December 19, 2014

Traditional Mexican VS Tex-Mex Cusine

     After first moving to New York, my family and I were lamenting not knowing where any good Mexican Restaurants were located.  Someone that we know piped up, "Oh I know where a good Mexican place is!" Excitedly we asked where the restaurant was, and what it was named.  Our friend told us that the restaurant was located in Canandaigua and it was called Taco Bell. Somewhat taken aback I repeated, "Taco Bell."  Her response was, "Exactly!" Having grown up visiting the South-West every summer, and having been raised by South-Western parents, I have learned to appreciate Mexican cuisine   Taco Bell, though tasty and nice when you're on the run, has never been my idea of Mexican food.  Huevos Rancheros, pico de gallo, and tacos de haring are all dishes that I am used to seeing and ordering.

     After talking with my friend about where to find good Mexican, I realized that "Mexican food" isn't always the easiest thing to understand.  I wanted to learn what authentic Mexican cuisine actually was.  What makes a dish non-Mexican? Why do so many American's think of chimichanga, hard tacos, and fajitas as true Mexican? At the time I thought about these things.  However, it wasn't until this semester of Spanish that I decided to actually study it, and see what I could learn.

     I read many articles, but being a tactile person I really wondered what the difference truly was.  Different ingredients, different dishes, and a bit of history give us the difference between authentic Mexican, and what is known as Tex-Mex.  But I wanted to know how it would taste, and what it would be like to make a dish from the two cuisines.  I want to take you through this journey with me, and along the way I will show you what I learned.

     When I decided to head South of the border, I choose pozole as my meal.  Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup.  This authentic dish is believed to have originated as far back as the aztecs.  Now a days there are many variations and tweaks that people will make to this dish.  I personally really wanted to keep it simple and make a very traditional, and basic pozole.  After going through many recipes I went with the one that seemed to best fit my desire for authenticity as much as possible. 

Cast of Characters
     The recipe I used called for a pork shoulder, garlic, hominy, salt, cumin, as well as stock or water.  Chile pequin was in the list of garnishes, however after being unable to find it at any stores I found what is considered a substitute, ground cayenne red pepper.  I decided to make it an ingredient rather then just a garnish, as that was what many recipes recommended.  

Communal Pot
      In Mexican culture Lunch is generally the biggest meal of the day.  It is a time to socialize, and connect with family and friends.  A bigger pot then this would be needed in order to let everyone eat a hearty and filling meal!

     Hominy is maize, white or yellow, which has had its kernel removed.  I bought canned hominy, for convince.  But if you wanted to hunt down dried hominy you would soak it for 8 or so hours, and then let it simmer for an hour or more, to bring it to the soft and puffy state that is needed for pozole.  Though I can't say hominy is never used in a Tex-Mex dish, I can say that I have never seen it in a Tex-Mex dish.  Leading to my conclusion that hominy is sadly undervalued in the Tex-Mex community.

      Garlic is used in many recipes, and is considered to be one of the more authentic ingredients in Mexican cuisine.  All the pozole recipes I found, and many other authentic dishes, contained a great amount of garlic.  This recipe went a little light on the garlic.  What with calling for only 3-5 cloves.  Though garlic is generally considered to be authentically Mexican, it was introduced by the Spaniards upon coming into contact with the Mexican culture.
        Though this piece in Mexican cuisine was introduced with the Spanish, it has become so ingrained and widely used in true-blue Mexican dishes that it rightfully takes it's place as an authentic ingredient.  In some Tex-Mex garlic is used.  However when it comes to chains such as taco bell, chipotle, Moe's Southwest grill, and others like them, garlic is often left to the wayside.  If you can find a proper Mexican restaurant though you'll find that garlic is present in many dishes.

Blending it All 
      At this point I combined the whole pork shoulder, clover garlic, rinsed hominy, salt, cumin, as well as stock into the pot. The flavors contained in these ingredients are the ones that will permeate in this dish.  They will make the base flavor that can latter be built upon. 

The Cooking
    The soup then was brought to a boil.  After boiling I turned it down to low, and let it simmer for two hours.  The chili, garlic, and pork blended into a perfect aroma, and it hung around the house for days.  

Shredding the Pork

     I took out the pork and let it cool before shredding it.  I wanted to get my mind a little more involved with this though, so I dug around for some history.  As I expected, pozole, like many things, has evolved over time.  The particular recipe I used is one that plausibly has been around for 100's of years.  When I did some more research I saw that the meat choice is what kept this recipe from dating back to the aztecs.  Pozole is thought to have originally been made after human sacrifice rituals, and would be made with the meat of the sacrifices.  This practice fell out of use, due to the Spaniards discomfort with cannibalism.  Human flesh was replaced with Pork.  Thus, pork is now what is authentically associated with Pozole.  Some newer meat choices would be chicken, and beef.

     This is where you see a lot of the differences in traditional Mexican food and Tex-Mex.  Pinto beans, white rice, garlic, onion, avocado, limes, chilies, and white cheese (such as queso blanco, queso Oaxaca, queso panela, añejo, etc.) are all signs of an authentic Mexican meal.  Mexican is often spicy, and contains contrasting colors as well as flavors.  The cheese is always lightly put on, and never the luminescent yellow we are so used to in America.  

     The differences between traditional Mexican, and Tex-Mex are often small.  Tex-Mex came out of Mexico.  When Texan's replaced corn with wheat, and vegetables with more cheese, and white cheese with yellow it started the Tex-Mex cuisine.  Tex-Mex has grown to be fuller of fats, and oils and left behind the abundance of veggies, and spiciness.

     Though Tex-Mex is most certainly delicious and appealing to our American fast buds, Mexican will hold it's own.  As it has for centuries.  I found it interesting to learn more about Mexican cuisine.  I will most definitely desire to remake this recipe again, and find more authentic recipes to try.  Although I like the super cheesy nachos, hard shelled tacos, and refried bean burritos served at so many Tex-Mex places, I will understand better what true Mexican is.  I am glad that this class gave me the chance to learn more about this.  I will never again look at Tex-Mex the same, and I will always favor true Mexican, and all it's wonderful flavors and colors.  

Further Reading: 

"Tex-Mex.", n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

"America's 15 Best Tex-Mex Chain Restaurants (Slideshow)." The Daily Meal. The Daily Meal, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

Goyanes, Cristina. "What's Really Inside That Taco Bell Crunchy Beef Taco?" LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 01 May 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

Lapetina, Adam. "What's the Difference between Tex-Mex and REAL Mexican
Food?" Thrillist. N.p., 30 Apr. 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

Fitzsimons, Jo. "Everything You Need to Know About Traditional Mexican Food and Drink." BootsnAll. BootsnAll, 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

Willett, Megan. "9 Authentic Mexican Dishes You Should Eat Instead Of The Tex-Mex Knockoffs." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 01 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

"La Crónica De Hoy | Los Mexicanos Prehispánicos Comían Pozole Con Carne Humana." La Crónica De Hoy | Los Mexicanos Prehispánicos Comían Pozole Con Carne Humana. N.p., 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

Jinich, Pati. "Tex-Mex Cooking: It's Not Mexican, and Maybe That's the Point." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

"Pozole Recipe (Mexican Pork and Hominy Stew)." Whats4eats. N.p., 27 July 2008. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.

"Mexican Eating Habits - The Mexican Culture's Ways of Eating." Ixtapa Mexican Grill & Cantina. N.p., 04 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

Alfaro, Danilo. "What Is the Definition of Hominy?" About Food. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.

November 29, 2014

Thank You!

     Recently I hit 3,500 views.  It hit and I was freakin' out.  (Yes spell check claims that "freakin'" isn't a word... it is people. It is.)

     I was just so pleased.  My thoughts have been taken in and considered 3000+ times! I was just like, "Did you see that? Are you seeing this? Oh my goodness... maybe I actually can write interesting things!"  And this, clearly and most logically, led to Twilight.

     I mean.... "write interesting things." What is that?  Twilight gave teenage girls everywhere something easy, wanted, and fluffy to read.  Kinda like whipped cream.  Who doesn't like spraying rich, creamy, fluffy, digestible whipped cream into their mouth?!?  Okay... maybe those allergic to milk... but you get what I'm trying to say.  Twilight was written poorly, it came in a cheap can, yet it fed teen girls what they wanted complete with a cherry on top.  As a generalization girls want to be seen, desired, loved, and know that there guy will be proud of her, and fight for her.  Bella had nothing interesting about her.  So, if it could happen for her, couldn't it happen for anyone??

     Twilight was a classic, and rather potent case of giving an audience what they want.

     Bleak House, and Les Miserables however are examples of books that didn't give what an audience what they wanted.  Instead they gave what was needed.  

     They gave thought, and talent, rather then sugar coated desire. 

     So when I go to my blog to update, check, and write new content... and I see that I have now reached the thousands.  I look at it and hope with all my heart that there are views because what I say is actually interesting, thoughtful, and lovely.

     When I first started this blog, I really wanted to get my ideas out. I wanted to let my thoughts be read.  That dream is being fulfilled, and it has gone infinitely better then I thought it would.  I now have more then 3 views... From my mom. I have over 3,000 from people I know, and those I don't!

     Thank you to all those who have viewed, and will view my thoughts.  I love that, even for a brief moment, our souls can be joined through my writing and your reading. 

November 24, 2014

Will We Ever Heal?

     The other day, nearing the end of my chemistry class, a friend of mine pulled out his phone and then laughed.  Being the naturally inquisitive person I am, I asked what was funny.  My friend began by explaining that on Twitter there is an anonymous feed called "yik yak."  Then he asked "You know how all the Black people sit on the bench at the top of the stairs? Right next to the entrance?"  Without waiting for a response he read what someone had said over yik yak.

     A nameless user of yik yak had written, "Did you see that slave auction at the top of the stairs?"

     I'm not sure how to describe my distress.  Not only was I chagrined (to put it lightly) that someone would say such a thing, however I also felt anguish over the fact that this friend of mine could find such an offensive thing funny.  I felt truly miserable because when he read it out loud I was one of only a handful that seemed to think it inappropriate.  At least 7 others (in a class of 20) laughed out loud, and no one but me and one other, said we thought it a disgusting thing to say.

     This experience was something that really affected me.  I think that it isn't so much just because I was disappointed with my friends (in this instance), but more so because it made me think on a bigger scale.

     In the 1870's our country, America, passed the 15th amendment.  This amendment gave African American's the right to vote.  Sadly, at that point, though the law allowed for them to vote, many states set up events, laws, or scare tactics to keep them from the voting booths.  Now I think it is safe to say that those obstacles and issues have been removed.  However, how well do we maintain equality?

     I don't think anyone in my chemistry class would say African American's shouldn't vote.  I think that the person who posted anonymously on yik yak wouldn't say such a thing to their fellow students face.  This being said, on some level, equality was not shown in this instance.

     Our country is a healing one.  America began as the land of the "free."  All better off white males were free.  Our young nation has improved and exemplified this statement more fully over the last few centuries. By giving African Americans, women, and average citizens legal rights, and many social rights as well. However, it clearly has more room to grow.  Though the laws reflect equality I think we have yet to gain an equal and free minded nation overall.

     I hope that someday such rude and cruel things will not be said at all, much less received in such a disgusting bout of mirth.

November 18, 2014

A Tribute

     Happy Birthday Grandpa! 
     Kindness, gentleness, and love.  Stories of the Wickenberg Triangle, camping trips, when you were dating Nanna, and your children.  Memories of sitting on your arm-rest, choosing homemade ice cream flavors, getting Swedish fish, being carried to your bed when sick, our pizza outings, and the times you'd take me to write all day with you.  There are so many things to thank you for.  I love the memory of you taking the time to try and prepare a 10 year old me for the stupidity, adoration, and hurt called boys.  I remember discussing the vastness of space and how you would explain things until I truly understood them.  I hope you are among those stars now, exploring the cosmos you so loved.

     Gosh I miss you.

     "Now I miss you more then I can take
      and I will surely break."

     "There's nothing more to it, 
       I just get through it."

October 26, 2014

On "Sex Appeal"

     Over the last 16 years, I have been raised in a culture where modesty is important.  Because of being a "Mormon" I am almost hyper aware of how I dress or come across.  My parents raised me to see that my body was something sacred and not to be flaunted before the world.

     Now something I find hard, in this world that I grow up in, is that modesty is something that is not taken for granted, or expected.  This I understand.  Most of the time cultures lacking my standards is fine.  The world may be what it will, I will still be me.  However, something I do take issue with and find offensive is the prevalence of online images made to be immodest and sensual.  I am not talking necessarily about pornography, or explicit images.  I am simply talking about all the fandom made images, video game characters, genera models, advertising in general, and media in which the woman are obviously there for sex appeal.

     I find it hard to be barraged constantly by pictures of singers, actresses, models and "sexy" video game characters.  Through these pictures woman are told many different things.  When a friend says, "I just love playing this character!" and proceeds to show you pictures of a tall looking woman who has large breasts, an abnormally thin waist, and a large... rump, I can't help wincing. Then to see this character, with the body proportions that men seem to want, fighting battles and doing it while in a skin tight dress is more then disheartening.

     The problem for me is that even if you aren't viewing porn you see women being objectified online ALL the time.  This leads me to wonder how a real relationship will ever work in the future.  As a Mormon, I am who I am, people may objectify me in their own minds, but I shall never let myself be used as an object.  However, I still feel a pang knowing I can never measure up to what is portrayed online and in our larger American culture.  I am a real girl, and as such I have hair that doesn't look silky, and when the wind blows it all wants to go into my mouth.  I am average height exactly, my curves aren't even in the range of online gaming characters curves, I wear normal clothes,  and I don't fight monsters... and the thing is it hurts.  Through these images I see what many males would consider the "ideal" woman, and I am far from it body wise, activity wise, and not to mention dress wise.

     I have nothing against gaming (in moderation).  I have nothing against woman being allowed to dress how they will.  I do take issue with the fact that I can see how easily it would be to "undress" many video game characters.  I find it hard to believe that any man will seek for a worthwhile, and meaningful relationship in the future, because why should he?  Why should you go for the real thing, when the fake thing has everything you'd like to see and is so much less work?  Because of media and gaming I at least feel a layer of distress, and stress added to my life as I watch my friends spend hours playing with these "perfectly" formed and appealing characters.

     No woman is just her body, and I find it unfortunate that inadvertently boys and men put such stress on the physical.

October 21, 2014

Being a Feminine Feminist

     The other day I was asked if I am a feminist.  It was one of those odd questions that I'm not even sure there was context for.  It just sort of came up and I honestly didn't have a response.  Thus, I have been thinking about it a good deal since then.

     What I have decided is that yes I am a feminist.  To be a feminist, according to the dictionary, means to believe in social, political, and economical equality between men and woman.  I most certainly do believe in equality between genders.  I think it is important that all men and women are taken seriously, and have equal rights in all matters.

     So, what was my hesitation in saying, "Yes, I am a feminist"?  Well, I think my hesitation came not because of the principle ideology of feminism, but rather because of how feminists go about seeking what they desire.  When I look at feminism, at least in America, I often find myself seeing women who are gaining mans rights for themselves.

     Most feminists are not making it so a women staying at home is equal to a man working to provide.  They are saying that women who work are equal to men that work.  Yes, I believe that a women should be payed the same as a man at any job.  Yes I think that women should have the choice to stay at home, or go into a career other then motherhood.  However, I think that the true change is one which doesn't involve women becoming more like men in order to be equal.
     I see a world in which the mother is valued as much as the providing father; where the stay-at-home dad is equal to his lawyer wife; and where women and men are equally respected, no matter their chosen paths in life.  I see a world where a Jane Austin loving, dress wearing, flower gathering, and desirous mother-to-be is as respected and safe as the bearded, tattooed, and motorcycling man.

     Am I a feminist? Yes.

     But perhaps I am not an average one.

March 3, 2014

Dear Drivers,

Hello there!  I'm a bit new to this club... in fact, I don't even have a drivers license yet.  I've got a permit though.  Which is TOTALLY fun and worthwhile.  I just thought I should mention a couple things to y'all; due mostly, to the fact that some people seem to be a little too laid back about driving a death machine at incredible speeds.  So here they are (and yes I’m numbering them for easy reference):

  1. There are these octagon shaped signs, and for easy reference they are red, and only put at intersections.  In case you are having a hard time remembering, these signs have BIG white lettering on it that read: "STOP"  Yes, that is a real quote.  Now, I know I'm new to this whole thing... but, as far as I can tell, those signs actually mean that you’re supposed to stop.  Like, stop... not "Slowly inch up until you can see that traffic is clear and then speed up" or "Slow down and be ready to stop if completely necessary.  So, maybe we could all get on the same page there.

  1. White signs with numbers on them... these ones are sometimes called "speed signs" or “speed limit markers,”  they actually mean exactly what the name implies.  That the ‘little’ black numbers are the speed people are ‘supposed’ to be going.  So, lets pretend someone is going 40 mph and the ‘little’ black numbers actually read "40," that means, that the person, is in fact, following the speed limit... so, there’s no need to get frustrated.  There is simply no need.  You can follow the speed limit too!

  1. Pulling out in front of someone on short notice is frustrating.  It’s even a little more frustrating then being invited to do something last minute and then not being able to go.  It’s just silly too.  I mean, you can’t wait 5 seconds, and pull out after a car has passed?  Here is a bonus of about 5 seconds, you could even form a complete thought about something in that window of time.  You could decide that you do in fact like chocolate ice cream best (though if you question that maybe you shouldn't be allowed to drive).  Or, you could decide that you should call that person who has been trying to get ahold of you for weeks.

  1. Now onto the matter of phones.  STOP using them please!  Not only are you a hazard to everyone, but even when you complete a drive and haven't crashed, the fact is that you were probably annoying thought the whole drive.  You were all over the road, and/or you were annoyingly speeding up and then slowing down.  If that didn't convince you... maybe this will:  You don't use your phone in the shower, because it would ruin the phone.  So why would you drive and use your phone??  You could possibly ruin your phone by using it in the car.  You could also ruin a human body... but you know, technology is the priority here.

  1. There are these things called cross walks.  It’s where people are technically supposed to walk.  Something to know about them is that you are never supposed to stop on them.  When you stop for a light, you should be behind the cross walk.  That way people can... wait for it... WALK!  It would be, and is frustrating when people decide to walk across the road in places they aren't supposed to cross.  So, how annoying is it when people stop fully on or even a little bit on the crosswalk, where people are supposed to be moving?

So I hope that wasn't TOO harsh and that all of you driving people can shape up just a little bit.  Its hard being a new driver, its harder when people are doing frustratingly not-proper-driving things.
                                                                  With many wishes of improvement,

                                                                                                              The Damsel