Culture

Mole Is One Of The Most Recognizable Foods In The World. Here’s How It Came To Be

Literally all we know from our Mexican childhoods is that mole is the special sauce that mami brings out for special occasions. Like the day after Thanksgiving, or Noche Buena. I come from a family of lazy Latinos, so we never make mole from scratch, but somehow, it was still always reserved for blow out meals. No back story, just thick, spicy, chocolate sauce all over turkey leftovers.

Nobody really knows the origin of mole, but Puebla and Oaxaca claim that they are the sauce’s home.

CREDIT: @ricarpach / Twitter

There are dozens of different types of mole sauces, but the two most popular come from Puebla and Oaxaca. If you’ve ever had mole negro, you’ve had the most complex and savory moles around, from Oaxaca. What makes it different is the hoja santa, a native plant to the region that tastes like a combination of eucalyptus, licorice, anise, nutmeg, mint and black pepper.

Like every Latino origin story, nuns are at the center.

CREDIT: @iwitnest / Twitter

There are a few different legends, but the most famous takes place in the colonial period in Puebla at the Convent of Santa Clara. The nuns were told an archbishop was going to unexpectedly join them for a meal. The broke nuns started praying and started combining bits of what they had on hand: chili peppers, spices, old bread, nuts and some chocolate.

God answered their prayers and with that, mole was born.

CREDIT: @hereandnow / Twitter

They killed an old turkey and served the sauce over him/her. The bishop loved it and asked the name of the dish. She just said, “Me hizo un mole,” i.e. “mix” and the name stuck every since.

On average, moles require an average of 20-30 ingredients.

CREDIT: @MiaMBloom / Twitter

Mole poblano uses an average of 20 ingredients while Oaxacan moles can use over 30 ingredients. The chocolate is always added at the end of cooking, if used at all.

Back in the day, all the women in the family would come together to make the sauce.

CREDIT: @isaidominguez / Twitter

Traditionally, it would take a whole day to roast and grind the chiles, tomatillos, dried fruits and spices by hand. This is why it’s something reserved for special occasions. You have to make it in a large batch for it to all be worth it.

Thank God for Doña María.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. Walmart. 13 October 2018.

I am certain that it doesn’t taste as good as fresh mole, but ain’t nobody got time to spend a whole day making sauce. Unless you dare tell your mama you’re bored and then she’ll put you to work.

Fact: mole goes on turkey if formal and chicken if casual.

CREDIT: @CHOW / Twitter

It’s just how it is. It’s how the nuns did it, so the turkey is more sagrada or something. Either way, remember to mmmm and ay, que rico after the first bite or you’ll cause a fight with the chef.

Don’t worry, veganos. Mole is easily veganized.

CREDIT: @mrgan / Twitter

Instead of using chicken broth to dilute the paste, you can use veggie broth or water, and top it over some roasted delicata squash. Disfrute.

Fun fact: Mexico City airport once admitted that mole can register a positive for explosives.

CREDIT: @mathewrodriguez / Twitter

As visitors leave Mexico City with pounds of mole powder and pastes that carry a very strong odor, they are often stopped by security agents are alerted. Our stomachs are steel.

One step removed from tradition is pouring it over enchiladas.

CREDIT: @chef_bryantk / Twitter

And by “tradition,” I mean the old tales of nuns killing old turkeys to impress an old guy. In my carb-loving opinion, enchiladas are far superior to any kind of meat.

Mole belongs on literally everything. Try me.

CREDIT: @eatdrinkvegan / Twitter

It’s the American way. Replace protein with fried corn chips. You’re basically looking at a metaphor for you, the Latino-American.

Some chefs have started to use mole sauce in lieu of tomato sauce for Mexi-pizza.

CREDIT: “Chicken Mole Pizza – lacocinadeleslie.com” Digital Image. La Cocina de Leslie. 13 October 2018.

I am 100 percent here for that. Tomato sauce is the mayo of the sauce world. Bring on the mole.

Go ahead. Pour that mole on your fries.

CREDIT: @LAist / Twitter

Again, here we go replacing tomatoes with chiles and chocolate. It’s a no-brainer which one will taste better, because mole simply tastes delicious on everything.

Meet the Mexican Benedict:

CREDIT: @lasandiatc / Twitter

I’m screaming. Yes, that’s a poached egg doused in mole over braised lechón on a sope on a “bed” of refried beans. Someone make this for me.

Another example of how you can use mole in lieu of ketchup for every occasion:

CREDIT: @lilwoodys / Twitter

I mean, am I wrong? If you live in LA, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a burger joint that doesn’t have a “Mexican-style” burger that is not covered in (probably Doña María) mole sauce.

Some Mexican spots are experimenting with Thai fusion.

CREDIT: @theblackantnyc / Twitter

The Blank Ant in New York City serves mole over deep fried egg rolls and it looks incredible. It’s deep fried, so it’s effectively Mexican.

An NYC restaurant has been reported serving mole over crispy duck dumplings.

CREDIT: @jeaniuseats / Twitter

Chef Mario Hernandez at The Black Ant NYC has been serving “Holy Mole to Mexican Crispy Duck Dumplings.” He opts for a Oaxacan mole negro, pears and sprinkles of creamy queso fresco.

If you’ve heard of the Black Ant before, it’s because they’re known for serving ‘gourmet’ insects.

Claro, se puede ponerlo en burritos.

CREDIT: @VictoriasTavern / Twitter

It’s a given, but it’s worth mentioning the next time you consider getting Chipotle. Remember: they don’t have la salsa sagrada.

Use it as a base for chili.

CREDIT: @BetterForYou1 / Twitter

At that point though, you might as well just toss in a few Doña Marías. I mean, all those tomatoes are straight up drowning out the flavor, but who am I to judge?

I pray for a world where we can just buy traditional mole in bulk.

CREDIT: @davidrpoliti / Twitter

Oh, espera. That world exists. It’s Mexico, baby, and next time I go, I’m setting off all the TSA alarms.


READ: You May Know Them As Tamales, But In These Countries They’re Known As Something Else

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Mexican Artist Transforms 1,527 Deadly Guns Into Life-Giving Shovels To Plant Trees

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Mexican Artist Transforms 1,527 Deadly Guns Into Life-Giving Shovels To Plant Trees

botanicocln / veri_fp / Instagram

A Mexican artist and activist embarked on a project to gather as many firearms as he could from Culiacán, Mexico, the city with the highest death by gun violence rate in Mexico, and transform them into shovels that would instead plant trees. Artist Pedro Reyes, a Mexico City native, has long been using his art to illustrate how evil can be transformed into good, with the right perspective. While the United States has, by far, the highest number of firearms per capita (120.5 per 100 persons), Mexico ranks 60th in the world. Pedro Reyes wanted to do his part in getting the deadly weapons off the street.

Reyes set out in Culiacán, Mexico, to trade civilian’s weapons for coupons for electronics, and residents traded 1,527 weapons.

Pedro Reyes’s project, known as “Palas por Pistolas” publicized the gun exchange on television ads and through local media.

Credit: bintazd / Instagram

 All of this was made possible by the botanical garden of Culiacán, which has been commissioning artists to perform social impact interventions for years. Reyes made a proposal to the garden to organize a city-wide campaign for a voluntary donation of weapons. The commission was able to pay for television advertisements and liaise with local media to promote the project. Soon, the whole city knew that residents were invited to give up their guns in exchange for a coupon. Those coupons were then traded at a local store in exchange for domestic appliances and electronics.

Of the 1,527 weapons collected, 40 percent were automatic weapons, “exclusively” used for the military.

Credit: molaaart / Instagram

The second phase of the project was put on public display. All 1,527 guns were taken to a military zone and were crushed by a steamroller in a public act. Then, the pieces were taken to a foundry and melted down to its original form. Once again, the same metal that was transformed into guns became a ‘blank page,’ available to transform into absolutely anything. Reyes worked with a major hardware factory to create molds that would create exactly 1,527 shovels. 

Since they’ve been repurposed, 1,527 trees have been planted.

Credit: molaaart / Instagram

The shovels have been on display at a variety of art institutions. Admirers could read an inscription of the shovel’s origin story on the handle. Later, children and adults alike would feel the weight of what was once a gun in their hands as they dug up dirt to plant new life. Trees have been planted at the Vancouver Art Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, Paris’s Maison Rouge, Lyon Biennial, Marfa, Texas, and Denver, Colorado.

“This ritual has a pedagogical purpose of showing how an agent of death can become an agent of life,” Reyes said of the project. 

Credit: botanicocln / Instagram

Like every other Reyes project to date, the gift is a change in perspective. For whoever might have been injured or died at the hands of those 1,527 guns, as many trees have been planted in their honor. Reyes breaks down the concept of a gun to what it is: human intention and scrap metal. With a simple shift in intention, that metal has created lasting memories for children and created oxygen-giving life on this planet.  

Since “Palas por Pistolas,” Reyes has also installed “Imagine,” a similar concept that instead turns guns into musical instruments.

Credit: Pedro Reyes

In April 2012, Reyes was given the opportunity to transform human intention once again. “I got a call from the government who had learned about Palas por Pistolas,” Reyes said. “They told me a public destruction of weapons was to take place in Ciudad Juarez and asked me if I was interested in keeping the metal, which would otherwise have been buried as usual. I accepted the material but I wanted to do something new this time. 6700 weapons, cut into parts and rendered useless, were given to me and I set out to make them into instruments.”

“A group of 6 musicians worked for 2 weeks shoulder-to-shoulder turning these agents of death into instruments of life.”

Credit: Pedro Reyes

Reyes said it was far more challenging than simply turning the metal into shovels. The metal had to create sounds. “It’s difficult to explain but the transformation was more than physical,” Reyes writes. “It’s important to consider that many lives were taken with these weapons; as if a sort of exorcism was taking place the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost.”

Living in a community free of guns ought to be a human right. Many liberties that we enjoy today were considered utopian, and the first step taken into that direction was to Imagine.” Reyes continues to draw attention not only to where guns are used, but where they are made. It is an industry and one he continues to reclaim for life.

READ: Mexicans Are Questioning Their Government’s Decision To Release El Chapo’s Son After A Massive Gun Battle

Mexico Becomes The World’s First Country With A Highway Paved From Recycled Plastics

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Mexico Becomes The World’s First Country With A Highway Paved From Recycled Plastics

Inhabitat

One of the biggest assets of the great and complex country known as Mexico is the creative and even ludic way in which people reuse materials. This is done on an everyday basis. You just have to go to a traditional mercado to see, for example, Barbie doll dresses made with scraps from old clothes. Need a swing for the backyard? No worries, that used tire will do! 

But sometimes this sort of creativity extends to public works that set a good example that other governments can follow. 

Introducing the world’s very first eco-highway! Recycled plastic on the road! 

Credit: Mexico News Daily

The state of Guanajuato in central Mexico is home to the first ever highway paved with recycled materials. The effort is modest at the moment and involved a 4 kilometer stretch that required 1.7 tons of plastic. The stretch communicates the municipalities of Irapuato and Cuerámaro. If we don’t continue to implement solutions like these, the only highway that we will be paving as humanity is a highway to climate hell!

The number of plastic packages required to accumulate 1.7 tons will surprise you!

According to Dow Plastics Technology Mexico, the 1.7 tons of eco-pavement equal up to 425,000 plastic packaging units. The development of the highway plastic was a private affair that involved the companies Dow, Vise, Surfax, Lasfalto and Omnigreen, and its use in the highway was championed by the federal body Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT). Regardless of the politics that are surely involved in the project (governments loooove to take credit for this sort of initiatives and present themselves as super eco-friendly), this project sets a great precedent. 

And the new recycled material is much more durable too!

Credit: Inhabitat

Through a press release, Dow praised the durability of the new eco-material, which could become the standard in the years to come: “This new technology not only offers a possible solution to the management of plastic waste, it also theoretically prolongs the life span of highways by 50% compared to conventional asphalt. The advantage of using recycled plastic products is that they can be used on all types of highways, not only in high-performance products, which can extend the life span of any paved road”.

It is important to note that the world at large is facing a crisis when it comes to the management of recycling materials. Many developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand traditionally send their plastics to China to be recycled. However, China is no longer accepting them and a lot of plastic is either being stored (a costly and not very useful solution) or, worse, it ends up in landfill. This was a pilot study, but it will surely at least trigger the curiosity of other governments and companies. And remember: they both love good PR, and what could be better PR than being eco-friendly in these times of true environmental distress? 

Mexicans have done some other pretty cool eco-friendly things with roads!

Credit: Elite Readers

If you have been to Mexico City chances are that you have been stuck in traffic. If the traffic lasts for more than, say, 45 minutes, chances are then that you are in the infamous Periferico. This artery, which connects the city’s Sur y Norte, was so busy that the government decided to build a second floor on top of it. This was a very controversial project then championed by now president AMLO.

A new project, Via Verde, is creating vertical gardens on the pillars that support “El Segundo Piso”. This is intended not only to provide a pretty view for tired drivers, but also to alleviate some of the air pollution caused by the thousands of cars that cross “El Peri” every day in what is perhaps one of the world’s busiest commutes. We only hope that CDMX becomes a truly green megalopolis… 

And don’t forget the nopal leather made by a duo of Mexican superstars!

Credit: The Mind Unleashed

A few days ago this wonderful invention made its rounds on the media: Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez, two Mexican inventors, have created an alternative to plastic faux leather by using nopal, a cactus variety that is as delicious to eat as it is durable when used as a material. If this vegan and eco-friendly is commercialized on a large scale it will not only provide more fashion alternatives to vegans, but it will also have an impact on the cattle industry, which is one of the main culprits of climate change. The material is also much more breathable than plastic faux leather… seriously, that things makes you sweat like there is no tomorrow!