Since I’ve retired from restaurants, I’m grateful for not working the big holidays. Living in the American Southwest, this means I duck taco station duties on one of the most celebrated days besides Mother’s Day: Cinco de Mayo.
I do have a little bit of perspective, having worked on the line with lots of guys who are Mexican. We’ve had conversations while slinging nachos and guacamole. “What’s so big about today, Manuel?” “Eh,” he says, “No se, gringos estupidos.”
I can tell you, Cinco de Mayo ain’t that big a deal to my Mexican co-workers. What is the big day for Mexicans? September 16th. It is Mexico’s Day of Independence. This is the day when homemade tamales and pulled pork are brought out from containers brought from home. When it’s most likely half the crew asks for the day off. This is the day to be feared by chefs working in the great Southwest.
What is Cinco de Mayo? In Mexican history, it was a day in 1862 of a victory over French forces that was unexpected and unlikely. It is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (The Day of the Battle of Puebla). For my Mexican co-workers, freedom from Spain 50 years earlier is more cause for celebration than one battle, which while it saved Mexico from the French, does not warrant the level of hurrah that we give it here in America.
When the two days became so confused is still a mystery. Why is easily answered. Most people of Mexico look at our celebration and say, “eh, gringos estupidos.” It’s a day for restaurants and bars to sell top shelf tequila and for chefs to get ever more creative with deconstructed tacos. Cinco de Mayo sounds better then El dieciséis de Septiembre (September 16th). For advertisers Cinco de Mayo was an easy sell. It rolls off the tongue. Campaigns with a short, easy to remember name were easy to build and sell to an unsuspecting audience. Now it’s become one of the largest non-religious celebrations in America.
And here are several of my Southwestern vegan recipes for you to make and serve at your Cinco de Mayo celebration.
This is a great recipe to serve at parties and celebrations. Though it takes a little time investment, you can make a whole pan of these enchiladas and please a crowd. Give them a whirl for your Cinco de Mayo dinner.
Salsa, that ever present condiment available at every fast food Mexican joint, sometimes being poured from a large jug. I learned at a pretty young age to make a decent roasted salsa. I hung onto this recipe for years before sharing it. Now, you can use this fantastic salsa for your Cinco de Mayo celebration.
There is something satisfying about finding the perfect avocado, by chance, and then cutting it open and smashing it to smithereens. Add in onion, garlic and jalapenos, and you’ve got yourself the best guacamole for Cinco de Mayo, and it’s a little bit on the healthy side too!