For me, my mother and grandmother are my inspiration in the kitchen. I remember spending many years of my childhood with my grandmother whilst my parents were working. I’m lucky that I also spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen and during my teenage years I did the same with my mum. Even to this day when I need a recipe, my mum is the first person I will call.
But seems like I’m not the only one. Talking to chefs and personalities around the world, it has become clear to me that mothers, grandmothers, and other female figures play a significant role in their lives and careers. I could almost say with a high level of certainty that:
it is the women in our lives that have influenced our love for Mexican food and traditions.
In Mexico, mothers are the central figure in most families; respected and honoured by husbands, children, and later by the families of their own children. In many cases, they become the worst nightmare for a daughter-in-law as the husbands seem to listen more to the mother than the wife. As lovely as it sounds, I don’t think it is something to be too proud of!
Another fact that caught my attention was that females make for more than 51% of the population in Mexico. This unevenness is mainly driven by males migrating to the USA in search of better opportunities leaving families behind. This is palpable in low-income farming communities where desperation pushes males to make the dangerous trip across the border.
Mexican women may rule at home, but, and similar to most places around the world, they are subject to discrimination and unequal treatment in society when compared to males. Significant progress has been done over the past decades but there is still a lot of work to be done to bridge the gap.
It is with a deep sense of pride that I observe more and more Mexican females being recognised for their achievements in science, politics, technology, gastronomy, entrepreneurship, and overall leadership. And the best part is that the recognition comes from both Mexican and international sources.
When it comes to gastronomy, it wasn’t too many years ago when most – if not all – the recognitions, awards, and tribute were directed only to male chefs. It was male chefs who fronted new restaurants, were in front of the cameras and received all the credit. But If you asked these chefs where all the inspiration, recipes, and guidance came from, the majority will include their mothers, grandmothers, or other inspiring females in their answers.
During the recent pandemic, I had the humbling opportunity of video chatting with many chefs and home cooks around the world that, just like me, found themselves locked in at home. The conversations were fun, candid, educational but also eye-opening. What a privilege has been to meet these amazing individuals and listen to their stories. And through all these conversations, one thing became clear to me:
“Women hold the key to our traditions and food culture”.
In all the conversations it was our mothers, grandmother, and grand grandmothers who have preserved and pass down traditions, including recipes, from generation to generation. It was women who make every celebration special with their incredible food and stories around the table. It was women that have inspired a new generation of cooks, chefs, and researchers wanting to rediscover and understand Mexican food. It is women who most recently have started to take the spotlight in the international arena representing Mexican gastronomy and culture.
I remember Axell Torres, a chef in Sydney, saying that his favourite Mexican ingredient is ‘chilli morita’ because it reminds him of his mum’s recipe. Or Bernie Molina, from Los Angeles, proudly telling me that most of his recipes he got from her natural and in-law mothers.
But one comment that has really stuck with me is from Josefina Lopez, originally from Oaxaca and now the head chef at one of the best restaurants in Mexico City – Chapulin. Josefina said to me that when growing up in rural Oaxaca, she always worked in the community – everyone had a job to do and it was as important as other jobs. There was no discrimination based on gender, it is a team effort. And that is exactly what she has been doing ever since she moved to the big city.
The role of preserving and passing down cultural and gastronomical traditions cannot be overlooked any longer. Women in Mexico have been playing for many centuries and that makes us all Mexicans proud of our culture and gastronomy.
Let’s be proud of our Mexican women who have guarded the wisdom our Mexican cutlture for millenia
I feel like the tides are changing and we all play a significant role in ensuring we all give women the appropriate recognition for all their contributions to what we call now Mexican culture and legacy. And we should all continue working together – males and females – as a ‘community’ to bring the best of our country to the world.