Aaron Sanchez on Cinco de Mayo

Tomorrow marks the day where the colors red, white, and green can be seen flying over many restaurants, and items like Flautas, Micheladas, and Tres Leches seep into menus everywhere. While many Americans have finally figured out that Cinco de Mayo is not actually Mexico's Independence Day, few still know what it really stands for. Cinco de Mayo is actually a celebration of Mexico's unexpected victory over France in the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

But to get an even better idea of this much celebrated festivity as well as Mexican cuisine in general, we went to he who knows best, our good friend Chef Aaron Sanchez. He shared with us some insight of what Cinco de Mayo means to him and a new view into Mexican cuisine.

Here's what he shared with us...

What does Cinco de Mayo mean to you?

For me personally...well, my sister married a French guy so it's the time of year where I get to give him a lot of crap for the Mexicans beating the French in Puebla! Ha ha...so I like to bust his chops on Cinco de Mayo. But seriously, it means a lot of things to me. Although it's a celebration of one of the biggest battles in Mexican history, it's also a time to celebrate your identity and pride as a Mexican. It was the perfect example of how a more powerful army and country was defeated by a smaller unexpected force, like Mexico.

It's also about remembering what Mexico fought for. All of the food that we cook on that day is representative of Puebla, for instance the Chiles en Nogadas (stuffed chiles with walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds) which has every color of the Mexican flag in it.

Aside from that, it's also another opportunity for me to be thankful. Of course, it's the busiest day of the year for me at my restaurants and I'm very grateful for that! I'm extremely grateful that the culture and food of my country has provided a living for me and my family, and this is a great day to remember that.

Marcus tells us that you taught him all about the culture and food of Vera Cruz, Mexico. How is it different from other Mexican cities?

Recently, Marcus and I really had a chance to talk about Mexican cuisine and he was just blown away by it from his last trip there and the many influences of just this one region. Vera Cruz is where Cortez first landed in 1519 and where the Spanish brought African slaves, so apart from the Spanish and indigenous influences, there is also a heavy African influence as well. For me, the food from Vera Cruz transcends regions.

The Europeans brought with them their foods which mixed with the native ingredients, as did the Africans who brought over peanuts, black eyed peas, greens, and yucca which eventually found its way into the foods that we consider traditional Mexican food today. So Vera Cruz truly became the cross cultural melting pot and mecca for all of these many heritages.

If you wanted the world to know just one thing about Mexican cuisine, what would that be?

I'd love for the world to know that Mexican cuisine encompasses so many different influences and cultures. It's a mix between of all its settlers and inhabitants, from Spanish to indigenous, French, German, African and many, many others. The food is distinct in each of the 32 states and all of its marvel cannot be summed up into just one type of food.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Sanchez

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