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Spicy Etiquette

There's a basic cultural difference at play here...with spicy food, we Anglos have the sensation that our tongue and mouth are being BURNED, so we use terms like "hot" and "flaming" and "heat." But Mexicans (I can only speak for México, where we live, not for all of Latin America), the same sensation caused by spicy food is similar to that of a bee sting or an insect bite. So Mexicans, referring to spicy food, use a word that comes from the verb "picar," to bite or sting...they will say things like "Esta salsa no pica" (this sauce is not spicy; literal translation would be "this sauce doesn't sting"). In both English and Spanish, the word is "picante," which is definitely a derivative from the verb "picar." If you tell a native Mexican waitstaff that you want your food "hot," you can expect it to come to the table steaming and untouchable. In Spanish, "caliente" refers to temperature, not to spiciness. So don't ask for your food "muy caliente" unless you want to burn your fingers on the plate. Having lived and worked throughout México for the past ten years, I can tell you that most of the food is not picante...but they always serve a variety of salsas (sauces) that people can add to taste. One more thing...the word in Spanish is "chile" (pronounced "chee´-lay"), NOT "chili" and not pronounced "chilly." And it covers virtually everything from the tiny chiltepín to the jalapeño (NOT pronounced "hal-uh-peén-yo"), and the larger chile poblano and chile de arbol. Mexicans have been eating chile for centuries, but they really don't have any dish that's similar to "chili con carne." When Mexicans find the food overly spicy and they feel they've been "bitten" (eyes start watering and they choke a bit), they're likely to say "Me enchilé," which means..."I just got stung by the spiciness of the food."

Jul 04, 2010
davymex in General Topics

Peanuts in soda?

I'm 64 and grew up in southern Ohio and DEFINITELY remember putting salted peanuts into my Coke bottle. The contrasting flavors of the salty nuts and the sweet cola made a delicious combination.

Mar 19, 2010
davymex in General Topics

Chilaquiles

Regan B: We live in Mexico and have two batches of stale tortillas, ready to make into chilaquiles. I have two questions: 1) Do we fry the hardened stale tortillas, just as we would fresh ones? and 2) If the tortillas are already stale and hard, how do we cut them into totopo-sized pieces? Do we just break them?

Dec 31, 2009
davymex in Recipes

How to Form a Tamale

For future reference, the singular of "tamales" is TAMAL, not "tamale." The tamal is an ancient food specialty of Mesoamerica, going back to between 5,000 and 8,000 BC. Tamales were staples with the Aztec, the Maya, the Olmec and the Toltec peoples.

Dec 31, 2009
davymex in Features