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In the latest episode of CNN's Culinary Journeys, which sees chefs make culinary pilgrimages all over the globe, Mexican maestro Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Cosme) explores the food traditions of his country's Day of the Dead festival, including making 'Bread of the Dead' in San Miguel de Allende.
On Mexican street food Olvera remarks: “Some Mexicans even say it's the dirt and the pollution that makes the street food taste so well, obviously I don't think that is it but it does have … a lot of soul, a lot of character, a lot of flavour…"
We had a chat with Olvera (below) and watch a preview of the episode before that.
What was the highlight of your Culinary Journey?
It is always a great pleasure to have the opportunity and privilege to show others about my country and the depth of our traditions and heritage. The Day of the Dead party at my house made me realise how much I missed my friends and spending quality time with my family. Being in my country, my home for such an important date for us, Mexicans. Happiness is only real when shared, as someone said.
Did you learn anything new on the trip?
Maybe not learn, but it gave me the chance to take a needed pause, reconnect, rethink, go to my favorite markets, visit old friends.
Tell us about the role food plays in the Day of the Dead celebrations and talk us through some typical dishes.
Food is everything for us, especially during this festivities, where families and friends gather to remember our lost ones. During the preparation of the departed’s favourite foods and beverages – what we call ofrenda – an environment of love, caring and sharing is generated. It is told that through this offerings, we are helping them on their spiritual journeys. Some typical dishes linked to this celebration are tamales – corn dough filled with different things depending on the region, wrapped with the corn husk or banana leaves – chicken or pork with mole sauce – one of the most complex and laborious sauces ever created – and a sweet bread called pan de muerto, which is usually accompanied by a hot chocolate or atole.
How has Mexican cuisine evolved since your career began?
In general terms, it remains complex, diverse and very rich as always. In terms of fine dining restaurants, it’s growing and rising. I can see an incipient and promising cuisine.
If we gave you a blank cheque for a Culinary Journey, where would you go and why?
Tabasco. My grandparents were born there and I really want to go explore a lot more about my roots.
Culinary Journeys airs Thursday 22 December on CNN International at 0930 GMT, and at the following times:
Friday 23 December at 0430 GMT / 0530 CET and 1630 GMT / 1730 CET
Saturday 24 December at 1630 GMT / 1730 CET
Saturday 31 December at 1230 GMT / 1330 CET
Sunday 1 January at 0530 GMT / 0630 CET