Friday, May 4, 2012

Cinco de Mayo

Battle of Puebla
photo from wikipedia

 Bah humbug, to quote Charles Dickens' grumpy old Ebenezer Scrooge.  Why would I want to celebrate the defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862?  Do Americans really know what they are celebrating?  Does anyone really care?  No, especially when it involves cold Corona beer with lime alongside chips and salsa.  The history of the whole celebration gets lost in the mariachis and quesadillas.  The truth of it is is that Napoléon III sent some Frenchies to Mexico, along with some Brits and Spaniards, to check out what was happening and collect money.
Napoléon III
 The Nevada Observer

I am sure he needed some funds for something.  Building something nice in Paris, peut-être?  Somewhere along the line, though, the Brits and Spaniards decided to cut their losses and go home, leaving the French troops to deal with a misunderstanding between the two governments.  The Mexican villagers saw Frenchies marching in, figured that negotiations had broken down and they were coming to do battle.  That seems rather logical, doesn't it?  Maybe no one thought to ask.  Or maybe the Frenchies couldn't speak Spanish and the Mexicans couldn't speak French.  Who knows?  Maybe they should've sat down to dinner and talked it out, gesturing as best they could.  Anyway, the Mexicans were beaten in a skirmish (score a little one for the French), retreated to Puebla, a well-fortified spot.  The French general mistakenly thought that the folk of Puebla were on his side (bad info) and against the advice of those in-the-know, decided to attack.  They ran out of ammunition pretty quickly, retreated, a big rain storm made a mess of mud everywhere and, at the end of the day, 462 Frenchies and 82 Mexicans had died (in French, you can say ils ont disparu-- they disappeared, they can't be found, they ceased to exist.  Kind of like our passing away, I guess.  See how confusing it can be sometimes?)
Back to our battle at hand.  It was an impressive victory, BUT the Frenchies regrouped, Napoléon III sent in more troops, and won the second battle of Puebla on May 17, 1863, if Wikipedia is to be believed.  May 5th isn't even a holiday in Mexico.  A lot of misguided Americans think it is the Mexican independence day.  Nope.  Non.  Just a good excuse to drink Corona, as I stated earlier.
And to be clear here, Napoléon III should not be confused with his uncle, Napoléon I
or with Napoleon Dynamite.

(The t-shirt is a bit suspect, considering what we are discussing here, don't you think?)

Since it is Friday, May 4, the eve of Cinco de Mayo, I came home from school and decided to make good use of a couple of avocados in my refrigerator and a can of black beans.

Happy Cinco de Mayo.

1 1/2 cups

1 large or 2 small ripe avocado, mashed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice, or more to taste
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder
Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce to taste
1 2-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained, optional
2 slices very crisp bacon, crumbled, optional
1/3 cup mayonnaise

1.  Mash avocados.  Add onion, lemon juice, salt, chili powder, and hot sauce (to taste). If desired, add optional ingredients.  Mix well.
2.   Spread top with the mayonnaise and chill at least one hour before serving.
3.   Stir mayonnaise into mixture before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Black Bean Dip
2 cups

1 15-ounce can black beans or black-eyed peas
1 Tbsp. chopped jalapeño peppers, fresh or canned
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. picante sauce
1 1/4 c. grated cheese (mild Cheddar or combination of Cheddar and Monterey Jack)
Freshly ground pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2.  Drain beans and discard juice.
3.  Mash beans with a fork, leaving some chunks.  (Do not use blender or processor.)
4.  Add remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup of cheese, and mix well.
5.  Pour into a 1-quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  (May be prepared ahead to this point refrigerated.)
6.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
7.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Bon appétit!  ¡Buen provecho!  Here's to chips and salsa!

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