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What's Cooking Mexico

Posted Mar 01 2011 12:00am

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been cooking that much since the tamalada . I have been so busy with other projects and going everywhere with Ruth that I just haven’t had the time. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been enjoying great food. How could you not in this city? I’ve been visiting so many restaurants, fairs, markets and street booths that it’s hard to keep track of all the amazing food.. Don’t worry, I’ll write about it in the near future. Eating is only the research part of my job, writing about it is the other part. I just need to make the time to do it. Have I mentioned how much I love my job?

Santiago Tulyehualco is a town in the borough of Xochimilco in the southeast of Mexico City. The history of this town dates back to 1181 when a group of Xochimilcas founded the little village. Tulyehualco means “the place around the tules” (swamp cypress) in Nahuatl. Today it is a large neighborhood that incorporates several barrios and farm lands. It is also the venue of two important fairs, the ice cream fair during the spring and La Feria del Olivo y la Alegría (Olive and Joy Fair) in January-February. Ruth and I visited the latter a couple of weeks ago and I was surprised of the variety of products that were offered in the small feria.

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Alegría, roughly translated as joy in English, is a kind of candy made with amaranth and honey that has been eaten by indigenous people for thousands of years in the valley of Mexico. Even though the name of the feria is Olivo and alegría, the real star of the fair is amaranth. Olive played an important part of the area’s economy during the colonial era. However, olive trees are not common here anymore and most of the olive oil and aceitunas (olives) sold here are not grown in the area. The loss of this industry over the years is a shame.

On the other hand, alegrías are a very popular (and healthy) treat and I was very pleased to see that the main ingredient, amaranth, was being presented in many other forms and that the sellers were eager to talk about this forgotten superfood that some people in Mexico are trying to bring back. We tasted amaranth tamales and atole, bread made with amaranth flour, amaranth doughnuts, amaranth fresh water. Among other products that we saw were amaranth pizzas, calzones, cookies,  granola and even pulque.

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The fair takes place in the main plaza of the town next to the market. So we didn’t waste the opportunity to walk around the market (Ruth and I just love Mexican markets) and buy some fresh produce and meat.

Examining tomatillos

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Even though Tulyehualco is technically part of the city, going there felt like going to the country side. People are very friendly and willing to share their knowledge and stories with strangers. The rush and stress that you can breathe in the rest of the city doesn’t seem to have found its way here. Unfortunately we had to get back to early because of other commitments and we couldn’t spend more time exploring the fair and Tulyehualco, but we’ll be back in a few weeks for the Ice Cream Fair. That is one that we can’t miss!

Amaranth is such a great grain that I’m going to dedicate a whole series of posts to it. Some of you asked for the amaranth and chocolate cookies recipe and I’m going to post it soon, but sweets are not the only things you can make with this amazing superfood. Stay tuned to learn more about it. It will blow your mind away!

To see more pictures of this feria click on the image below:

Tulyehualco Feria de la Alegria and Mercado

¡Buen provecho!


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