Today's posting on TastingTableLA, about micheladas, an iced beer-and-something cocktail in a salt-rimmed glass (and similar Mexi-food centered posts all over the web), got me thinking about the holiday that Americans have come to associate with my native country to the South, a holiday that here might be called National Mexico Day, or National Tortilla Chips and Frozen Margarita Day, but that should not be called or confused with Mexican Independence Day. That day, which unlike Cinco de Mayo, is an actual holiday celebrated by actual Mexicans in Mexico, is September 16, a day that few Americans even know about, maybe because el diez y seis de Septiembre doesn't roll off the gringo tongue the way Cinco de Mayo evidently does. For the record, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over the French (yes, French!), who were attempting to advance toward nearby Mexico City, located about 70 miles to the northeast, in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Neither the day nor the victory is m ...

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I try to  live my life without regrets, but when I read a story like the one in the Sunday Times Magazine, on buttermilk, it's hard not to have at least one. Years ago, while staying at Blackberry Farm, the fabulously luxurious Relais & Chateau Inn nestled in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the then-chef of the inn's acclaimed restaurant, John Fleer, told me about two of the sources behind his biscuits-and-gravy breakfast: One was the buttermilk-producing family featured in the Times article, the other was Allan Benton, one of the lone surviving producers left of the nearly extinct population of Southern, mostly Appalachian makers of country ham. The two were in opposite directions. I was driving from coast-to-coast and had a general rule, in order to eventually make it to California, of trying at the very least to drive in one general direction. I asked him which I should visit, and he told me Benton. I mean, if I had to choose. Benton is indeed special--both he and his hams, w ...

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Guacamole and Chips Until today, I was perfectly content with my level of achievement in the guacamole department, especially since my friend, the original celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman, cited me in the headnote to his guacamole recipe in his book, A Great American Cook. I didn't particularly like the part where he referred to me as "one of his Mexican buddies" because I thought it made me sound like one of the guys he shot tequila and played dominoes with in some smoky Deer Hunter-esque lodge, but I was probably projecting, and anyway that is, as they say, another story. Plus, I forgave him because I felt so proud that this great American cook, and a native Californian to boot, would source me, a psuedo-semi-Mexican guera for what is arguably my native country's biggest contribution to the American culinary landscape. (Salsa has been so misappropriated I don't even want to go there.) But all that was then. Before The Foodinista invited me to her first ever Guac-Off. On her blog, s ...

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Every once in awhile I do something in the kitchen that even I think is cool, and today was one of those days. It wasn't difficult. Not even that surprising. Still, I've never known anyone else to make a hot breakfast cereal out of quinoa. (In fact, a quick Google search turned up tons of others who have done this before me, including one recipe with a picture that makes you want to take a bite out of your computer screen, on the blog 101 Cookbooks; but I didn't know about them, so it was still an invention for me!) Quinoa is an ancient South American grain (actually it is the seed of a plant, but for cooking and eating purposes you can think of it as a grain). Heathfoodies, particularly those that don't eat animals, love it for its high protein content. And it's a good thing for the sake of the quinoa, because it's the kind of food that has to be loved for something other than it's deliciousness. Although it's not bad, and it can actually be kind of good, it's not good enough to insp ...

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