In a market in Villa de Zaachila, Oaxaca, a vendor sells tacos with a variety of different fillings.
For all its complexity, Mexican food is primordial—it speaks on a gut level. It's no wonder: Carried in its DNA are the slow-simmered flavors of the indigenous kitchen, which was little more than a fire pit, earthenware pots, and a clay griddle. Grounded as Mexican cooking is, it's also bright and transparent, having adapted all kinds of imported foods to its palette of beans, chiles, tomatoes, and corn. From the Spaniards came grilled meats; lime and cilantro were brought on galleons in the 16th century; breads like bolillo, the Mexican sandwich roll, are the legacy of the French, who came in the 1860s. Mexicans welcomed these new tastes. They melded them with their native flavors to create something new. I love the way these foods are so expressive of the specific geography, climate, and culture in which they were born.