Cookbook Promotes Mexican Heritage Diet: Beans, Squash, Herbs and Seeds

Huaraches aren't just for wearing. Apparently, they're also for eating.Made with a nopal, or prickly pear cactus, with the needles removed and cooked, a huarache is part of the Mexican indigenous diet that two California professors hope to revive in this country with a cookbook about reclaiming heritage crops.Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel recently co-authored Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing after researching and realizing that immigrant groups tend to be healthier than Latino groups born in the U.S.Diet seemed to be part of the reason, especially a diet rich in plants indigenous to the Americas, such as beans, squash, greens, herbs, seeds and — of course — beans. That means getting away as fast as you can from American fast food.The two professors were in Dallas this week as part of a mini-residency presented by Ignite/Arts Dallas, a program launched by the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in 2015. The women gave cooking demonstrations and lectures on campus and at cooking and family centers in Dallas.Calvo, whose bout with breast cancer in 2006 sparked the research, was surprised to find out that immigrant women tend to have a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer than Latinas born here.Rueda Esquibel, who did most of the research, said she also found that Latino immigrants tend to have low rates of infant mortality and lower rates of various diseases."With that info, we started thinking, 'What do I eat? What do I want to eat? What will prevent cancer from coming back,'" she said. "What are the foods that the immigrant community eats?"And so their quest for a healthier diet and lifestyle began. Eventually, it turned into a cookbook in part because they believe Latino immigrants have been demonized enough."The idea that immigrants 'take' is false," Rueda Esquibel said. "And what we're trying to show is that they bring a lot to our society — knowledge and healthy food traditions — and we can learn a lot from them."Calvo said she thought back to what her own grandmother used to cook. And like so many Mexican immigrants from earlier generations, many raised their own chickens — for both the eggs and to feed their families.The two women are life partners and decided to do the same. They also began their own garden to raise their own food."I was dealing with the cycle of life in my own garden and came to understand myself as part of that cycle," Calvo said. "And I was getting so much pleasure from making really delicious foods."Besides nopales, they also include a dish called verdolagas, made with purslane — a tangy, succulent plant."We remember our grandmothers talking about verdolagas," Rueda Esquibel said. "That kind of ancestral knowledge is really important to grab hold of now and pass on to the next generation."And then there's the hibiscus flower power tacos recipe in their book. Combined with potatoes, chipotle and honey, and served on a tortilla, some salsa might be the only thing lacking to scarf it down.The book is in bookstores and on Amazon. And their Facebook page, Decolonize Your Diet, has 34,000 followers.The growth in its popularity has given the authors some satisfaction."The success of the Facebook page shows the thirst and desire out there, especially among young people, for this information," Rueda Esquibel said. "Food is medicine."Twitter: @molivera79  Continue reading...

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