Jackie Hope: Feliz Mayo!
Don’t you just love everything about Cinco de Mayo? The food, the music, the food, the dancing. The food. Um, did we mention the food?
No, we are not talking about mayonnaise. Which is pretty great, too. In fact, did you know you can use it for darned near anything from tuna sandwiches to furniture polish in a pinch? Mayonnaise is a not-so-secret indulgence that has been around in Western Europe since the 17th century, according to one source. Yeah, that source is Wikipedia. Just deal with it, OK?
Mayonnaise was probably Spanish in origin, but French chefs dug into it with mucho gusto, and gave it its name. The Oxford English Dictionary cites its first English reference in 1823, in the journal of Lady Blessington. And, bless my soul, it has been gaining popularity ever since.
Mayo used to be whipped up — a Miracle Whip! — fresh for each meal, by cooking staffs at fancy restaurants and elegant homes. Now, big box stores — where you can buy underwear and meat at the same time — stock mayos ranging from white bread to gourmet. Mostly, it is made of egg yolks and oil, with a dash of mustard.
Apparently it can be up to 80 percent fat before its consistency breaks down. I’m thinking most of us would consistently break down if we were 80 percent fat. But, hey, all that fattiness in mayo is what makes it so darned tasty. We do not speak of calories in the same sentence as the word mayonnaise.
Back to Mayo, however. Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, a day set aside to celebrate Mexican unity and patriotism.
According to the University of California in Los Angeles, the date is associated with the 1862 battle at Puebla, between the French army, and Mestizo and Zapotec Indians. The Mexican fighters were victorious in resisting French desires of empire at that battle, and “El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla” has been subsequently celebrated as a day of patriotism and pride.
Here in the States, we refer to it as Cinco de Mayo. like our Fourth of July, but in doing that we have incorrectly labeled it Mexican Independence Day. That event actually occurred on Sept. 16, 1810. The folks at UCLA say la Cinco has become more of a Chicano holiday than a Mexican one, and it is celebrated on a much larger scale in the U.S. than in Mexico. Oh yeah, we folks north of the border have thoroughly embraced it — the whole enchilada, one might say.
The world’s largest Cinco de Mayo la Celebracion — Festival de Fiesta Broadway — takes place in Los Angeles on the Sunday closest to la Cinco. Hey, duuuude, those California girls, and guys, really know how to par-tay. They have a big honker parade with big honking and tooting mariachi bands. Don’t you love mariachi bands? They are kinda like the “I Love Lucy” Ricky Ricardo Orchestra, only in manic mode. (Trivia: what was the name of Ricky Ricardo’s nightclub?) And they dress like Carmen Miranda, except they wear gaucho hats on their heads, instead of a whole farmers’ market of produce.
And the dancing? Latin dances are wicked cool and their dancers are smokin’ hot. C’mon, what other culture can dance around a hat and make it look like something choreographed by Martha Graham? Want a comparison?
Look at a YouTube of Scotsmen, or Scottish wannabes, dancing around a pair of crossed swords. They look like they are playing stationary hop scotch — Scotch, right? — instead of dancing. And mostly all you notice are their kilts, anyway. But Latin dancing always looks amazing. OK, except for that Macarena thing a few years ago.
What fiesta is complete without food? Oh man, food is where Mexicans and Mexican-Americans excel beyond our wildest dreams. It is totally genius to take meaty bits and beany bits and cheesy bits, cover them up with delicious tomato-y-ness, and then wrap them up into a hand-held, portable banquete. When you try to eat a slice of pizza on the go, you have to fold it in half and hope for the best. But a burrito comes all packaged up, with its ends tucked in like a North Dakotan’s feet on a winter camping trip. And the simile ends here, because no one wants to think of a North Dakotan’s feet and a delicious burrito in the same simile.
Hey, know what is even better than leftover pizza? Leftover burritos and refried beans. Everybody knows that beans just get better with each reheating. And they also get more, uh, more … more vocal with each reheating, too. You know, Ameri-Mex and Mex-Mex and Tex-Mex food may be just the most excellent stuff on earth. Well, except for that vocal business.
And you are waiting to know if you are right about the name of Ricky’s club, aren’t you?
The Tropicana Club. Babalu! Ole! Vive la leftover burritos!
Hope is a humor columnist for The Dickinson Press and The Drill. She writes about everyday life, living in the Oil Patch and Twinkies.