Mexico sweetens its celebrations

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Dieciseis de Septiembre, (16th of September) - the equivalent of America's Fourth of July, Mexico's most important holiday - will be celebrated Saturday.

"Fiesta" in all cultures means food. Please note, however, that there's culinary life beyond enchiladas in Mexico, and the sweet endings of festive meals are highlights anticipated and devoured by young and old alike.

The Latin American penchant for sugar is well documented. When I was speaking with a soft-drink executive one day in Mexico City, he informed me that the formulas for cola drinks in Hispanic countries contained as much as 40 percent more sweetening than those in the United States.

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There also seems to be a correlation between the consumption of hot or spicy food and the passion for an extravagant dessert that screams caloric excess.

An odd bit of food trivia is that although cacao is grown all through Central and South America, chocolate is not the premier choice for desserts - indeed it is rarely used as a dessert sweet.

With the wealth of fresh, tree-ripened fruits so available at every corner in Spanish-speaking countries, the craving for sweets with, before, and after every meal creates many a fruit-based delight; mangoes and bananas being two of the most common ingredients.

Also, brought from the convents of the Old World, flan (in Spanish, meaning a caramelized custard) is an all-around favorite, and as likely to be made daily as are the dietary staples of beans and rice.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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