*Curated by Fabiola Santiago (@OaxacTheTalk), founder of @Mi.Oaxaca
Mexican Cuisine’s African Roots: https://www.ucpress.edu/blog/15284/mexican-cuisines-african-roots/
Oaxaca Fisherwoman Organize to Protect Their Way of Life: https://nacla.org/oaxaca-fisher-women-mangroves
Mezcal is more popular than ever—why that’s bad news for bats: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/mezcal-more-popular-why-thats-bad-news-for-bats
LOCAL, NATIVE, INDIGENOUS (MORE ETHICAL) TOUR GUIDES
PRE-HISPANIC AND OAXACAN INNOVATIONS: FOOD AND BEVERAGES
Breads: Oaxaca is bread heaven. We have breads that are only found in Oaxaca. A few include: cazuela (filled with chocolate, raisins, and cinnamon), yema (made with egg yolk, important for pueblo festivities, amarillo (vegan, great for tortas) and so many more.
Chapulines (grasshoppers): my four-year old loves them! Crunchy, savory, with salt, garlic, and lime! Oaxacans eat grasshoppers, otherwise they’ll eat our crops. This relationship serves as an example of the intricacies of our ecosystems and a way that we have survived without the use of pesticides.
Chocolate: Oaxacans do chocolate differently. We still use an artisanal method: roast the cacao on the comal (griddle), peel by hand, and some still ground on the metate by hand. Now most people take their cacao to ground and puree at a molina (mill). Chocolate is a part of our pueblo and family festivities, usually with water and lots of pan (bread). You can find it with milk at restaurants and eateries.
Chorizo and cecina: specific style of pork meat. Oaxacan chorizo has particular spices and rather than finding it like a sausage, it is divided in smaller balls using string to separate. Cecina is thinly sliced lean pork pean with the same spices/rub that’s used for chorizo. It’s usually grilled and accompanied with beans, tortillas, and nopales in our pueblo.
Coffee: Oaxaca is the state with the most biodiversity. Naturally, coffee grows well. A cafe de olla (usually sweetened with panela, brown sugar) is quite popular at comedores and eateries. It’s normal to have coffee in the evenings in Oaxaca.
Mezcal: While mezcal was produced in various states/regions across Mexico, the industry exists because Oaxaca integrated mezcal as part of our Indigenous communal lives. Zapotecs (one of the largest Indigenous groups in Oaxaca) have also been cohabitating with agaves (maguey) for over 2,500 years so even if there limited “evidence” that mezcal was produced pre-Spanish contact, it’s a good reminder that history is revisionist and that likely our stories were not captured in books. But some archaeological findings point otherwise. Mezcal is an entire universe.
Memelas: small, round, thicker than tortillas with finger imprints covered with asiento (unrefined pork lard), black bean paste or salsa, and queso or quesillo
Quesillo (NOT queso Oaxaca): a Oaxacan innovation and another item that’s sadly experiencing an erasure of its origin. Quesillo has grown into an industry, and now it is found at major stores in the US under the name ‘queso Oaxaca’ which means that it’s probably made from powdered milk and or industrial milk. Quesillo is stringy and perfect on memelas, empanadas, quesadillas, tortas, or with a tlayuda.
Tasajo: lean beef cut that’s cured to support its shelf-life without refrigeration. Grilled and accompanied similar to cecina.
Tejate: pre-hispanic corn and cacao beverage. Vegan, creamy, lightly sweet and delicious! This beverage is critical in the communal lives of pueblo people. Drank for special occasions and now found around the city and at mercados (markets)
Tlayudas: (sometimes called clauyudas) are an Indigenous technology used to prepare tortillas. Tlayudas are tortillas prepared in a particular way to extend their shelf-life without refrigeration. The toughness of the tlayuda also serves as spoon to scoop, wrap, or stir soups. Since becoming the winner of Netflix’s street food, people have been appropriating and misrepresenting its method, process, and origin story. And yes, you can find it covered with black bean paste, quesillo, and other meats at restaurants and food establishments.
Others seasonal foods:
Chilacayota: sweet squash beverage
Atoles: (corn beverages) of various types of preparations and flavors
Nicuatole: a corn dessert, usually found at corners around the city, ti’s whit with a red topping
For more details on some of the cultural relevance and history of these food items, visit @Mi.Oaxaca on IG