I have always been drawn to Frida Kahlo’s work but it was the trip to Mexico City with my History of Art peers that really solidified my adoration. After visiting the space where she worked and her paintings in the Mueso de Art Moderno I couldn’t stop thinking about her art. The colours and textures were what I wanted to capture in a recipe and so by combining a few of my favorite ingredients (chili, lime, coriander, papaya) I tried to create a fresh and interesting salad with multiple layers of flavor much like the depth and emotional layering of Kahlo’s paintings.

Frida Kahlo, Naturaleza Muerta Con Sandias (Still Life with Watermelon), 1953
oil on compressed wood, 40 x 60 cm, Museo de Arte Moderno, INBA, Mexico

The majority of Frida Kahlo’s paintings are self-portraits exploring her sexuality and expressing her pain. As an active communist sympathizer Kahlo’s work does not shy away from political sentiments and she fills her still lifes with local fruit turning them into emblems for her country. The paintings demonstrate her pride and her nationalist sentiments (1). Due to a tragic accident when she was a young girl, Kahlo was left barren. It took her years to accept this fact and after many painful (both physically and emotionally) miscarriages themes of sexuality and fertility began to creep into her work. She often painted the fruit in her still lifes in reference to male and female reproductive organs (just look at that papaya pictured above!) and seeds and flowers became sperm and wombs (2). She became a cult icon and although most know her as Selma Hayek with a uni-brow she is regarded as an important feminist hero who inadvertently broke gender boundaries while creating beautiful art.

Pico de Gallo is a condiment of fresh ingredients (always different depending on which region of Mexico you are in) chopped and used the same way as you would a salsa or chutney. A common variation of this condiment involves fresh fruit tossed in lime juice and spicy chili powder. Pico de Gallo is Spanish for ‘Rooster’s Beak’ and is so named either for the beak shaped chilies often included in the dish or because it used to be eaten with the thumb and forefinger which resembled the pecking of a rooster (3). Because it has less liquid than salsa it is often the main ingredient of fajitas and tacos but would also make a wonderful topping for some grilled fish. While in Mexico City I found the best chefs were the street vendors making fresh tacos out of their shopping carts they moved from corner to corner. Each vendor had a slightly different version of Pico de Gallo but they all tasted fresh and delicious.

{Pico de Gallo}

serves 4

1/3 of a watermelon
1 papaya
2 oranges
1/2 of a cantaloupe
1 nectarine
Chili-Lime Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Cube the fruit and mix with the vinaigrette. You can substitute any of the fruits but I found the combination of the shades of pink and orange with the green from the coriander very pretty.

*I kept my fruit in larger pieces to make it more of a fruit salad but you could easily chop the fruit smaller to make a Pico de Gallo and serve with some cinnamon tortilla chips or used to top half of a fresh avocado (or grilled fish).

{Chili-Lime Vinaigrette}

Juice of 1 lime
1 small orange chili (you could also use red-I was trying to keep with the pink/orange colouration)
2 TB olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 small handful of coriander (cilantro) chopped

Mix and drizzle over a salad or use as a marinade for meat or seafood.