Food Cultures and Science in Mexico
Mexico is a country located south of North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States, on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The country has a moderate climate characterized by low-lying coastal areas and has pleasant summers and mild winters.
The country’s rainy season falls between May and September while the hurricane seasons occur between May and November. The country has 113 million inhabitants and was originally under the reign of Spain.
Food availability in Mexico
According to GAIN (2010), we can only talk about food security when every single individual has access to food. Although research generally indicates that food availability in Mexico does not present a serious danger, there are places in Mexico where food access has been a real concern.
In 2008 for example, close to 20% of the Mexican people could not access food due to lack of sufficient income and this greatly affected productivity (GAIN, 2010). Despite food being available to feed all, access has always been dependent on an individual’s purchasing power.
As noted by Gilman (2011), some of the best foods in Mexico are accessed from stalls along the streets and in the market places. Although eating food obtained from the streets may appear strange to some visitors, it is quite normal for an average Mexican. This notwithstanding, Mexicans are content with food obtained from the streets and the market. They are, therefore, not about to stop getting food from these locations (Ochoa, 2001).
For many citizens, these foods are fresh and dealers are equally considered healthy and very neat. Restaurant owners are known to conduct their food businesses with so much care and integrity to the delight their customers. In addition, most people prefer eating processed foods though they still go after fresh food as has been the tradition from the early days.
Locally produced foods include peas, dry beans, walnut, sunflower, sweet pepper, and tomatoes. Mexicans import foods such as honey, dried herbs and mushrooms, roasted coffee, and cheese, to name but a few.
Staple food, how it is served and what are the common food sources?
According to Gilman (2011), the most common food source in Mexico is corn or what is commonly known as maize. It is normally prepared either as flat bread also known as tortilla or as corn stew, usually referred to as pozole. Also available are fruits and vegetables such as green tomatoes, mangoes, papaya, and avocado.
These are eaten alongside the main meals. Meat is also obtained from chicken and pigs as well as from breeds of cattle including Corrientes and French Charolais.
In their cooking, Mexicans use garlic, chili, almond, clove, and cumin to add flavor to their cookery. This is further improved using various natural ingredients. Other familiar foods are seafood, frijoles or beans, and frijoles refritos or refried beans, and spiced coffee which is made using a mixture of spices.
What are the common food preparation methods?
In preparing their food, Mexicans tend to use a combination of methods. Deep and stir frying are the most common. Deep frying involves placing the food in a deep pot filled with cooking oil. Among fried foods are dessert puffs and chicken cheese crisp.
What spice is commonly used in food preparation?
Mexican food is made using spices such as almond, cumin, and chili. As has been mentioned elsewhere in this paper, Mexican food is traditionally made out of maize or corn and beans and is mainly prepared by deep or stir frying. Although many other types of food are available and can be accessed at will, the limitation is usually the purchasing power (Tucker and Buranapin, 2001).
What are the main macro and micronutrients and what sources?
Different foods contain different nutrients. Macronutrients such as protein and carbohydrates are obtained from corn, pigs, and meat from Corrientes or French Charolais breeds of cattle. Micronutrients on the other hand are obtained through fruits and vegetables such as verdolaga and huazontle. Common fruits include guava, mango, and guanabana.
Although most Mexicans have stuck with traditional foods for so long, many people also enjoy eating fast foods which mostly supply carbohydrates and fats. Other foods such as chicken soup are prepared specifically for those the sick. Some people have, however, argued that the preparation of Mexican food depends on what one wants to prepare. The preparation is also tied to the historical origins of the Mexican people.
What is their food culture and health implication?
According to Geddes and Paloma (2000), Mexicans suffer from a number of ailments as a result of their food culture and traditional beliefs that have been carried forward from generation to generation. It is common to come by people dying from illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity caused by poor eating habits. It is absolutely necessary for people to change their eating habits and drop some of the unhealthy eating practices.
Apparently, poverty is also to blame for the bad food culture in Mexico (Long & Vargas, 2005). In most cases, lack of money compels average income earners in Mexico to go after unhealthy food stuffs from fast food restaurants. Save for the fact that these foods help to meet their immediate needs, they are responsible for poor health among the Mexicans.
What is their way of presenting their food, serving, and table manners?
Typically, Mexicans serve their food hot and eat it using forks, spoons and knives. Food is taken into the mouth in small chunks, chewed, and the swallowed. Also made during meals are tacos which involve wrapping what is to be eaten in a corn tortilla before it can be eaten (Burckhardt, 1996). Generally, Mexicans eat three meals a day though this may vary slightly with others taking four.
Desayuno or breakfast in Mexico is any form of food that one can take to start his or her day. While this may be large for people, others prefer lighter meals during this time of the day (Gilman, 2011). Comida, the most important meal on any day, is usually eaten in the afternoon and includes the main dish accompanied with other types of foods. Some Mexicans also enjoy almuerzo, a meal taken slightly later after breakfast.
What food education tools are used in Mexico?
Mexicans use MyPlate and Food Pyramids to educate people on healthy eating habits (Fox, 1993). Though considered quite abstract by some people, the food pyramid has been hailed for giving a clear indication of the foods in the various categories. MyPlate on the other hand comes with added information allowing consumers to make informed food choices.
Burckhardt, A. (1996). The People of Mexico and Their Food. Mankato, MI: Capstone.
Fox, J. (1993). The Politics of Food in Mexico: State Power and Social Mobilization. London: Cornell University Press.
Geddes, B. & Paloma, G. (2000). Lonely Planet World Food: Mexico. Australia: Lonely Planet Publications.
Gilman, N. (2011). Good Food in Mexico City: Food Stalls, Fondas and Fine Dining. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN). (2010). Food Security and Nutrition in Mexico. Mexico: Global Agricultural Information Network.
Long, L. T. & Vargas, L. A. (2005). Food Culture in Mexico. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Ochoa, E. C. (2001). Feeding Mexico: The Political Uses of Food Since 1910. Wilmington, DE: Rowman & Littlefield.
Tucker, K. L. & Buranapin, S. (2001). Nutrition and Aging in Developing Countries. Journal of Nutrition, 131:2417 – 2423.