Cooking Like A Mexican

Drunken Beans
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

Unfortunately Mexico is now first place in the world in obesity. I believe this is because we have adopted customs of other countries and have given a great welcome to the concept of fast food, and we are now consuming a lot of hamburgers, pizzas, soft drinks and all kinds of foods that are beyond our culture. Before the Spanish arrived to México and South America, there was no suffering from famine as in Europe, because here we used our own native culture, and we planted corn and beans. Indigenous cultures of ancient Mexico developed a vast knowledge based on observation of the life cycles of their environment and the possible link between some cosmic phenomena and sought interpretation of this..

The struggle for survival, over time, allowed us to optimize plant resources, as well as animals and minerals that nature gave us in abundance.

The prehispanic diet was based exclusively on products of hunting, fishing and gathering plants and fruits. Over time, the selective consumption helped to change the natural conditions of various plant species. It was a slow and gradual process of many thousands of years, which coexisted with the collection of plants and primitive forms of rudimentary agriculture. In Mexico, the development of agriculture was not, as in other world regions, a reduction in the nutritional health of its population by greater reliance on a dominant food source. Perhaps because there remained the habit of using a variety of alternative supplies such as fish, fruits and wild vegetables, flowers, roots, worms and even insects.

 On the other hand, in Mexico there were domesticated vegetables such as amaranth, chile, beans and pumpkin and squash. Actually, the combination of corn, beans and squash, as an essential part of the diet, has been fundamental to the healthy development of indigenous peoples. Nutritionists agree that eating corn beans and squash together is even better for us than if eaten separately. Its nutrients are highly complementary.

Also, tomatoes, which can be eaten both raw and cooked, and with the variety of chilies with varying degrees of spiciness can also be eaten fresh and dried or crushed, raw or cooked. These contributed to the development of all kinds of seasoned wild birds, game meats and fish. The archaeological evidence and other scientific studies give evidence that each of the pre-Hispanic civilizations that flourished in Mexico expressed their own culinary cultural characteristics. Given the variety of soils and climates in which they developed, it is certain that their eating habits were adapted to the natural resources of each region. However, the zone of influence of some of these civilizations, such as the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya and Mexica (Aztec) covered in some cases very broad territories. This distribution resulted in a need for extensive trade and the need to supply food to populated areas, resulting in “flea markets”.  The central market of Tenochtitlan, the “flea market” of Tlatelolco, was huge and impressed the Spanish with their internal organization and the extraordinary variety of products offered.

So, the way to deal with, and eradicate the problem of obesity, what all we Mexicans should do, is go back to our basic principles as we eat. As we have a wide variety of enchiladas and tacos, we have lots of variety in how to prepare beans. The bean is part of the Mexican diet for centuries, they have become a very dynamic category in the export sector of our country, because this cultivation represents an important alternative production for thousands of farmers in the coasts, mountains and forests. Beans are of great importance in the basic family diet for its high content of protein, carbohydrates and minerals. Its seeds contain protein (22% - 28%), vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber (pectin), which helps prevent heart disease, obesity and aids the digestive tract. (They make you poop). That is why major medical institutions worldwide are promoting beans and making them commercially attractive. The wide adaptability of some varieties means they’re available year round.

Here is a very fun way to eat beans. You can have them as a side dish or as a soup.

drunkenbeans.jpgDrunken Beans

Ingredients:

½ lb. of beans (Red, yellow or brown beans. Well any kind just not black).

1 lb Pork tenderloin

2 tomatoes

3 serrano chiles

¼ white onion

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons of lard

2 springs of coriander

1 beer (bottle or can)

Salt to taste

Simmer the beans with the sliced onion, finely chopped garlic, salt and the cubes of pork loin for two hours (you can also use a crock-pot; it works great for this purpose). Mix the chopped tomatoes with the finely chopped chiles and coriander, and the bacon cut into small pieces and fried crisp in the lard. Yes, we still use lard, I just told you, we’re all fat. Cook this mixture for ten minutes. Add to the beans and then add the beer, simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes longer.

Serves four. Alejandra