Order as principle (2020-12-08) by Gabriela Lavalle (photographer), Itzel Mendoza (Editor), and Alejandra Mendoza (editor)Colectivo Rokunin
Isabel's smile projects serenity and joy in an impeccable kitchen, a place where her mother taught her to start with order and simplicity and continue on with a delicious family tradition.
Gastronomy is a treasure passed down from generation to generation among the women of the Zapotec culture, inhabitants of the state of Oaxaca. This ancestral legacy is a valuable link in the history of Mexican cuisine.
Dressed up in their traditional knotted, checkered skirts, preciously embroidered blouses, and polka-dotted shawls, a group of Oaxacan women of different ages accompany each other to buy goods at the local market.
Its cobbled streets with irregular lines —which can be seen from the highest mountains in the area— lead to traditional adobe homes that are also artisan workshops where wool textiles and natural pigments are worked.
Los mercados mexicanos
Mexico is a “megadiverse” country that ranks 5th in variety of plants and amphibians, 3rd in mammals and 2nd in reptiles of the entire planet. Since pre-Columbian times, markets have been a cultural meeting point where the biodiversity of the flora and fauna unfold.
Choosing each one of the ingredients at their exact point of ripeness and freshness is a delicate task that is learned from an early age, using all the senses. It is an essential process in the kitchen that involves the recognition of textures, aromas and flavors from the same selection of each ingredient.
The Teotitlán del Valle Market was, at one point, the largest in the region, and today it remains a central point of activity in the town. It is here where women meet to converse, share recipes, recommend ingredients and continue on with that oral tradition that keeps alive the flavor of traditional local Mexican food.
Al maíz, el frijol y el chile suelen sumarse insectos como gusanos de maguey y chapulines, que aportan un alto valor de proteínas a la dieta y un sabor exquisito al platillo. Para Isabel y su familia son un manjar que disfrutan en tacos o integrados en algún guisado. Los chapulines se tuestan, se enchilan y se envuelven en hojas de maíz para su venta.
The market baskets return home loaded with stories and nutritious ingredients that represent 8 thousand years of food culture based on knowledge, respect and use of local biodiversity.
A stocked dining room (2020-12-08) by Gabriela Lavalle (photographer), Itzel Mendoza (Editor), and Alejandra Mendoza (editor)Colectivo Rokunin
A Zapotec tavern
In this space, everything has a sense of balance. The colors of the foods contrast with the ochre of the walls. Everything is spotless and the aromas provoke expectation. What will these ingredients become? All the kitchen tools—in perfect order—are waiting to find out.
The huipiles and braids are another element added to the party of colors. It is time to organize, wash, cut and combine. The girls' enthusiasm is evident. They're probably talking about seasoning; cooking with love and joy are the best ingredients out there.
Centuries of wisdom are invoked and unfolded in each part of the process. Girls at that age are sponges capable of absorbing knowledge and familiarizing themselves with each intricate mix and measurement, using pinches, fistfuls, spoonfuls and handfuls as measurements, as well as different ways of soaking. There are many steps to memorize, but intuition is also built with the senses.
Isabel, the cooker
Not only is she the representative and the last bastion of tradition, Isabel really enjoys what she does in her kitchen. The radiance that the ingredients emanate is reflected in his smile.
Ball corn is used to make the dough for the delicious tlayudas. Isabel is fascinated by shelling her ears, an extremely fun task. This corn gets its name from the shape of its grains, which are rounder than those of other varieties.
Conjunction through tradition (2020-12-08) by Gabriela Lavalle (photographer), Itzel Mendoza (Editor), and Alejandra Mendoza (editor)Colectivo Rokunin
Cooking, as these women demonstrate, is a collaborative act, and in addition, they always cook to share. It is an expansive creation of flavors that also travel through time.
Preparation of a traditional plant-based stew (2020-12-08) by Gabriela Lavalle (photographer), Itzel Mendoza (Editor), and Alejandra Mendoza (editor)Colectivo Rokunin
The women of Teotitlán del Valle use a technique so that the quelite leaf does not break and maintains its integrity after stewing: the secret is in the exact temperature of the water and remove the leaves from the fire immediately at the first boil.
The adobe kitchen
The protagonists of this story, from Isabel and her family to the ingredients and dishes that make up her legacy, have a meeting point: the adobe stove. This is made with the same earth with which the baked clay brick base is built on which a plate or a griddle of the same material rests. Base that also allows to make wood fires in different chambers.
Cooking on a clay griddle (2020-12-08) by Gabriela Lavalle (photographer), Itzel Mendoza (Editor), and Alejandra Mendoza (editor)Colectivo Rokunin
The heart beat
The kitchen is said to be the heart of a home. Undoubtedly, the beats of the adobe stove guide the women of Teotitlán del Valle, happy by nature, as they perform magic with the elements that their natural environment offers them in their daily lives.
The last gift
At the end of a day of creation and learning, on the adobe stove a last gift is prepared for Isabel and her family: the delicious grinder chocolate, a typical drink to accompany bread, a dessert for an exquisite snack.
Proyecto Gastronomía - Colectivo Rokunin 2020
Cocina de Adobe, Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, México.
Texto: César Hernández y Jimena Mateos
Corrección de estilo: Alejandra Mendoza e Itzel Mendoza
Diseño: Roberto González y Alejandra Mendoza
Fotografías: Gabriela Lavalle
Licencia: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.