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The Huehuetlatohli of Good Eating

Beware the modern Mexican diet. It has been [genetically] altered

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: September 16, 2008

The Huehuetlatohli of Good Eating

The Huehuetlatohli are ancient guidances, in this case, for the modern world we live in.

In barrios across the country, only one thing tops the smell of chorizo con huevos in the morning‘«™ that is, the taste of chorizo con huevos in the morning. Chorizo with papas is a close second.

But take my word on this; don't inquire how chorizo is made.

It is now conventional wisdom among health gurus that everything that we eat will eventually kill us. Especially Mexican food. This is total nonsense‘«™ unless we indeed are talking about chorizo. Chorizo, since you insist, is made from fatty pork, specifically lips and salivary glands, artificial coloring and other odds and ends. If this knowledge doesn't kill you, perhaps it will at least make you stop eating this food that many of us cannot live without. The truth is, we are now
living in a time when diabetes, heart disease, stress and obesity rates are through the roof in the United States. Because of this, we should always be conscious of what we are putting on our tables and into our bodies. For many of us, we don't do this until disaster strikes.

And yet, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to change one's eating habits ‘«Ű without sacrificing taste ‘«Ű particularly in regards to Mexican food. The Mexican diet, incidentally, is comprised of many of the original foods of this continent; they include corn, beans, squash, chile, fruits, cactus, maguey, amaranth, tomatoes, avocados‘«™ and chocolate.

However, beware the modern Mexican diet. It has been [genetically] altered. It can be unhealthy because many of the dishes call for frying or refrying and lots of fat, etc. It does not have to be this
way. Mexican food can still be eaten in a healthy manner; it simply requires taking a few small steps.

Instead of chorizo con huevos, try soyrizo with eggbeaters, cooked in olive oil. This translates into no animal fat, no cholesterol and healthy oil.

These successful substitutions do not bear any similarity to eating vegetarian brats in place of genuine Wisconsin pork brats. As a life-long eater of chorizo, I can attest that most soyrizo is as tasty as the genuine article. Yet, because it contains no meat (waste) products, it is also exponentially much healthier. One restaurant in Tucson (Dos Mundos, formerly Tania's), makes a green chile plate and machaca from soy. Actually, they carry all the traditional meat dishes, plus many vegetarian and vegan substitutes. Nowadays, every city has at least one such a restaurant. The first Mexican vegetarian restaurant I ever went to was Leonor's Mexican Restaurant in North
Hollywood in Southern California. One that also serves soy chorizo is Las Manitas restaurant in Austin, Texas.

The key in all this is also coming to understand that what you crave for can successfully be substituted. Take chips for instance. Does the palette crave for the oily chips, or the salsa? Try ordering heated tortillas instead ‘«Ű handmade where available ‘«Ű with salsa, chile or guacamole. And at the supermarket, an option is buying baked, organic chips‘«™ and making home-made salsa at home on a molcajete or Mexican blender. This will result in a much lower cholesterol and triglyceride count.

Despite the prevalence of pesticide-laden food, genetically modified crops and the emphasis on profit over nutrition, looking for healthy Mexican food initially is a challenge only because modern society ‘«Ű with all its processed foods and modern appliances ‘«Ű has made us all lazy and dis-involved and alienated from the foods we eat. Modern society has made it possible for women not to be enslaved to the kitchen, but what has been lost is the direct connection to our daily
sustenance. No need to go back to oppressive ways, so in a modern society, it is up to men to also step up to the plate and equally participate in this process. In part, healthy eating requires making
choices. One easy choice is eliminating heavy doses of sugar and corn syrup from our diets. The number one culprit in this are soft drinks; i.e., Coke, Pepsi, etc. Substitutes include buying drinks with stevia or other natural (no-sugar) sweeteners. Not all diet drinks are healthy either. This of course is an educational process.

Another easy choice is buying corn tortillas without preservatives and without sugar. Someone should call Guerrero & Mission tortillas ‘«Ű the nation's largest brands ‘«Ű and find out why they add sugar to their products, especially considering that many of their clientele have diabetes. Not all tortillas add sugar. Also, insist on tortillas made from organic corn.

Other choices: Beans or frijoles should be eaten from the olla and not fried. They can be eaten without fat or meat. It's an original vegetarian meal.

Another choice involves growing your own garden‘«™ even if you live in a city. If you can't grow your own (chile, beans, etc), then at least go to farmers markets. If there are none, shop at health food stores. While more expensive, it is still much cheaper than going out regularly.

One does not need to become a recluse monk or nun, but it also does call for making another decision: we all need to get outdoors every day‘«™ running, hiking, swimming and cycling are great, but walking is good enough. It's good physically, but also good for our spiritual health.

This topic of course reminds me of a friend and colleague. A few years ago, Indigenous human rights activist Suzan Harjo, wrote a column for Indian Country Today, regarding the health danger of fry bread to American Indians (That's like asking a Mexican not to eat menudo‘«™ though Joanne Mixpe Ley ‘«Ű who first took me to Leonore's years ago, says they make an incredible vegetarian menudo there). Despite naysayers, that column has created a conversation within Indian Country regarding what constitutes healthy eating. As Angela Waziyatawin Wilson writes in Decolonizing Diets (For Indigenous Eyes Only, 2005) ‘«Ű "fried foods generally were not a part of the Indigenous
diet." She also writes: "We believe that part of our spiritual responsibility as human beings is to maintain respectful relationships with all creation. For some of us this might mean singing to the corn, offering prayers to plant and animal beings, or harvesting in a sacred manner."

It also means viewing our foods and bodies as sacred. Once we respect our bodies, perhaps the crises associated with our diets will begin to subside. And equally important, as Wilson notes, that resulting consciousnesses will invariably connect us to broader and related human rights struggles.

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