Breaking Bread: May 5th a good day to make guacamole
Americans are a study in contradiction.
We balk at Grandparents Day in September or Sweetest Day in October, calling them “Hallmark Holidays” — just another excuse for florists and card shops to take our money.
But when tomorrow rolls around, the same folks will happily spend money on giant margaritas and platters of Mexican food for Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Talk about a made-up holiday.
Many people think Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican Independence Day — the Mexican version of the Fourth of July — and eagerly help our southern neighbors celebrate.
Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16.
In Mexico, May 5 isn’t even a federal holiday.
While we’re downing tequila shots, business plays out as usual at Mexican post offices, banks and government agencies.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the 1862 victory by the Mexican militia at the Battle of Puebla during the six-year Franco-Mexican War.
As battles go, Puebla was an unlikely victory for Mexico: Its ragtag army was outnumbered 3-to-1 by the French.
According to the historical accounts I’ve read, Puebla certainly wasn’t a pivotal battle in the war, which continued for five more years.
The victory, however, gave the Mexican army a rallying point to bolster its continued fight — thus the commemoration.
Cinco de Mayo is an official holiday only in Puebla, a state in east-central Mexico.
In U.S. cities with large Mexican-American populations, Cinco de Mayo has grown into celebrations of Mexican culture on a wider scale.
U.S. celebrations, however, have become bigger than anything that happens south of the border, largely through marketing efforts by Mexican food and drink companies.
Mind you, I’m not complaining; I love any excuse to celebrate with Mexican food. And Cinco de Mayo offers the perfect reason to make guacamole, perhaps my favorite dip.
I spent years trying to perfect a guacamole recipe, but the dip never tasted as good as I wanted.
Then, in 2010, I met chef Robert Santibanez, a native of Mexico City and owner of Fonda restaurants in New York.
After learning his method for making guacamole, I threw away all other recipes.
His is guacamole perfected, and you might find yourself making it often.
Your grandmother might even enjoy some on Grandparents Day — which, by the way, is Sept. 11 this year.
Guacamole is the least you can give her, since you probably weren’t planning to buy her a card.
— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.