Craftsmanship of Mexican gastronomy: heart of the country

The rich minerals from the country's heartland have been the source of great artworks that beautify kitchens and help with the creation of dishes.

By Museo de Arte Popular

Gallina (2016) by DesconocidoMuseo de Arte Popular

Mexico is a territory rich in ecosystems and resources. From the arid lands of the north we pass to the center of the Republic, where the vegetation becomes more dense, green and colorful and, above all, we begin to find a land of abundant mountain ranges, mountains and volcanoes.

The use of natural materials in the production of Mexican craftsmanship is as vast and important as the diversity of climates and the goodness of the soil.

Venado (2016) by DesconocidoMuseo de Arte Popular

For centuries, peoples such as the Otomi, Huichol, Purepecha, Mazahua, Nahuatl, Pame, Tlahuica and many more, have taken advantage of the richness of the forests, their flora and fauna, as well as the minerals that enrich the mountains and volcanic lands.

Olla tamalera (2000) by María Elena VillegasMuseo de Arte Popular

The artisans of this region use the gifts of the earth to create colorful pottery pieces that are used in Mexican gastronomy and in the home, always providing it with unique details, reflecting their own worldview. No piece neglects the utilitarian character of the utensils and the crockery.

Proceso de elaboración de molcajete (2016) by Manuel HernándezMuseo de Arte Popular

Craftsmanship from the volcanic area

Since the pre-Hispanic era, the indigenous peoples of this region have manufactured craftsmanship and utensils worked from volcanic stone.

Proceso de elaboración de molcajete (2016) by Manuel HernándezMuseo de Arte Popular

These are mainly used to grind grains and other ingredients of Mexican gastronomy.

Proceso de elaboración de molcajete (2016) by Manuel HernándezMuseo de Arte Popular

Sometimes it has also been seen that these grinding stones, as they are often called, are used to create dyes to give color to other artisan pieces.

Metate by Fotos MAPMuseo de Arte Popular

Among the most widely used grinding stones, the metate (mealing stone) and the molcajete (mortar) stand out. The metate (mealing stone), also known as the mill or hand, has a close link with one of the key ingredients of Mexican gastronomy: corn.

Maíz by Alfombristas mexicanosMuseo de Arte Popular

The ixtamalized grains are placed on its surface, usually rectangular, and from this the masa dough is made to make tortillas and tamales, for example. In other regions of the country it is also used for milling cocoa and other grains.

Metate (2016) by Zenaido Ortega MorenoMuseo de Arte Popular

While metates (mealing stones) have been found since the pre-Hispanic era, over time their use has expanded throughout the country and their structure has been changing as well. So today we can find metates (mealing stones) made not only of volcanic stone, but also of other materials and with other structures.

Molcajete (1987) by DesconocidoMuseo de Arte Popular

Another grinding stone that is often present in Mexican gastronomy is the molcajete (mortar), also known as mortero or tejolote, It is used equally to grind cooking condiments and prepare salsas.

It has also served to create dyes from plants and fruits, such as the hierba de la mula (monnina), that is ground and releases its multiple colors on the rock.

Cántaro by Gorky González QuiñonesMuseo de Arte Popular

The colors of the earth in Mexican gastronomy

The shades of nature, flora, fauna and landscapes of the center of the country not only provided many resources to the artisans of the area, but also served as inspiration to give color to Mexican craftsmanship.

Piña calada (2000) by DesconocidoMuseo de Arte Popular

Some pieces reach the level of genuinely appearing kaleidoscopes of intricate and ingenious designs with natural motifs, evoking the figures of the flora, the movement of the waters or the branching of the roots and branches of a tree.

Jarra by DesconocidoMuseo de Arte Popular

 We can take as an example the Puebla Talavera pottery, declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2019.

Jarra by DesconocidoMuseo de Arte Popular

The endemic materials and minerals that make up Talavera ceramics and its colors means this craftsmanship cannot be produced anywhere else in the world, even if the Talavera pottery was originally inspired by the maiolica that Muslim potters exported to Spain.

That is when we see that the wealth of the region also reaches a meeting point with the fusion that is part of the history of Mexico.

Mexican gastronomy from the heartland brings everyday stories of Mexicans and their land. Each piece, with its skillfully drawn strokes, illustrates the hard work behind them, and brings a bit of the world to the kitchen.

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