Cinco de Mayo

I live in California, and coincidentally, this was where the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations were held in the 1860s. Just in case you have no clue what the holiday entails, “[t]he 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo) commemorates the great victory of the Mexican forces, led by Gen. Porfirio Diaz and Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, over the French attacking Puebla, on May 5, 1862. It was essentially a military victory, and its celebration gives occasion for arousing the martial spirit and enthusiasm of the united people.”

Battle of Puebla
Battle of Puebla

The turn of the century witnessed America’s adventurous palate, and restaurants serving ethnic cuisine and cookbooks showing how to cook these new dishes sprang up in abundance. In 1914, Bertha Haffner-Ginger published the California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook to clue in the average American woman how to prepare such “exotic” fare as frijoles and tamales. Because most affixed the more genteel term “Spanish” to anything made with chiles, beans, or tortillas, Haffner-Ginger takes pains to explain “it is not generally known that Spanish dishes as they are known in California are really Mexican Indian dishes. Bread made of corn, sauces of chile peppers, jerked beef, tortillas, enchiladas, etc., are unknown in Spain as native foods” before jumping into recipes ranging from salads to tacos to side dishes. Here is a peek at some of the recipes from the book.

Sopa de Frijoles (Bean Soup)

Cook one pint pink beans in two quarts beef stock till tender. Add one cup chopped onions, two green, two ripe chiles (fresh or canned), one quart canned tomatoes, two tablespoons chopped parsley. Cook all thoroughly. Drop in Spanish meat balls and serve with Spanish cheese fingers.

Modern Way to Prepare Corn for Tortilla and Tamales

Put one gallon of shelled corn in enough water to cover; dissolve one-half cup lime in a little water and add to cover; boil fifteen or twenty minutes; remove from fire, pour off first water and add fresh cold water; rub with hand to remove husk. Rinse in another water and it is ready to grind. Don’t wash too much or it will not be pasty enough to make tortilla.

Tortillas No. 3

Corn meal and coarse flour half and half, wet to stiff dough, salt and lard.


Make Tortilla. Chop one cup onions very fine, slice and chop one-half cup olive, cook in little lard; have cup grated cheese ready, dip tortilla in hot salted large, dip in chile sauce, spread with grated cheese, put in center tablespoonful of cooked onions, tablespoon chopped hard-boiled eggs, two tablespoons chopped chicken, six seedless raisins soaked in claret, level tablespoon chopped onions, a sprinkle of cheese and fourth cup chile sauce, fold both sides, one over the other, pour chile sauce over all, put tablespoon cooked onion on center of top of each and several large pieces of cheese and three whole olives. Place in hot oven till cheese is melted, serve very hot.

Mexican Meat Cakes

Mix pork sausage and hamburger equal parts to two cups meat add one cup wet bread, add one egg, one-fourth cup onion, teaspoon salt, tablespoon green chile pulp, mix and make into cakes one inch thick, put one cup prepared sauce in pan and heat, place meat in sauce, cover, simmer till done.

Spanish Rice

Fry heaping tablespoon chipped bacon, add one garlic, stir, cook few minutes, add one cup washed and dried rice, one can tomatoes, salt, add one-half cup chile pulp, cook slowly; when about dry, add meat stock or hot water to finish cooking, but just enough to have rice dry and grains separated when done.

Spanish Stuffed Potatoes

Rub lard on large smooth potatoes. Bake until soft; cut off a slice and cut out center of potatoes, add two tablespoons butter, one tablespoon of finely cut parsley, two tablespoons of pimiento–chopped–cucumber, chopped–one-fourth teaspoon chile powder, two tablespoons hot milk, one-half whipped egg; beat up until light, fill potato shell. Place two strips of bacon on top, set in oven until bacon is crisp. Garnish with stripe of pimiento and parsley.

Spanish Chocolate Cake

Get the Spanish chocolate, a little round cake about three inches across, flavor different from other chocolate. Melt two cakes, add one-half cup butter, one cup brown sugar, separate four eggs, and beat the yolks and the whites. Mix yolk into chocolate, butter and sugar, beat this mixture well, pour one cup milk on top, the beaten egg white on top of milk, and three cups flour with two tablespoons baking powder. Stir all together, add teaspoon vanilla, and bake in loaf or layers. Make icing of melted Spanish chocolate cake, add tablespoon butter, one-half cup brown sugar, cook. When cool spread on cake or use as filling.

Read California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook by Bertha Haffner-Ginger online


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