Pinole. Heritagised food from Copper Canyon.
   02/24/2024 13:52:20     Cacao    Comments 0
Pinole. Heritagised food from Copper Canyon.

Food historian Rachel Laudan writes of pinole that it ‘gives me shivers up the spine. When I eat it or drink it, I am transported back through the millennia to travellers, warriors, muleteers’ (Rachel Laudan, 2006 website). Pinole is a Mexican pre-Hispanic foodstuff1 that strongly evokes the past. Made of toasted and ground kernels of corn with sugar, cinnamon or vanilla, it is usually prepared as a hot drink by adding water or milk and can also be eaten directly in its powdery form. Pinole was one of the main energy sources for the Aztecs and could be stored as emergency food for four or five years – in comparison to dried corn, which usually lasts for a year. During the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica, Native Indians were documented to have shared pinole with stranded Spanish conquistadores on the brink of starvation (Pinole Weebly website).

Pinole is also associated with the diet and athleticism of the Tarahumara community of north-western Mexico, which is renowned for its long-distance runners. In 2012, pinole made from heirloom blue corn officially became an ‘endangered flavour’ and was entered into the Ark of Taste, an online catalogue of heritage foods selected and promoted by the global social movement and organisation, Slow Food. In this instance, heritage foods are understood as ‘the set of material and immaterial gastronomic elements linked to production, the agricultural sector and a collective regional heritage’ (Bessière and Tibère, 2011 quoted in Bessière, 2013: 279). The Ark specifically sponsors pinole produced by Amigos de Ozolco, a cooperative in the small isolated village of San Mateo, Ozolco, in central Mexico. Slow Food's aim, along with Amigos', is to extract pinole from its ‘ghostly existence on the edges of commerce’ (Rachel Laudan, 2006 website) and transform it into an internationally celebrated and distributed heritage food.

Pinole's rediscovery as an international heritage food can be traced back to a group of Mexican transmigrant workers in the United States who sought to bring it from the ‘edge of commerce’ to a more central role in their lives as indigenous migrants, and in their hometown, as a profitable commodity. In so doing, they initiated a process of heritagisation, whereby ‘the concept of cultural/immaterial patrimony is being applied to local foods in diverse ways and market circuits’ (Grasseni, 2011). Pinole was thus valued as a typical pre-Hispanic indigenous heritage food produced in Ozolco and endorsed by Slow Food.

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