Perspective: The Cultural (and Emotional) Side of Food; or, “if they complain, I’m never cooking for them again.”

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Pigs trotters on the left and posole on the right. Two of the foods featured prominently in this post.

Food is often exalted as an important aspect of heritage, of culture, and even emotion. Yet, many times, underlying this exaltation is an assumption that food, and especially taste, is inherently biological, that what I think is good to eat is the same for all people. What taste good to me, what looks good to me, tastes and looks good to everyone else. Since I like chocolate and milk and bacon, all others must. These things taste good to me, so they must taste good to you. As such, we are quick to call attention to those foods that are strange or seem even inedible to us as disgusting or gross, and we never think twice about it. By viewing food and taste as inherently biological, we treat these negative words as facts, and not what they are–judgements. Continue reading

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Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Nixtamalization But Didn’t Know to Ask

A number of New World food items, including maize, were adopted so quickly in Europe that they appeared in paintings by the mid-sixteenth century.

Vertumnus, a mid-sixteenth-century painting by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Note the use of a maize cob for an ear. Maize, like many New World food items, was rapidly assimilated into the culinary traditions of Europe, becoming common place within only a few decades after Columbus’s first trip.

Essential to hominy is the process of nixtamalization (pronounced NEESH-ta-mal-i-za-shun). It’s a tricky word, and honestly, it’s a tricky process. For this reason, there’s a lot of misinformation about what nixtamalization is and exactly what it does. Continue reading

Green Posole with Cod (from Bon Appetit)

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Image from Bon Appetit.

Posole (or pozole) is a traditional American Southwest and Mexican stew made with whole kernel hominy. After soaking dried maize kernels in an alkaline solution overnight, the kernels are rinsed and rubbed until the pericarp (hull) is removed. In order to simply rub away the hulls, you have to soak the kernels in a pretty strong alkaline solution–if it’s not strong enough, the hulls will not rub off, but if it’s too strong, you’ll lose the germ in the process as well–that’s where a great deal of the nutrition lies. This recipe, from Bon Appetit, calls for a can of white hominy. Juanita’s Mexican-style Hominy works well, and as always, you can also make your own! Continue reading