My daughter-in-law Mireya is from the state of Puebla in Mexico. Sitting in her very modern kitchen 2200 odd miles from where I was born and raised, brings back memories of another time, another kitchen. In that kitchen with it’s creaky old floors, the Los Angeles sunlight that streamed through the small window along with the smell of herbs and flowers, and most of all the love of my grandparents; I learned to love cooking.
This kitchen is cold to my L.A. body used to sunlight and drought. It’s very modern and sleek with its black granite counters and stainless steel appliances and the glaring white of the snow outside, but its an incredibly warm kitchen in the ways that count. There is love here in abundance, there is a keeping of tradition, a love of culture and family and the tastes and smells of it bring me home, keep my grandmother’s memory alive and bond me with this wonderful woman my son married.
Today she is making posole, but not the posole I am used to. She is making what is known to be the traditional posole which is what we call posole blanco or white posole. It is different from the one I make (Posole Tapatio) which is red and flavored with epazote. Her recipe is exciting for me, a new one to learn and it belongs here in the archives of my family.
Last week we had green posole made with chicken, hominy and yerba santa. It was delicious and completely different from what I am used to.
I watch my daughter-in-law work in brisk, quick steps. She is deft in the kitchen, reminds me of the purposeful, quick moves of my grandmother and great aunts in their kitchens. In some ways, she reminds me of my dear friend Elodia who moves with the same purpose and body language. Mireya is nothing like Elodia though. Lochi’s as I call her is tall, light skinned and thin where Mireya is very petite, dark-skinned and curvy. They move the same though and as I watch my daughter-in-law, I am transported back to the kitchen of my friend near the hills of Griffith Park where I grew up and can almost hear the years of laughter and good talks had at her kitchen table.
I read somewhere that Posole is an ancient recipe from Aztec/Mexica times which I well believe, given mole is from the same pre-Hispanic origin. The word pozole in Nahuatl means espuma or foam and it gets its name from the foam that arises when the dried corn or cacahuazintle is boiled. There are Conquest documents that talk about the pozole of Mocetuzuma having body parts in it but I highly doubt the veracity of any Conquest document. To them, the Mexica people were the very devil, so I take most of what they said with a grain or two of salt.
Mireya’s Posole Blanco
1 pound of dried corn or cacahuazintle, prepared Nixtamal or 2 15-oz cans of hominy if you prefer it
2 pounds pork shoulder, cubed
salt to taste
chile pequin powder
diced white onion
If you’re using the maiz (nixtamal corn)they sell bagged in the store for posole, there’s no need to use the lye to soften it. Just open the bag and let it soak overnight in water. Clean off all the floating bits and strain it out. If you want to try dried corn, you’re gonna have to use lye and that’s another post in the making. Mireya uses canned hominy because that’s what my grandson Luis likes. Kids tend to prefer canned hominy over the more gritty maiz or nixtamal.
Fill a stockpot half way with water, add the pork and hominy, salt to taste and a pinch oregano and cover. Should boil on low flame 2-3 hours till the pork is so tender it falls apart at the touch of a fork.
If you are using the nixtamal, the maiz should boil first with salt to taste and a clove or two of garlic if you want, until it blossoms into what looks like little flowers and gives off the characteristic foam that gives the stew its name. When the maiz blossoms, its time to add the pork and continue cooking.
Pour the stew into bowls and top with chopped onion, pinch of the powdered chile pequin for color and flavor, oregano, shredded lettuce and squeeze a lemon over it.
Serve with corn tortillas.