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From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa has been awarded the honor of "WINNER" in the "Cookbooks: International" category of the 2014 International Book Awards!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo – 5th of May
by Karina Ann Betlem

Mexico is a land rich in culture, fiestas and holidays but you may be surprised to learn that Cinco de Mayo is not one of those celebrated events.

Cinco de Mayo is a día de fiesta (holiday) commemorated solely in the town of Puebla, in the state of Puebla.  Not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day (September 16).  Cinco de Mayo celebrates the unlikely victory of a small Mexican army over a larger French army in El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla).  The actual battle is said to have lasted only four hours.

This particular battle may have changed the course of history.  If the French had won the battle at Puebla, Mexico would have eventually been ruled by Napoleon III and the French Army instead of Mexican leaders.  Further, it is well known that the French were supplying the U.S. Confederate Army with various supplies in support of their cause.  The defeat of the French brought a halt to that support and, as we know, the Confederates were eventually defeated by Union forces.

Although Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated in most of Mexico, it is celebrated in many other parts of the world, especially California because of it's Mexican* population.  Some revelers insist they are celebrating to keep the Mexican culture alive, while others sheepishly admit that it is an excuse for a fiesta!  Both are good reasons to me, ¡Ole!

In Mexico there are plenty of tourist destinations that do celebrate Cinco de Mayo,  but they are solely for the benefit of the tourists who expect a party.  If you are one of those tourists you will notice that the locals are not joining in the festivities with you!

As with any Mexican celebration, traditional food is important.  In Puebla, the most traditional food is mole (mow-lay). Puebla is known to be the birthplace of mole, a rich, spicy sauce often containing chocolate and up to 40 other ingredients, including chiles and spices.  All of the ingredients are ground together to form a paste.  The paste is then thinned with a liquid, either broth or Coca Cola (yes, you read that right).  Mexicans love their Coke  and use it today today to thin and sweeten their mole.  When the mole is finished, it is served with chicken or turkey.   As a point of interest, Mexico is the largest per capita consumer of Coca Cola in the world.

There are two simplified versions of mole in my book, From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa.  Either of these delicious versions can be whipped up in minutes without using 40 different ingredients.

In tourist areas outside Puebla, the traditional Cinco de Mayo fare consists of chicken mole, tamales, and any other Mexican food the individual chef wishes to make.  Of course, on any fiesta table there is always the fresh salsa Mexicana (also called salsa cruda or pico de gallo) containing the colors of the Mexican flag: red, green and white ...  a very patriotic dish!

In my personal life, if a holiday is celebrated somewhere other than my town, I celebrate it in my home!  My Mexican friends have begun to remind me that there is a holiday in Oaxaca, Veracruz or elsewhere in Mexico, and that we need to prepare for a fiesta!  Always remember … Simple food makes a feast when enjoyed and shared with family and friends......

*Note:  Mexicans prefer to be called Mexicans, not Latinos or Hispanics.  They are very proud of their Mexican heritage and do not want their heritage and culture diluted. 

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