Celebrating Mexico’s win over France
Mexico declared independence from Spain Sept. 15, 1810. By 1822, the Spanish soldiers left and returned home. Soon after they departed, the English and French arrived in Mexico. The English made some deals and went back to Merry Olde England. The French, however, decided to stick around for a while.
In 1862, under the rule of Napoleon III, who hated the United States, the French chose to make Mexico their home. Napoleon’s army had not lost a battle in more than 60 years, so they were comfortable naming Maximilian the prince of Mexico.
The French were not afraid of anyone and were not the least bit concerned with the United States, which was engaged in the Civil War. They should have used more caution.
During the French takeover of Mexico, Colonel Porfirio Diaz was instructed to take his cavalry to the French flanks. This proved to be the downfall of the French.
When the French gave up their position in the fight, Colonel Diaz’s cavalry proceeded to make guacamole out them. The Mexican army of 4,000 defeated the French army of 8,000 on May 5, 1862, just outside Mexico City. Cinco de Mayo was born.
This may not seem like a big deal to Americans, but that battle prevented the French from re-supplying the Confederate troops. Fourteen months later, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought, essentially ending the Civil War. General Sheridan led his forces over the border and helped the Mexicans finally defeat the French. Years later, tens of thousands of gracious Mexicans crossed the border after Pearl Harbor to enlist in the United States Armed Forces.
Mexicans are like Sicilians – they never forget their friends. In addition, like the Sicilians or any culture, they have a soup of humble appeal. Nice segue, eh? The Italians have their pasta fagioli, the Greeks their white bean stew, and the Mexicans their menudo.
Since Cinco de Mayo has become a party day, here is the recipe for menudo, a Mexican soup that is traditionally prepared on New Year’s morning. It is believed to have medicinal value. It soothes the stomach, contains vitamins A and C and stimulates one’s appetite.
3 pounds of tripe
3 pounds of frozen hominy
3 pounds pig’s feet
1 large diced onion
1 bunch green onion cut up in quarter pieces
1 bunch chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 clove of chopped garlic
2 tablespoon of salt
Wash tripe well and remove excess fat. Cut into bite-size pieces. Wash pig’s feet well. Combine ingredients in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer slowly until hominy corn opens. Skim off grease, refrigerate, then spoon off additional grease. Return to heat and simmer.
This amount serves 6-8 people and should be served in a large soup bowl accompanied by hot tortillas and small dishes of chopped chile serranos, chopped onion and wedges of limes.
Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated at Lake Tahoe, and one such celebration will be held at the Cantina Bar and Grill. The party begins at 8 p.m. and features the Trey Stone Band. There will be plenty of food, drinks and fun to go around, and there’s a chance to win a week’s vacation at the Hacienda del Mar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (Airfare is not included and there are some restrictions.)
The Cantina Bar and Grill is located at 765 Emerald Bay Road, (530) 544-1233.
A special Cinco de Mayo celebrating the grand opening of Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina will be at Harveys Resort Casino. The event will feature the Dane Rinehart Band, $2 Dos Equis, draft and tequila selections and Mexican-inspired signature dishes.
– Peter Arcuri is the food and wine writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org