Enchilada Sauce

“So, the enchilada recipe started with my grandma. She concocted this, beautiful enchilada sauce, and then she passed it down to my mom, and she made some alterations… and in my opinion, it’s the best. And then now, it’s my term to make the sauce, and I guess I add my own twist to it. But, um… what’s in the sauce: you have your… um, red peppers. The dried ones, they’re long, I don’t even know what they are, I just know how they look. They’re long and dried up and they have tons of seeds and you take the seeds out and you boil them… so they get plump, you know? And then you boil them with garlic… you take most of [the seeds] out so it’s not too spicy. So you throw that in there with garlic, and tomatoes, and onions… that’s all cooked. Together. And then you throw that all in there [a blender], and then you add sugar, and water, and… the secret, is the chocolate. It’s a special kind of chocolate, it’s the Abuelita chocolate, and you cut a chunk off and you throw it in there. And that’s the sauce and it’s the most amazing thing I have tasted in my life.”

She described how her mom tweaks the recipe.

“She, um, she… no, my grandma makes it way more savory, mom makes it sweeter and spicier. So, like, you get those extremes, the sweet and the spicy. My grandma is just more a less like… I feel like that one’s more like… like, smooth? You know what I mean? Like, it’s mellow. But it’s savory, you can taste the garlic, she puts a little more garlic in it. But, umm… and she makes it a little runnier. My mom makes it real thick. That’s the difference between the two of them. My mom adds more chocolate too because I like chocolate [laughs]. But you don’t taste chocolate at all.”


The informant felt that the recipe is very important to her because it was her culture (the recipe itself  as well as Mexican food generally was her culture and her family). She explained that everything is regional in Mexico, so no one used the exact recipe that her mother and grandmother used. She said that her mother’s sisters and great-aunt all used similar recipes that were derived from the same ingredients, but that they were all completely different, and that she hoped, with experimentation, her version of the recipe would please her future family.

The sauce recipe, as well as all other foods prepared by her family, are made with ingredients that are measured by eye. The performance of this recipe, is thus, always subject to change (more change than the written recipe) because it is made for specific reasons and specific people (for example, the informant’s mother adds extra chocolate for her daughter because she prefers it). The sharing and modification of recipes present in the performance of this recipe is central to most cultures now, and is indicative of the fusion of different cultural foods because it is a representation of changes made to older forms.