Eastern New Mexico University graduate student Maria Garcia kicked off International Education Week at ENMU with spice and Mexican flavor.
Garcia discussed authentic Mexican cuisine with energy during her “A Taste of Mexico” presentation, working the Pecos Room in a traditional Mexican dress as if she was on her own food talk show.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Mexican food in the U.S.,” said Garcia, who is a native of Aguas Calientes, Mexico. “Food is a way of expressing culture, it’s a way to learn about people.”
Garcia surveyed the room to see how many people have eaten traditional Mexican food, and although many said they have eaten Mexican dishes at local restaurants, she let them know Americanized Mexican food is not the real deal.
She began talking about chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish comprised of lightly fried corn tortillas and a green chili sauce. She joked with college students adding that the dish is used as a popular hangover cure in Mexico.
Garcia said often times people top chilaquiles with salsa, Mexican sweet cream, fresh onions and queso fresco, a Mexican cheese.
Garcia proceeded to talk about Mexican rice.
“Mexican rice is often made with peas and carrots,” Garcia said. “If you don’t have those ingredients in your rice, then you don’t have Mexican rice.”
She added the golden rule for making Mexican rice is to use two cups of water for every cup of rice.
Enchiladas was another food Garcia feels is often made differently in the U.S.
“The secret is the sauce,” Garcia said. “It’s usually made with the guajillo and ancho chilies.”
According to Garcia, in central Mexico chilies rellenos are made with the poblano chili and are usually dipped in egg batter then fried.
Garcia ended her presentation clearing up a myth about tortillas in Mexico
“We go to the store and buy them, we’re lazy,” Garcia joked. “In Mexico, we don’t make our own tortillas unless you’re from a traditional family.”
But standing in long lines at tortillerias, stores that specifically sell tortillas, is a part of Mexican tradition and socializing, according to Garcia.
She may have left students and faculty members with watering mouths but she didn’t leave them hungry.
Garcia prepared all the dishes she talked about and served the audience, leaving them full of a new-found knowledge on Mexican cuisine and traditional Mexican food.
Kaiwen (Kevin) Xu, director of International Affairs at ENMU, said Garcia’s presentation set the tone for the rest of the week.
Xu is excited about the week’s events including presentations from a Taiwanese professor and ENMU President Steve Gamble.
“Pattarapong Burusnuku, a professor from Thailand, is going to talk about Taiwanese traditions, food and culture,” Xu said. “He grew up with elephants walking up and down the street of his neighborhood. It should be interesting.”
Gamble is also set to host a luncheon on Friday to talk about his travels around the world.