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Gastronomy "Bewitched by 1.000 flavours"
Oaxacan cooking is a pleasure and an art. A patient and labored practice always attentive to ritual, to the demands of a good table such as tradition, imagination, and great raw materials. Oaxacans have all that in spades. To the offerings of a prestigious and fertile nature were added, centuries ago, the sumptuousness of Mexican cooking and the baroque exaggerations of colonial times. The result is a gastronomic wonder of international fame.
Oaxacans demand that meals should begin with a plethora of flavors and should conclude in the same manner. For this reason, for instance, it can begin with the flavors of Choapan pepper or oregano from China and concludes with a homemade rompope (a variety of eggnog) baptized with blossom tea. The main courses can be made out of corn and meat, without forgetting the bread, made of wheat, lard, corn, or yolk, with sesame seeds, or lilies in the form of "muertitos", "tortitas", "tarazones", or "molletes." Corn bestows its thousands varieties to the Oaxacan table. It is possible to consume it young, as dough in tortillas, with all types of sauces, or for tamales, or in desserts mixed with chocolate. Tortillas are the most versatile items: folded in half and filling they are called quesadillas or empanadas; when the borders are pressed and have something spread on them, become picadas or gorditas. Fried, are called tostadas. Rolled, are called tacos, and so on to almost infinity. Meats demand hot pepper sauces or miltomates. These are aromatized with "yerba santa" (holy weed), avocado leaves, or oregano, aided by cloves, pepper, and cinnamon. Occasionally, they stumble on flowers or the so-called "Spanish fruits": raisins, almonds, capers, or olives. Among sauces, stands out the mole, this requires of more than thirty ingredients and distinguishes Oaxacan cooking. The mole variety is closely related to the variety of hot peppers, and begins with the simplest or mole colorado continues with the "manchamantel" (tablecloth stainer), served with pineapple and banana. The Chichilo with avocado leaves, they yellow one with string beans, and chayotes. The coloradito, and finally, the king: mole negro.
Oaxacan pastries are very baroque and its preparation demands time, fantasy, and dedication. There are "tortitas", "turrones", "tortillas de huevo" (egg tortillas), sherbets born of the ancient custom of bringing hail from the mountain when ice production was not possible, fruit popsicles, sweet seeds, cold extracts, "quesillo" (cheese), and exquisite string cheese. Coffee is exceptional and could compete, with a little promotion, with the best in the world in quality, taste, and aroma. It’s rival at mid afternoon is the chocolate that so bewitched Spaniards.
Between meals, there is space for all the popular snacks such as tamales, tortillas, clayudas, and totopos. Alcoholic beverages are Mezcal, pulque, tepache, or excellent Mexican beer. Refreshing drinks such as tejate (cold drink of ground cocoa diluted in corn water) or "aguas frescas" (natural-flavored beverage) that taste like pineapple beer, cantaloupe horchata, or guanabana with almonds.
"Chapulines Colorados" is the unique dish. These are minute grasshoppers served as appetizers, very salty and having their own legend: it is said that those who taste it will always come back to Oaxaca.
Mezcal, with a small worm
The Mezcal, the most genuine alcoholic beverage of the State of Oaxaca, receives its name from the Nahuatl language words elt, maguey, and izcaloa, to grill. It is made from an Agave cactus known as maguey espadin, which grows in the semi arid soil of the Tlacolula Valley. The process begins by gathering plants that have been growing for 8 or 10 years and weigh more than forty kilos each, to cook them in a conic oven made of stones covered with dirt and the process lasts three or four days. Once cooked, the plants are crushed with a circular millstone pulled by a horse, and once crushed, are placed in barrels for fermentation. After adding water to aid fermentation, the next step is distillation. The process ends when it is placed in white oak barrels for aging, which can prolong up to 12 years to obtain the best Mezcals. The Mezcal variety depends on age and the flavors employed: pure Mezcal, and Mezcal with natural fruits, almonds, etc. The most popular Mezcal includes the little worm. It is obtained adding to the Mezcal, once distilled and bottled a worm that grows at the Maguey’s root. The worm is fried before adding it, since alive does not lend the distinctive aroma or flavor that have won international recognition. In Taiwan, they prefer four little worms in every bottle instead of one.