What do Mexicans eat during Lent “Cuaresma”


What is Lent and why do NOT you eat red meat this season?

This period covers Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday in the calendar of Catholic celebrations and in Mexico it is a tradition that many families follow. Lent 2019 will be from March 6 to April 18.

These days, the body had to abstain in many ways related to pleasure, after the time of Carnival . Speaking of food, you should not consume red meats or poultry, dairy or alcoholic beverages and allowed meals should be made with vegetables, bread, water, fruits, grains and cereals. The customs have changed over time and the meat disappears from the menu on Fridays but here I tell you more about some background.

During the first years of the Conquest both Spaniards and Indians consumed the dishes that were part of their eating habits, but as the spiritual conquest progressed, the miscegenation resulted in different dishes of vigil. It must also be said that meat was not an essential food for the prehispanic diet and little by little it began to have this dimension of being seen as “rich food”.

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In the book Conquest and food: consequences of the meeting of two worlds, edited by Janet Long, we read in the paragraph Practical food in the convents of women in Puebla of the eighteenth century , written by Rosalva Loreto, that even during Lent was practiced fasting “as a form of personal humiliation”. To break this restriction by falling into gluttony could be considered a “mortal sin”.

Another word that is associated with Lent “Cuaresma” is that of “vigil” that according to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language has both the meaning of “abstinence from meat in compliance with a religious precept” and that of “eve of a feast of the Church”. In that same publication we talk about La comida en el refranero mexicano, a contrastive study by Herón Pérez and it appears there in several Mexican sayings.

“As we do not lack catfish we will eat vigil”, “When there is pa’carne it is vigil”, “When there are means for meat they come out to us that is vigil” and “Go to the empanadas ora that it is day of vigil” are the mentioned ones and All are examples of what is usually eaten for that date.

The only way in which meat could be eaten was coming to the infirmary and for reasons of weakness for mothers, sick and elderly or those “needed or more worked”. Before the imposition of the ash they ate a delicacy of bread and water, no more. And the cookbook by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún already recorded a vigil kitchen in the 18th century.

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According to information on the website of the Ministry of Culture, “the upper classes ate ravioli stuffed with spinach, cod, shrimp, gratin fish and empanadas, the middle classes prepared broth of beans, romeritos, capirotada, shrimp cakes and clams, beet salads, while the lower classes consumed axolotls, crayfish, chapulines, atepocates, charales, mextlapiques (a kind of tamales de charales and various kinds of fish, without mass, wrapped in corn leaves and cooked over a brazier), ahuautle (Laguna mosquito roe with which pancakes are made), huauzontles, quelites, verdolagas, quintoniles, romeritos and huitlacoche “.

The variety of ingredients and knowledge of the different Mexican cuisines provides a varied menu that does not include meats in its preparation. Among the most common current Lenten food are nopales prepared in different ways, quelites, romeritos with shrimp cakes, potato pancakes or cauliflower capels, green beans with egg, beans, various stuffed chiles, as well as recipes with different fish and seafood such as veracruzana fish, crab chilpachole, fish ceviche, shrimp cocktails and fish tacos.

The desserts of Lent are varied: pumpkin in tacha, torrejas and the capirotada , which is one of the most famous of the season. This is made with dry and fried bolillo bathed in a honey of piloncillo, raisins, walnuts, almonds and served dusted with salty cheese.

Sources: cultura.gob.mx