Happy Cinco de Mayo! Impress your friends of Mexican heritage with your knowledge of the story behind Cinco de Mayo. One big hint is that it is not Mexican Independence Day. Cinco de Mayo is held to honor the day that the Mexican army overcame great odds and defeated the French military at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Another way to impress them is with traditional food and drinks that are healthier than their Americanized counterparts.
Although Cinco de Mayo is not a huge holiday in Mexico, it is widely celebrated by those of Mexican heritage living in the United States to honor their (or maybe that would be “our”) cultural history. There are now more than 50 million people of Hispanic heritage living in the US, and while not all them are of Mexican background, the vast majority of them are. Another reason why Cinco de Mayo is so popular in the US is that the food and beverage industries have jumped on the bandwagon to get Americans to have another day to purchase special food and drink. And this works because we Americans love a party!
For your Cinco de Mayo celebration, one of the first things to leave in the refrigerator are cheese and sour cream. Americans love to add fat to their food but these two things are not very high on the list when it comes to traditional Mexican food. Leave them out of the picture and your celebration meal will be much healthier with a lot less fat and total calories.
Skip the jars of salsa that have sugar listed in their ingredients. Or better yet, choose to make a fresh pico de gallo and guacamole for your celebration. Using fresh ingredients is always a healthier choice than buying processed food.
If you like sushi, chances are that you will love ceviche, a traditional dish served along Mexico’s thousands of miles of coastline. If you have never enjoyed the beaches of Mexico, you might not be aware of how much of traditional Mexican food is dominated by seafood.
Check locally to see if you have a tortilleria where you can purchase some fresh made tortillas for your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Try both the corn tortillas and the flour tortillas if you have never had them fresh. Corn is a better choice for a healthier and more traditional meal, but the flour ones are very good also. If you love fresh baked bread, you will love fresh made tortillas.
If you like beer, try something different along with the Corona that Americans so willingly think is the only Mexican beer. Other options include Tecate, Dos Equis, Tres Equis, Pacifico, Negro Modello, and many more. Superior is a fantastic beer that is harder to find in this country but has long been considered one of the top brews in the world. Check it out if you can find it and you love good beer.
If you choose to go the margarita route, skip the Americanized version that contains anything called margarita mixer. Mixer is just another word for sugar water, which is usually made with high fructose corn syrup. If you want to make a real margarita, it is very simple. Here are some excellent recipes:
- Pick a good tequila made from 100% blue agave (dozens to choose from).
- Pick an excellent orange liqueur such as Cointreau, Gran Gala, Patron Citronge, or Grand Marnier (skip the triple sec)
- Use fresh squeezed limes
Those three are the only ingredients of a real margarita (not counting ice and salt on the rim of your glass if your taste and health allow). Remember that a real margarita is more like a martini than the sweetened megadrinks so popular around the US. It also has a lot fewer calories.
So if you choose to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, be kind to your waistline and be safe.
For those who want to know when Mexican Independence Day is: It is September 16th.