Oaxaca: A Dinner Story

 
Cooking is an act of familial love..
 

From cow tongue to grilled cactus, Eufemia (eh-oo-fem-ee-uh), or Fema, as we call her, has practiced Oaxacan culinary alchemy alongside my family for around 12 years. Perhaps alchemy is an exaggeration, but to go from traditional, Southern, not always farm fresh and often over-preserved ingredients, to seeing raw cabbage sliced up as a side to a nice brothy soup, is a quite the culture difference.

Fema came to the U.S. from Oaxaca (wah-hah-kuh) in search of opportunities for her family and children back in Mexico. Today, she lives in Winston-Salem with her brother, sister and daughter, (little my cousin).

A couple weeks ago, Fema came to my house to cook pozole. Pozole means means hominy, and hominy is a type of maize used to sometimes make grits, but in this case, the hominy kernels are cooked whole for this super simple, but delectible chicken soup. I decided to  interview Fema, and get to know more about her relationship with food, family and her undying relationship with fresh ingredients.

Our interview starts at her childhood where she tells stories and shares reference videos from Mexico-loving Facebook accounts depicting traditional Mexican cooking methods like roasting meat in underground pits under large palm leaves, or taking us step-by-step through the process of scratch-made tortillas. Unfazed, the women turn the tortillas over the heat with their fingertips, and I wonder about the American proclivity of needing a utensil for every type of thing. 

Fema talks about chasing chickens for eggs, her father's love of gardening and how no one else does "natural food" like that of her home state. 

Food and family are synonymous. Each dish Fema talks about leads back to a story about her mother or sisters or the differences between produce grown in the U.S. versus Mexico. This is why she visited my home, to share herself with us, eat alongside and prepare for family. Cooking, for Fema, is an act of familial love. 

Like me, Fema comes from a large family, so meals are made to be eaten by many, and sometimes, made to last for a few days out. Pozole is chicken soup that can be made with either a red or green chili sauce or brothy like the one pictured. Below is a recipe, with measurements equipped to feed a small village. The ingredients are simple, the finished product is delicious.

Recipe

1 6 lb. can of hominy corn
4-5 chicken leg quarters
5 tablespoons oregano
kosher salt, to taste
1 cup yellow onions, rough chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chicken boullion cubes

Toppings

lime
radish
tostadas
white onion
raw, shredded cabbage
jalapeños or your choice spicy chili, chopped, raw

fill a large stock pot half full of water, bring to a boil; add hominy to water and boil for 20 minutes; add chicken, oregano, bouillon cubes, garlic, onions and salt to boiling water, boil until chicken is falling from the bone, serve with toppings!