How to make enchiladas

September 3rd, 2011 by Daniel Leave a reply »

enchiladas

How to make enchiladas is, in my mind, a fundamental lesson for our children to learn how to respect other cultures, and Latino cultures in particular.  Food can help us understand people and learning a people’s cuisine can shed insights on how they think and why they perform certain actions.  Understanding food by the actual cooking of it far surpasses what we can learn by going to eat in a restaurant that serves that food.

The use of corn tortillas, for example, in learning how to make enchiladas shows us that the Mexican culture has an abundance of corn and they can feed the populace cheaply using corn tortillas.  Chickens can be raised in the back yard and tomatoes and chilies can be grown in abundance in the garden as well.  All these geographic nuances can be deciphered by breaking down the varied components of the dish.

First we learn the ingredients, and then we can learn the entire process of how to make enchiladas.  The corn must be milled and then fried into tortillas; the tomatoes must be roasted and made into a sauce; the chiles need to be dried, pounded into powder, and mixed with herbs.  Of course most people in Mexico buy the tortillas from someone who uses those efforts to earn a living, but the knowledge of making corn tortillas is easily learned, and once learned, understood.  Although the final dinner can be put together quickly, the preparation takes time and has a history of its own.

“How to make enchiladas”  isn’t merely a procedural task.  The creation of this truly hispanic meal is ingrained with the culture, history, and character of the people that it sprang from.  Whereas a taco can be thrown together somewhat quickly (if the tortillas are made, the chickens slaughtered, etc…), how to make enchiladas really revolves around the slow formation of the enchilada sauce.  The enchilada sauce itself is a tradition that varies throughout the many regions of Mexico.

I am very happy that when my niece, Ronnie, asks me how to make enchiladas I can reply not only by taking her to a computer and showing her a video detailing the steps out, but I can also fill her in on some of the historic, cultural and geographic facts that helped shape the food we eat.  I sincerely hope that by teaching my niece how to make enchiladas I will be opening her eyes to the vast information that can be learned from world cuisine.

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