Abigail Mendoza is recognised globally as an authority on traditional Mexican cuisine and is so highly regarded in her own country that she has been appointed as culinary ambassador by the Mexican Government in recognition of her role in promoting Mexican culinary culture throughout the world.
Abigail Mendoza – who will be visiting South Africa from November 16 to 23 – is an ethnic Zapotec from Oaxaca, one of the cradles of Mexican cuisine. She will be sharing her knowledge of a cuisine which is recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
She started her food journey as a five-year-old watching her mother grind nixtamal, a traditional preparation of corn that enhances its nutritional value and allows for its cooking as dough. Her mother Doña Clara taught her to grind the home-prepared nixtamal, pat the tortilla dough into perfect thin rounds and bake them on the wood-fired griddle.
Aside from travelling the world promoting her cuisine, Abigail Mendoza runs the restaurant Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, with her sisters Rufina and Marcelina. In her restaurant, Abigail melds her family’s ethnic heritage into artful Zapotecan fare. Abigail’s cooking is known by her amazing mastery of ingredients such as maize, squash, pumpkin seeds, black beans, chilies, tomatoes, chocolate, zapote, cacti, and mezcal, all of which are native to Mexico.
Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico is considered one of the culinary capitals of Mexico. The mountainous state is home to one of the largest indigenous populations in Mexico, which have created a rich and diverse cuisine. Oaxacan food has made its mark on the global food map and attracts culinary tourists from around the world.
Abigail Mendoza has also written the book Dishdaa’w (Zapotec meaning “the word woven into the infinite meal”) and says: “Food itself has a soul; the soul is transmitted in food’s preparation and its enjoyment. We are all part of the whole, and the whole is part of each of us.”
Abigail Mendoza is being brought to South Africa by the Mexican Embassy under the auspices of the Mexican flagship initiative “Ven a Comer”, which stands for “Savour Mexico: come and enjoy our cuisine”, as a gesture of friendship towards South Africa and an opportunity for a meaningful intercultural dialogue.
The Ambassador of Mexico, Mauricio Escanero, says, “Both Mexico and South Africa are nations rich in history cultural diversity. We are delighted that Abigail will to be able to share her knowledge of traditional Mexican cuisine and meet with South Africans who promote and cherish South African food heritage.”