One of my sisters is Mexican, and thus I have decided (okay, okay, we decided. Together. As a family unit) that I can get into the honorary Mexican Citizenship Hall Of Fame, after I learn how to build me liquor up to that level.
(Travel/drinking tip: Don’t drink with Mexicans. It’s almost as bad as drinking with loose Kenyans. You won’t be able to keep up. Why? They’ve had more practice. Clubs in the States close at 2am, so they have to do more in a limited time. It’s a race you WILL lose. Bueno?)
But I digress. I was taken to a child’s birthday party, and I have decided I must have a birthday party exactly like that. Even though my birthday this year was at a Mexican restaurant, after attending this one over the weekend, I decided it was not enough.
So this little girl’s birthday theme was Coco, the animation that won a bunch of awards, which you should watch if you haven’t. It’s a really great movie. Everyone cries.
There were traditional Mexican decorations hanging everywhere, like square snowflakes cut out of paper and hung across the cake eating area, a guitar shaped cake, and napkins with festive skulls on them. There were multicoloured skull centrepieces in the middle of the table too that held small candles, and skull piñatas.
For the record, there were many skulls because the happenings of Coco take place on the Day of the Dead, or Dia De Muertos, which is a three-day celebration of the dead (not to be confused with Halloween).
Straight to the food after we’ve done décor: Mexican food is a must, obviously. You can vary the different food you want, as there is obviously a lot to choose from. Nachos and melted cheese are in plenty, as well as grilled sausages, for before all the guests arrive, or as a starter, if you so prefer.
You can go with the most immediate choice, seeing as these were also in the movie: tamales. Tamales are little pockets of food made from corn dough (masa) and stuffed with meat.
They are usually wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks, so be sure to take those off before you eat the tastiness inside. Like a gift! At a birthday! Get it?
The corn kind of tastes like ugali made from corn – a bit looser, though, so I prefer a lot more meat in my tamale (HA!) as well. You can have vegetarian tamales too, and put potatoes in with jalapeños and cheese.
For drinks? Horchata, a drink made from cinnamon, vanilla and rice water, which means it’s dairy free and health conscious. There’s also agua de limón, water with lemon or lime, and cucumber. For an adult party like mine, there will be margaritas, or cerveza (beer) like Modelo Especial.
And then for my absolutely favourite part: dessert. Or should I say, the dessert ritual?
Because it was a kid’s party, there were two options: one, raspudo, i.e. a snow cone made of crushed ice scooped into a cup with a flavour poured over it, and two, a guitar shaped (of course) piñata, which is built from papier-mâché or cardboard and filled with candy.
As two adults suspend the piñata, a line of kids (from youngest to oldest, to be fair) come and whack the piñata with a stick so that the candy falls out. It’s so much fun! I have been told that plastic bottles of alcohol are acceptable for my party.
The cake was a tres leches cake, rapidly climbing to the top of my list of favourite cakes (at home, Mercado does a really good tres leches cake). Tres leches literally means three types of milk, because it is a sponge cake soaked in heavy cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk.
Strawberries are optional but preferred in my case. This one had strawberries, and was perfect.
And at the end of the party, everyone got a gift bag with Mexican candy in it. (Mexican candy i.e. not sweet, more sour and savoury, to prepare you for tequila later in life).
And that, friends, is how to throw a Mexican birthday party.
Now to the question we’ve all been asking – why did that Mr Vegas song go ‘she’s a tamale‘?
Wondering where to get the 411 on what’s happening in Nairobi’s foodie scene? There’s a lot of places you could go, but here’s where we want you to be – getting the dish on the dish. Get it? We knew you would.