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Photo Courtesy of LA PLAZA DE CULTURA Y ARTES

LA Plaza Cocina: First museum dedicated to Mexican food opens in L.A.

LA Plaza Cocina reviews 5000 years of history of Mexican cuisine through exhibitions, courses and cultural events.

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Tacos, cochinita pibil, tamales, tlayudas... In the city of Los Angeles Mexican cuisine is as wide and varied as in Mexico itself. According to figures from the last state census, the city of is home to more than 1.9 million people of Hispanic origin, 35.8% of whom are of Mexican descent.   

Now, the culinary heritage of this large Latino community has the museum it deserved long time ago. LA Plaza Cocina is the first cultural center in Los Angeles dedicated to expanding awareness and giving visibility to the legacy of Mexican food. 

"It's much more than tacos," Ximena Martin, curator of the new museum space, told The Guardian.  "Every region of Mexico needs to be celebrated and acknowledged." 

Opened in February, LA Plaza Cocina is under the umbrella of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a center created in 2011 that honors the past, inspires the future, and recognizes the enduring cultural influence of Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and all Latinas/Latinos in Los Angeles through transformative exhibitions, programming and educational experiences.

LA Plaza Cocina's inaugural exhibition is Maize: Past, Present and Future, a tribute to the cuisine’s most essential ingredient. Curated by Maite Gomez-Rejón and Ximena Martin, visitors will recognize many of the tools and processes used by their ancestors being displayed in the gallery. Through photographs, tools, artifacts, and cookbooks, LA Cocina recounts the story of this sacred grain and its essential role as a global food source. The exhibit opens the new space, which will host a new exhibition every six months.

Maize: Past, Present and Future showcases tools used in the preparation of maize like a metate, one of the oldest tools in the Americas and used for grinding nixtamal into masa. Another is a pichancha, a clay colander used during the nixtamalization process to strain the corn kernels from the nejayote (water mixed with lime). There is also a desgranador; bound and shortened dried corncobs against which fresh ears of corn are scraped to remove their kernels, and cuartillos, wooden boxes used to measure corn kernels, beans, nuts or other grain. Visitors can also see archaeological pieces and instruments from Mixtec and Zapotec cultures, as well as from the state of Colima, in west Mexico.

The exhibition also includes some Mexican cookbooks, including an 1883 edition of Nuevo cocinero mexicano en forma de diccionario, considered the oldest recipe book in Mexican cuisine. 

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The center has a kitchen for courses and workshops taught by renowned Mexican chefs. 

The next exhibit will focus on grandmothers, cooking and oral history. The museum hopes to highlight not only professional chefs, but also home cooks and others who are passionate about food. 

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