Friday, March 23, 2007

The Who, What, Why, Where, When and How Of The Impossibly Humble Radish


Those red on the outside, white on the inside, peppery, root come vegetable salad ingredients that go well with brown bread and butter and good cheese.

Can there be anything interesting to say about radishes?

You decide.

Because in Mexico City on 23rd December every year the whole city dresses up like a radish. And you'll find them carved as flowers, animals, buildings, vehicles, people and just about everything else.

And it is a source of constant fascination to me, not so much that these events take place, as strange as they are, but who was the first person who came up with it and why!

I like to think of a guarded, shy little man in a sombrero furtively dressing up as a radish and frolicking around his neighbourhood at midnight because it's 'his thing', a fetish he cant resist and, for reasons best known to themselves, his fellow Mexicans joined in.

And knowing the real reason it started doesn't diminish the possibility that this might actually be true.

It often involves a nativity scene, being Christmas, and has a very loose religious connection. The radish fascination started with, who else, the missionaries who in 'colonial times' taught the interested locals how to cultivate radishes and what to do with them when they were ready.

Whether this involved teaching them to dress up as a giant radish is unclear, but the practice evolved and has been going on ever since.

It is another one of those: What would it be like to walk into an even like this without first knowing it was going to happen?

Oaxaca's central square is where you'll find all the action, and expect tons of great Mexican food to accompany the celebrations, and of course fireworks, donuts and piƱatas (those gourds filled with gifts) that you'll be encouraged to smash to pieces to win.

And taking a leaf out of the Greek Festival Book, visitors are expected to smash their dish after eating their donuts, which apparently brings the smasher good luck for the rest of the years.

Not in my kitchen it doesn't.

The West is sadly lacking in these kind of wild, unpredictable celebrations over such things as radishes. I don't know why, except we are a bit more reserved than our Latin, Asian and African counterparts who seem able to drop everything and celebrate without a qualm, day or night, whatever the season and can make up an excuse like 'It's all about the Radishes' with a straight face AND get away with it.

Don't we live in a beautiful world?

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home