Many Americans look at Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexico, with tacos, margaritas, and piñatas. That's barely more authentic than celebrating St. Patrick's Day with green beer. But the holiday is not Mexico's independence day -it's a local celebration in the state of Puebla, centered in the capital of Puebla. For a real authentic holiday, dig a little deeper.
But what America’s Cinco de Mayo misses is the traditional food of Mexico, named to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, a recognition given to only one other cuisine (French). And, nachos with refried beans, cheese wiz and jalapenos is nowhere on the list or in the country. Taco Bell has even tried opening up in Mexico but each time has failed, simply because no one will eat there.
What makes traditional Mexican fare worthy of such a distinction? You won’t find cumin soaked ground beef hard shell tacos topped with iceberg and cheddar. But, you will find beef barbacoa that has been smoked underground in banana leaves or carnitas topped with queso fresco, pickled onions and homemade salsa verde wrapped in a warm homemade corn tortilla that has been ever so lightly heated on a comal. And Puebla, just so happens to be considered by many, including Rick Bayless and Mark Bittman, as the gastronomic capital of Mexico.
Smithsonian tells us about the regional favorites Mole Poblano, Chalupas, and Chiles en Nogada, with links to recipes for each. Link
(Image credit: Flickr user dbking)