Itanoní — Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
• Oaxacan Restaurant, Vegetarian • $-$$ • (A)
Genetic evidence shows that maize, or corn, was domesticated from teosinte, a grass native to parts of México and Central America. The earliest evidence of this link is some 9000-year-old samples found in a cave in the Rio Balsas valley, in the Méxican state of Guerrero. Since its domestication, maize has spread throughout México and the rest of the Americas, all the while changing and evolving, as indigenous farmers cultivated and then combed their fields, looking for plants with specific traits, saving their seeds and sharing them with neighbors, continuously crossbreeding and coaxing new varieties out of their diverse surrounding. Until today, in México alone, there are fifty-nine varieties of maize, each adapted for a diverse set of conditions — high or low altitude, early or late maturation, dry or wet conditions, and so on.
Recent trade agreements, however, like NAFTA, along with other specific policy decisions in Washington and México City, have allowed large-scale US producers to dump their heavily subsidized, monoculture corn into México, driving down commodity prices by as much as half. Not surprisingly, family farmers in México have not been able to compete. To survive, many have retreated to subsistence, farming only for what they can eat or barter away, while others have abandoned their fields altogether in search of low-wage work in the maquiladoras or north of the border.
Against this ominous backdrop, Itanoní is doing what it can to support the country’s vanishing family farms by using only locally grown ingredients in its recipes. In the kitchen, everything is prepared fresh and grilled over an open fire, creating healthy versions of traditional Méxican antojitos, such as quesadillas, tacos, and tamales. As for vegetarians, this is probably the safest place in the city for them to try authentic Oaxacan cooking.
- Belisario Domínguez 513, east of Jazmines; Colonia Reforma; Mon - Sat 7 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sun 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.; MX$30 - 100; phone 951-513-9223; www.itanoni.com.