If you’re anything like me, you might have grown up eating tacos, burritos, and nachos pretty frequently. Residents of North America pretty commonly eat Mexican food. But, of course, there is so much more to Mexican Food than these three fan favorites.
I met Isabel from Isabel Eats at the 2019 Saveur Blog Awards, when we were both nominated for blogging awards from the magazine. We bonded over Skyline Chili and the fact that she had just been on my very favorite podcast, Food Blogger Pro!
In this interview, Isabel, who grew up in a Mexican-American home to Mexican immigrant parents, teaches us about Mexican food and culture.
If you’ve ever wondered about everyday Mexican foods, staples in Mexican cuisine, or even how the Mayans affected Mexican food, this interview is for you! I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Your parents are from Mexico, but you have never lived there yourself. What is Mexico like through their eyes?
I’ve never lived in Mexico, but I wish I had! I was born in Oklahoma City and lived there through high school. I did, however, go to Mexico on summer vacations with my family every year from when I was a toddler up until I was 16 years old.
Both of my grandparents, aunts, and uncles lived there (and most still do). My parents made a point to visit them as much as they could.
Both of my parents are from a small rural town near Sombrerete, Zacatecas. Though the town is small compared to larger cities nearby, it was still lively and bustling with activity when they lived there.
Now as decades have passed and they’ve made their home in the United States, they’ve seen their small town get even smaller as the older generations of people have died and the younger generations have moved out to live and work in larger cities.
The population of their hometown has definitely declined, and they always talk about how empty the streets are whenever they go back to visit. Nevertheless, it’s where they’re from and they still have a lot of family and friends there! So they (along with me and my siblings) try to visit as often as we can.
What did your parents do during your lifetime to preserve your Mexican heritage? What was life like in a Mexican-American home?
Going to Mexico to visit my grandparents and other family members every year was huge for me in terms of learning and actually seeing where my parents were from. That in itself helped me really identify with my Mexican heritage.
Language was also a big one. Everyone in the house spoke Spanish (my parents don’t speak English). Communicating in the language just really kept me connected to my roots, even when I eventually moved away from home to go to college.
My parents also continued to take part in all the same traditions and celebrations that they did in Mexico. Things like celebrating quinceañeras, las posadas, and lots of Mexican Catholic traditions. They also cooked Mexican food every single day, continued to listen to the same Spanish and Mexican music that they used to, and kept up with all the telenovelas!
Additionally, it helped that it wasn’t only my parents who were preserving my family’s Mexican heritage. 3 of my siblings were also born and raised in Mexico until they were high-school age! (My parents had 6 children – the first 3 were born in Mexico and the last 3 were born in the U.S.. I’m the youngest.)
How do you see Mexico’s history portrayed in Mexican Food (Mayans, Aztecs, etc)?
Historically, maize and corn was a huge part of Mexico’s food history. Today, we see it used in so many Mexican foods! Tortillas, tamales, pozole, gorditas, sopes, and more!
How is Mexican food in the USA different from Mexican Food in Mexico? How is it the same?
Mexican food in the U.S. is often thought of as super greasy and loaded with cheese. But it’s actually not! Sure, there are definitely dishes that are fried but it’s not all like that.
Mexican food in Mexico is satisfying and filling without being unhealthy. Lots of veggies like corn, tomatoes, and squash are used. Beans are a staple along with garlic and onions. And dishes are spiced with fresh and dried chile peppers, cilantro, lime juice, tomatillos and so many other fresh ingredients!
Tell me about Mexican Food.
Mexico is a very large country with different regions that all have their own food culture, so there are various answers to this question depending on what part of Mexico you’re in!
Where my family comes from (near Sombrerete, Zacatecas), pork and chicken are common meats that are included in recipes. Maybe it was because my family was poor, but we actually didn’t eat a lot of meat when I was growing up (meat was and still is expensive). It was never the center of our dinner plate.
Instead, rice, beans, and corn tortillas were always on the table, along with homemade red and green salsas.
What are your everyday Mexican foods? What types of things are common for breakfasts, dinners, snacks?
Is there anything eaten in Mexico that’s not eaten anywhere else in the world?
Hmm, not that I can think of!
What’s your very favorite recipe from Mexico? What is your least favorite food that is traditionally Mexican?
My favorite recipe is chile verde, a flavorful stew made of tender pieces of pork simmered in a delicious tomatillo and green chile broth. It simmers over the stove for a few hours, which really creates some rich flavors. I finish it off with some fresh lime juice and cilantro for a little brightness and acidity, and serve it with homemade flour tortillas!
I’m probably going to get a lot of people disagreeing with me here. My least favorite food is actually menudo, a traditional stew made with a red or green chile broth, hominy, and tripe (aka pig intestines). I just don’t like the texture and flavor that tripe gives the dish. My dad and brothers love it though!
I much prefer posole, which is pretty much exactly the same dish except that it’s made with a meat like beef, pork, or chicken.
Are there any ingredients that you love that just aren’t the same unless you’re in Mexico?
There’s an all-purpose meat seasoning that my Mom buys that she uses to season the meat for empanadas. The seasoning comes unlabeled and nobody in my family knows exactly what it includes!
Tell me about your food blog! Why you started it, what it features, etc.
I started Isabel Eats as a way to stay connected to my family and my Mexican heritage when I was living far from home. It’s essentially a fun place for me to document my family’s recipes as well as to share and celebrate all types of Mexican and Mexican-inspired food with people around the world!
My favorite recipe on the blog is so hard to pick! I’m going to make it easier on myself and pick a favorite savory recipe and a favorite sweet recipe.
My favorite savory recipe is red pork tamales. I only make them a few times a year, but when I do, I make A LOT!
My favorite sweet recipe would have to be my marranitos which is a Mexican gingerbread that’s commonly sold at Mexican bakeries.
Thanks for reading everyone! If you have thoughts on this interview, don’t forget to leave them in the comments below. If you liked this interview, you might also like these recipes on my site:
- Pineapple Coconut Agua Fresca
- Argentinian Chimichurri
- Brazo de Reina Recipe from Chile
You’ll also be a fan of these other interviews with Locals: