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Cinco de Mayo

Hi!! I thought it would be interesting to get a different perspective on Cinco de Mayo this year since so much of this year is... different.

So, I asked my German intern to write a post on a Mexican holiday as celebrated in the USA. Tara has included some healthy versions of the usual Cinco de Mayo standbys. Enjoy!


CINCO DE MAYO - The imported holiday  by Tara Löesh

Contrary to what Americans believe to celebrate, the Cinco de Mayo is confused with Independence Day on September 16, which commemorates Mexico's independence from Spanish rule in 1821. 

However, on "Cinco de Mayo" exactly 158 years ago, the Mexican army won against the numerically superior forces of a French expeditionary army of Napoleon III. 

The 5th of May is a memory of the Battle of Puebla (located about 70 miles southeast of Mexico City) in 1862. 

One year before that victory, ships were sent from France, Spain and England to Mexico to collect national debts. Since Mexico was almost bankrupt at that time, the current president Benito Juarez had asked for more time to repay the debt in installments. The request was not granted. The Europeans wanted their money immediately. 

It took only a few months until they had it together and Spain and England withdrew their ships. 

Unlike the French. Under the command of Napoleon III, 6000 soldiers attacked the village of Puebla de los Angeles on 5 May 1862. Surprisingly, the less well-positioned Mexican troop of 2000 men, led by General Ignazio Zaragoza, won within 2 hours. 

Four days later, that day was declared a national holiday, because the victory over the outnumbered French troops was considered proof that the Mexicans were a formidable opponent worthy of international respect. Intensified by the fact, that their leader was an indigenous president, that holiday held a special symbolic significance.

Cinco de Mayo, however, is for Mexicans - especially those living outside of the modern city of Puebla - of minor significance, dwarfed in comparison to much more important national and religious holidays, like Mexican Independence Day and Day of the Dead.

Nevertheless, it is still celebrated in some cities in Mexico and America (although you can see more of that tradition in Mexico of course). 

People buy piñatas, utensils for the Mexican flag, sombreros and costumes. It’s all about dancing, eating and drinking beer.The houses are decorated with national colors (green, white, red and black) and you can hear Mexican music everywhere. Since there is no traditional CdM costume, women wear bright, colorful and unique gowns or skirts, while men wear trousers or black pants suits, along with sombreros. 

A Mexican party wouldn’t be a Mexican Party if there weren’t guacamole and salsa. Also typically served are Enchiladas Verdes, Tostadas, Chile Verde Tamales, Fish Tacos, Flautas and Chalupas. 

(I literally had to google every single dish to know what it is. Does anyone know how to differentiate those (delicious looking) meals? :-)) 

If you want to try out some healthy alternatives to those traditional Mexican dishes, check my ideas and recipes below.

The widespread commercialization of Cinco de Mayo took place in the 1980s and 1990s. Beer companies, in particular, addressed Mexican Americans and asked them to celebrate their heritage with Coronas, Bud Lights and Dos Equis.

Because of that, some Mexican Americans have expressed ambivalence about celebrating it.

Unlike the Americans without Mexican ancestry, for whom the holiday seems to simply serve as an excuse to drink margaritas.

Today, Cinco de Mayo implies a lot of celebrating for Americans, but little meaning for Mexicans.

While more and more Americans - regardless of their ethnic heritage - take part in the celebrations, few know what Cinco de Mayo commemorates. A survey showed that only 10% of Americans can describe the origins of the festival.

Perhaps your next drink will be a toast to General Ignazio Zaragoza the next time you celebrate Cinco de Mayo… now that you know :-)

For me, as a German girl, who had never heard something about that holiday, it was really interesting to get to know Cinco de Mayo with its history, its tradition and all the change in meaning from then to now. 

Who knows if I actually get to traditionally experience it one day. Because after doing all the research I now know one thing for sure:

Mexicans know how to celebrate! 

Happy Cinco de Mayo!


If you feel like spicing up the tradition: 

  • Keep it fresh: fresh tomatoes, fresh pepper, fresh cucumber, fresh garlic etc. 

  • Try to not use iceberg salad in your fillings, but dark-green leafy greens.

  • Top your meal with fresh mint, fresh chive or other herbs and spices to vary with the taste. That way you also need less salt 

  • Chose organic meat 

  • Chose organic corn tortillas 

Recipe #1: Tacos with lentils and tahini

For the filling:

  • 1 pack of soft tacos (12 tacos)

  • 1 cup of lentils 

  • 3/4 cups of mushrooms 

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • 2 tsp cumin

  • Pinch of salt 

For the sauce:

  • 2 cup yoghurt (natural, unsweetened)

  • 3 tbsp tahini 

  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • Salt, pepper 

For the topping:

  • Arugula 


  • Cook the lentils until they are soft (according to the instruction on the package)

  • Clean and chop the mushrooms

  • Chop the garlic

  • Put 1 tbsp of olive oil in a hot pan and fry the mushrooms at medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Salt a little bit.

  • Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the tahini yoghurt dip well and set aside. 

  • Wash the arugula.

  • Add the cooked lentils (drain excess water), garlic and cumin and simmer on a low heat for about 2-3 minutes.

  • Spread some tahini dip on warm tacos, add lentil-mushroom filling and arugula on top and enjoy!

Recipe #2: Asparagus - Avocado - Burrito 

For the filling: 

  • 4 Tortillas

  • 1/2 cup of red cabbage 

  • 1 can of organic corn

  • 1 bunch green asparagus

  • 2 stalks of scallions

  • 1/2 of cherry tomatoes

  • 4 tbsp of olive oil

  • 1/2 bunch basil

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper 

For the sauce:

  • 1 ripe avocado

  • 1 tbs soy yoghurt

  • 1/3 cucumber

  • Juice of 1 lime

  • 1 garlic clove

  • Pinch of salt


  • Put olive oil in a hot pan, fry corn on the cob for 10 minutes over medium to high heat until golden brown, turn it from time to time.

  • Cut the asparagus and the white part of the spring onions , add to the pan and fry for 3 minutes.

Tip: Break off the ends of the asparagus spears carefully, do not cut them. Green asparagus always breaks off at the transition to the woody end, so you are guaranteed not to get a fibrous surprise.

  • Switch off the stove, but leave the pan with the asparagus and onions on the stove to keep it warm. 

  • Mix the corn with the previously quartered cherry tomatoes. 

  • Finely chop and fold in the basil and season the corn salsa with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.

  • Season asparagus and onion with the remaining salt and pepper.

  • Puree the ingredients for the avocado cream in a blender until smooth.

  • Cut the red cabbage into fine strips and finely chop the green of the spring onions. Heat up soft Tortillas  in a hot pan without oil for half a minute on each side.

  • Fill them with asparagus and corn salsa and top with avocado cream, red cabbage and finely chopped spring onions

Recipe #3: Chili con Tofu

For 4 servings:

  • 1 pack of smoked Tofu 

  • 1 can of kidney beans - organic 

  • 1 can of corn - organic

  • 1 onion 

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • 1 red chili

  • 1 red pepper

  • 1 tsp chili powder

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

  • 3 tbsp of oil

  • salt, pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 can of strained tomatoes

  • 1 cup of vegetable broth

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 4 tsp cumin

  • 2 tsp agave syrup

For the topping:

  • 1 lime

  • 1 handful of fresh coriander


  • Crumble the tofu in a bowl by hand. Add salt and chili powder and mix well.

  • Chop onion, garlic and chilli finely, dice pepper.

  • Put oil in a hot pan and fry onion, pepper and chili for about 5 minutes.

  • Add the tofu and fry well for another 5 minutes at medium to high heat. Stir from time to time.

  • Put the ingredients for the sauce in a pot and bring to boil briefly. 

  • Add all the ingredients from the pan and simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat with the lid on.

  • Add corn and kidney beans and simmer for another 5 minutes.

  • Season with salt and pepper and serve with tortilla chips or fresh bread, lime wedges of coriander.

Tip: The chili is very easy to store in the fridge (or freezer) and tastes even better when it’s soaked.

¡Y ahora buen provecho ;-) 




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