Cinco de Mayo is a traditional Mexican holiday with a fascinating history—but perhaps even more interesting is the fact that it's now become more popular in the United States than in Mexico. The holiday commemorates the Mexican army's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, but it's primarily celebrated in Puebla, which is just one of Mexico's 31 states. So how did the holiday come to be such a large celebration in America?
After the Mexican Civil War in 1915, many Mexican people came to the United States and settled in the southern states. When they came to America, they brought with them their customs, traditions, and holidays—including Cinco de Mayo.
So the American people began celebrating Cinco de Mayo alongside their Mexican neighbors, but oftentimes they didn't really understand what they were celebrating; to them it was just a fun celebration of Mexican culture. Over the last hundred or so years, the holiday has taken off in America, with many people using it as an excuse to eat tacos and drink margaritas, rather than celebrating what the holiday actually stands for.
If you've celebrated this way in the past, don't sweat it: Take this as an opportunity to learn more about the history of the holiday and plan a more appropriate celebration this year.
1. Share the Real Story
Many Americans are quick to celebrate with tacos and margaritas without understanding the cultural significance of the holiday. Before partaking in any celebrations, take a few minutes to learn about the holiday and educate others you're celebrating with. "Changing stereotypes is something that we need help with, and if you do your part, we can share how awesome the truth behind Cinco de Mayo is," Sandoval says.
2. Support Mexican Businesses
While there are plenty of chain restaurants that offer Cinco de Mayo deals, Sandoval suggests supporting locally instead: Skip the Taco Bell drive-thru and order carry-out from a local Mexican-owned business in your area. "Whether it's your local Mexican Restaurant, or a local Mexican pottery store, supporting small business owners helps not just your local economy but it helps to support the Mexicans who's culture you enjoy celebrating," she says.
3. Support Mexican Arts and Museums
This holiday isn't just about the food! "So often we dismiss the value of true Mexican artesanías," Sandoval says. "If you have a local art gallery, museum, or artist, show up and support those artists and museums that are honoring Mexican history and culture." If you're not familiar with any in your area, a quick internet search can help you find local venues.
4. Eat the Food!
It's important to make sure you're celebrating Mexican heritage and not treating the day as just an excuse to go out for margaritas—but food is such a large part of the Mexican culture, that it can be one of the best (and tastiest!) ways to celebrate. Order carry-out at a local restaurant, or try making your own at home. Sandoval recommends Mole Poblano, a spicy and delicious traditional Mexican dish that originates from the city of Puebla, or Enchiladas Poblanas that are made with poblano chiles.
5. Create A Cinco De Mayo Playlist
Tune into the hottest Mexican musical artists using Amazon Music Unlimited or Spotify. Find a playlist that already exists or create your own. This is a great way to have some seriously fun music in the background while also supporting Mexican musicians at the same time!
6. Set Out Some Festive Decor
Hang some papel picado, set up streamers, go crazy! There are plenty of ways to decorate your home for Cinco de Mayo while still respecting Mexican culture—Just think or do some research before you toss sombreros everywhere. If you’re looking for generally cheerful, colorful decorations, the Auihiay 32-Piece Fiesta Party Decorations Kit is a great option.
7. Cook Your Own Mexican-Inspired Recipe
If you’d rather create your own fiesta dishes, try out some classic Mexican-inspired recipes. This is a fun way to get in the kitchen and make a delicious meal that also celebrates Mexican culture. Try researching some authentic recipes, too, if you want to really lean into the day. You might be surprised just how much you love traditional Mexican cuisine.
8. Learn Some Traditional Mexican Dance Moves
Take some time—maybe while listening to that Cinco de Mayo playlist you just made—to learn some traditional Mexican dance moves. Jarabe Tapatío (the Mexican Hat Dance) or La Conquista (which narrates the story of the Spanish conquest) are good places to start. Or, if you’d rather just sit on your couch, you can always watch videos of the dances as well. We reccomend the Los Voladores de Papantla dance, where participants scale a 30-foot pole. (!!!)
9. Make A Margarita Bar
Break out the margarita glasses, some margarita mix, your fruits of choice and (of course) some tequila. Set out all the ingredients and let everyone in your household design their own ideal margarita. From strawberry and mango to pineapple and blueberry, there’s no limit to the fun combinations you can create for a night filled with margaritas. BTW, if you’re low on supplies, the Thoughtfully Skinny Margarita Set is the perfect all-in-one buy.
10. Have A Zoom Fiesta
If you don’t have people to celebrate with at home—or even if you do—gather your friends on a group Zoom call, set some fun Zoom backgrounds and have a margarita toast. You can play some fun music, create a Mexican-themed drinking game or just chat while eating Mexican food. Cinco de Mayo is better celebrated with others—even if it’s virtually.
11. DIY A Piñata
If you’re feeling a little crafty, why not try making your own piñata? You just need cardboard, poster board, tissue paper, glue and tape for this easy and fun DIY. Plus, once it’s created, you can fill it with candy and let everyone in your home take a stab at breaking it.
12. Learn About The History Of Cinco De Mayo
Take some time this Cinco de Mayo to learn about why it’s celebrated. Sure, this might not sound like a fun party activity, but it totally can be. You can create a trivia drinking game out of it or watch videos that explain the history in an entertaining way. Knowing the history behind Cinco de Mayo can help you celebrate the holiday in a thoughtful and educated way (that definitely still includes tequila).
Sources: Better Homes & Gardens by Emily VanSchmus March 4, 2021 and StyleCaster by Maggie Griswold April 30, 2020.
Right now even the most ardent cooks feel weary of their kitchens, so as we waded through this spring’s hundred or so new cookbooks, we were searching for inspiration. Below you’ll find the books that proved themselves in our kitchens—and got us excited to make dinner again. These 11 books have no-nonsense weeknight stuff and the decadent stuff of future meals with friends. There are superlative baked goods, flavorful dumplings, and a crème caramel for one. This list is the best of the season; we're sure there's a book here that will help every cook find fresh ideas to cook their way through this spring.
Bavel by Ori Menashe, Genevieve Gergis, and Lesley Suter
Often chef’s cookbooks, while gorgeous, prove tricky and fussy for the home cook. Not so with Bavel, the latest cookbook by pastry chef and chef duo Genevieve Gergis and Ori Menashe. Bavel is based around the chefs’ Middle Eastern Los Angeles restaurant by the same name. Bavel the cookbook gets much of its strength from the family recipes dotted throughout, the ones that sustain the chefs in their busy day-to-day life. It’s hard to improve upon a simple roast chicken, but the Turmeric Chicken With Toum, conceived for an easy dinner party, might just edge out your fallback recipe. Crisp, turmeric-stained skin, juicy, yogurt-marinated meat, and a smear of garlicky toum, its bite softened by orange blossom water: this chicken somehow has it all.
Rodney Scott's World of BBQ by Rodney Scott
Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ—is a book that brings the sacrament of whole-hog barbecue down to earth. You would imagine that it might take a full book for Rodney Scott to teach someone to barbecue the way he does in Charleston, but Scott manages to do it in the 30 pages before the recipes start. A year ago, asking the average home cook to build a barbecue pit in their backyard might’ve seemed like too large an ask. But in the past year, many of us have conquered sourdough, mastered pickling, and tried out lamination. And the clear, inviting way in which Scott communicates his techniques will have you pricing out concrete blocks at the hardware store. Writing with a lifetime of experience behind him, Scott manages to make Carolina barbecue feel accessible to the weekend warrior.
To Asia, With Love by Hetty McKinnon
Just make her miso-laced squash ramen or deliciously charred cabbage steaks and you’ll understand why this book is tops. McKinnon, who grew up in Australia to Chinese parents and now calls Brooklyn home, has a special knack for food that’s excellent for families, but isn’t anywhere near dull. The Buttery Miso Vegemite Noodles, all glossy and salty, get a sharp tang from a pile of grated cheddar cheese and come together in a minute. Lots of recipes are accompanied by plenty of options for toppings or fillings, key for anyone trying to feed a slew of demanding palates: for example, her jook has three optional vegetable garnishes with varying levels of spice, crunch, and savoriness, and McKinnon lays out a rainbow of dumpling fillings, which include combos like asparagus, mint, and feta, and lentil and cauliflower curry.
Ripe Figs by Yasmin Khan
Here is what Yasmin Khan does better than almost anyone: dive deep into the cuisine of a specific region of the world to create a compendium of recipes, stories, interviews, and stunning photos that transport you (with all five senses engaged) to that place. I know that sounds like a tall order—and even a little bit cliche—but somehow Khan manages to pull it off again and again, with depth, generosity, and a palpable love of listening and learning.
Cook Real Hawai'i by Sheldon Simeon
In this cookbook Simeon delves into Hawaii's oft-misunderstood cuisine, giving readers a peek into local garage parties and family barbecues. Hibachi chicken barbecue, charred fish sinigang, kimchi dip, and an entire poke primer—these dishes showcase the islands’ mixed cultures, ingredients, and cooking styles. I’ve already got a couple of dishes on repeat: the deeply savory Fried Garlic Noodles, seasoned with soy sauce and dashi powder, and the creamy, coconutty Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes, sprinkled with bonito flakes or bits of skipjack tuna jerky. Both of these dishes offer what feels like a key to the essential flavors of Hawaii.
Mother Grains by Roxana Jullapat
While there’s something in Mother Grains for the folks who’ve been ambitious about their sourdough since the early months of lockdown, what delights the most about this cookbook from renowned Los Angeles baker Roxana Jullapat is that it isn’t just for the hardcore. This book offers ways to deepen the flavor of many less-intensive baking projects, including waffles and pancakes, scones and cookies, cakes and muffins. It gives home bakers a taste of what’s been going on in many of the best bakeries lately, illustrating how diversifying your flour pantry and leaning on full-flavored grains like buckwheat, sorghum, rye, barley, and heirloom wheat is a bit like switching from coloring with graphite pencil to painting with a rainbow palette. When the grains are great—like the nutty, creamy Sonora flour she has you use in her spectacular oatmeal cookies—baked goods can taste more cohesive and more intricate in flavor.
Cook This Book by Molly Baz
Cook This Book is a cookbook designed for the novice: Baz lists ingredients by category for logical grocery shopping, and fills the recipe margins with answers to questions she anticipated her readers might ask. That way, One-Pot Chicken and Schmaltzy Rice with Lemony Yog (Yog being yogurt; Baz loves “abbrevs”) is not just a deeply comforting weeknight dinner, it’s also a lesson on how to properly cook rice and crisp chicken skin. Baz’s style of cooking is an appealing mix of unfussy-but-inspired diner fare and cheffy-casual dishes you’d find at any hot, merch-and-orange-wine-selling restaurants. These are recipes you can’t help but like. Who can say no to a pasta salad with mortadella, burrata, castelvetrano olives, and pistachios?
Super Natural Simple by Heidi Swanson
This cookbook is full of dishes that look like spa food but pack more flavor (a hot pink dragon fruit and beet ‘party dip’, amped up with cayenne and citrus), tons of nourishing one-pot meals like the Roasted Chile Peanut Tofu, and lots of excellent, slightly earthy, not-too-sweet baked goods. Because Swanson’s Baked Oatmeal is a perennial Epi hit, I gave its spicier cousin, a Dirty Chai Baked Oatmeal, a go. Warming, complex, and just as good out of the freezer, it reminded me what I loved most about Swanson’s cooking: the fresh, complex flavors that aren’t fussy, the dishes that are sometimes pretty, sometimes (like my three shades of brown oatmeal) unassuming, but food that is always remarkably satisfying.
At Home in the Kitchen by David Kinch and Devin Fuller
In At Home, Kinch leans into simple home cooking as hard as he leans the other way at Manresa. Recipes often have no more than seven or eight ingredients. The chapter “All-Day Eggs + 2 a.m. Dinners” might as well be called Pandemic Dinners—it’s all fried fingerlings, puffy omelets, and crispy grilled cheese sandwiches. The next chapter, “Pasta + Rice,” provided me with a new favorite pantry pasta (sardines, capers, breadcrumbs, lemon). And in the seafood chapter—perhaps the most Californian in a very California-feeling book—a recipe for oven-roasted potatoes with cod spoke to my elemental cravings for well-browned spuds and just-cooked fish.
My Shanghai by Betty Liu
My Shanghai will guide you toward faithfully reproducing many favorites made famous by the restaurants and street vendors of the world’s largest city—and served in Shanghainese restaurants throughout the world. You’ll find fluffy-crispy pan-fried sheng jian bao and tender lion’s head meatballs made from hand-minced pork belly here, as well as the twisted knots of scallion flower buns and hot, fresh crullers for dunking in soy milk. But author Betty Liu emphasizes that the book is really focused on dishes meant to be prepared in home kitchens: She writes that My Shanghai is “a written record of recipes that had previously been passed down orally. These recipes are my family’s tradition.” It’s a refreshing focus, when so many cookbooks (often written by white authors) zoom way too far out, attempting to tackle all of China at once, and glossing over what makes each region special.
Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson
The Nigella effect is undeniable. This is sensual, decadent, joyful food—and, is there not a better time for it. If the sound of meal prep, sheet-pan dinners, or batch cooking screeches on your ears in season forty-five of this pandemic, this is the book to fall into. Luxuriate in a simple and rich Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce, served with a gravy boat of extra cream (that’s equally good stirred into pasta or topped over otherwise chaste vegetables the next day). Finish it up with squidgy Black Forest Brownies, studded with kirsch-soaked cherries and hazelnuts. Whatever you do, don’t rush it. This is a book for a Sunday cook—or, even just a Sunday read, drink in hand, to inspire you for the eventual return of dinner parties.
Source: Epicurious by Lauren Joseph and the editor's of Epicurious, March 14, 2021.
For a truly stress-free outdoor party and outdoor entertaining experience, you want to keep the pests—and the guests—from buzzing in your ear. Here’s how to create an oasis for a backyard party where the revelers are satiated and no one gets eaten alive. With any luck, you’ll be able to check everything off the party planning checklist and have some fun, too.
Spread the word
The three things to include on the invitation:
When they’ll be eating. Avoid refiring the grill for latecomers with something like “The grill master will be slinging grub from 6 to 7. Come and get it!”
Attire. Everyone (OK, every woman) is wondering what to wear. Tank top? Sundress? Give guests a sense of the vibe: “You wear the flip-flops; we’ll flip the burgers” or “Bring your swimsuits!”
Rain plans. “I don’t think you need a rain date unless it’s a 600-person church picnic,” says Charleston, South Carolina–based entertaining expert Calder Clark. “A 30-person barbecue at my house is going to happen no matter what.” But if you want to clarify, add a note: “Rain or shine.” Or “If it rains…game night inside!” Just be sure that you have room for everyone in your living room.
Have enough seats
What if you have five patio chairs and 25 guests? Assess your indoor furniture. The easiest option is to press dining chairs into service, along with any drum stools or poufs. If you’re keeping things casual, you can spread pretty quilts on the ground and let people gather picnic-style.
Renting can be another surprisingly cheap way to go. Folding chairs start as low as $2 apiece. (You may also be able to rent coolers, speakers, tableware, and a bigger grill.) Many vendors will even drop off and pick up, so all you have to round up is the guests and good cheer.
Light it right
Is that your dog Sparky? Or a skunk? Don’t leave guests in the dark. All you need is a little ambient lighting, says Jimmy Duhig, the owner of Creative Lighting Design, in San Francisco: “If you’re outside while it’s getting dark, your eyes will adjust.” Just hang strings of lights on the deck, the fence, even tree branches, and add some hurricane lanterns or tealights. Duhig recommends globe string lights, elegant round bulbs that give off a warm glow (try Room Essentials Clear Globe String Lights, $10; target.com). “This is what you always see strung overhead at outdoor dinner parties on TV,” he says.
What to do with extension cords (a.k.a. trip wires) If you need to run cords through the yard, says Duhig, snip old wire hangers with a wire cutter and bend them into skinny U-shaped pegs (like croquet wickets, but only an inch or two wide). Then arc them over the cords and hammer them flush into the ground.
Decorate in a pinch
In fact, you really only need one party decoration (hint: it’s a pinata). It’s colorful! It’s interactive! It’s wise to hand out the broom before everyone has had three margaritas! Buy a big piñata that fits the mood of the fiesta (try Oriental Trading or Confetti System). “Fill it with dollar-store items in one color. Monochromatic always looks chic,” says Clark. “Buy things people can wear, like sunglasses and necklaces. It will make fun photographs.” Other festive loot: lottery tickets and—especially for a pool party—mini water pistols.
Keep mosquitoes away
Get rid of standing water. “That’s where mosquitoes breed,” says Laura Harrington, an associate professor of entomology at Cornell University. “The week before the party, empty out the kiddie pool, the rain gutters, and any rainwater that has collected in the bottoms of flowerpots.”
Plug in some fans. “Mosquitoes are weak flyers, so even if a fan is set on low, it can create enough airflow to keep them away,” says Harrington. This works best in a small area, like a deck, where you can set up two or three box fans around your guests. It’s also a good idea to put a tabletop fan near the salads.
Offer guests bug wipes that won’t create a smelly fog. “Look for products that contain the repellent picaridin instead of DEET,” says Harrington. “DEET can degrade synthetic fabrics, damaging clothing.” Try Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Towelettes ($8 for eight; avon.com); stash them in a basket by the back door. You might also consider a bug-repellent gadget for the yard.
Master the music
Playlist tips from Michael Antonia, the owner of the Flashdance, a production company in Los Angeles.
Don’t crank the speakers. No one will want to stand near them if they’re blaring. The best setup is four or more speakers, spread out, set at a lower volume. “If you’re using a boom box or an iPod dock, place it above ear level so it’s not blasting directly at guests’ heads,” says Antonia. “And turn it toward the side of the house—you can make it a little louder and the sound will spread out better.”
Go heavy on classics: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson—songs that people recognize. Keep it upbeat, and mix in some newer tunes here and there. “I like Bon Iver, Beach House, White Stripes, and Elliott Smith,” says Antonia.
Plan for five hours. “Most parties aren’t going to last longer than that, and if there’s anyone who realizes the playlist has started over at hour six, well, they probably need another drink.”
Entertain the kids
So the grown-ups can kick back with the sangría, have some diversions for the kids: plenty of blowing bubbles, perhaps a sprinkler or a Slip ’n Slide, and beach balls. You can also buy a few inexpensive disposable cameras and let kids serve as official event photographers.
Play it cool
How to survive the sweltering heat:
Handheld fans. Natural raffia fans or classic accordion fans (both available from Oriental Trading) look pretty placed in big baskets.
Ice-cold compresses. Buy a pack of inexpensive washcloths from a dollar store, roll each up and secure with a rubber band, then toss into a cooler of ice water for guests to grab. (The best cooling points are the neck and wrists, where large arteries run close to the skin.)