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Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making…

Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity (Dialogos…

by Jeffrey M. Pilcher

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Fascinating study of the ways in which the formation of the Mexican national identity shaped the formation of the Mexican national cuisine. Presentation of facts about and some analysis of pre-Columbian through early 19th-century colonial cuisine, but analysis is scant compared to the book's strength in the Independence-to-Revolution period. Historical analysis ends rather abruptly around 1968. The stronger sections of the book have plenty of info and analysis, though, discussing material markers of hierarchy in early modern European and colonial society, the role of cuisine in maintaining class distinctions in various phases of Mexico's national development and in developing an industrial working class, distinctly Mexican ways of viewing 19th-century theories of cultural development, the symbolism of corn, wheat, and the metate, the discoveries of the nutritional properties of nixtamalized corn and its pairing with beans, the invention of technologies to simplify tortilla making, and the malnutrition brought on by the industrialization of food. Author displays an unfortunate chauvinism against regional Mexican cuisines that have developed outside the current political boundaries of Mexico--which is itself a reflection of a current in Mexican nationalism. However, his history (which is sometimes a bit lacking in dates) is detailed enough that readers can begin to imagine how it applies to those cuisines, as well. ( )
1 vote EstherCervantes | Mar 23, 2009 |
A small little book on Mexican food and its relationship with Mexican culture, gender, and nationalism. Pilcher does a nice enough job laying out his ideas, but it lacks any central thesis that might tie the book together better - which is particularly galling in the last few chapters when much of the focus shifts away from Mexico and towards French and European cuisine, which was particularly puzzling. Additionally the prose is very, very meandering in places.

My only other complaint is the lack of actual pictures of the food Pilcher discusses so much, just a wee annoying.

*** out of ***** ( )
1 vote CSL | Feb 2, 2008 |
This is a great book for anyone interested in Latin America, or food and how it relates to culture. ( )
  lizatoad | Apr 26, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0826318738, Paperback)

Connections between what people eat and who they are--between cuisine and identity--reach deep into Mexican history, beginning with pre-Columbian inhabitants offering sacrifices of human flesh to maize gods in hope of securing plentiful crops. This cultural history of food in Mexico traces the influence of gender, race, and class on food preferences from Aztec times to the present and relates cuisine to the formation of national identity.

The metate and mano, used by women for grinding corn and chiles since pre-Columbian times, remained essential to preparing such Mexican foods as tamales, tortillas, and mole poblano well into the twentieth century. Part of the ongoing effort by intellectuals and political leaders to Europeanize Mexico was an attempt to replace corn with wheat. But native foods and flavors persisted and became an essential part of indigenista ideology and what it meant to be authentically Mexican after 1940, when a growing urban middle class appropriated the popular native foods of the lower class and proclaimed them as national cuisine.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:50 -0400)

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