Tag Archives: latin american food

Speaking Mexican (and What it Really Means)

Phyllis Marquitz is a food-industry professional. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, her job relocated her and her family to Mexico City, where she had the opportunity to enjoy, understand and appreciate the local culture and flavors first hand. These gracious guests were in turn, a gift to Mexico- they are vocal Mexico enthusiasts, even to the point that Phyllis’ husband is the editor of soccer blog, soccer mexicanaPhyllis is also a long-time reader of La Vitamina T. Earlier this year, I had the privilege to meet her personally during one of her business trips to Chicago.

Although zapote,  the fruit Phyllis talks about in her post, is also available in Central and South America, she associates this fruit to the time she spent in Mexico.

By: Phyllis Marquitz


Photo credits: Manuel Rivera

Photo credits: Manuel Rivera

This morning I was yapping with my son (he is four, so we usually weave in an out of subject matter and  season the “conversation” with silly-sounding words).  We were discussing colors and fruits and how to make juices of different hues.  We eventually settled on green and used some fading, very ripe kiwi to bring it to life.  Along the way, giggling and thinking he had stumped me,  he asked, “what about BLACK  juice?”  “Zapote!” I immediately responded. But, “how do you say it in English?,” he said.  Since there isn’t an English translation,  he filled in impatiently, “do you mean, the name is only in español?”

I’ve been dwelling on it all morning.  Because to me, the name is not only in español, the name is in… Mexican.

Today I miss Distrito Federal and the genius chilango with a little stand that would mix zapote with citrus to balance it out.  I miss drinking pudding and sweet orange nectar.  I miss real jugo verde, even though the kiwi juice is pretty good.

If you don’t know black Zapote, this seasonal fruit is apparently a distant relative to the persimmon.  It has a pulpy middle that gets squeezed into an amazing pudding texture.  People say it is like dark chocolate pudding, but I get light hints of anise too.

Photo Credits: Luisa López

Photo Credits: Luisa López

When I was growing up, saying that someone was “talking Mexican” could be taken as a snide or as an ignorant remark about someone speaking Spanish, whether or not they were from Mexico.  This went along with all the assumptions people make about immigrants.  This resonated, with me, as my mother was an immigrant, even when she wasn´t Latin American.

I always associated the idea that people used the term “Mexican” to describe the language, with ignorance. Just like everything else, now I know it is much more complex than that.  Years later, here I am, wanting to tell my son (I didn’t because we had moved on to talk about snails and chess) that Zapote wasn’t only Spanish, it was much more specific and loaded with memories:

It was, well, Mexican.