Friday, February 12, 2010

Mexican Thali!!

The thali is an Indian meal that includes different dishes in the same plate (as you can see in the picture). The contents can vary depending on the region, but it usually includes rice, vegetables, papal, dhal, chapati, paneer and yoghurt. Thalis are commonly vegetarian (like most of the Indian dishes), but many restaurants offer the meat-based choice as well.
I am not very fond of Indian food, but I most admit that I really liked Thali. Besides, the place where I ate it included a non-stop refill (I thought the waiters wanted my stomach to burst, haha) for a very cheap price, and the service was excellent.
Now, moving towards the other side of the world, I have to tell you that most Mexicans are meat-lovers (not that we don't eat vegetables, or anything like that), so it is hard to find good vegetarian restaurants (at least in my city). However, the other day one of my closests friends recomended me one place that was just in the heart of Morelia, and my mom and I decided to check it out.
I was a little surprised to see that the add in the entrance of the restaurant said "Indian-Vegatarian Food", because I didn't now I would find this food in Morelia. Inside, the walls were decorated with some Indian images, but the menu was closer to be all Mexican. Later, when the food arrived, I could finally see the similarities.
Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I swear it was the first time I saw those kind of plates in a Mexican restaurant (the most modest restaurants in Mexico usually use plastic dishes). Also, there were vegetables, rice, tortilla (which looks like chapati) and some dessert in the same tray. The only bad news were that we had no refill that time.
Here are the pictures of both trays, judge for yourselves:

I just love to find cultural differences and similarities, especially when it is by chance and without leaving my city.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Rosca and Tamaleeees!!

Hey there!!
Well, it's been a while since I don't update my blog... sorry about that, but somethimes I get distracted or busy and I forget...
Anyway, this time I will talk about a Mexican tradition that took place two days ago, February 2nd: "Día de la Candelaria" or Candlemas, which is a Catholic tradition also known as the "Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple". In this day, the very religious Mexicans go to church accompanied by a baby Jesus figure which they dressed "formally". Some people dress their figures in a very original -sometimes kind of weird- way; you can find for exemple, angels, saints, and even superheroes (I have a cousin who said that she was going to dress it like a doctor... don't know if she did it though).

But what's the fun part for a Non-Catholic Mexican like me? Well, on this day we also gather with family and friends to eat TAMALES (a Mexican dish made out of corn, sometimes stuffed with meat or vegetables... it can also be sweet). Traditionaly, only one person has to pay for the dinner, but to explain that I have to talk a little bit about another tradition: Día de Reyes (Three Wise Men Day).

Día de Reyes took place almost a month ago, on January 6th. It is a tradition in which family also gets together to eat a delicious ring-shaped bread that is called "Rosca de Reyes" (king cake). Inside this sweet bread are hidden several muñequitos (plastic figurines). Each person cuts a piece of bread, and the ones who find the muñequitos have to pay for the tamales.

In fact, I've been wanting to write this entry since that day, when I was eating Rosca with my friends and we started to think about the tradition. Suddenly we realized that nobody really knew its origins for sure. Two days later, my friend Nilda from Venezuela asked me more about the Rosca de Reyes, so I decided to do a little research.

The origins of the tradition of the Rosca have nothing to do with the Three Wise Men. It is related to the festivities dedicated to the god Saturn in the Roman Empire, where they used to bake round cakes with prickly pears, dates and honey for all the people. Inside, a broad bean was hidden, and the lucky one who discovered it was proclaimed the King of Kings for a short period of time.
In France the tradition continued with the Galette des Rois, which is a very fine cake proper of their cuisine. Nowadays, the French also get together to eat the Galette, and the finder of the hidden surprise becomes the king (or queen) of the party.
Very similar to this is the Roscón the Reyes from Spain. The recipe and the tradition was taken from the French, but actually, it is made also in different ways (sometimes they add chocolate, pastry cream, etc.). The one who finds the dry broad bean has to pay for the Roscón.

The tradition was brought to Mexico by the Spaniards in the 16th century. It is now related to the tradition of the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus when he was born. For us, the hidden broad bean represented baby Jesus who had to hide from Herod (the king who wanted to kill him). Of course, since nobody wants to pay for the tamales and a broad bean can be easily swallowed, the bean was replaced for the figurine I was telling you before (but initially, it was pottery instead of plastic).

Although the Spanish Roscón is round (as the name indicates), the Mexican Rosca has now a traditional oval shape, so there can be enough for everybody (yes, we have large families, and we like to invite lots of friends home... besides, each one eats usually two pieces). And that is also why now there are several figurines, so many can divide the cost of the tamales for such a large party (the economy doesn't help either).

The Spanish Roscón and the Mexican Rosca (the differences are very clear)

Some say that it is a blessing to find the muñequito (jesus figurine) and that it brings good luck... but anyway I don't care, I still don't want to be the one who has to pay for the tamales. Also, the tradition is shared in school and work places, so you end up cutting 3 or 4 roscas in a week (imagine all the muñequitos you can get!!!).

Two of my bests friends (David and Alhe) found muñequitos this year (they still owe me some tamales...)

This celebration is even more special for the children, because the Wise Men come and bring them several toys and treats if they have been good (we also have Santa Claus on Christmas, but the Wise Men are more important here).

So with this entry I kind of catch up with some of the things that I wanted to write related to the Mexican traditions that take place after New Year's Eve. I really found out to many details and facts that I didn't imagine. I hope it was interesting to you as well.

by Lil21