A Cinco de Mayo Menu

Introduction: In this article – to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo – Gena Philibert-Ortega searches old newspapers to find delicious recipes for food and drink. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which means it’s a good excuse to have some Mexican food for dinner tonight. Need some new recipes or ideas? There are so many options, but the following recipes from GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives are great ones to consider and add to your dinner repertoire.

Photo: dancers at the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival in Washington, D.C.
Photo: dancers at the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival in Washington, D.C. Credit: dbking; Wikimedia Commons.

Beverages

Let’s start with a beverage. Now I know you’re probably thinking margaritas, and that’s one idea – but what about trying Horchata? Horchata is a rice-based drink, served cold. My description of this drink won’t do it justice, but it’s a sweet, cinnamon milk-like drink. Just try it. I promise you it’s good. A recipe can be found in the newspaper article below and in some cases, you can purchase it already made at some Mexican restaurants or grocery store refrigerator cases.

A recipe for horchata, Huntsville Times newspaper article 21 April 1982
Huntsville Times (Huntsville, Alabama), 21 April 1982, page 17

And of course, if you want to make margaritas, this newspaper article includes a recipe.

A margarita recipe, Huntsville Times newspaper article 21 April 1982
Huntsville Times (Huntsville, Alabama), 21 April 1982, page 17

Appetizer

When you sit down at a Mexican restaurant you are usually greeted with a small basket of tortilla chips and salsa. So why not start off your home Mexican menu with the same? I especially like this 2002 San Francisco Chronicle article because it provides a variety of salsa recipes that vary in spiciness (or heat). All of these recipes, except for one, calls for tomatillos. Tomatillos are small, green tomatoes that have a thin papery husk (however, sometimes they are sold in the store without those husks).

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A citrus salsa recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 25 September 2002
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 25 September 2002, page 57
A green salsa recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 25 September 2002
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 25 September 2002, page 57
A traditional salsa recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 25 September 2002
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 25 September 2002, page 57
A red chile salsa recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 25 September 2002
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 25 September 2002, page 57
A tomatillo salsa recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 25 September 2002
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 25 September 2002, page 57
A chipolte salsa recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 25 September 2002
A chipotle salsa recipe, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 25 September 2002

Remember: if you decide to try one of the hotter recipes, wear gloves when handling the chiles and their seeds. I can speak from experience that after chopping chiles, no matter how much you know it’s not a good idea, your instant reaction seems to be to rub your eyes!

There’s no doubt that chips and salsa are great, but you may want to make it special by including some guacamole. In this article by cookbook author James Beard, he provides a recipe for guacamole and suggests adding a chile or two if you prefer yours on the spicy side. In my opinion, that’s a must – but it’s not for everyone. Guacamole is simple to make, but it can be customized with extras like tomatoes, onions, and chiles.

A quacamole recipe, Evening Star newspaper article 27 September 1970
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 27 September 1970, page 101

Entrée

One of the easiest entrees you could set up for your dinner is a taco bar. This allows each person to customize their tacos according to their taste, and to sample a variety of tacos. And preparation is easy.

Photo: various taco ingredients
Photo: various taco ingredients. Credit: jeffreyw; Wikimedia Commons.

A taco bar could include:

  • Meats (ground beef, grilled chicken, carne asada, carnitas)
  • Seafood (fish, shrimp, lobster)
  • Vegetables (lettuce, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, radishes, onions, chiles, avocado)
  • Cheese/Dairy (sour cream, shredded cheddar, colby, Mexican cheeses)
  • Tortillas (crisp/hard shelled, street taco tortillas, soft corn tortillas)
  • Sauce (hot sauce, salsa, pico de gallo)

A taco bar can also include vegetarian options such as cooked potatoes, beans, rice, and sauteed squash. Potato tacos are one of my favorites.

A recipe for tacos, Detroit News newspaper article 28 January 1999
Detroit News (Detroit, Michigan), 28 January 1999, page 71
A recipe for carnitas, Detroit News newspaper article 28 January 1999
Detroit News (Detroit, Michigan), 28 January 1999, page 71

The nice thing about having a taco bar is that if there are any leftovers, you can use them the next day for nachos.

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Dessert

I’m usually too full to even contemplate dessert – but if you’ve saved some room, there are several options. You could make churros, which are fried donuts rolled in cinnamon sugar. Some people like to dip their churros in hot, melted chocolate. (Obviously, everything is better with chocolate).

A recipe for churros, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 17 February 2013
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 17 February 2013, page 85

Many people associate Spanish or Mexican food with flan, a custard-like dessert. This newspaper article takes flan to a new level by creating flans with pineapple, orange, or cocoa.

A recipe for flan, Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper article 24 February 1982
Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, Nevada), 24 February 1982, page 68

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo is a great excuse to have Mexican food for dinner. Try a few new recipes and make this year’s May 5th the one day you know the answer to the endless question “What’s for dinner?”

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