Have you ever wondered how you would describe traditional food from Veracruz? The anthropologist Raquel Torres Cerdán considers that adjectives are lacking to do so “because it is colorful, surprising and delicate; It is simple but at the same time elegant. The cuisine of the native peoples is ancient but it is also current. It is handmade, extraordinary, refined, healthy and delicious.”
This food, despite how craving it sounds, It is in force but it must also be safeguarded. To achieve this, the traditional Xalapa cook invites you to go to childhood recipes and ask the elders how to make them because they are getting lost.
“When you have the recipes, practice them and make them as a family. The important thing about making food is not only cooking but commensality, the other part that implies who I eat with, who I am going to feed… It has to do with communication, with sharing, and that has to be recovered”. in acuyo, Traditional Mexican Cuisine Workshop located in the state capital, reflects on the experiences gained in the pandemic and mentions that these times allow us to realize how important it is to congregate to eat and drink together around the same table.
Between pots, pans, spoons, plates and jugs, and the crowing of the roosters and the clucking of the hens in her backyard, the specialist in the kitchens of indigenous peoples tries to respond what are the five representative dishes of Veracruz.
Knowing the geography of the entity from which she is a native, she believes that it would be best to give a name for each of the regions. She finally mentions the zacahuil, the chilosos broths —huatapes, chilpacholes and chilatoles— and as xalapeña and as the center of the state, the xalapeño peppers in all the versions in which it could occur, starting with the stuffed ones.
“If I go to Sotavento, rather than fish Veracruz style, which was iconic in other years as a tourist product, I would talk about arroz a la tumbada.”
Referring to the flavors carries a chair. And it is that Raquel Torres claims to be concise, but her anthropological training and the knowledge inherited from traditional cooks make her go into the issues in depth.
“Bitter, sweet, acid, but there are some new ones. Before there were five, then four, then six, seven… I think there is one, umami (tasty). Our food is tasty and encompasses all flavors.” He conceives it as sweet because it is made in a state that produces cane and around the cane is the piloncillo, present in many foods; also for “the fruits arrived on time”. “It is bitter because in Veracruz there is coffee and in some communities cocoa is used, and it is spicy, which speaks of all the variety of chiles that are present in the communities.” She adds that if it were in other terms, it applies to the personality of the people of Veracruz, because there is a lot of mischievousness in the speech and it seems that she has nothing, but she finds there, in the spicy, an analogy.
“If we had to include one last flavor in these categories of nutritionists or chemists, it would be adipose, because in many foods we use fats, whether natural or processed, although in others there is absolutely nothing.”
And the aromatic herbs? He places them in the category of bitterness, as a touch that characterizes a flavor or seasoning and they are placed at the end. The epazote, the acuyo, the cilantro de monte —culantro— and the foreign coriander are some of the main ones.
WORK THAT REVITALIZES
With 73 years of life, the anthropologist remains current in her studies and teaches workshops: “This experience enchants and revitalizes me and I hope to continue like this, until my body and mind endure, because I am interested in showing, disseminating and sharing this heritage as much as possible”.
He recalls that this was the reason for creating Acuyo, which it has seven years of operation to respond to a need: that the effervescence to study gastronomy and foreign food does not prevent apprentices from having the basics of Veracruz and Mexican cuisine.