Robin Williams (American comic actor) said: Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” As everyone is trying to stretch “their dollar”, they’re trying to find ways to celebrate “on a shoestring” or as the French say: “à budget serré ou restreint ou en se serrant la ceinture”
So here we are back again on May 5th and time to break out the Tequila and Guacamole! The best May Day event has become an American tradition and while in France I don’t want to miss out even if we have to “tighten our belts”! As you know, Hispanic culture is an important part of American life these days and Cinco de Mayo is a special day set aside by the Mexican-American community to celebrate Mexican identity, promote ethnic pride and build a sense of community. Cinco de Mayo is a commemoration of a battle which took place in Puebla in 1862, in which Mexican troops were triumphant over the French army (Napoleon III wanted to conquer Mexico but was surprised by Benito Juarez’s army). Actually Mexicans from Mexico celebrate more on September 16, their independence day, but Americans are usually busy at that time of year and the “diez-seis de septiembre” is not as catchy or as easy to say!! Since before the turn of the century, Mexican Americans literally built the great southwestern cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Albuquerque, Dallas, and San Antonio. To commemorate this event a new film has just been released called Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla. It was directed by Rafa Lara and stars Kuno Becker, Angelica Aragon, William Miller and Liz Gallardo. The film hits theaters in Los Angeles and Orange County on May 3, 2013. Even though the ratings aren’t the best, we might learn more about this event which gave its name to one of America’s favorite “party” holidays.
California is at the heart of this celebration not only because it used to belong to Mexico in the 19th century but also because a third of the population of California is Hispanic and 84% are of Mexican descent.California used to be called “Alta California” by the Mexicans and the inhabitants were called “Californios” or “Californianos”. A cross marks the place where El Pueblo of Los Angeles was settled and the Angelinos or the residents of Los Angeles put a lot of heart and soul into celebrating this day (a little bit like the Irish-American community do on St. Patrick’s Day, the Chinese on their New Year’s or Oktoberfest for German-Americans and others who like beer!). There are parades, fiestas, mariachi bands playing in the streets, carnival rides, games, dance and art show that last over 2 days.
Of course Mexican food and alcoholic beverages are the highlight of the festivities and no Mexican celebration would be without their signature cocktail the “Margarita” made with the inimitable Mexican liquor: Tequila. If you’re getting thirsty just thinking about this world famous drink, watch the following video in which “Mixologist” (a more professional name for “bartender”) Eben Freeman, of Tailor restaurant in New York City, demonstrates how to prepare a variation on the classic Margarita cocktail. (A little secret…I use ‘Agave syrup’ instead of super fine sugar. It gives more of an authentic taste…but as they say…”to each his own”!)
Some people though are on a shoestring budget. In this tough economy, they are trying to find ways to celebrate and save money at the same time. Watch Bill Tull, American comedian Conan O’Brien’s “Propmaster” (person who puts together props for sketches) who gives us some tips are how to economize this Cinco de Mayo:
S: Don’t forget that in 2010 Mexican cuisine received UNESCO status as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. And as for that Guacamole recipe which I developed after years of experimenting:
Debby’s Guacamole Recipe (a border treat!):
- 2 ripe small Hass avocados
- 1 green lemon, juiced
- 1 large clove garlic, pressed
- 1 or 2 pickled jalapeno peppers
- 1 small plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 small yellow skinned onion, finely chopped
- chopped cilantro (2 tablespoons or according to taste)
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- Blue corn tortilla chips, for dipping
Press garlic into a bowl. Add jalapeno peppers and smash together. Sprinkle lightly with salt and let set for a few minutes (salt will “cook” garlic removing a little bit of its pungency).
Cut avocados in half around the pit. Separate the halves. Pop out pit with spoon, then scoop flesh of avocados into the bowl. Mash the avocado with the garlic and jalapenos until almost smooth. Squeeze the juice of the green lemon over the avocado mixture. Add chopped onion, tomato and cilantro to the bowl to add color contrast. Stir with a fork. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan or pecorino cheese (or Mexican cotija). Serve with yellow or blue corn tortilla chips. Goes really well with margarita cocktails! olé!!