Universidad Popular (UP) celebrated its tenth annual “La Feria del Mole” on September 26 and “El Mercado del Mole” September 27, 2015.
Over 3,000 people from all over Chicago and the tri-state area came to taste, buy and take home mole in these events where 20 women and their families competed with their home-made recipes to be awarded the “Best Mole in Chicago.”
This year’s winners by majority vote included:
$500 for “First Best Mole,” to Table #11 Ma. Carmen Flores, a Chicago Lawn resident, from Cerro del Campo, Amatepec, México
$350 for “Second Best Mole,” to Table # 6 Maria Gonzalez, a Gurnee, IL resident, from Michoacán, Mexico
$250 for “Third Best Mole,” to Table #9 Rocio Aguilar, a Chicago Lawn resident, from Mexico City, Mexico
Special cash awards for best table and dress:
$150 for “Best Table Decoration,” to Table #12 Julia Garcia
$150 for “Best Traditional Dress,” to Table #27 Griselda Baez
This year Universidad Popular helped ( La Feria del Mole has certified) 15 moleras obtain their Food Hand Sanitation Certificate from the National Restaurant Association through the ServSafe Food Handler Program (a complete solution that delivers consistent food safety training to employees) which covers five key areas:
● Basic Food Safety
● Personal Hygiene
● Cross-contamination & Allergens
● GTime & Temperature
● Cleaning & Sanitation.
Our annual event Feria del Mole was presented as a play at Goodman Theater through a partnership with Albany Park Theater Project (APTP), a multi-ethnic youth-led theater who is dedicated to do performance art, and a vision of social justice. Miguel Alvelo, Little Village resident and UP program facilitator who knew Rossana Rodriguez’s work at APTP, thought that this event would be a good opportunity to bridge our efforts and this was how this mole play came into being. Rossana jumped on the bandwagon with a group of youth and came to La Villita back in the Summer to conduct a series of field interviews, the basic ingredients of FEAST.
The idea behind these interviews was to create an original play
based on the life experiences of the moleras, whose stories might otherwise go untold. The performance FEAST 2015 was based on those moleras’ stories and other ethnic groups. Albany Park Theater Project had a success with this performance and the play was available for a month and a half at the Goodman Theater plus a special presentation at UP’s assembly hall.
This year’s 2-day event was a great success in celebrating our culture with Mole at the spotlight of traditional Mexican Cuisine. Most importantly, this family event had moleras working together with their sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even in-laws to contribute to an amazing day full of Mole tasting, performances and entertainment for all. Carmen Celio from table #18 said, “next year I’m going to have one of my sons cook the mole and compete for me, this year my grandchildren helped me, and I was delighted to pass down this traditional recipe of a combined taste from Guanajuato and Veracruz.”
A little history of the winners of La Feria Del Mole 2015:
Maria del Carmen Flores 1st Place:
Maria del Carmen is a native of the state of Mexico, Cerro del Campo, Amatepec, Mexico. Carmen came to UP looking for adult education. During the lessons she learned about La Feria del Mole and decided to participate. Last year she won 2nd place and now took first place. She brought the whole family, daughters, sons and grandchild Karina. All were very supportive during the event. Carmen said the mole recipe is from her mother but modified to your taste and the taste of the public. She dedicates her time to cooking and covering orders from family and friends for the family business. She works making food to sustain the family. She was very happy to have participated during these two years. Her Mole was prepared using more than 10 pounds of a mixture of chile peppers. It took a day to prepare the mole for the event and cooked for more than two hours. Carmen shared, “I have 21 years living in Chicago. My dream is to have a restaurant to own and work out of. I worked in a bakery and I learned to bake cookies and cakes. After this year’s Feria I went to celebrate. Thank God.”
Maria González 2nd Place:
Originally from Michoacán Maria participated in the fair last year obtaining 3rd place. She participated again and this time won 2nd place. Coincidentally the day of La Feria was her husband’s birthday therefore celebrated here with the mole festivities and her entire family to support. Married with 5 children, all living in Chicago for 26 years Maria lives near Gurnee Mall. She traveled more than an hour away with the family by car. She was made aware of La Feria del Mole by her daughter and signed up for the contest. Maria shared, “My mole is a family recipe and my daughters know how to make it and give it the same traditional flavor. We bought 4 pounds of chile guajillo and chile ancho. My family helped me to prepare the mole; it took like 5 hours of teamwork. I added all the seasonings. This opportunity was very emotional for us because we put a lot of time and heart together to share this recipe of ours. I was very nervous during the event. I made the mole last me the entire event, sometimes I gave a lot and sometimes I gave less but I always measured mole to distribute. As a result my sisters have shared that I need to make mole for their parties and family events. During the fair many asked me where they could buy my paste. The whole event was great.
Rocio Aguilar 3rd Place.
From the State of Mexico Rocio brings her great-aunt’s recipe, but her mom’s seasoning claims a flavor of queens of Mole recipes, Rocio is matching its great taste with its distinctive flavor. All participated in the family. Originally from Mexico City, parents born in Guanajuato, Tlalnepantla the mole was a tradition of the grandmother. Rocio’s great-aunt usually makes for family parties and Rocio helps. Rocio would take her great-aunt to the market to buy chiles. “Winning 2nd place was great for us. We were all nervous at the beginning while standing on stage to begin the competition especially since the nieces of one of the Ambassadors were participating,” Rocio shared. Rocio felt nervous because he had not participated in this type of family event and the stage caused some nerve. “It’s not the same before and during the competition, we worked hard for two days to get everything ready. I like to make mole, for me this process can last one week. The peppers are ground, toasted and everything in-between, this is a long process. My husband said I should of done it myself but we all know food tastes better when my aunts, sister-in-laws, two nephews, four nieces got involved. A good teamwork for sure! My sister-in-law & child’s godmother and their children, including Sandra helped to decorate the table front. The event made me feel very good, and less pressured, we saw a very familiar atmosphere. Each table had its season of flavor, it was amazing.
About El Mercado Del Mole :
El Mercado del Mole is the outcome of Universidad Popular’s micro-business initiative not only to promote our moleras but also to plant the business seed in their mind for them to sell their mole sauce and eventually start building their (family?!) business using their (delicious?!) family/ancestors mole recipe.
The Mole winners by popular vote, shared their mole cuisine on the following day. At this time we had the opportunity to sit and eat this delicious mole; Doña Chevia (89 years old) tried all of them! Josefina came to buy mole to prepare her dinner at home, “I am cooking the chicken at home as we speak, I just need the mole” she said. The Guangorena’s family heard about el Mercado del Mole on the TV news and decided to come to visit us at UP, Mr. Rangel drove all the way from Streator Illinois to come and eat mole! One of the Moleras created a good variety of dishes using mole, such as Tortas de mole, nachos de mole, and enchiladas de mole at her table.
What I noticed during El Mercado del Mole was that most of the people were seniors that wanted to come sit and enjoy the mole either with their family, relatives or friends. We had the Chinelos, a Morelos dance group that brought plenty of joy on the audience; people stood up and danced with them, many smiles were seen from those that enjoyed watching them perform– the ambient was great to create abundant memories for all of us!
About El Mercado del Mole:
“It was another great experience, something new and a lot of work to participate in the Mole Market. My whole family joined this hard working activity including my husband, my godmother (sister in-law), my aunts and my parents. From a week earlier we plan to sell. We came up with the idea of presenting the mole as traditionally sold in the city of Mexico. We offered mole in “tortas” (mexican sandwiches), enchiladas (tortillas with mole), nachos with mole, mole hojaldras (burgers).
The nachos we invented here in Chicago because it was something simple for kids to eat and provided the taste of mole. We also think that many people are vegetarian and nachos is something that can be attractive. Some do not eat meat so the idea of nachos was a good choice. It was impressive to see the people who tasted the mole we cook, it was worth all the work. There is no better judge than the people who eat my mole and say “good!, I like this! or it is delicious!”
We would also like to give a special thanks to all of our volunteers and sponsors who helped and contributed to this successful cultural family gathering. See you next year!