sample Oaxaca trunk
ethnography: SPICES TO MAKE A MOLE
Many consider the sweet and spicy sauce mole the “national dish of Mexico.” The root of the word is Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, and just means “mix” or “mixture.” Think of the word guacamole and visualize e a mixture of avocados. Aguacate and mole equal guacamole. Many regions throughout the country feature their own mole sauces but Oaxaca and Puebla are the most famous for yellow mole which can red or yellow mole, and the sumptuous black mole negro.
All moles are complicated recipes with lots of steps and easily 20 to 30 ingredients. Learning to make mole from scratch is akin to a daughter's apprenticeship to her mother or an older woman relative. Just gathering the four or six different chiles that are needed, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, stick cinnamon canela, raw chocolate (for some recipes), then the chicken soup stock and other ingredients takes several days. Then begin the toasting on the comal (clay or metal griddle over heat source) and grinding on the metate begin. Truly, it is hours and hours of hard dedicated work in a certain sequence to make this Mexican delicacy.
“The idea of using chocolate as a flavoring in cooked food would have been horrifying to the Aztecs. ....” (From “The True History of Chocolate” by Dr. Michael Coe, co-authored with Sophie Coe.) Still, there is little doubt somewhere along the line, chocolate entered certain mole recipes in certain regions. Maybe it was not the Aztecs but a different indigenous group, perhaps Zapotecs or Mixtecs of Oaxaca who added this ingredient.