially during the time of Spanish era, was cooking the food directly over an open fire. As the technological advancement in cooking progressed, Mexicans developed a method of transmitting heat through another utensil, such as a griddle or pot. In this way, they could toast seeds, nuts, and vegetables or boil food in skins, tightly woven baskets, or clay pots heated the water enough to cook the food. Boiling food allowed them to take advantage of certain vegetables that could not be eaten raw, such as the extremely spicy serranos, although some Mexicans are able to eat this raw. Other raw vegetables contain poisonous substances that are removed through cooking; others are too tough to chew in the raw stage (Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222; Vargas, 2005 p.66). Food was also cooked by boiling directly in water or by steaming, such in the case of tamales wherein they utilize olla (a jug with a shallow water base and a light framework of sticks in the interior of the pot) in order to keep the tamales from touching the water. There are few sources of grease or lard, and frying was not a common cooking technique in the traditional Mexican food value (Vargas, 2005 p.66).

Mexican Food: The Fundamental Components

Mexican diet of today is rich in a variety of foods and dishes that represent a blend of pre-Columbian, Spanish, French, and more recently, American culture. The typical Mexican diet is rich in complex carbohydrates, provided mainly by corn and corn products, beans, rice, and breads, The typical Mexican diet contains an adequate amount of protein in the forms of beans, eggs, fish and shellfish, and a variety of meats, including beef, pork, poultry, and goat. Because of the extensive use of frying as a cooking method, the Mexican diet is also high in fat. The nutrients most likely to be inadequately provided are calcium, iron, vitamin A, folic acid and vitamin C (Spark, 2007 p.258).

Dried beans feature prominently in the Mexican diet, which is served in many ways and incorporated into many dishes. They absorb and blend together with spicy flavorings, as well as adding nutritional value. Quite a number of different types of beans are used, but the preferences of the Mexicans are the popular and full-flavored, smooth black beans, and sweetish, soft-textured pink pinto beans, which belong to the kidney bean family. Each provides its special flavoring to the dish; however, if a specified type is not available, pinto beans can almost always be substituted (Barrett, 1991 p.8).

In terms of the traditional trait of Mexican cuisine, a crumbly, quite salty white cheese, queso fresco is the most frequently used in Mexico. Good Monterey Jack, farmer cheese or Greek feta are the best substitutes of cheese. Queso de Chihuahua is also popular, and mixture of Cheddar and mozzarella cheeses also provides a good alternative (Barrett, 1991 p.8).

In many cultures, food has symbolic meanings related to family traditions, social status, and even health. Indeed, many folk remedies rely on food. Some of these have gained wide acceptance, such as the use of spices and herbal teas for purposes ranging from allaying anxiety to preventing cancer and heart disease (Insel etal, 2004 p.9).

The traditional Mexican diet is rich in fresh vegetables, which are generally used only when in season. The spices used in Mexican cooking are common to many cuisines, and yet, there are a number of seasonings that are unique to Mexican food. Chile peppers are used as a dry spice as well as a fresh ingredient. There are many types, with the most common being ancho, habeñero, jalapeño, New Mexican green, New Mexican Red, poblano and Serrano. These peppers range from mild, like poblano, to the extremely hot habañero (Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222).

Chiles are a hallmark of Mexican cooking, being used both raw and cooked to give a distinctive flavor as well as hotness (Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222). Dried anco chiles are the most commonly used variety in Mexico. They are mild, with a fragrance reminiscent of prunes and raisins, wrinkled and deep reddish-brown, about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide. Dried mulato chiles are similar in appearance to acho chiles, but sweeter. Dried pasilla chiles are long, thin and brownish-black with a fruity piquant flavor. Jalapeno chiles are a dark rich green and hot, although not as hot as serranos, which are small, light green, shiny, smooth and absolutely spicy (Barrett, 1991 p.8). Chiles are not always labeled with their variety, but their dried chiles have the most earthy, fruity flavor than fresh ones, smaller chile varieties are invariably hotter than larger ones. Red chiles are no always hotter than green (Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222). The seeds and white veinare not only hotter than the flesh, but have less flavor, and are generally removed from the chile before using. Chiles contains oil that can make the eyes and even the skin irritated, so it is essential to avoid touching the eyes after the use of chiles (Barrett, 1991 p.8; Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222).

Other herbs and spices that flavor Mexican cuisine are anise, cilantro, cinnamon, clove, cumin, garlic, marjoram, Mexican oregano and thyme. The herbs and spices, particularly the Mexican oregano and chilli peppers, are used in various ceremonies and traditional celebrations. The chilli peppers are given to tests the spice tolerance of participants during fiestas. Oregano, on the other hand, is believed by locals to alleviate various diseases and administered via its boiled leaves (Koeller & La France, 2005 p.222).

Mexican Food on International Perspective

Mexican food is a staple of many a Californian’s diet, and until you have eaten carnitas (pork) or fish tacos washed down by a Pacifico, you have not experienced California culture. The main attraction in this area is the world-class fine dining experience set to give their tourists best food and wine experience they can have. San Francisco California bay is endeavored with culinary riches that are extraordinary and incomparable to those found in the usual city fine-dining restaurants. Primarily the food and its fresh composure, and the brewery of wine, are the best traditionals linked with the modern classicism.

The common conception of Mexican cuisine in the United States is a combination is a combination of a few folk dishes and recipes (mostly from central and northern Mexico, such as mole poblano, frijoles refritos, guacamole, fajitas, etc.) and traditional snacks (such as tacos, enchiladas, and tamales, which are now part of the English language but denote full-blown dishes, at least as they are listed in restaurants’ menus).

There are common and affordable chains food chains in this area. The fast-food chain Taco Bell serves Americanized Mexican food, which is good for the faint stomach. Traditional Mexican food is very rich and makes liberal use of lard and cheese, though places specializing in healthier version have cropped up in recent years, among them Baja Fresh, a popular chain. Taquerias are, strictly speaking, little places serving tacos, but they are cheap, good and usually have other dishes as well (Peevers, 2003 p.68). Having your dining experience in this area can start out in the least expensive delicacies that can still be considered as depiction of Mexican culture.

Conclusion

The Mexican culture has evolved from the most primitive means of grilling to th modernistic styles of food preparation; however, they are still able to maintain the touch of tradition, which has been adapted by various cultural diversities. The unique characteristics of Mexican cuisine, specifically the spiciness and the unique flavoring, have brought extraordinary tastes that are internationally recognized.

Reference

Balch, P. A. (2003). Prescription for Dietary Wellness. Avery.

Barrett, C. (1991). The Book of Mexican Foods. HPBooks.

Booth, G. C. (1996). The Food and Drink of Mexico. Courier Dover Publishing.

Coronado, R. (2002). Cooking the Mexican Way: Revised and Expanded to Include New Low-Fat Diet. Twenty-First Century Books.

Fox, M., & Whitesell, J. K. (1997). Organic Chemistry. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Gilbert, M. N. (2000). Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook. Upublish.com.

Insel et.al, P. M. (2004). Nutrition. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Koeller, K., & La France, R. (2005). Let’s Eat Out!: Your Passport to Living Gluten and Allergy Free. R & R Publishing.

McClenahan, B. (2005, May 5). Oregon students celebrate Cinco de Mayo. University Wire,

Peele, S., & Grant, M. (1999). Alcohol and Pleasure: A Health Perspective. Psychology Press.

Peevers, A. (2003). California. Lonely Planet.

Spark, A. (2007). Nutrition in Public Health: Principles, Policies, and Practice. CRC Press.

Stuart, C. (2000). The Food of Texas: Authentic Recipes from the Lone Star State. Tuttle Publishing.

Vargas, L. (2005). Food Culture In Mexico. Greenwood Press.

 

 

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