Before I start explaining things like epazote, cilantro, and squash blossoms, I'd like to give you a quick rundown of the country of Mexico. If you're from Southern California like me, you probably feel like you already know plenty about Mexico. But after taking a geography class, I became a bit of a geek about the facts about a country that explain a little bit more about it.
But I'd also like to explain my concept of Un Verano de Mexico a bit further. The idea for this is to show you authentic Mexican cuisine beyond what we're used to at Taco Bell, El Torito, etc. Some of you may also be mystified why I keep emphasizing the Verano part (Summer) since summer will end for most of the country in about a month. If you haven't heard, this has been one of the coldest summers in Southern California. It should be at least 90 and heading into triple digits right now and it's not even 70. But as a seasoned veteran, I know that summer will probably hit at the end of August and will last through Halloween. Welcome to Southern California.We have our own seasonal timetable where summer begins at the beginning of July and lasts until October, then fall lasts through Christmas, we get a heatwave for a week or two in January, then we have winter until the end of June. There's normally a really good heat wave in April or May, but that's really how our seasons work. So if you are from Southern California, Un Verano de Mexico will last until Halloween, but if you do not, this is simply A Gringa Does Mexican.
But now onto Mexico.
Its official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, or United Mexican States. The country is a federal republic led by President Felipe Jesus de Calderon and it is made up of 31 states and one federal district aptly called Distrito Federal. Independence Day is September 16, originally in 1810.
The estimated population is 112,468,855, and the median age is 26.7 years old. 91% of the country is literate, and 92.7% speak only Spanish. 5.7% speak Spanish and other indigenous languages such as Mayan or Nahuatl.
76.5% of the population is Roman Catholic, and 60% are mestizo, or Amerindian and Spanish. 30% are only Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian and 9% is white. Those statistics show the effect of Spanish colonization, both in religion and in the people.
As is very well known, Mexico has a huge problem with drug cartels growing and distributing heroin, marijuana, and cocaine. As a result, the Mexican government has the world's largest independent illicit crop eradication program, but Mexico still provides 90% of the U.S.'s cocaine.
Mexico's legal exports include manufactured goods, oil, oil products, silver, fruits, vegetables, cotton, and coffee. 72.25% of their exports go to the U.S. and 6.51% go to Canada.
All of this information comes from the CIA World Factbook, which states that corn is thought to have originated in Mexico, and Mexico is one of the world's biggest growers of corn. It also grows wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes, beef, poultry, dairy, and wood products.
Mexico is one of our suppliers of oil, and its other natural resources include petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, and timber. The terrain and climates vary since it is a fairly large country (a little smaller than three times the size of Texas) and goes from high, rugged mountains to low coastal plains to high plateaus to desert. Mexico has a grand canyon of its own and the Yucatan peninsula hosts the beginning of the world's second largest barrier reef.
I recommend taking a look at Wikipedia's page on Mexico to familiarize yourself with the states of Mexico. I think it's interesting how the dishes and recipes vary depending on the region they're originally from. For example, Veracruz has many fish recipes because it's a long, thin state along the Eastern coastline.
I'm looking forward to sharing this culinary exploration with you. It will certainly expand my knowledge of cuisine in general, but it will provide a solid base for gluten and dairy free recipes that everyone can enjoy.