The air was slightly spiced with chili last Friday on campus. No wonder, as a group of international students from Mexico were getting everything ready for one of the most exciting student events of the year: the masterclass our degree in Human Nutrition, together with Campus Life, organizes periodically focusing on the traditional food of a specific country. After Morocco a couple of years ago, it was now time to travel all the way to North America to discover the wonders of Mexican cuisine!
Of course this activity goes beyond a plain class, which partly explains why it has become so popular here at CEU Valencia. Professor Dolores Silvestre always divides the activity into two different sections: the first one, more academic, focuses on the culinary customs and techniques of the country, as well as the eating habits of its population. The second one consists of a tasting of local products and dishes, open to everyone who wishes to join in and grab a bite!
What makes this activity so special? Mainly the key actors behind it: our students, always eager to share their countries’ traditions. And just when we knew that this Mexican fiesta was going to take place, we got in touch with our chefs to ask them a couple of questions…
¡Hola chicos! Tell us, what are the main differences between Spanish and Mexican cuisine?
Caro: I think that the main difference is that here in Spain people eat way more bread (wheat) while in our country we eat more corn-based products such as the famous tortillas!
Rodrigo: Definitely the tortillas, the use of chilli in the majority of dishes and also the methods and tools used to cook.
Nathalia: Broadly speaking and in my opinion, I would also say bread consumption! In Mexico we eat bread but not as much as you do here. We replace bread with these tortillas we use to make tacos, which go with almost every meal!
Here in Spain, food has a huge cultural value: is it the same in Mexico? Do you think that your local cuisine is a reflection of Mexican culture?
Caro: Yes, without a doubt! In Mexico, family is one of our fundamental pillars and our cuisine is a way to bring families together. Both family and food are essential cultural elements in Mexico.
Rodrigo: Definitely! In fact, Mexican cuisine was declared intangible heritage of humanity thanks to its variety of dishes, ingredients, flavours and cooking methods.
Of course food reflects our culture. Any dish hides feelings, any ingredient and any cooking method has a reason, it hides experiences and memories. If you ask a Mexican “does this dish remind you of anyone?” you will discover that food is very important to them. We have a traditional dish or beverage for almost any occasion, with a specific way of cooking it. Food is more than a mere process in Mexico… it is a ritual.
Nathalia: Yes, the UNESCO declared Mexican food as world heritage and we are proud to say that food is one of the best and most special things on earth and Mexican food is colourful and reflects what Mexico is, a colourful and cheerful country!
This is not the first time that our University organizes events about international cuisine…Would you like to participate in similar events, for example about Vietnamese, German or Peruvian cuisine?
Caro: Of course, it is important to be open to new cultures!
Rodrigo: Of course! I would love it if there were an event every week or at least once a month. You can always learn a lot of new things; it is so much fun and enriching.
Nathalia: Getting to know new cultures is a way to open our mind and for me travelling and getting to know other cultures is one of the best things in life. It is essential in order to grow up and because we don’t know where we will end up in the future.
Were you surprised to discover that there is already a small Mexican community here at CEU formed by students attending different degrees?
Caro: It was a wonderful surprise! This activity has helped us to get together.
Rodrigo: I was so happy to see that there are other Mexicans who are willing to share our culture and learn through sharing with students from other countries, always trying to improve themselves and to show others the best of Mexico!
Nathalia: Truth is that I had no idea that there were other Mexican students here at University. I got here in 2015 when I started my Master’s Degree in Odontopaediatrics and I’ve always thought I was the only Mexican here because I had never met another one before, but I am so glad to know that there are other Mexicans here!
Tell us more about the dishes we are going to taste in the event or just pick your favourite one and tell us why!
Caro: Oh, it would be really hard to pick just one. But I’d say the sauces…they are the perfect dressing for any dish (especially the “green sauce” lol).
Rodrigo: Something that cannot go missing and that is famous all over the world are tacos, a traditional meat taco “al pastor or suadero”.
It is one of my favourite dishes. Every Mexican gives a personal touch to each dish: tacos for example are normally eaten when you are with your family, friends, at a party, after it, at night, for dinner, or in the morning after you went out with your friends.
Nathalia: I would agree about the tacos, which are so characteristic and my personal favourites, I love them! In Mexico you can find tasty cheap tacos in every corner…it is truly amazing!
Do you think that these activities encourage CEU students to “break the ice” and interact with one another?
Caro: Yes, I always appreciate events organized by Campus Life because they promote integration within and beyond the university.
Rodrigo: Definitely, it is a great opportunity to boost communication among students from different countries. It is amazing to share and get to know other cultures’ traditions that can be so different from ours. This gives us the opportunity to create connections among students.
Nathalia: Yes! As I said before, I didn’t know that there were other Mexican students here and thanks to these events we have the chance to meet students from other countries who could become our friends in the future.
What advice would you give to a Mexican student willing to study at our University?
Caro: That CEU is an extraordinary opportunity and I would suggest that they take part in as many activities as possible because thanks to them they can meet a lot of friends. I am sure they will enjoy just as much as I am doing now!
Rodrigo: Open your mind, always be willing to change, give your best and always be very proud of your country.
Nathalia: Don’t think it twice, don’t hesitate! Sometimes because of fear or laziness we don’t have the courage to leave our home to go far away but for me, it has been the best thing I have ever done. Studying at CEU Valencia changed my life and I really enjoy being here, even if I am far away from home.
César, Carolina, Nathalia, Rodrigo and Arlette, thank you for all your answers and for making this activity possible. Now bring that homemade guacamole on!