The Secret History of Mexican Cooking Was Written by Women

Jeff Gordinier  – New York Times – Friday, 26 September 2014 (originally published 22 Sept)

From left: Potato and chorizo tacos; a style of chicken molé from the state of Querétaro. Image: Fiamma Piacentini

As my taco pilgrimage through Mexico with the Danish chef René Redzepi of Noma was winding to a close in the languorous city of Mérida, I was starting to worry that we were going to miss out on one of the dishes I was most looking forward to. By then we had chewed and slurped our way through everything from the tasting menu at Pujol, chef Enrique Olvera’s gastronome-magnet in Mexico City, to fresh coconuts bought by the side of a jungle road. But we still hadn’t had cochinita pibil.

Months later, when I was chatting on the phone with Margarita Carrillo Arronte, the chef and food expert behind the exquisitely beautiful and encyclopedic new Phaidon epic “Mexico: The Cookbook,” I knew I had to ask her about cochinita pibil. She explained that, historically, the local men would roast wild boar meat in a stone-lined hole in the ground, but it was women who actually prepared the dish.

Many of the Mexican chefs moving into the limelight these days are male, but as Carrillo Arronte pointed out, with unfiltered pride, it has been the women of Mexico who have, for centuries, kept alive the hundreds of recipes (from tamales to pozole to papadzules to flan) that she has painstakingly collected. She absorbed many of them from the women in her own family. “They were artists in the kitchen,” she said . . .

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