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Celebrate the bright colors of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Old Town

Like so many other food and drink holidays that are celebrated in the United States, very few Americans actually know the significance and history behind these celebrations. I mentioned it before with St. Patrick’s Day and, in my opinion, the Cinco de Mayo celebration has to be next.

Cinco de Mayo, or May 5, commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican war from 1861 to 1867. Interestingly enough, this is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico. It is in the United States that Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a major celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.

The day itself is often mistaken, especially outside of Mexico, for the celebration of Mexican Independence Day. That event was commemorated more than 50 years before the battle of Puebla and is celebrated Sept. 16. The two events are not related in any way.

Cinco de Mayo brings the tradition of parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals to cities and towns across Mexico and the United States. With San Diego being by far the closest neighbor to the great country of Mexico, our Cinco de Mayo celebrations tend to be some of the best.

Now, of course, being a food writer I do get excited about any holiday that surrounds itself with the celebration of food and drink.

If you happen to be celebrating in the city of Puebla, where the actual battle took place, Chiles en Nogada would be the dish that is feasted on. The poblano chilies that make up this dish are filled with picadillo, which is a mixture of ground meat, fruits and spices. It traditionally is topped with a walnut based cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag.

Break away from the chips and salsa this week and go stroll down to Old Town and taste some of the amazing Mexican regional cuisine offered there. The traditional tortas and pambazos that you would find in Mexico City will be around as well as the dish called birria (Mexican meat stew) which hails from Guadalajara.

With all this great food to eat, I’m sure you will want to wash it all down with some great drinks. Think out of the box on this day. Try a michelada which is a mix of dark beer, hot sauce, a few drops of Worcestershire, lime juice and salt. A paloma is probably the most popular tequila drink in Mexico and consists of a shot of tequila, three shots of Squirt, Jarritos Toronja (grapefruit soda) and served on the rocks. And yes, it is OK to order a margarita, but order a real one. No strawberries, no mango, no blenders and, most importantly, no Cuervo Gold. All these and more can be found in Old Town.

However you want to celebrate, do it with great Mexican style. Bright colors, bold flavors and strong drinks. Just remember to take a cab.

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Posted by on May 3, 2012. Filed under Top Highlights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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