We like to think of ethnic foods, as we we do about nationalities countries and languages, that the words we use to describe are somehow clear and defining; reality is quite different in all these regards. Anybody who has studied English knows that it is more than a "language": it is collection of organized grunts composed of well over a dozen different languages.

Languages are mostly all mongrels, regardless of what nonsense the Academie Française might spew forth at any moment. There is nothing pure about French, any more than there is is any other language. The early languages of the area we call France were Keltic and Frankish, the latter being a Germanic language. Modern French is pretty much of an enforced concoction, as is modern German, modern Spanish and modern Italian, all of which were created during the time of imperial Rome.

Convenient though these "high languages" can be, for wrongly defining ethnicity, they are also killing the languages from which derive, as well as the not so elite regional languages of nations. USians, who tend not to study or know any language other than English, of course, have little sense of such realities.

Contrary to what most USians might think (feel), Prussian has nothing to do with German, and is a West Slavic language, again, influenced by Latin. Proveçal is not readily understood in Paris, and Bolognese is as incomprehensible to an speaker of Italian as Prussian is to a German, or as Macedonian is to a Greek.

Though it is routinely taught that Spanish is a "Romance" language, meaning derived from Latin, it is, in fact, filled with words from Catalán, Basque, Greek and Arabic. E.g., "el gato" (the cat) comes from Greek, and "izqierda" (the side or direction left) is a Basque word. "Ojalá!" is a corruption of Arabic, "Insha'Allah" (Lit. If God wills it) would be "Deo volente", if it were to have come from Latin. "Alhambra" is Arabic itself, "al-hamra" (the red fortress). If the Spanish word begins with the particle "al", that is a good clue for possible Arabic origin.

It is not only an imperfect universe, it is also a very complicated universe whose reality has little to do with our chatterings and bellowings about discriminations of this from that.

There is an exqusite parallel between the complexities and intermixings of language and the complexities and intermixings of cuisine in that cuisine seems to follow language. Form follows function is a principle of design; that cuisine follows language may be a principle of metaphysics, but do not get carried away by it.

While there might be a supportable late concept called "French Cuisine", it should be taken with the same grain of salt (pun intended) that one takes for the "French Language"; similarly, of course for Spanish, Italian, German, etc., etc.

So, if we see complicated relationships between what we would like to think of as pure and precious ethnic and national cuisines, that should not be at all surprising. The definitions of national cuisines can be, and are, every bit as phoney as the nations and languages that support them. We will wend our way through the briar patches of reality understanding that reality is not best understood in terms of "things", but in terms of "process".

Our subject here will, of course, be the manifold culinary process.

There are regions and then more regions, subregions and extended regions, and overlapped subregions. Mexican Spanish is no more Castellano than Indian English is British. Both carry the additions of indigenous languages that do not carry back to their sources. Certainly, Mexican cuisine is not Spanish cuisine, and it is very certainly not simply tacos, tamales and enchiladas.

As Mexican Spanish is filled with words from Aztecan Náhuatl, Mayan, Michoatecan, and other Uto-Aztecan languages of the country, Mexican cuisine is filled with regional specialties and variants mixed with various ingredients and dishes from colonizing Spain and France, and therefore also with ingredients and dishes of Moorish origin.

As one simple example of the complexity of late origin, Mexican cuisine has a complex pedigree and structure that the books of Diana Kennedy show rather clearly.

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