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Traditional Mexican Cooking Utensils, Part I

The advance of industrialization changed the way our great, great, grandmothers used to cook. The electricity also made that the long hours spent in the kitchen were reduced drastically thanks to the invention of new kitchen appliances. The food industry created new food buying habits, and all those changes made some traditional cooking items end up as ornaments or in museums. Here are some of those cooking items that few people will ever think of buying and that others will display them as antiques. As for me, these items still have a use in my kitchen.Metate
The Metate ( Náhuatl: Metlatl) is a rectangular shaped stone with three legs used to finely grind the nixtamalized corn to make tortillas or atole. It is also used to grind seeds or dry peppers and spices. It has an inclination in one end. Like the more popular Molcajete, it is made out of black or dark gray porous basalt volcanic stone.Molendera en metate
When the Metate is used the woman will face the higher end of the stone, and she will be kneeling on the floor. At the other end of the metate she will place a wooden or clay tray where the finished product was placed. The Metate is used with the Metate Stone or Hand Metate. The Náhuatl name is "Metlapil"; Metate’s son. This stone has tapered ends and is used to grind the grains against the Metate's surface. With the introduction of industrialization many years ago and many products ready to use in the markets, the Metate is hardly used even in rural areas. Funny thing is that even in the early 1940’s a Metate was considered as an excellent gift for a newly wed woman, now it will be a more sophisticated Kitchen Aid, I guess.
Molinillo
Molinillo de Chocolate or Chocolate Frother
In México we had so many varieties of drinking chocolate as you can see in this picture, but outside the country the "Abuelita" and "Ibarra" brands are the ones commonly found. Drinking a cup of chocolate with a tick layer of foam is one of our pleasures. In Pre-Hispanic times it was a symbol of hospitality and wealth. Before the Spaniards arrived in America, the natives created the foam using 2 small gourd cups, pouring from the top of one another, repeating this process until the desired foam was formed. The Molinillo we used today was created around the 1700’s in Colonial times and is made up from a single piece of turned wood, the lower part has two rings around a striate and hollow sphere. The Molinillo is use by rubbing the palms of your hands together. The foam will form with the twisting motion of your hands.
Spaniards loved chocolate so much that later on they started serving it in Spain as Hot Chocolate.



Molcajete01
The Molcajete, a word that comes from Molcaxitl, which means bowl for salsa, from the Náhuatl mulli, like a mole, salsa and Caxitlán for bowl, is the mortar of México, dating back several thousand of years ago. El Molcajete is made from a volcanic stone carved in one piece, with a hand stone used for grinding, called temachín or tejolote from the Náhuatl words : tetl, and xolouia meaning stone that is used for crushing or grinding.
Isn't it amazing that we use a tool that was used since Pre Hispanic times? Because it is so handy in any Mexican home, having been invented 6000 years ago in Mesoamerica, the bowl with three legs has not changed much and for a Molcajete to get out of shape or get broken, well .... it will take many generations, in fact a Pre-Hispanic Molcajete and its pestle was found in tombs in Tehuacán Puebla, in perfect conditions.
The Molcajete is used to grind spices, peppers, tomatos, garlic, etc. to make sauces and condiments. It is said that a salsa or a guacamole made in a molcajete has a better flavor that one made in a blender. It is also use to serve the salsas and the famous guacamole. It is easily cleaned with a brush and water.
Molcajete
I feel very humbled that you take the time to check out my blog. And I appreciate when you leave a comment but also understand when you don't. Visiting blogs requires time and following blogs takes even more. We live hectic lives with so many demands of our time and I know that for many as for me our family is our priority. I do really hope that you find the time spent in this blog worthwhile. Please know that I value your loyalty and time!

References: Larousse de la Cocina Mexicana, Gastronomía & Compañía and The Universal.


You can buy this items in our Amazon Store.

100 comments:

  1. Mely,
    you are right, there some traditional utensils are still used in the cooking. Metate which is similar to ammikallu what we used to grind coconut and spices. Molcajete is looks like smaller version of our attukallu.
    swathi
    iyerswathi9@gmail.com

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  2. What a gorgeous post Mely! I've learned so much. The molcajete is divine as well, aah.. I hope I win!!!

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  3. I would definitely want to enter your giveaway. I love molcajete's. I have the molinillo and do use it from time to time. Great post on the traditional utensil which are definitely still used and probably always will. Yes please enter me and thank you.

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  4. P.S. I just shared on my facebook page :D

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  5. Hi Mely. I came back to tell you that I will do a post about your giveaway, if you don't mind. It's a great giveaway.

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  6. Very interesting and informative post. I followed your blog so that I would learn more about the food I adore and I have learned so much!

    Throwing my hat in...mcfmatthews71@yahoo.com

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  7. I don't need to enter the contest. I already have two molcajetes, one I bought in the early eighties (and rarely use, I'm ashamed to say) and one I inherited from my mom, which I dare say is fifty years old. You've inspired me to make three batches of salsa, and have a taste test to see if we can taste the difference between the blender, the newer molcajete, and the older molcajete sauces.

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  8. Great article. I find the traditional simple tools still get the job done the best!!

    Lisa Imerman

    Lrimerman at comcast dot net

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  9. A friend of mine bought me a big Molcajete from her trip to Mexico, and I bought one at the Valladolid market (it is shaped as a pig, too cute!). I use the small one, but the bigger one is still a bit porous. is there a way to cure it and make it smoother? I am afraid that there will be grits of sand in my salsa:)
    I love reading your blog, especially since we traveled to Yucatan last spring.
    Looking forward to reading more:)

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  10. Ok, no puedo participar (entiendo por qué O_O) pero simplemente no pude resistir comentar. Me encantó este post por que yo tambien siento mucha atracción hacia usar esos utensilios tan tradicionales de la comida mexicana. Siempre he querido usar un molcajete! pero por que siempre se me olvida llevar dinero a los lugares donde lo venden, no he podido hacerlo pero lo haré! lo que si uso siempre que hago chocolate es el molinillo, la verdad es una pieza preciosa! uno no creería que se usa para lo que se usa.. jejeje.. Saludos!!

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  11. I found your blog a few months ago and have really enjoyed reading your posts! Thank you for such lovely write-ups!

    And thanks for the giveaway!

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  12. I just found your blog (via Gloria's blog post), and I love it! I'm adding it to my reader. We keep a comal (I think that's how you spell it) on our stove top at all times. It may not be that ancient but I don't see them in many other kitchens in our neighborhood!
    Rinda (of gallorganico.blogspot.com, an art blog

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  13. i have a molcajete at home that i love. thanks for sharing some background info about it. also, thank you for taking the time to visit my blog as well.

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  14. Hola Mely! que linda esta entrada! a mi me fascinan los utensilios mexicanos, por supuesto que tengo mi molcajete y mi metate y los adoro. Es una obra de arte lo que hacen las personas que lo venden, y todo en conjunto, usarlo en la cocina con recetas de siglos, más valor aún le da..
    un besote!

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  15. I can't help but gain two things every time I visit your blog: a hearty appetite, and a lesson learned about wonderful Mexican cookery. Gracias Mely! Tom

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  16. That is so exciting. I have never seen anything like that before. Today I am attempting to make hominy for the first time. I LOVE corn, corn bread... anything CORN. Thank you for this wonderful giveaway!

    I'm at ilovekefir@hotmail.com

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  17. I am sharing this on my facebook page!

    yarnsnob75@gmail.com

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  18. Hola Mely,

    Es un excelente post para dar a conocer estos utensilios ya casi no tan utilizados.

    Yo tengo mi molcajete y de pronto usamos la tortillera.

    Excelente premio!

    Salu2

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  19. I wish I could win the metate version in the first picture - I have two molcajetes as it is...my grandmothers had beautiful old metates - I wonder what happened to those....

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  20. What a fantastic giveaway... thanks for the opportunity! bigskycherrypie(at)yahoo.com

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  21. Love the giveaway!!!We use the molinillo in Colombia to make our chocolate!Nice post.

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  22. I can be reached at fantonio07@yahoo.com
    My name is Felicia Antonio from Tulsa, Oklahoma
    I need that mocajete and want it!!

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  23. Mely; lindísima entrada amiga :) me gustó mucho y la aprecio más sabiendo cuánto tiempo lleva hacerla... :)
    Linda entrada, me gustó mucho y más complementarnos ... :)
    saludos y un beso

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  24. hey mely loved this post lets people know about our culture,i however do not need to enter the contest because i have 2 molcajetes already! one that has been passed down for generations! i love hot chocolate! i especially love the polar one! when we go to MX we stock up! bcus here its unavailable! i appreciate you visiting my blog as well! hoep your doing well! take care :)

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  25. You know what Mely...I have to confess...I don't need to enter because I already have 3 molcajetes. One belonged to my Mom, one to my Dad and the other is mine that I bought in Tiajuana decades ago. So I better stop being selfish and greedy and let someone else win.:( Tee Hee. Don't you think? Take care and good luck to everyone.

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  26. Oh, what a lovely post, and so much fun to read! I know that a lot of foodies are total gadget lovers. And so, too, I think there is a bit of romance tied up with these older tools, and the way they connect us to our past, to our relatives. Thank you so much for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop :)

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  27. Great post Mely! I loved reading about the history of the molcajete and metates. Very useful tools in the kitchen but also so beautiful. I'll share your giveaway on my FB page and I'll do a little post on my blog...
    contact info. rebeckaevans@comcast.net

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  28. What a generous, generous prize, Mely! It's just beautiful...and I just happen to need a new one ;) Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for sharing it w/ everybody at the hearth and soul hop this week!

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  29. I just started reading your blog last month when I began searching for Mexican food blogs to follow. I'm so enamoured by the molcajete now. Mom only left a couple, and the older sisters had first dibs on it, so I'm eagerly searching for my own now. Love your photos and appreciate the time you take to share your knowledge of Mexican cuisine!

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  30. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  31. oooh lovely... Please enter me!!!
    xoe@huskies.com


    thank you,
    ..zoe peace

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  32. thank you for sharing your insight. I completely agree and look forward to following your blog in the future.

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  33. Hi. I visit your blog a lot but always lurk and never comment. My favorite post so far is your recipe for carnitas. I would love a molcajete! Please enter me in the drawing. My email is floresfamily8@gmail.com

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  34. we have similar utensils
    good memories of my grandmother using

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  35. Hello, I found your blog through Gloria. I am so glad I did. Your post is most interesting. I would love to be counted in on your giveaway. You can contact me through my blogger profile.
    Nicole/Beadwright

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  36. Awesome!!! desde cuando quiero comprar uno pero siempre se me olvida, me encanta el molinillo es el preferido de mi esposo le encanta prepararnos chocolate con mucha espuma el que usamos es el de la abue :), tambien tengo un par de casuelitas de barro para hacer queso fundido o choriqueso y compre una olla segun yo para hacer frijoles pero no se como prepararlos :P aunque mi abue me enseño pero nada mas no doy una, ahi tambien a veces preparamos cafe de olla cuando hay visitas, el otro "artefacto" que tenia no se como se llama pero es el que le pones agua y tiene un basito para cubrirlo el agua esta simpre fresca, ese se rompio cuando nos mudamos, tambien la que quiero comprar es la "maquinita" para hacer tortillas...OMG! ya salio la lista del super :P

    Me encantan tus post, Gracias Mely♥

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  37. Mely - This is a great post, I really liked it! My favorite salsa is chile de molcajete. You did a great job explaining and disseminating this information, I really appreciate it.

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  38. i appreciate the romance and seductive creations from a mocajete! perfect wedding gift indeed.

    and wonderful blog that i am happy to discover via gloria! thank you both....now off for more exploring.

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  39. Me gustó mucho tu entrada Mely, y me hiciste acordar de un chiste cruel sobre los metates, pero no es apto para publicarse aquí.

    Los metates y los molcajetes tienen un lugar exclusivo en esta casa. Algun día que gustes visitarme sabrás de lo que hablo.
    Un abrazo fraterno

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  40. Had to come an check out what kind of traditional utensils you use back home :), we have something very similar to the metate back home, its usually used to grind spice pastes.

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  41. Muy interesante esta entrada. Está muy bien documentada. Yo disfruto especialmente al conocer el origen de las palabras.
    Pronto compraré un hermoso almirez (así se llaman en España) de piedra. Antes solo se encontraban de madera, que me parecen muy antihigiénicos.

    Me encanta tu blog y lo sigo con pasión.

    Saludos,
    Nikk

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  42. Hi, I dropped by because Gloria sent me. Oh my! I do love your blog. My mother loved her Molcajete. I would love to win one. It is so beautiful and it would be wonderful to use one. I didn't realize it could be used for other things besides making cornmeal. How wonderful!

    Your blog is so unique and you are so well informed. I'm signing up to be a follower. :O)

    I'm so glad Gloria suggested I drop by.

    Sincerely,
    Donna @ Comin' Home

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  43. I'm so glad I found your blog through Full Plate Thursday! I love Mexican food, and I can't wait to start exploring your blog more. Thanks for a great giveaway too!

    Cheers,
    Ashlie @ The Delshad Duo
    abelmore@purdue.edu

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  44. I love all these! Great background on them-- also, I don't have a molcajete yet, so fingers crossed ;)

    - Karen

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  45. Lovely giveaway....Thank you...

    ramvinayak_81@rediffmail.com

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  46. I've always loved your stuff Mely and now I think so even more! Love the stories and tools of our older generations.

    Great post and thanks for sharing at the hearth and soul hop.

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  47. This is fabulous! great post - and thanks for a great giveaway!

    leigh.e.miller at gmail dot com

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  48. Hi Mely! I always love to visit your blog. I always leave with new knowledge about my favorite cuisine and a new recipe to try, as well. Thank you for the wonderful post and the giveaway! What a treasure for the person who wins! I'm going to share it on my blog and will send you a link. Be blessed my friend, Candace

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  49. I would love to have this beautiful molcajete! I just discovered your site and I love it. Muy buena comida!

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  50. Thank you, Mely, for stopping by my blog with an offer of help. I used some "field corn" that my granddaughters had gleaned out of a neighboring field last fall. It has been sitting in baskets near the wood stove ever since, so is VERY dry. I tried a recipe in a magazine that my husband gets, can't remember the name now, and I'm away from home right now, but it said to use 2 quarts of shelled corn, 8 quarts of water and 2 ounces of lye and boil that for 30 minutes, and then let it soak for 20 more minutes, then rinse and rub the hulls off the corn, and then boil and drain it 4 more times. When I went to rub the hulls off, they would not come off, and when I tried to open the kernels, it was like there was nothing in them. So, I looked online and found a nice video on YouTube about using baking soda to make hominy. I am hoping to grow some nice flour corn this summer and try it with that. Can you give me any guidance? Thank you again.

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  51. How VERY interesting! I'd love to be counted in :)
    Nicole sent me, and I am glad I came :) I am now a follower!
    Susan

    susanscraps AT comcast DOT net

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  52. I found your blog through Simple Lives Thursday, and I'm so glad I did! I am really intrigued by this beautiful piece of kitchen equipment because it is entirely hand-operated! I'm preparing to live for a year in another country and will be unable to bring any of my electric kitchen appliances--but this will work anywhere!

    sweetsunshine13 AT hotmail DOT com

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  53. loved reading your post very interesting
    shopannies@yahoo.com

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  54. Wow, I always wanted one of these to grind my herbs! What a wonderful giveaway! Thank you so much for sharing the detail information and history. Glad to learn something new. :)

    Amy
    http://utry.it
    amy [at] utry [dot] it

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  55. I don't comment on your blog enough, but I sure do appreciate it. It has really helped inspire me to begin cooking traditional Mexican meals. Thank you, and thank you for having this lovely blog.
    L

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  56. I just recently found your site and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! Not only do you capture the food, but you capture the culture. I have learned something new today with the blogs about the molcajete. I actually have one that just sits there because I fear that by grinding the stones together, they will create little rocks or sandish residue in my food! Keep up the good work and thanks for taking the time to teach me a little about my culture too! I would so love to have a cup of the hot chocolate that they used to make with the froth/foam on top..yummm!

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  57. Querida Mely,
    que bonita entrada.

    A pesar de mis esfuerzos, no pude encontrar la manera de traer el metate a Italia, es que a la mera hora de embarcarse o me llevo de regreso a mi esposa o el metate, no me dejan subir al avión con los dos al mismo tiempo :-D

    En el pueblo de Módica, en Sicilia, hacen chocolate al estilo mexicano desde hace unos siglos porque así se lo enseñaron los españoles y curiosamente usan el metate para moler el cacao y hasta se quedaron con el nombre original para la herramienta, fíjate nomas.

    Me encanta cuando te llevan la comida en el molcajete caliente, un día u otro lo voy a hacer en el horno de leña que se presta mucho para estas cosas escenográficas.

    Un abrazo!

    PS: yo tambien tengo esos paquetes de chocolate Ibarra y Abuelita, jaja.

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  58. I learned about equipment I have never used.
    Thanks

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  59. I could actually use these things quite a bit :) Have a great weekend! Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

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  60. Just found your blog and I am already enamored by it. I have spent 6 months in Mexico, actually in Palenque. I look forward trying some of your recipes.
    Thanks for being out there!

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  61. Hi Meley,
    Your post is very informative and I really enjoyed it. One can never have to many Molcajetes.I would love to have your beautiful Molcajete. Thanks for bringing it to Full Plate Thursday and please come back!

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  62. Sweet! I figure now that I live in Texas, I should have a molcajete. BTW, my sister-in-law loves your blog :)

    sarahlcover@gmail.com

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  63. We eat a lot of Mexican Food at markets, from taco trucks, etc. but I don't make much at home because that is so much better than anything I could make, but I am trying more recipes from my Mexican Cookbooks so maybe I will make a decent Mexican food meal one of these days.

    I am SusanBenegas and here is my email address: susitravl(at)gmail(dot)com

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  64. What a fabulous giveaway. The molcajete would be a wonderful addition to my kitchen since my family can't seem to get their fill of Mexican food.
    Thanks so much, your blog is great!

    Mary L

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  65. Lost mine in the move from Texas to Minnesota. Needless to say there are none of these in the small farming town I live in...Really need a new one.
    Thanks so much
    Sue

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  66. I just found your blog and I'm hooked!
    ivyhuntington @ gmail.com

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  67. We gave one of these from Indonesia to our Aunt for a Christmas present and she gave it to Goodwill! We are wishing we would have kept it ourselves! We'd love to own one! Nice blog.

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  68. ME,ME,ME...my brother ended up with my mothers many years ago. Would love to win this.

    P.S. love your blog

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  69. Hi Mely,
    I am a new follower and am excited to have found your blog! I adore mexican cuisine and it appears as though you are a fabulous cook. The article is very interesting and I would LOVE to be entered in your giveaway.

    I hope you'll stop by soon and say hi. Have a wonderful weekend!
    xo
    Pat

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  70. wow what an interesting post Mely and I love the frother that is so cool great giveaway will share Rebecca

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  71. I have always wanted a molcajete, but somehow my kitchen still lacks one. May the best person win!

    Kathleen

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  72. I have just recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying it! What a treat, and a great giveaway! I will have to share this for sure on facebook!

    tinyskillet@gmail.com

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  73. would love to win these great Mexican tools! My husband is from Vera Cruz, Mexico and loves to cook and will soon be going to culinary school.

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  74. Those traditional utensils look really great! THanks for this great giveaway.

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  75. Thanks for this Mely..you ocupo un molcate..rara veces los eh visto en las tiendas Mexicanas en California.traditional is the best, la comida sale mas sabrosa pero it does take time..I found have a mini molcajete here.

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  76. Hi Mely.I just popped in to see how your giveaway is going and boy oh boy, lots and lots of peoples.:) I stopped in to comment on the comment you left me today and the boxes I posted about. Mely,you say that that type of art and creativity doesn't exist in your mind? Are you serious? Heck, you have outstanding art and creativity when you are plating those beautiful dishes that you show us and when you ae in your favorite place, the kitchen, where you are creating masterpieces. Oh you have plenty of creativity and lots of gusto! You go girl! :)) I'm crazy huh? It's true though. Have a wonderful day. I have to clean house.

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  77. I've always loved that Rivera painting of the lady and her metate.I adore the Mexican utensils,they are works of art as well as functional!
    X

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  78. Mely entre a buscar tu entrada de como hacer tortillas para enviárselo a una lectora. Como te dije no me llegan las actualizaciones. Mañana vengo a leer tu entrada, ahorita solo vi las fotos que son maravillosas, te felicito!

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  79. we use a mortar and pestle often, I'd enjoy adding this to our kitchen counter top. Thank you for the opportunity.

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  80. Hola Mely, vengo a avisarte que no funciona mis actualizaciones :(, no sé que pasa, pero sigo publicando :)
    besitos

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  81. I would love to add a "real" molcajete to my kitchen, the one I use now is a mortar and pestal copycat! gabrielaskitchen(at) gmail.com

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  82. Hi Mely, just stopping by to see how your give away is going...wow, great turn out! You deserve it!

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  83. Hi Mely, What a beautiful and interesting post! Me encantaron las fotos :) Congrats con tu Giveaway!

    Que tengas un buen dia,

    Besotes,

    Aldy.

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  84. I want the chocolate stirrer and mortar and pestle.Very informative post.Enjoyed it thoroughly!

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  85. I bought some of the chocolate on Amazon because I can not find it here locally. I can not wait until it arrives. I saw the frother and was wondering what it was. Now I know.

    I bought a mortar and pestle but it was not heavy. It was useless. Would love to have this one.

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  86. Mely,

    It is always good to take some present while visiting party. We take presents depending upon which party invited.

    If it is birthday party take some toys or other gifts for the boy or girl.

    Or it simple get together you can take homemade sweet bread .
    you can contact me in this e-mail
    iyerswathi9@gmail.com

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  87. I love your blog and visit often. My mom used to make a great sauce in her molcajete. Please add my to the list.

    titacastro@live.com

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  88. Great to meet you!! You're so right about Mexican hot chocolate...nothing like it. This is beautiful!! WOW - this is a giveaway!

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  89. I love your posts, especially this one. I've been meaning to buy a molcajete forever but just don't seem to get around do it much less find one in Maryland. And the molinillo!!! I have to confess I've tried a whisk. lol.
    Graciela

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  90. Very interesting and lovely pictures. We love to make homemade salsa, but do use the blender.

    jeffandanita@wildblue.net

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  91. Hola...This is one of the finest idea to reconnect the present generation with the past cooking techniques. The contemporary hi tech kitchen gadgets just cannot replace the authentic aroma and flavor of the food which comes from the traditional molcajete. My white stone mortar and pestle is so dear to me and makes my dish a huge success, always. So I would certainly vouch for the umpteen benefits of the traditional devices used by our mothers and grannies.
    Its a superb idea to get it as a giveaway and that too made in Mexico, can have the best homemade goucomole in the world !!!

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  92. Mely, thanks so much on sending me info on preparing the molcajete. Now I am looking forward even more to preparing Latin American food:)

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  93. Very informative. I love seeing the tools used to make traditional dishes. Thank you for taking the time to post this.

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  94. This is a wonderful post - These look a lot like our Indian dry and wet grinders - these were the kind of kitchen gizmos we grew up up and I actually saw the transition happen as I grew up and now I go back to India and these are like antique and cost as much because no one makes them any more and it has been a fashion statement to own these, forget using them!

    Lovely memories brought back - Mucho Gracias for that :)

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  95. We have one like the Metate but it's made of wood instead of rocks. The Metate is so unique and such a wonderful work of art. Do Mexican still uses them today?

    Heating Company

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  96. Hello, Nichole

    We still use this kitchen equipment. Specially in rural areas or cooking aficionados. The one in the picture is the one I use at home.

    Saludos,

    Mely

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  97. This was a great post. While I'm way too late for the contest, I found your blog by chance and just wanted you to know how interesting I found this entry. I'll check back often. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

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  98. Thank you for helping me understand better the kitchen utensils I saw used in El Salvador. Que dios te bendiga!
    From Wisconsin, United States

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