Pati Jinich on ‘La Frontera’, learning to cook Mexican food

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Pati Jinich says she planned to become a political analyst, until she fell in love with cooking. (Photo: Pati Jinich; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

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Pati Jinich’s mission is to share authentic Mexican cuisine with the world. As the host of two PBS food series, Pati’s Mexican table and La Frontera with Pati Jinichthe 50-year-old chef has been sharing not only food but also her culture and traditions with viewers for over a decade.

“Every season of Pati’s Mexican tableI’m going to another part of Mexico, which is incredibly telling,” Jinich told Yahoo Life. “And then with La Fronterawe explore the border regions between the United States and Mexico.”

“It’s incredibly humbling because we have this idea of ​​what the border is, what Mexico is – and then we get there and there’s so much depth, so much richness and so much diversity,” she continues. “I love going to restaurants, but what I love most is going to people’s homes.”

Of all the incredible meals Jinich has cooked and eaten, a home-cooked meal in El Paso, Texas stands out the most. “One of the most delicious breakfasts I had while filming The border”, she says,I visited a friend named Alfredo Corchado, he is a journalist and he was telling me all the great things about border communities and how they are so close together. The thing he kept referring to was how he started his day every morning with his mother – how she was a migrant farmer from Mexico who lived in California and moved to El Paso and made her life there. – has really taken root there. So I was like, ‘I think I want to start my morning with your mom, can I invite myself?'”

Corchado’s mother happily agreed to allow Jinich to join in their morning tradition.

“It was one of the most exquisite breakfasts,” she says. “She had freshly brewed coffee, then she made breakfast tacos with corn tortillas which she warmed up. She spread on refried beans, added Mexican-style eggs with tomato, jalapeño and onion, put chili verde on top and added cheese. . . these tacos went into the episode, they were so good.”

“Thanks to these tacos, I could eat the care and nurture,” she adds, “how she clings to the traditions where she comes from.” Jinich says it’s a feeling she’s experienced herself: through food, she’s found ways to keep her own culture and traditions alive, even when she lives far from her hometown of Mexico City. .

“When I first got married, we moved to Dallas and I was not a good cook at all,” she admits. “I’ve always been a good eater, but I wanted to be a political analyst…when I came to the United States, I couldn’t go back to Mexico for a while because I was sorting out my papers – when you’re apply for paperwork you can’t come and go – so for about a year and a half I couldn’t go back I was homesick for our food, our family meals and our culture.

This desire for home flavors prompted Jinich to take up cooking to bring a bit of Mexico to his new home in the United States.

“I started with caldo de pollo (chicken-vegetable soup served with tortillas) and then I started making frijoles de olla (beans in a pot) with Mexican red rice – this food got me hooked. really helped me feel at home and feeling nurtured I started with the basics, really comfort foods.

As someone who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, the experiences Jinich helps share on screen are particularly close to her heart. “Being a Mexican in the United States, living here for over 20 years and having my children born and raised here, I feel like Mexicans in the United States are seen [by their fellow Mexicans] like those who left“, she says. “But Mexicans who live in the United States are [seen by people in the U.S.] like those who has come – they are not from here – and I have the impression that this limbo is lived every second La Frontera.”

La Frontera, which she calls her “greatest passion”, is a docu-series showcasing the cuisine and culture of border towns between the United States and Mexico: According to Jinich, towns have stories, struggles and food unique. The show, which has a second season premiering in the spring of 2023 on PBS, is set in border towns in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

“You have border communities, continuously not from here, not from there, but 200% from everywhere,” says Jinich. “I think these communities are so hard to understand: I found it fascinating that on the border, it’s not just Americans and Mexicans, but people and cuisines from all over the world. It’s like a third dimension which opens in The border : A different way of living and co-existing and seeing how incredibly supportive people are for each other.”

Today, Jinich is a James Beard Foundation-awarded inspirational chef, but she didn’t start that way.

“I remember how I learned to make Mexican red rice,” she recalls. “I was in Dallas and I was talking to anybody at the grocery store that I saw buying Mexican ingredients because I was not a good cook. I met this woman from Puebla, Mexico who was buying as many jalapeños as me and I asked him, “What are you cooking? What are you doing with that?”

“She said she likes to put them on her red rice to suck up all the flavor of the broth,” she continues. “I told her that I had always been trying to make Mexican red rice, and I couldn’t: she invited me to her house to make the rice with her. We took it step by step.”

As Jinich prepares for the release of season 11 of Pati’s Mexican table, she reflects on everything she has learned about her home country. In this season of the series, Jinich travels to areas of Mexico that are little explored by the media to share incredible stories and families who have been cooking the same food forever.

Although she loves everything, Jinich says central Mexican cuisine feels most like home.

“There are so many regional cuisines in Mexico,” she says. “You have Oaxacan cuisine which is very rich and complex, you have Yucatan, which is charred ingredients, habaneros and citrus fruits, central Mexico, which is very rich but subtle at the same time – very family friendly and intimate and not that incredibly complicated.”

“I think central Mexican food is the type that everyone would know best,” she adds, “tacos al pastor (pork tacos,) enchiladas, different salads — very homey, makes everyone happy. “

Jinich says her mission is to help people understand that there’s so much more to Mexican cuisine than they realize.

“I think people are stuck with the idea that Mexican food is tacos and guacamole, but there are 100 different types of tacos and so many different types of salsas and guacamoles,” she says. “And there’s so much more than that – there’s the vegetarian dishes, the grains, the beans, the vegetables, the fruits, the different regions and ingredients – I really believe that Mexican cuisine is the most stereotypical, but it has so much more to offer if people dig a little deeper.”

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