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Exposure to friend’s lives is what helps analyze how different and unique your own family is. As I learned more about my fellow Mexican classmates, we always explained what ingredients were part of the foods we ate. You would hear “chile rojo” or “salsa verde,” with your choice of meats like “ chicken” or “carne molida.” But we never forget about the corn tortillas, rice, and beans to complete the dish! The word “guisos” covers a wide variety of different dishes my friends and I would chat about, and it’s never made the same. Guisos allow families to have different flavors every night. 

Guisos are simply stews, where meats and vegetables cook together. Watching my mother cook from afar and up close, I always wondered what the names of these different dishes my mom made were. Would telling someone I had “carne en salsa roja” for dinner help them picture my dinner correctly? The simplest way I decided on not making a fool out of myself was by observing the menus at Mexican restaurants. Looking thoroughly at the menu, I understood that there is no dish on the menu that my mom made daily.

There is a theory that I have about guisos. Even though I was given this dish that is meant to be changed daily, I believe it has allowed me to try various foods with flavors I am not used to. It seems that it prepared me to choose other dishes when eating outside of my home since it is rarely offered in restaurants.

Guisos rarely being provided in my social life has allowed me to understand that there are many other excellent choices. I should not be afraid to choose it because going back home, I know a big pot of pork guiso in salsa verde cooked with various vegetables and a side of rice and beans will always be there. 

Guisos are the sandwiches or pasta in my life. When asked to pick one food to eat for the rest of their lives, people might say they will eat sandwiches and pasta because of the endless possibilities you can make with it! That’s how I feel about guisos. It is part of my story with food, expanding my tastebuds without me even knowing that it did. I am very proud to have such pride in these dishes because I saw that my mom had pride in them, too, regardless of it being offered at restaurants or not.

Isabel Chávez's Food Story

Dish Seemed To Be Invisible

Isabel's Mom's Pipián con Nopales y Puerco Recipe


2 lbs of nopales, cut and peeled

1 lb of pork leg

1 ½ cups of pumpkin seed

1 ½ cups of chile guajillo seeds

2 tablespoons of seasoned salt

2 garlic cloves

2 cups of water for every cup of seeds

2 tablespoons of oil




  1. Take a pot, fill ¾ of the way with water. 

  2. Add the nopales and as much salt as you’d like (if you’re unsure of how much, two tablespoons)

  3. Allow nopales to boil for 30 minutes.

  4. Take your blender, and add the seeds, garlic, water, and salt. You want it to blend to the consistency of salsa. 

  5. Use a mesh colander to strain your salsa into another bowl. Set it aside.

  6. Once 30 minutes have already passed, strain your nopales and rinse them with cold water. Set aside.

  7. Grab your pan and add about two tablespoons of oil.

  8. Cut the pork leg into smaller chunks, removing any fats to your liking.

  9. Add seasoned salt to the pork.

  10. Allow pork to cook till golden brown.

  11. Sautée your nopales and pork together for 2-3 minutes.

  12. Add your salsa and mix. You’ll be done when salsa is boiling.

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