Mole lovers gear up for the Mole and Mariachi Festival
It usually begins with a lot of coughing and tearing up, and a thick smoke filling up the house. But despite conversations being interrupted by fits of hacking and throat clearing, everyone is smiling. That’s because we’re all intoxicated by that familiar cloud—peppers crackling and roasting on the plancha. Eventually, the smoke settles, sinuses are cleared. Now, we sit, plates piled high and steaming, and this is close to the happiest we’ll be.
Mole: a sauce, a mixture of various peppers, spices and other ingredients, usually served with meat or as a topping for other dishes. The base of each mole is made from roasted peppers, but can include a wide variety of flavors, such as cumin, thyme, and even dark chocolate.
But it is just as accurate to say that mole can also serve as something like a family crest, each recipe having ties to a region or the traditions of a local cuisine. More than anything, it is a labor of love, from enduring the stinging smoke of roasting chiles to mixing as many as 30 ingredients, and waiting patiently as a powder transforms into a thick bubbling liquid. It also means there are going to be at least 15 people over at the house, and the volume is going to get loud. There is going to be music and animated conversation, coughing mixed with laughter.
A big part of being Mexican is eating mole. Nearly every Mexican-American household has a drinking glass that once was a container of Doña Maria mole. Due to its complicated nature, mole is somewhat relegated only to large celebrations, which is all very good. But it is also tied to a slow-cooking tradition, which is slowly dying out. It is something our grandmothers or older relatives would cook. And as that generation fades, it is harder and harder to find those same flavors that were so integral to childhood. Fortunately, efforts from groups like Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, which hosts the Mole and Mariachi Festival, offer a link back to those memories. The festival aims to pair mole with the same convivial atmosphere and music that it is meant to be enjoyed with. The festival, now in its second year, will be featuring a mole competition with entries from local restaurants and folks who want to share the mole they grew up with. Enjoy the tradition, while keeping it alive.
The 2nd annual Mole and Mariachi Festival is 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 20. $10.