Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More Mexico

Oops! I jumped the gun, there was something about blogging in the Merc but it was not the piece I was expecting (see last post). I will keep you posted....for now back to Mexico...

While Mexico has many ruins and precious artifacts of ancient civilizations, the museums are often old and musty. Two exceptional museums, modern and enlightening, were the Maya museum in Chetumal and the city museum in the fort at the castle of Laguna Bacalar.

The Maya museum in Chetumal explores the life of the Maya people as opposed to the history alone. It is organized by the three worlds--earth, the celestial world and the underground--and attempts to take you into the life of the Maya. There was little information about cooking, except to show some cooking vessels and also it was explained that cooking took place indoors.

The museum in the fort was filled with children when we were there and why not? After all it was all about pirates! It told the history of the Laguna Bacalar region and the Maya as well as the Spanish and the pirates, privateers and bucaneers. I can now explain the difference between those last three groups, though I will spare you the details.

One of the more interesting elements of the museum in the fort was the history of the Spanish coming to Mexico and the first mestizo or mixed race people. Mexico is a blending of the native Maya and the Spanish. You can see the fusion not just in the faces of the people but also in their food. So many ingredients came from the new world, tomatoes, chocolate, corn, to name a few but many of the cooking techniques are very Spanish, expecially the use of rice which is served with so many meals in Mexico.

In scrutinizing menu items it is often a challenge to try to identify the origin of a recipe, thinking about Spanish cooking and new world ingredients. It has inspired me to learn about and cook more Mexican food when I come home.