PATI JINICH | THE EVERYDAY MAGIC OF MEXICAN CUISINE
“Mexico is magical, and Mexican food is just as magical,” says Pati Jinich, Mexican chef, cookbook author, and TV personality. She is passionate about her culture, where magic is part of everyday life and especially the rituals surrounding food. Amidst the music, the art, the performance, and the liveliness that characterizes Mexican culture is a rich set of culinary traditions.
“Mexican food is very important, and it’s tied to the concept of magical realism, which explains not only the techniques and the traditions that have been passed on since pre-Hispanic times, but that there is a ritual in absolutely everything.”
Jinich tells us, “My relationship with food is very intense and very emotional.” Her whole life has revolved around food. She savored every meal from breakfast to dinner, constantly wondering what she would eat next. She recounts skipping school to eat Mexican-style hot dogs and soups with her sisters, the irresistible taste of a taquito de nada (the “nothing taco,” a deliciously warm and pliable corn tortilla sprinkled with salt and rolled), tamales (a daily food which are also the feast of gods), pasta seca, flan, and so many other delectable dishes. With each bite of these delicacies, you can taste the vibrancy of Mexican culture and all the families and chefs who have made it their own. Jinich brings her enjoyment of food into her roles as a wife and mother, as the meals she prepares for her family are a way for her family to connect to each other and their culture every day.
Mexican food is not only a personal passion for Pati. The cuisine has a historical and cultural significance that she wants to share with others and preserve for generations to come. She explains, “I want to honor, recreate, and pass on the traditional foods that have existed in Mexico for centuries, and I want to help pass on that richness so that it is not lost. I want to make the links between past, present, and future stronger.”
Jinich is also dedicated to innovating with the ingredients and techniques of Mexican cuisine in exciting, modern ways. After all, Mexican food has always been changing—what we consider traditional Mexican food is heavily inspired by Spanish traditions that were introduced by the conquistadors. As Mexican people move all around the world, their cuisine travels and develops with them. Jinich says, “If a cuisine doesn’t evolve and doesn’t get new fresh air, it can become stale. I love playing with new things.”
Jinich hopes to expand the impact of Mexican cuisine by sharing it with others. She has published two cookbooks, Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking and Mexican Today: New and Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens. She is working on her third cookbook, which she says will be “a much deeper look at the food that I love.” She also stars in the award-winning PBS show Pati’s Mexican Table, which will feature the cuisine of Sinaloa in its next season, premiering in October. Through these outlets, she enters her audience’s homes in an intimate way, as if preparing a meal alongside them.
Jinich says, “I am incredibly honored when people then make my recipes in their homes, and they become a part of their repertoire, and they make them their own, because I really see food, recipes and cooking as something communal and something we can all share and contribute to.”
As she travels further on the journey of exploring and sharing Mexican cuisine, her desire to taste and sample and introduce Mexican cuisines to more homes expands. She says, “if I had another 100 years to live, I wouldn’t have enough time to go to all the different places in Mexico.” Although the level of commitment Jinich puts into her work comes with sacrifices, she has no regrets: “I try to balance as best I can, but I know I am sacrificing many things, and I am totally at peace with that.”
“I am absolutely in love with life, with everything I see when I wake up each morning. I’m incredibly grateful for every day.” The recipe to Jinich’s refreshing perspective and fulfillment in life? Joy. “Joy is central. Joy is what keeps me alive and sharing. The joyful spirit is what keeps me connected not only to my family and my close friends but my audience who are so kind in letting me into their homes.”
While Jinich loves being a chef, author, and TV personality, she considers herself first and foremost to be “an insanely hungry, curious, and obsessive cook and eater.” Because she follows her passion and finds something to be grateful and joyful about every day, she embodies the idea that “you can be, do, and have anything you want”—and she savors every meal along the way!