Who Harvested Maize First: The Aztecs or the Mayans?
DEAR MEXICAN: This is going to sound absolutely and totally Caucasian. Lately, we have been trying to lighten the mood around the office with delicate bits of international confections. With all that's going on in the world, who needs one more worry? With that said, we are struck by yet another issue to ponder. Just the other day at my birthday celebration, I insisted on a lilac-toned bomb cake from a pricey bakery in Monterey. In addition to this, some of my Mexican sisters brought something called tres leches.
To try to begin to describe the subtle richness and the coolness upon the tongue, I left my bomb cake standing alone like a wall flower at a seventh-grade dance. To this end, we are still arguing about what in the heck the THIRD leche is in the tres leches? We have cow as leche number uno, goat as leche number dos . . . however, the mind spins with the possibilities of the tres leches?
Rattled In Ryan Ranch
DEAR GABACHA: I'm glad you enjoyed pastel de tres leches, but unless your Mexi amigas bought a gourmet version, you're wrong on all counts. Tres leches cake is traditionally made with evaporated milk, condensed milk and a layer of cream on top. Usually, Mexicans use goat milk to make cajeta, the mestizo cousin of caramel. You can drizzle that on the pastel de tres leches. Wash it down with horchata, and you'll have the sweetest combo to come out of Mexico since Salma Hayek's breasts.
DEAR MEXICAN: While trying to instill some history into my girlfriend, who is also Mexican (well, I was born acá, y ella, allá), I told her that maize was first harvested by Aztecs, whereas she states it was the Mayans who kept la yunta andando for corn first. Could you please enlighten her by telling that she's wrong?
DEAR WAB: Drop the Aztec love, cabrón! Everyone knows they were just a parasite empire that absorbed attributes from the many cultures and people who preceded them, from the Olmecs to Toltecs to Mayans to whoever the hell built Teotihuacán. And the fact is both of you are wrong. Trying to determine who domesticated corn is as impossible as finding a Mexican-owned truck without a sticker of a bull, a hometown or stick figures depicting a family, but the great book America's First Cuisines notes scientists in 1964 found evidence of domestication and harvesting in the Tehuacan valley (around the states of Puebla and Oaxaca) dating back to 5,000 B.C.—more than 2,000 years before aliens built the pyramids in Egypt as guides or whatever the latest Coast to Coast A.M. explanation is. The domestication of maize (and the miracle that is nixtamalization, which makes masa possible) is Mexico's greatest gift to the world, greater even than Salma Hayek's boobs of glory.
CRAZY NEWS! You're favorite columna is being turned into a play! ¡Ask a Mexican! will get its first reading this Friday at the prestigious off-Broadway Atlantic Theater Co. as part of its annual Latino Mixfest. A special gracias to my writing partner, Atlantic's artistic leadership associate Jaime Castaneda (a Tejano, but that's okay), for wanting to do this. For my Puebla York cabrones interested in attending the reading: It's free, but you must RSVP—more info at atlantictheater.org. For everyone else—start bugging your local theater company to stage the play come next year!
GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK! Since this is my annual food edición, a shout-out to all the original loncheros—those taco-truck pioneers across the country who fought the law and racist ordinances to ensure we can all enjoy a late-night taco. All you luxe lonchera folks slinging "gourmet" food: Pay respects to your elders when you park next to them at the commissary. Yes, gentle readers: Roach coaches and "gourmet" food trucks spend their nights together. Imagine that!
This column appeared in print as "Special Comida Edition."
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