Cooking Like A Mexican

BY: ALE BORBOLLA

I am not sure how many of my readers speak- or try to- speak Spanish and how familiar you would be with how we refer to small things, and I am not aware of any other language that uses diminutives quite as we do. After all, Spanish is one of the most beautiful languages, right?

In Mexico, we use -ito, -ita, -illo, -illa; for example, with the word chiquito, meaning small, adding a diminutive not only makes it smaller but also cuter in some sort. The dish I am writing this edition about, is Pozolillo, a surprising diminutive for Pozole. But it does not refer to its size or appearance.

It is a dish created by the Purépechan people, from the north-central region of the country, but back in the day were the last group to hold against the Mexica empire. They were feisty people, feared by all the smaller indigenous groups. To this day, they are still one of the largest indigenous groups still thriving in modernity thanks to their resilience and geographic advantages. Mexicans of Purépechan descent can still be found inside modern-day Mexico, whose culture is distinctive from other groups inside Mexico. Populated mainly in the state of Michoacán, their native homeland, the Purépechan tribe has a religion and history that is different from their more well-known Aztec enemies. Among the people of Mexico, the Purépechan and their magnificent artwork contribute greatly to the spirit of the country and the fabric of what makes Mexico what it is.

The Purépechan also had a diversified economy and society where government advisors, warriors, and craftsmen whose jewelry of silver and gold also enhanced their trade skills all pushed the tribe to a place of importance among their counterparts. But, regardless of their immense power and skills, the Purépechan would face the same unfortunate fate as their Aztec neighbors with the coming of the Spanish.

Although the Aztecs faced immediate exploitation at the hands of the Spanish starting around 1518, the Purépechan weren't under Spanish subjugation until 1530. The Aztecs sent several calls for help to the Purépechan, which were ignored, and relied on their fishing industry to survive while their neighbors to the North suffered from disease and enslavement.

The Purépechan also had a very close relationship with death, and in Pátzcuaro is where the biggest day of the dead celebrations are held to this day, but it is an ancient tradition, as old as its people.

The Purépechan had an emperor, Tariácuri (priest of the wind) who lost his father as a small boy and was raised by three elder priests, who educated him from a very tender age to be at the service of the god of fire. He lived for approximately ninety years, which is quite a long time considering the longevity standard back in that time.

Most of the ingredients in Pozolillo are sourced in Michoacán, it was Tariácuri’s favorite dish. He started wars from a very young age and had his first-born son murdered because he was a drunk and did not deserve to inherit his kingdom. Talk about tough parenting! Making his nephew his heir.

Tariácuri had three wives and many women in his house who cooked for him amazing feasts, as it was customary for emperors in prehispanic times. The origins of Mexican cuisine can be traced back to our prehispanic civilizations, who firmly believed the richness of food can enrich the spirit and body of a person through various sensory perceptions like taste, smell, and touch. Tariacuri’s wives, who he called mothers -probably because of how they took care of him- would go great lengths to make him happy.

Pozolillo’s main ingredient is corn, and what makes it different from pozole is the type of corn. Corn, the staple diet of Mexicans, forms a part of the majority of our meals in some manner. Meat products were always consumed with great vigor, and formed an integral part of Mexican food culture. Cacahuazintle is the name of an old heirloom variety of white dent maize (corn) originating in Mexico. It has a large ear with grains that are more white, round, and tender than the typical field corn grain. The dried grains are soaked and/or cooked in water with lime or wood ash, then rinsed thoroughly to remove the outer seed coat as well as any traces of the alkali salts (from the lime or ash)—this is an ancient process called nixtamalization. When boiling the grains, they open by themselves like a flower, and a loose foam appears. This creates a fresh, wet hominy, used in pozole. The corn used in Pozolillo is regular white corn.

This is a great dish if you love pozole but are a little intimidated by the Cacahuazintle!

Ingredients:

6 pieces of White corn (only the grains)

1 pound of green tomatoes

1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded

½ pound of pork meat, cooked and shredded (depends on your preference, I use loin)

1 poblano pepper, seeded and deveined

1 bunch of cilantro

3 cloves of garlic

Meat broth (from the chicken and pork you already cooked) about 4 cups depending on desired thickness

Salt and pepper to taste

To garnish:

1 lettuce, sliced (I like iceberg for this, for its crisp)

Limes

Tostadas

Chopped onion (to preference)

Sliced radishes

Serrano peppers, sliced or chopped, if you like heat

Procedure:

    •    In a large pot, boil chicken and pork.

    •    In a blender, puree green tomatoes, poblano pepper, cilantro, garlic, and salt and pepper.

    •    When cooked, remove the meat from the pot, and add the puree. You can strain it if you like.

    •    Add the corn grains, cook until tender.

    •    Let it boil on high for about 20 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. I like to give it a nice time, the more it simmers, the more delicious it is.

    •    Taste for seasoning and adjust.

    •    Serve in a deep bowl! Let everyone dress it to their liking and enjoy!