For my blog for this week, I want to share a dish from my culture. The dish is called Chileajo (Chee-Lya-Ho) and originates from my parents’ birthplace of Oaxaca, Mexico. This version of the dish is from my mother’s region of Oaxaca called La Mixteca. Chileajo is very spicy and even though I’ve eaten the dish many times throughout my life, I still get spiced out each time. I asked my Mom to make the dish for the blog and my sister took photos :)
The ingredients used in this dish are tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, sesame, Costeño Amarillo (Yellow Coastal Chile), and pork. The ingredients are prepared separately at first; the pork is cooked, the tomatoes are turned into a purée, and the spices are crushed and mixed with water to form a liquid. Then, the three components are mixed together in a pot and boiled until bubbling. Then the chili is allowed to cool so it becomes less liquid-y.
Finally, the dish is served alongside beans and tortillas! You can eat them separately, but I prefer to make a chileajo-bean taco with the tortilla. This food is important to me (not only because it tastes amazing) because it is one of the ways my family connects to their culture even though we are hundreds of miles away from Oaxaca.
Making a connection between Chileajo and my Chinese zodiac (horse) is more difficult though, so instead, I'll make connections to the animal used in the dish: the pig!
The pig is known to eat almost everything, which includes most of the ingredients used in this dish: tomatoes, sesame seeds, cinnamon (surprisingly), garlic, and of course, pork. In the food section for Pig in the hox-zodiac, cinnamon is listed as a spice so I did some research. Pigs can't efficiently sweat to control their body temperature so they usually bathe in mud to prevent overheating. Apparently, cinnamon can be used to cool down a pig's overall temperature by "decreasing the secretion of gastric acid and pepsin from the stomach walls" during digestion. This also applies to our stomachs as cinnamon contains antioxidants that can ease digestion and reduce the risk of irritation in the digestive tract. Pigs can also be fed garlic to kill off parasites harming the animal which is a pretty nifty fact. Farmers may also feed pigs tomatoes to add a source of vitamin C to their diet, allowing the pigs to build a natural immunity to diseases rather than overuse antibiotics. Ironically, pigs have been used in science for research in the cardiovascular system despite the consumption of pigs being related to heart disease. Pigs have allowed us to develop bioprosthetic heart valves for use in humans and also provided insulin for humans to treat diabetes up until the 1980s.
Overall, the pig has had a great impact on humans from tasty dishes, to importance in different cultures, and to breakthroughs in science. For all this, I'd like to thank the Pig for its contributions.