It does a body good
The Mexican on milk, corn and Salma Hayek
Dear Mexican: This is going to sound absolutely and totally Caucasian. Lately, we have been trying to lighten the mood around the office with international confections. Just the other day at my birthday celebration, I quite insisted on a lilac-toned bomb cake from a pricey bakery. In addition to this, some of my Mexican sisters brought something called the Tres Leches. To try to begin to describe the subtle richness and the coolness upon the tongue—the bomb cake was left standing alone like a wallflower at a seventh-grade dance. To this end, we are still arguing what in the heck is the THIRD leche in the Tres Leches? We have cow milk as leche number uno, goat milk as leche number dos—however, the mind spins with the possibilities of the tres leches?
Dear Gabacha: I’m glad you enjoyed pastel de tres leches, but unless your Mexi amigas bought a gourmet version, you’re wrong on all counts. Tres leches cake is traditionally made with evaporated milk, condensed milk and a layer of cream on top. Usually, Mexicans use goat milk to make cajeta, the mestizo cousin of caramel—but cajeta usually doesn’t go on pastel de tres leches. You can drizzle that on the pastel de tres leches—wash it down with horchata, and you’ll have the sweetest combo to come out of Mexico since Salma Hayek’s breasts.
While trying to instill some history into my girlfriend, who is also Mexican—well, I was born acá, y ella, allá—I told her that maize was first harvested by Aztecs, whereas she states that it was the Mayans who kept la yunta andando for corn first. Could you please enlighten her by telling her that she’s wrong?
Dear Wab: Drop the Aztec love, cabrón! Everyone knows they were just a parasite empire that absorbed attributes from the many cultures and people that preceded them, from the Olmecs to Toltecs to Mayans to whoever the hell built Teotihuacán. And the fact is both of you are wrong. Trying to determine who domesticated corn is as impossible as finding a Mexican-owned truck without a sticker of a bull, their hometown, or stick figures depicting their family, but the great book America’s First Cuisines notes scientists in 1964 found evidence of domestication and harvesting in the Tehuacan valley, around the states of Puebla and Oaxaca, dating back to 5,000 B.C.—more than 2,000 years before aliens built the pyramids in Egypt as guides or whatever the latest Coast to Coast A.M. explanation is. The domestication of maize—and the miracle that is nixtamalization, which makes masa possible—is Mexico’s greatest gift to the world, greater even than Salma Hayek’s boobs of glory.