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~ Adding Olives to Mexican or Mexican-Style Dishes ~

IMG_2554Olives in Mexican food?  It's controversial.  So-called experts will flatly state that olives in Mexican food make the dish Spanish, not Mexican, meaning "don't".  That said, with some of the largest concentrations of green olive trees in the world being located in regions throughout Mexico, areas bordering Texas, and, the Guadalupe Valley in Northern Baja California, common sense would and should lead one (it did me) to a different conclusion, meaning, if you are an olive lover, "go for it".  Just know, a Mexican dish you added olives to can't be peddled as "authentic" or "classic" Mexican" -- olives render the dish "Mexican-style", or, "Mexican-American fusion food".  

A good deal of research on this subject revealed to me:

IMG_2583 2It's not that Mexicans don't eat olives, they just don't put them on tacos, or use them in dishes accompanied by, or wrapped in, tortillas.  Mostly, they eat olives as snacks, add them to salads or drop them into alcoholic beverages -- who doesn't love a jalapeño- or cotija cheese-stuffed olive eaten out of hand, added to a salad or in their martini.  It's also worth noting that, for a time, during the colonial period, 1521-1821, the Spanish government forbade the planting of olive trees and/or groves in New Spain (as Mexico was named during this period), which, quite possibly, is the sole reason why olives aren't present in vintage family recipes and classic Mexican dishes that have been handed down from generation to generation -- olives were forbidden fruit.  It's also (understandably so) very plausible that Mexican resentment toward the Spanish government in general caused many Mexican cooks to refused to cook with and serve-to-them, their beloved fruit. That said, olive trees did make their way into Mexico (read below), they exist in Mexico today, and, nowadays, Mexicans do, on occasion, just like the rest of us, eat and enjoy olives.

Green olives are not indigenous to Mexico, but they are no stranger to Mexico or the Mexican people or Mexican cuisine.

5b46bd3b30abb.imageWild olives (oleaster) once grew all over the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, but bore little resemblance to the modern olive tree until about 5,000 years ago when it was cultivated in Crete and Syria into what we are familiar with today.  Once established, olive trees flourished in Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, and other Mediterranean countries for thousands of years, and, were featured in many culinary specialties. The Spaniards were the first to realize this fruit could have international appeal and took the first cuttings to Peru in the early-to-mid 16th century.  From there, Franciscan Monks introduced olives to Central America, then smuggled them North, where olive trees thrived within the walls of their missions of Mexico.  In 1769, olive cuttings were planted at the San Diego Mission where they found yet another happy home in California.

Americans might love black olives, but, they're not even a part of the small part olives play in a Mexican kitchen.  Black olives are an all-American addition, catering solely to the American palate.

IMG_2603"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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