Acapulco puts its money where its mouth is: The Foro Mundial de la Gastronomía Méxicana
“They’re trying to bring back ‘the Pearl’,” quipped my friend B. skeptically. Poor Acapulco was once referred to as the “Pearl of the Pacific.” It’s now like a beauty contest winner who didn’t age well.
As the greedy “they” (the politico/business cartel) developed the hell out of the divine bayside paradise, Acapulco, once the most beautiful spot in Mexico, decayed. High rise towers block neighbor’s views both inward and out. Convenience stores scar nearly every corner. The development is “not just ugly, it’s stupid!” B. opined. Then the tourists stopped coming. First the narco violence, then the floods kept them away.
But tourism is the town’s cash cow, and local and federal governments are trying to do something to lure it back. One high rolling telecommunications tycoon has donated some pocket change to the spruce up the old pearl.
What do you do after drug mafiosos sully your reputation for safety, floods leave your airport under six feet of water, and mudslides devastate your surrounding communities? As any Jewish mother would say..."Eat!"
Less than three weeks after the floods had subsided, the state of Guerrero held a food fair to bring some culture back to the former playground of the rich and famous.
The event was divided into several didactic themes, each led by an expert. Cocina de ida y vuelta, was organized by local restauranteur Eduardo Wichtendahl Palazuelos. This lecture/demo tried valiantly to tie Mexico and its cuisine to the South Asian countries once served by the Nao fleets. Thai, Philippine and Malaysian chefs expounded and compared. But, other than the obvious “we gave them chilies, they gave us mangos”, the presentation was more academic than fruitful.
La Cocina Avanzada, coordinated by Enrique Olvera studied important trends in global culinary arts. Olvera, whose Mexico City restaurant Pujol seems to be on everyone’s must-do list, appeared to a SRO crowd. He walked his adoring fans through a visual tour of his most recent ten-course tasting menu. Olvera’s done much to bring Mexico to the attention of the gastro-world and its serious students – toques off to chef Enrique.
But the sleeper event, relegated to the half-mast last day, which saw many fewer visitors, appeared as more dessert than the main course it should have been. Margarita Salinas de Carrillo presentedLa Cocina Tradicional, giving us the soul and essence of the Mexican kitchen.
In true Oprah style, Carillo presented and interviewed a group of indigenous ladies who cook. These, the true heroines, from whom our soulful cuisine emanates, are the ones without whom there would be neither chefs nor high-falutin’ Polanco eateries. Six cooks, all from far-flungpueblos and all renowned for preparing one or more dishes, told their stories, many heart-rending, of how and why they started to cook. Several spoke of how absent husbands necessitated ingenuity.
Abigail Mendoza prepares
'espuma de chocolate'One cook, Serafina Clara Vega from Oaxaca, had tried selling fruits, then clothing, but didn’t find her niche until her mother suggested she start to make simple antojitos, whose recipes she already knew. While telling her rags-to-, well, comfort, story she, as well as several other women, broke into tears, as did the crowd. This was the essence of the history, tradition and passion that imbues Mexican cooking. It was the highlight of the event.
The Foro Mundial was a start. Our hope is that it will evolve into an event that, like Mistura, reaches the general public but doesn’t compromise the integrity of its participants. And we all hope to have as much “Fun in Acapulco” as Elvis once did.
READER'S COMMENTS:Stephanie Schneiderman October 18, 2013
Great coverage and reporting Nick! I loved the Foro and thought they did an amazing job given that it was the first and given that Acapulco was virtually under water 2 weeks prior! It was wonderful to meet new people, catch up with others and to experience an event like this centered on the cultural heritage of Mexican cuisine and its protagonists.
W. Scott Koenig October 18, 2013
Fantastic story Nick. Makes me feel like I was there...oh, wait. Nice breakdown of the event and its themes overall. I too left wondering what the future holds for Acapulco and am hoping for the best. Salud!
Connie Green October 24, 2013
I loved the event. I think with hunger and happiness about the incredible food made by the extraordinary women cooking in the booths for Tlaxcala, Mexico, Oaxaca, Queretero, etc. I really wish I could roll up with tickets in hand for more. That aspect of the event alone was worth going for.
El Habenerito, at the corner of Coahuila & Manzanillo in Roma, is a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that offers some of the best Yucatecan food in town. Try their tacos of cochinita pibil with an
array of fiery salsas.