Text and Photos by Nora Vasconcelos
Mexican food is well known around the world for its tasty food. And, although its many times spicy – hot flavor, sometimes hard for delicate stomachs, dishes such as ‘Mole’ (chicken with chocolate sauce), ‘chilaquiles & enchiladas’ (fried tortillas with tomato or green tomato hot sauce) and its huge variety of ‘quesadillas’ (stuffed tortillas with cheese) and ‘tacos’ (stuffed tortillas with all sort of dishes) appear very often in the international menus of all sort of restaurants around the world.
So, it’s often easy to find Mexican restaurants in different countries, some of them as far away from Mexico as Madagascar or the Czech Republic. Even more, in 2010 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) include the Mexican food in the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, considering that “Traditional Mexican cuisine is central to the cultural identity of the communities that practice and transmit it from generation to generation.”
What’s curious to know it that many of this food that it’s so common to find everywhere nowadays, is that it had its origins in the Colonial Convents that became very famous in their time (mainly 18th and 19th Centuries) for their well elaborated food, made with all sort of ingredients which complete preparation could even take hours and hours.
To remember those times, the book Delicias de Antaño. Historia y Recetas de los Conventos Mexicanos (Delights of yesteryear. History and Recipes of the Mexican Convents), not only collects a long list of recipes, but also, shares many stories of the practices, customs and anecdotes that occurred on those majestic convents (many of them, originally built in the 16th century).
So, this book, by Teresa Castillo Yturbe and Maria Josefa Martinez del Rio de Redo, give the reader the opportunity to learn how traditional Mexican deserts such as ‘arroz con leche’ (rice with milk), ‘buñuelos’ (sweet fritter) and ‘dulces de leche’ were made during those years by the nouns.
It also shares the recipes of the ‘Chiles en nogada’ (stuffed Poblano chiles with walnut sauce) are to be made following the conventual method, as well as other dishes such as ‘Mole Ranchero’ and ‘Chilaquiles’.
All in all, going through this book is a complete delight, even if one is willing to take the challenge of preparing any of these recipes, or if one is only interested in history or wants to spend a relaxing time.