Eating Mexico Pt. 2: Not all Mexican cuisine is real Mexican cuisine
Not all Mexican cuisine in the United States is real Mexican cuisine. That is the one conclusion you reach after an interview with Chefs Luis Navarro and Diego Isunza Kahlo
Navarro is the successful owner of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine and Social List in Long Beach. Kahlo is a culinary consultant in Mexico City where he has worked in fine dining restaurants and dedicated himself to teaching the history and cooking techniques of traditional Mexican cuisine.
Eating Mexican cuisine in Mexico
When Navarro visits Mexico, he quickly realizes how much European influences are visible in the eating scene: from espressos to aperitifs to how long it takes to eat.
“Here, we’re coming in, we’re hungry. You come in, you want your food now, it has to be piping hot, and we wolf it down and then we got to go to our next thing.”
Kahlo chimes in, “And the portions are huge.”
According to Navarro, eating Mexican cuisine in Mexico is a different. “Eating is an experience. Not necessarily if you’re [just] going to a fine dining restaurant. You arrive, you relax, you eat…It’s a couple of hours’ experience.”
Diego Kahlo adds, “When you go to Mexico, you realize that Mexican food, it doesn’t have to be spicy, it doesn’t have to be greasy or fat or fried or cheap or even in a tortilla.”
Different types of Mexican cuisine
Kahlo explains there are a lot of different types of Mexican cuisine. The reality of Mexican cuisine is very different than what Americans think it is.
Convincing Americans about that reality is a difficult and ongoing process, according to Navarro. He explains it this way.
“I really do believe that we are still chipping away at the iceberg of introducing folks to real Mexican food. Letting them know the ingredients that are available, that we don’t deep fry everything in lard. There’s this misconception of what Mexican food really is.”
While Navarro and Kahlo are committed to educating customers about real Mexican cuisine, Navarro sighs that there will always be people that “we’re never going to get to them.”
But he hasn’t given up hope. “But, I think it’s a process of education and introducing and people, they want to try new things.”
The Lola’s Mexican Cuisine owner thinks this is an interesting time. That’s one of the reasons he invited Kahlo to Long Beach. “He’s in Mexico City, at the epicenter of the [food] movement that’s right now.”
Educating about about real Mexican cuisine
Diego knows the full responsibility he has to educate non-Mexicans about real Mexican cuisine.
“I have a responsibility with Mexican food because I am Mexican. So, I have to start something so I can stop this misconception.”
The Mexico City chef teaches other chefs from around the world about the best approach to traditional Mexican cuisine.
“I try to teach them and I try to show them different things. The different ingredients, different ways of preparing food. And I think that’s what I have to do.”
This approach comes from his own commitment to doing research, to know what he is cooking. That includes searching out the history of the ingredients and the food. Then, Diego says, he can be “sharing this information with a lot of different chefs.”
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