Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Greetings from the Gila Wilderness

I know this blog's meant to be about eating Mexican in London, but for the next few months I'd like to share my experiences out here, both food-related and other!

It's two weeks since I left the UK for New Mexico. Part of me is missing the conveniences of city life (like having a local supermarket or eating any sort of cuisine imaginable within walking distance), but the scenery out here makes up for that.

When I first visited the state in 2000, I knew very little about cooking with chillies. However, I quickly became hooked. NM is very proud of it's culinary heritage and they take their food very seriously. This was, after all, part of Mexico until the mid 19th century and being so close to the border, you can find all sorts of Mexican food on offer; from upscale eateries and regional specialities to straight-forward home-style cooking. The latter is something we still don't see in the UK: no frills family-run joints that turn out simple, good food.

However, my time here is somewhat removed from any sort of restaurant scene. As a volunteer at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (part of the National Park Service), the nearest town, Silver City, is 1 1/2 hours away. There are only a handful of restaurants within it which I am yet to try (and will review here). The park is on the edge of the first designated Wilderness area in the US and part of 3.3 million acres of moutainous forest. This area was the home to the MOGOLLON people, a pre-Colombian peoples who lived throughout the region, with the Anasazi to the north and the Hohokam to the west. Today's pueblo people (such as Hopi, Zuni, Acoma and Laguna) are the ancestors of these tribes.

But coming back to food. Corn, beans and squash played an important role in their diet and these remain central to Mexican cooking today. Learning about the history and development of these ingredients is something I can't wait to get my teeth into (quite literally).

Monday, 8 March 2010

From Mexico to New Mexico

Dear readers of From Chile to Chocolate

Sadly, I'm not going to be blogging as much over the next few months as I'm heading off to the wilds of New Mexico for a little outdoor adventure. I hope to spend as much time as possible researching new recipes and cooking up delights from the comfort of my temporary home in the Gila Wilderness, and will post these here as much as possible. However, as the internet access is somewhat limited (the nearest civilisation is 1 1/2 hours away by car), please bear with me and keep checking back for new material!

Hasta luego x

A little taste of Latin America in London

There's no doubt that London is one of the world's leading multi-cultural cities. There's no shortage of places to eat ethnic food. While Mexican (as opposed to Tex Mex) food is a relative newcomer to the scene, there’s been a Latin American presence in London since the 1960s. Many came to the UK looking to escape the dictatorships ruling their homeland.

The Colombian community is one of the largest in town, something in excess of 100,000 inhabitants. A high number of these residents live in South London and there are a number of local shops that cater for the Latin American market.

In addition, Brixton's food markets are a great place to find produce and utensils common in South and Central America. If you fancy an arepa or an empanada, you'll find them here as well as the ingredients to make them at home.

While you may find you still need to order most Mexican groceries online (see ‘Shop Like a Mexican’ in the sidebar on the right), Latin American 'fast' food is now available across London. For example, the newly rebuilt Camden market has a whole host of stalls selling treats from Brazil, Mexico, and Columbia, including the first Venezuelan arepa stall in London, Arepa & Co.

Other places worth a look:

Las American Latin American Butcher
34 Atlantic Road, London SW9 8JW
020 7274 5533

La Bodeguita