Get your Meso Lotería t-shirt, just in time for spring!
We have 100% combed cotton American Apparel shirts in men’s and women’s sizes. $18 includes shipping to anywhere in the US. Let us know if you’re in Chicago and we’ll give you a discount! See the full t-shirt image here.

Contact us at mesochicago – at – gmail – dot – com.

Meso Pibil

Last November we hosted a Day of the Dead Meso dinner featuring Nuria Montiel, a guest artist based in Mexico City and our new hero. Nuria presented a Chicago twist on her family’s cochinita pibil recipe, inspired by a field trip to Devon Avenue’s “Desi Corridor.”

Spicy marinated pork wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in its own juices, the cochinita is traditionally buried in the ground for slow cooking. We recreated the dish in a wok on our Hyde Park stove. We added Andhra-style lime pickle and ginger to the marinade, and served the final dish with a chutney made of pomegranate seeds and pickled red onions.

Making this dish with Nuria was a powerful experience. She generously shared her memories with us, along with her artwork and joyful energy. She also spoke about the missing students from Iguala, who had recently been kidnapped and murdered, with their remains burned.

It’s strange how preparing food with another person can conjure so many emotions. Cooking this meal with Nuria and sharing it with friends and family gave us the chance to celebrate and equally to mourn.

meso_pibil_06Meso-pibil_05Meso-Pibil_02Meso-Pibil_03Recipe to follow soon.


Join us for Lotería and delicious new recipes at the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, on Thursday, August 21!
5550 South Greenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

We’re grilling sweet corn for Chicago-style elote, whipping up a tomatillo-ranch dressing, and having chips and salsa made with plants harvested from the Avant Garden next door to the Smart. Plus, make your own lotería cards based on art in the Smart’s collection.

Pick up a t-shirt with our own Chicago Lotería tabla:

Día de la Familia

Join us for a free family day!

Fiesta en la Plaza, Logan Square
Sunday, July 13
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Comfort Station, Milwaukee Ave. at Logan Blvd.

Enjoy grilled hot dogs and veggies from the Logan Square farmer’s market, and fresh tortillas. Take a swing at the community piñata, and make a papel picado with us to enter our raffle for awesome prizes.

This event is generously supported by Comfort Station, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Alderman Rey Colón, Revolution Brewery, El Milagro, Tumbao, Dulcelandia, Wolfbait, and Tony’s Finer Food.

CS logo-Final RevBrew_Logo_Hi-res milagro-logo     tumbao_logo wolfbait-logotonys-logoDulce_Logo rey-colon-logolsna-logo

Fajita Bành Mì

On Wednesday, this happened:1-fajita-banh-mi
Danny showed off his grilling skills at our friend Vik’s rooftop, and we prepared our latest recipe:
Fajita Bánh Mì
3lbs Arrachera (skirt steak)
fresh cilantro
fresh cabbage and radishes (optional)
10 bolillos
Steak Marinade:
2 cups olive oil3-fajita-banh-mi
6 limes
4 tbsp seasame oil
2 bushels of green onions/scallions
1 bushel of cilantro, chopped
1 head of garlic, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Pickled Carrots, Jicama, and Jalapeños:
1 lb thin-cut carrots and jicama
1/2 of a jalapeño, sliced thinly
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1/2 tbsp fennel
1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
3 star anise
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 1/4 cup water

To prepare the steak, combine all marinade ingredients in blender. Once blended, use marinade to cover steak in a large pan. Let sit for 24 hours.
Heat grill to highest setting. Grill for 6-8 minutes per side. Once done, cut against the grain into strips.
To prepare the pickled vegetables, blanch the carrots for 1 minute and rinse in cool water. Place them in a heat-proof jar with the crushed garlic cloves, jalapeños, fennel, peppercorns, and anise. Bring, water, vinegar sugar, and salt to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for two minutes.  Pour over the vegetables in the jar. Allow to cool and then cover and refrigerate. Turn jar upside-down once or twice a day. Pickles will be ready within two days.
To prepare the bánh mìn, use fresh bolillos and slice lengthwise. Cover generously with mayo, and add steak, pickled vegetables, and fresh cilantro, garnishing with cabbage and radishes to taste. Serves 10.
Thanks, as always, to our taste-testers and collaborators, many of whom brought fantastic food and recipes to our potluck event. We will post more soon. Photos by Christopher Sonny Martinez.

The Power of the Kitchen and the Community

I was struck when listening to a report on NPR about Soviet kitchens and their role in the fomentation of political and cultural exchange. Once  private kitchens were created, everyday people were less afraid to bring out their inner artist, writer, thinker, debater, and creator in the privacy of their homes. I loved the description of Russia as a taste: sourness. (Does Chicago have a “taste?”)

For us at Meso, it was great to hear about the exchange of ideas – however  clandestine – in a way that provided real community. We are really interested in how food and kitchens build community and provide for cultural exchange: whether it is at a small family meal, a large school potluck, or neighbors at a block party. Sometimes we take for granted how much food can bring people together and discuss differences and find commonalities.

Which reminded me of my own family and the connections to food-built communities. In the 1930s, my abuelo and other members of my family were involved in a movement in Texas to support workers, many of which were kitchen workers. Although there were labor unions, Latinos were largely kept out. The pictures below are from one of the conventions. Latino workers from places like Texas, Kansas, and Minnesota came together to find strength in their community, and work towards common goals. My abuelo, who worked in a cookie factory, was actually kicked out of the United States for a time because of his organizational efforts. I was really interested in the parallels of  my abuelo’s story, and the disadvantaged people of Soviet Russia, coming together into communities, taking actions big and small.

The role of labor in food industry is also something Meso wants to discuss more in the future. Stay tuned.

If you would like to learn more about the Mexican labor movement in the United States, we recommend Juan Gómez-Quiñones book Mexican American Labor, 1790-1990.

How has food played a role in your family or community? Please share.

Confederación de Camaras, January 1936 - Dallas, Texas

Confederación de Camaras, January 1936 – Dallas, Texas

Confederación de Camaras, January 1936 - Dallas, Texas

Confederación de Camaras, January 1936 – Dallas, Texas

Confederación de Camaras, January 1936 - Dallas, Texas

Confederación de Camaras, January 1936 – Dallas, Texas