Mexican chef Patti Jenich didn’t learn to cook her home kitchen until waiting for US citizenship: ‘I was homesick’

Patti Jenich says she planned to become a political analyst, until she fell in love with cooking. (Photo: Patti Jenich, Design by Quinn Limers)

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Pati Jinich is on a mission to share authentic Mexican cuisine with the world. As host of two PBS food chains, mexican patty table And the La Frontera with Patti Jenichthe 50-year-old chef has been sharing not only the food but her culture and traditions with viewers for more than a decade.

Every season mexican patty tableI go to a different area of ​​Mexico, which is pretty amazing,” Jinich told Yahoo Life. then with the borderWe are exploring the border areas between the United States and Mexico.”

“It’s very humbling because we have this idea of ​​what a border is, what Mexico is — and then we get there and there’s a lot of depth, a lot of richness and a lot of variety,” she continues. “I love going to restaurants, but the thing I enjoy the most is going to people’s homes.”

Of all the wonderful meals that Jenich cooked and ate, the home-cooked one in El Paso, Texas was the most outstanding. One of the most delicious breakfasts I had when we were shooting the border,” Says ,I visited with a friend named Alfredo Corcado, who is a journalist, and he was telling me all the nice things about Borderlands communities and how they are so tight-knit. The thing he kept pointing out was how his day began each morning with his mother — how a farmer immigrant from Mexico who lived in California, moved to El Paso and made her life there — took root there. So I said, “I think I want to start my morning with your mother, can I invite myself again?”

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

“It was one of the most amazing breakfasts,” she says. “She had freshly brewed coffee, then made breakfast tacos from tortillas and warmed up corn. She spread over the re-cooked beans, added some Mexican-style eggs with tomatoes, jalapenos and onions, put a little chile verde on top and added cheese…it arrived. Those tacos to the ring, they were so good.”

“Through those tacos, I can eat care and care. How do you hold on to the traditions of where they came from,” she adds. Jinich says it’s a feeling she experienced herself: Through food, she’s found ways to keep her 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 wasn’t a good cook at all,” she admits. “I’ve always been good at eating, but I wanted to be a political analyst…When I came to the US I couldn’t go back to Mexico for a while because I was sorting out my papers – when you’re applying for papers you can’t go back and forth – So, for about a year and a half, I couldn’t go back. I was homesick for our food, our family meals, our culture.”

This yearning for the flavors of home prompted Jenich to step into the kitchen to bring a little bit of Mexico to her new home in the United States.

“I started with caldo de polo (chicken and vegetable soup served with tortillas) and then started making frigoles de ola (cereals in a pot) with Mexican red rice – this food really helped me feel at home and helped me feel taken care of. I started with the basics, Really comfort food.”

As someone who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, the experiences that Jinich helps share on screen are especially close to her heart. “Being a Mexican in the US, living here for over 20 years and having my kids here and growing up here, I feel like Mexicans in the US are looked upon [by their fellow Mexicans] Like those who the left“,” Says. But Mexicans living in the United States are [seen by people in the U.S.] Like those who came – They are not from here And I feel that this oblivion lives every second the border. “

the border, which she calls her “biggest passion,” is a documentary series showcasing food and culture from the US-Mexico border cities: cities that Jinich says have unique stories, struggles, and food. The show, which premieres in the spring of 2023 on PBS, season two, takes place in the border cities of California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

“You have border communities, continuously not from here, not from there, but 200% from everywhere,” Geneich explains. “I think it’s very difficult to understand these societies: I found it fascinating that at the border it’s not just about Americans and Mexicans, but also people and cuisines from all over the world. It’s like a third dimension that opens into the border: A different way to live and coexist and see how incredibly supportive others are.”

Today, Jenich is a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef, but she didn’t start out that way.

“I remember how I learned to make Mexican red rice,” she recalls. “I was in Dallas and I was talking to anyone in the grocery store I saw who was buying Mexican ingredients because I wasn’t a good cook. I met this woman from Puebla, Mexico who was buying the same number of jalapeños as I was. I asked her, ‘What are you cooking?’” What do you do with these?”

“She said she likes to put them on top of her red rice to soak up all the flavor from the broth,” she continues. “I told her I had been trying to make Mexican red rice forever, and I couldn’t do it right: she invited me to her house to make rice with her. We went step by step.”

As Jinich prepares for the release of Season 11 of mexican patty tableShe thinks about how much she knows about her country. In this season of the series, Jinich travels to areas of Mexico that have been little explored by the media to share amazing stories and families who have been making the same food forever.

While she loves everything, Jenich says Central Mexican food feels like home.

“There is a lot of regional cuisine in Mexico,” she says. “You have a very rich and complex Oaxacan cuisine, you have the Yucatecan, which has charred ingredients, habaneros and citrus, central Mexico, which is very rich but subtle at the same time – very family-friendly and relaxed and not so incredibly complex.”

“I think central Mexican food is the kind that anybody is more familiar with than anybody else,” she adds.

Jinich says her mission is to help people understand that Mexican food is a lot more than they think.

“I think people get stuck in the idea that Mexican food is tacos and guacamole, but there are 100 different types of tacos and many different types of salsa and guacamole,” she says. “And there is so much more than that—there are the vegetarian dishes, the grains, the beans, the vegetables, the fruits, the different regions and ingredients—I really think Mexican food is the most typical, but it has a lot more to offer if people delve a little deeper.”

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