The agricultural technique known as the milpa is a purely Mesoamerican tradition. It incorporates different crops within a single space: typically corn, beans and squash, and—depending on the region—other crops such as chilies, quelite root or tomatoes. Everything planted in the milpais there for a reason. Beans add nitrogen to the soil; the squashes’ tendrils protect corn from competitive species; and corn works as a support for the bean plants. Debate exists regarding whether milpas are beneficial or detrimental to the environment. Detractors criticize traditional methods for preparing the land—a process of sowing, clearing and burning; advocates point out that the milpa encourages biodiversity since it cultivates local plant varieties that would otherwise have disappeared.
Somewhere beyond the controversy lies an undeniable fact: the milpa is the platform from which Mesoamerican cuisine was created—and is therefore one of Mexican cooking’s principal origins.
After ten years at Pujol—and with his eyes on the future—Enrique Olvera has taken a second look at everything that happens in his kitchens. The milpa has become key to this effort, as a source of inspiration and an object of study and revision. It is the starting point for new approaches—and evolution—as he enters into his second decade of work.
En la milpa—Olvera’s second book—will include 40 recipes with connections to the milpa: a space where everything serves a purpose, where nothing is wasted, and whose bounty has been one of Mexican cuisine’s most important inspirations.