When you think about Mexican food, what comes first to mind…
“Yay, fresh, healthy vegetables and fruits!”
“Tacos, mole, and lots of cheese and meat.”
The Mexican diet is commonly perceived by many to be heavy with meats and cheese, topped with salsa, polished off with a Coca Cola – not too dissimilar to the ‘Burger and Fries’ diet of the rest of North America.
This is true, to an extent: the health of Mexico’s overall population has suffered as a result of the Industrial Revolution and the popularity of fast food, fried snacks and ‘convenience’ foods.
But this is by no means the whole story; Mexico has an abundance of resources that even its own people are keenly rediscovering.
In 2010, when UNESCO announced that the gastronomy of Mexico, along with that of France, would be the first to be placed on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the gastronomically curious turned their attention what that country of tacos south of the US had to offer. The world became aware of mole, other traditional recipes and, especially, corn. Concerns about genetically modified foods (GMO) and Monsanto’s meddling with this most precious foundation of the cuisine added to this important, even essential, discussion. And the conversation about corn can’t be had in isolation: unlike the corn that is grown commercially, in the traditional community agriculture of Mexico, it is grown in harmony with other plant foods. Farm-to-table, and sustainable farming are the real story of the original diet of Mexico, which has survived ‘progress’ thanks to real people in communities all around the country.
This is the story we are committed to learning about, and sharing with others who are also curious and passionate about the value of real food and culture.
The project began with the eBook: Frutas y Verduras – A Fresh Food Lover’s Guide to Mexico.
This was conceived by Margaret Hefner, a Personal Chef and native English speaker who was, herself, learning to adopt Mexico’s local foods into her own culinary and dietary lexicon. While thrilled by so much freshness and variety in the mercados, the challenges were many. From language limitations and cultural confusion to the normal questions like “what do I do with that” and “what does it taste like?” , decoding the regional ingredients for other foreigners like herself became Margaret’s mission.
The first time I tasted mamey it was horrible. It dried my mouth like cotton and made my throat itch. The second try, it was rotten inside. I gave up on mamey for years! Now I know better, and choose from those the vendor has cut open. It’s my favorite fruit in the world now.
The eBook is a handy resource for traveling, and as a shopping and cooking reference.
In late 2016, after nearly 3 years of work, ‘Frutas y Verduras – a Fresh Food Lover’s Guide to Mexico’ was published in the iTunes store. It provides a thorough overview of many (more than 50) emblematic ingredients, in their many uses. It’s meant to help you get your feet wet. But this project has places to go, and the diversity, variety and seasonality of the produce of the country begs for more attention.
Food is about sharing and community, and that’s what drives Frutas y Verduras Mexico, too. We’re not a tour company, we’re a network comprised of culinary and tourism professionals. We’re locals who know the foods of our region as well as our communities. But we also know there’s always more to discover and learn especially as we dig deeper, as we are committed to doing.
As a network we invite others with the creativity, the wherewithal, and a collaborative nature, to propose new ideas to help this Plant Food Lover’s network spread.
About the founder, Margaret Hefner
Canadian-born to European parents, Margaret arrived to Mexico in late 2009 just as the buzz about the UNESCO designation was beginning.
Margaret pursued her formal study in Design at the Rhode Island School of Design (1989) – but always, the culinary world beckoned. For 15 years, she designed and produced jewelry and decorative hardware, with frequent stints in restaurant kitchens.
In 2006, Margaret put away her jewelry tools for the last time, and picked up her knife to launch a Personal Chef service, with a focus on family and individuals with health issues/dietary restrictions. Plant foods always featured prominently on her menus and when she arrived to Mexico in 2009 she was met with riches to inspire her. Designing the eBook was a perfect marriage of her skills and passions.
Now, at the helm of Frutas y Verduras, Margaret is bringing together like-minded culinary and tourism professionals to continue telling the story of plant foods in Mexico, and the people that depend on them for their livelihoods.
“Eat more plants – especially those you have never tried before.”