In honour of our upcoming World Pasta Day, and subsequent week of gastronomic getaways, we’ve taken the opportunity to dive into the culinary pasts of each of our chosen cuisines to bring you a cultural banquet of these rich histories.
Given the heterogeneity of the land encompassed by Mexico, it is often difficult to identify exactly what constitutes the country’s main cuisine; from its federal states all the way down to the minutiae of individual towns, everywhere has its own, distinct culinary specialities. The trade of local commodities and continual movement of people across the country has facilitated the development of different tastes; tastes that have become tied to various collective identities and cultures. As food historian Jeffrey Picher points out, there have been several attempts at putting together a national anthology of Mexican food, the first of which was Cocina mexicana, o historia gastronomica de la Ciudad de México (Mexican Cuisine, or Gastronomic History of the City of Mexico). This compilation suggested that the capital’s foods were representative of its national cuisine, yet, such an assumption does little but erase the sheer variety of Mexico’s culinary regionality. To truly understand and celebrate the beautifully diverse, gastronomic heritage of this Central American heartland, we have to go back...all the way back to the Mayans and Aztecs.
A Culinary Empire
It is important to note that the people who are known as the ‘Aztecs’ and ‘Maya’ still live in Mexico and Central America today, and inhabit the same areas as their ancestors. Although the Aztec empire has long since fallen, its political centre, Mexico City, is still vibrant and an important trading location. As antiquity would have it, the Maya were nomads, hunting and gathering the produce of the local area. Still popular today, corn tortillas with bean paste were a common food item, but the Maya also consumed a variety of tropical fruits, game and fish from the surrounding seas.
Well into the 1300s, The Aztec Empire was flourishing, and though Mayan food remained popular, many other food items had started to come to the fore. The piquant bite of a chili pepper for example, as well as the comforting sweetness of chocolate were among the main items that found their way into local homes and now both endure a reputation as being staples of the modern palate. Some of the game which had previously been caught in the wild, such as turkey and duck, had now become domesticated. Just over 200 years later, Mexico was invaded by the Spanish who brought with them an abundance of livestock, including cattle, pigs, and sheep. The 1500s were, in this way, a unique turning point for Mexican civilisation: it was at this time that the population assimilated with many other global cuisines including French, West African, and Portugeuse dishes. As a result, Mexico in the 21st century remains a place of continual culinary evolution; a true home toflavour, innovation and diversity.
Our World Pasta Day special draws on the country’s rich gastronomic heritage, combining jalapeño from the vibrant state of Veracruz with fresh cicatelli pasta, traditionally made in Puglia on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
México 🇲🇽 | Cicatelli with Jalapeño Pesto - Given the Pugliese share Mexicans’ fervour for all things spicy, cicatelli pasta, traditionally made by hand in Puglia, is a fitting pairing for jalapeño pesto.
When our customers told us they wanted to visit Mexico on our global gastronomic getaway for World Pasta Day, the jalapeño simply had to be part of the journey. Originating thousands of years ago in what is now modern-day Mexico, the history of this piquant pepper is as vibrant as its flavour. The jalapeño pepper’s name literally translates as ‘from Xalapa’, which refers to the bustling capital city of the Mexican state, Veracruz, where the peppers were supposedly first harvested. Fresh jalapeños have a distinctively bright, green flavour with a good amount of kick without being too spicy.
We pair our limited edition jalapeño pesto with cicatelli, a boat-like pasta shape with scalloped edges, traditionally made by hand in the southern region of Puglia. This felt a fitting pairing as, aside from Puglia having a similar climate to Mexico, the Pugliese share Mexicans’ fervour for all things spicy, readily incorporating all sorts of chillies into their cooking. Finished with toasted flaked almonds for a nutty contrast to the zest & spice of the pesto, this dish is a fiesta for the tastebuds. Buen Provecho!