In Uruapan, Michoacán, on December 3, 2010, multicolored papel picado (cut paper streamers) billowed in the evening breeze to announce our tremendous pride in the VII Encuentro de Cocina Tradicional de Michoacán (Seventh Annual Michoacán Traditional Food Festival).
A sumptuous and traditional mole con pollo (mole with chicken) as prepared by Antonina González Leandro of Tarerio, Michoacán. Sra. González participated in the concurso de la Zona Lacustre (Lake Pátzcuaro region competition) that took place this year in Pátzcuaro. In addition to this mole, she prepared pozole de elote con conejo (fresh-corn stew with rabbit), several other savory dishes, and a wonderful sweet dried-corn snack called ponteduro.
In Pátzcuaro on December 4, 2010, Sra. Antonina González paused at her booth to pose with Cynthia Martínez, in charge of Morelia's Restaurante San Miguelito.
Each of the last several years, Mexico Cooks! has been privileged to be included on the teams of speakers, judges, and hosts for Michoacán's annual traditional cuisine spectacular. This year, our joyous cup of participation in the festival was filled to overflowing by the two-week-prior notice that Mexico's cuisine, and especially the cuisine of Michoacán, had been designated as a UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity--the first cuisine in the world to be so honored. Three cities in central Michoacán (Morelia, Uruapan, and Pátzcuaro) were named to host this year's food festival, and all three went completely overboard in welcoming every participant: host committees, notable chefs and food writers from all parts of Mexico and other countries, hundreds of proud and happy local and regional eaters, and the people without whom there would be no reason to have the party: the stupendous traditional cooks from the Purhépecha communities throughout this part of the state.
In Morelia on December 5, 2010, Dra. Gloria López Morales, president of the Conservatorio de la Cultura Gastronómica Mexicana, shares her views on topics related to Mexico's November triumph at UNESCO.
In Pátzcuaro, Mexico Cooks! talks about Michoacán cuisine with (left) Christian Plotzcyk and (right) David Suárez of the New York restaurant group Rosa Mexicano.
A number of internationally known chefs and food writers attended the festival this year. Among them were Patricia Quintana, Alicia Gironella d'Angeli, Rubén Hernández, Roberto González Guzmán, Sol Rubín de Borbolla, Cristina Palacio, and Gabriel Gutiérrez García, all from Mexico City; Cynthia Martínez, Alma Cervantes, and Joaquín Bonilla of Morelia; and Susana Trilling of Oaxaca. In addition, David Suárez and Christian Plotzcyk of the Rosa Mexicano restaurant group based in New York City and Iliana de la Vega of the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, Texas represented the interest of the United States. The festival also counted on the participation of internationally renowned Michoacán chefs Rubí Silva Figueroa (Restaurante Los Mirasoles, Morelia), Lucero Soto Arriaga (Restaurante LU, Morelia), and Blanca Estela Vidales (Restaurante La Mesa de Blanca, Ziracuaretiro, Michoacán), who, along with teams of cooks and assistants, prepared several banquets for specially invited festival participants and guests.
In Uruapan, we tasted delicious jahuacatas (corundas created using layers of frijoles molidos (beans ground on the traditional metate) and fresh masa (corn dough), as prepared by Sra. Juanita Bravo Lázaro from Angahuan, Michoacán. Sra. Bravo served these marvelous jahuacatas with an atápakua de calabaza (thick squash sauce). This preparation won the prize for the best traditional dish. Click on the photograph to enlarge the picture for a better view of the layers.
None of the judges had previously heard of--much less tasted--these incredibly delicious yurucurindas. Once we tasted them in Uruapan, we couldn't stop recommending them to everyone in earshot. "Hurry, get one before they're gone!" we mumbled with our mouths full. Similar in size to but a bit thicker than a standard corn tortilla, the yurucurindas are made from blue corn masa, piloncillo (Mexican raw sugar cones), and canela molida (ground cinnamon), and then baked on a traditional comal de barro (clay griddle). Even this long after the festival, the photo still makes my mouth water at the memory!
Señora Benedicta Alejo Vargas of San Lorenzo, Michoacán is one of the greatest traditional cooks in the Uruapan area. The internationally known Sra. Alejo won the prize for best rescued dish with churipo de carne seca (dried beef soup in the Purhépecha style). Rescued dishes include traditional preparations that are not usually prepared today and are on the verge of extinction. Photo courtesy Gabriel Gutiérrez García.
Mexico Cooks! noticed this basket of fresh green leaves on the table at Sra. Alejo's booth and asked what purpose they served. Sra. Alejo smiled and said, "When I was a little girl, my grandmother always put a basket of leaves on the table to use as napkins. It's part of my family's tradition." In addition to her prize-winning traditional churipo, Sra. Alejo prepared mole de conejo (rabbit mole), mole de queso (cheese mole), and tzirita, a botana (appetizer) made of finely ground chile seeds and other savory ingredients.
Thick and delicious atole de chaqueta is a corn-based hot drink flavored, in this instance, with the toasted and ground outer shells of the cacao (chocolate) bean. Nothing is wasted here in Michoacán's kitchens: imagine that such delicious things are made from what you might discard: chile seeds and the hulls of cocoa beans!
At the December 5, 2010 Morelia closure of the VII Encuentro de Cocina Tradicional de Michoacán, the prize-winning cocineras (cooks) and other dignitaries posed with (left foreground) Sra. Alicia Gironella d'Angeli, First Lady of Mexico's food world and chef/owner at Restaurante El Tajín in Mexico City and Dr. Genovevo Figueroa, secretary of tourism for the state of Michoacán. Both Sra. Gironella and Dr. Figueroa are long-time supporters of this annual Michoacán festival. Photo courtesy Rubén Hernández.
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