Mexican Fiestas, el Mes de la Patria, and a Recipe
by Victoria Challancin
Note: I forgot my own camera and borrowed my friend's, whose battery died almost immediately. I think the photos were taken on a low resolution. Sorry about that--it was such a splendid affair, I regret not being able to do it justice through photos.
I live in a magical country. Mexico. A country of startling surreal images at every turn. Example: On my way to a major grocery store this week, I had to stop in the midst of traffic at a major round-about to wait for a group of about 20 horsemen riding beautiful animals with large-pummeled Mexican saddles, wearing cowboy hats and old fashioned sombreros. Very rustic, very touching--and complete with one of the group taking photos with a sophisticated SLR while maneuvering his horse in and out of traffic. Then, once in the store itself, I was gently informed that I would have to evacuate the building in ten minutes to honor the victims of the 1985 earthquake that took so many lives in Mexico and the people who worked so hard to save others as a part of a Civil Defense celebration/drill. Once in the parking lot, there was a group of people waving flags and cheering. And here I thought it was about the possible improvement of evacuation times if we have another temblor...silly me. It was clearly about celebration.
Yes, I live in a magical culture with people who exhibit such generosity of spirit at every turn. Sometimes it takes my breath away. Thank you, Mexico, our home for 25 years and the birthplace, culture, and patria of our only son. Thank you. For those of you who read and hear too much negative news on Mexico, I can tell you if you don't visit here, you are missing out on one of life's great experiences. It is a gift.
And in Mexico September is el mes de la patria, the month of the country, the homeland. There are push carts full of tempting food, parades galore, indigenous costumes, dancing, fireworks (oh, we always have fireworks), bands, and patriotic memorabilia everywhere. And flags--the beautiful Mexican flag with its red, white, and green--the colors of the national liberation army in Mexico and its eagle holding a serpent, perched atop a nopal cactus, all born of an Aztec legend. Magic. Everywhere.
A Mexican Flag Dip
In Mexico we celebrate the month of September. Yes, the entire month is one big celebration. We begin with the President's State of the Union Address on the 1st. We remember the Niños Héroes, child cadets who died defending the country on the 13th. The charros, or horsemen, have their own special day on September 14th to show off their skills with live performances throughout the land. The birthday of Porfirio Diaz, former president and hero, is acknowledged on the 15th. Independence Day is on the 16th, complete with the grito, or cry for independence heard throughout the country, born in the nearby city of Dolores Hidalgo (yes, I live in the Cradle of Independence). September 27th marks the end of the War of Independence. Día de San Miguel Arcangel is on the 29th and marks a celebration in my own city of San Miguel de Allende. And September 30th is singled out to celebrate the birthday of Father Jose Maria Morelos, one of the nation's founding fathers. Yep, September is quite a month here in Mexico!
Squash blossoms, ready to be stuffed with cheese and grilled
When my good friend invited me to her Independence Day Fiesta on the 16th, I knew it would be special. Not only is the physical space of her home beautiful, she has exquisite taste and a grand, overwhelming joie de vivre that permeates her life and the lives of those close to her. And I knew the food would be fun and creative. And of course it was. I am just sorry the camera died before I could document it and that the resolution was so low...
Guacamole with the two-toned chips served in Maguey cactus leaves. Of course.
A plate of crudités
Local artisan cheese
More local cheeses
The bar, complete with margaritas, a sombrero, and the flag!
Meat for tacos al pastor with a pineapple piece sitting atop, ready to be roasted on the vertical spit
A partial display of salsas and taco toppings long before they were served
Shrimp and cheese quesadillas being prepared in the kitchen
The Mexican flag, itself a work of art and legend
The Mexican Flag Dip
Cook's Note: For another version of this recipe with an even more realistic eagle, click here and here. Some versions use chunky guacamole like I prefer (use a bean or potato masher) and pomegranate seeds; others use smooth guacamole and a red tomato salsa, chunky or not. This is more of a recipe idea than a recipe itself. You can Google both "guacamole" and "refried beans" for precise recipes. It is the presentation that is key.
Almost a Recipe: Mexican Flag Dip
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)
Note: You can use my black bean recipe which uses dried avocado leaf for a tasty base for this dip.
In a 9 x 13-inch dish, spread on the bottom a 1-inch-thick layer of refried black or pinto beans. Over the beans, on the left-hand side, spread 3 cups of your favorite guacamole. In the center third, spread a layer of Mexican sour cream or the similar crème fraîche; and on the right-hand third of the dish spread 2 to 3 cups of pomegranate seeds, or arils, or substitute a bright red tomato salsa of choice.
Serve with corn chips or totopos.
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.
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