It stains the tablecloth: the persistence and evolution of manchamanteles

Alexander, S. Tiernan
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University of Delaware
The oldest recipe for the Mexican mole dish manchamanteles was written down about 350 years ago. It is still served at festivals and in cafes throughout Mexico today. This paper investigates how the recipe developed historically, what tastes and cooking traditions it evolved out of, and why it has persisted for so long. I examine the dish through the social and historical context of mole, the national dish of Mexico, illuminating why mole retains an aura of cultural significance as a symbol of the hybridity inherent in Mexican culture. Manchamanteles, like mole, has both Aztec and Spanish roots. I trace these antecedents by analyzing the texts of numerous historic cookbooks as well as cooking tools and traditions from both cultures. This paper outlines the results of cooking experiments that I conducted as part of my research. By working through several versions of the recipe and using historic cooking techniques, I gained a greater understanding of the cooking process and the consistency of the dish over time. The recipes reveal a web of connections between Nahuatl, Spanish, and Persian cooking traditions. This thesis outlines my conclusions about what elements in manchamanteles come from Europe versus the New World, why the traditional cooking techniques (like the recipe itself) have persisted for so long, and why this dish remained popular despite many changes in food fashions over the centuries.