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The Cookstr Weekly: A Cinco de Mayo Menu

May 7, 2012

Cinco de Mayo is a curious phenomenon: celebrated mostly in America, it’s often assumed to mark Mexican Independence Day (which falls on September 16). It actually commemorates the Mexican victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It’s observed regionally in Puebla, Mexico, but in America the holiday has taken on a life of its own as a cultural celebration centered around symbols of Mexican heritage. Mexican food is a vital part of that culture, but what exactly constitutes authentic Mexican food sparks ongoing contention. American appropriation and variation of Mexican cuisine goes back at least to the 19th century, when canned chili con carne and early frozen burritos made for entrepreneurial success. Before that, the Spanish conquest of Mexico brought beef and cheese to the forefront of Mexican cuisine, where we imagine them permanently situated. Both Mexican and non-Mexican authors like Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless have helped introduce the world to authentic Mexican food as well as creative interpretations of it. Start with Classic Tortilla Soup with All the Trimmings by Rick Bayless, then mix and match the recipes below for a Cinco de Mayo menu that acknowledges both its Mexican and American underpinnings.

More Cinco de Mayo Recipes from Cookstr

“I love the salty crunch of sautéed calamari with the tangy juices of tomato and lemon juice. The green touch of parsley gives a bite of freshness that balances the oil and butter, and the jalapeño gives the taste a final zing. Don’t bother cleaning and cutting the calamari yourself. It’s worth going to a good fishmonger and asking him or her to do all the hard work of dressing the squid into neat rings. Many stores now sell bags of frozen calamari, and these work fine, too. Checca is an Italian word (pronounced kekka) for a chopped tomato and herb salad. Mine is a bit non-traditional because I add jalapeños. But you can leave them out if you like things milder.” – Padma Lakshmi

 Recipes Recently Added: Rhubarb Rice Pudding 

“I used to pick rhubarb in my granny Gee-Gee’s garden when I was about seven, with a bowl of sugar clutched in my fat little hand. The trick was to lick the rhubarb, dip it in the sugar, and crunch away. I would always do it to excess, which was a surefire way to aching guts, and Gee-Gee clucking over me with some milk of magnesia. Prepared this way, you have all the joy without the pain, and if you have access to a bumper crop, follow Mrs. Beeton’s example and make some jam.” – Sophie Dahl, Very Fond of Food: A Year of Recipes 
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