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Mexico conquers the world

5 May 2009

Mexico, has been reinterpreting the wider world in its own terms for as long as there has been a Mexico (or longer — there are those who believe that the Chinese and Mayans were in contact with each other).  Today is Cinco de Mayo… a rather unimportant holiday as far as Mexico is concerned, but  one celebrated elsewhere as a day to celebrate all things Mexican.  Sometimes, as in the United States, this takes the odd form of politicans inviting Puerto Rican pop stars to their fund raising events… or melting Velveeta cheese and frying some hamburger to stick in fried corn shells… but giving a bit of thought to something other than flu and narcotics is appreciated.

And, when it comes to reintrepreting Mexico through a secondary source, the results can be … um… interesting.  I found this in Manil Suri’s “The Death of Vishnu” (2002, Perennial) about life, death and apotheosis in Mumbai:

As Mrs. Pathak dabbed the sweat on her forehead, she wondered again why she had embarked upon the recipe for Russian-salad samosas.  It was all Mrs. Jaiwal’s fault, of course — serving those strange Mexican things at the last kitty party — “tocos” she had called them.  They had been nothing more than fried chapatis wrapped around salad leaves and califlower curry, but the woman had been shrewd enough to mix in lots of mango pickle and chili, and the ladies (including Mrs. Pathak, despite herself) had just gone wild over them.  “Rohit tells me that tocos are very popular in Omaha right now,” Mrs. Jaiwal had crowed, lest anyone forget that her son was currently enrolled at the University of Nebraska, in the States.  This had been particularly galling, vien that Mrs. Pathak’s elder son, Veeru, had just failed his first-year exams at Bombay University.

Chili, tomatoes, turkey, corn, squash, beans, avocado … Mrs. Pathak, and the rest of us, whether in Mumbai or Minnesota, Malawi or Mongolia, Munich, Manchester, Mukdin or Melbourne… serve up Mexican food every day even if we don’t identify it as such.

Happy Cinco de mayo, enjoy your tocos.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 5 May 2009 10:53 am

    Tocos, eh? 🙂

    I’ve often thought about doing a Andean version of this post (plums, potatoes etc) but we’d end up arguing over the origins of corn 🙂

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