Beyond Burritos was invited to attend Zarela's Corn Kitchen, one of many events of the Celebrate Mexico Now festival going on until 9/30/10.
As you’re probably aware, corn has been getting a bad rep since the movie Food Inc. disclosed to the masses that most food products are corn based and even beef is corn fed. My thoughts are that messing with a cow's diet after millions of years of eating GRASS is probably not wise; however, I thank Zarela for renewing my happy thoughts about corn for our eating pleasure.
Zarela was accompanied by her friend Zoyla who demonstrated how to make Chocolateatole (Recipe), a drink made with corn and chocolate foam. She ground a blend of fermented pataxtle beans (Cacao from the region) and other ingredients on a metate (ancient grinder) and whipped to serve the chocolate foam on top of the corn based atole.
In general, Zarela spoke about the wonders of Corn and how vital it has been to the history of Mexico and the Americas. She described her travels and many encounters with different food culture in Mexico, like her experience with Zacahuil, a six foot tamal, Chilatoles, Tismole, Chilpeachole and Lard.
Yes, lard... though corn was the main topic, Zarela did take the time to express her enthusiasm for the misunderstood lard, which carries a bad rep. She has even coined the phrase "Praise the Lard".
She also shared her feelings towards many more typical dishes. For example, she is torn in regard to tacos. On one hand, she loves them because of how they have brought Mexican food to the forefront and to those that can't afford to eat at restaurants. On the other hand, she believes tacos have steered people away from the traditional sit down Mexican meal that has much more depth.
In short, Zarela's feelings towards enchiladas: Don't ask for enchiladas with the sauce on the side, recognizing that “Enchiladas” means in chile sauce.
The highlight of the night is, of course, when we got to eat. Zarela, I thank you for introducing me to my new favorite food, Crepas de Huitlacoche. I won’t even try to describe it in words, as I will not do it justice. I will simply let everyone know that it tasted like a wonderful huitlacoche lasagna in my mind. I’m sure I will be your restaurant soon to devour some more, since I found it on your dinner menu. This was just one of four different dishes that were shared, all highlighting corn. I highly suggest that you all take a look at Zarela’s website and revisit your take on corn.