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Nov 25, 2007 10:34 AM

classic/regional Mexican cookbooks?

I just got back to the States from two weeks in Sayulita, Tlaquepaque, and Guanajuato. I'll do a post on the food on the trip soon (though I will say that the top restaurants for us in each place were Tierra Viva, Fonda Adobe, and El Abue, respectively), but right now I'm really keen to find the titles of great Mexican cookbooks (in Spanish or English) that AREN'T by Diana Kennedy (I've got those). I'm hoping that there are Mexican equivalents to the great untranslated Italian regional cookbooks out there somewhere. I know I'm just going to have to come back for cooking classes, but I'd love your help in finding out about untranslated (or lesser-known English language) classics.

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  1. Look for the Cocina Indigena Y Popular series put out by Conaculta. Not a cookbook but th eDicionario Enciclopedico de Gastronomia Mexicana is an excellent resource. Alquimias Y Atmosferas del Sabor Alta gastronomia de Dona Carmen Titita, in Spanish, lta concina cookbook, fabulous photography...and the recipes are pretty good too.

    11 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      There are now 54 titles in the series Cocina Indigena ( Jose Iturrigara started the whole thing and has some books under his own name) and can be found at most museum stores in Mexico or Ghandi
      I think they ship to the states.

      The new edition of Ricardo Munoz Zuritas book Dicionario Enciclopedico de Gastronomia Mexicana will be coming out in the spring as will be a new author, Martha Chapa of restaurant Aguila y Sol. Of course the other great chef-restauranteur Patricia Quintanas book Mulli is quite good, don't remember all of her titles, look for her name.

      Alicia Gironella DeAngeli's second edition of her Larousse de la Cocina Mexicana came out last year and has garnered prizes here in Mexico and in Europe. Her Cocina Mexicana para el Mundo is also highly regarded, just ignore the european style recipes. If you have Ricardos and Alicias books you have a great start.
      As for classes in Mexico check out:

      1. re: Ruth in Condechi

        The Conaculta Books are outstanding and often available in libraries throughout the U.S. (last time I was at a Conaculta book shop they were selling for $30 each!)

        From Quintana... I like Cusine of the Water Gods. The little $1 magazines published by various municipios or towns are often little treasure troves not found else where... the catch is you have to travel to the various towns to buy them.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          EN, I feel certain that DD is talking about the little paperback Conaculta cookbooks (as she said, indigenous and popular recipes) that retail in Mexico for anywhere from 45 to 80 pesos. These little cookbooks are marvelous. There are about 55 in the series, ranging from the use of flowers in the cuisines of Mexico to corn as the base of Mexico's cuisines.

          The cookbooks you mention are very different.


          1. re: cristina

            Actually... you are kind of right. The ones that I saw where Hardback and consisted of 4 or 5 volumes of the paperback version each... and it was at the Chichen Itza store where I saw them... so the price was a bit inflated.

            By the way... I just got pack from my local branch of the relatively small Sonoma County Library and reserved 10 books (1 Diana Kennedy, 7 Conaculta paperbacks, 1 Vegetarian cooking of India & 1 History of Mexican Cuisine published by UNAM in the 1960s)... the Libraries are ultimately the best sources for hard to find materials.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              I just got my first "delivery" of CONACULTA books from my local library... the books are very, very impressive. The Cocina Indigena y Popular are a bit academic... but definitely the best series out there for serious research into Mexican cuisine.

              The Cocina Familiar series is much simpler, with very brief recipes... but a great way to quickly obtain dinner ideas & a good grasp of each region.

              It of course helps... if you have already tasted some of the regional dishes... to get a good understanding of what things should look, smell, taste like.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                A very fascinating book which is quite rare and hard to find, even at antiquarian bookstores in Mexico might be easily acquired through the interlibrary services of your library. That's how I got my copy. It's the poet Salvador Novo's Cocina Mexicana subtitled Historia Gastronomica de la Ciudad de Mexico, published by Porrua in 1967. Salvador Novo was also the offical cronista (historian) of the city (this is a position conferred "for life") and the book is rich in details of food throughout the centuries: did you know for instance that during the late 18th c, carriages waited in a line outside neverias for drive-in services so that the fine ladies riding inside would not have to come out and mingle with the hoi polloi? Very highly-reccomended book!

                1. re: RST

                  Great recommendation.... I did see that book listed as in a reference section... I am thinking I probably have to go down to L.A. or one of the University of California campuses.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    The ff is copied and pasted from an email I wrote Eat Nopal right after my last trip to Mexico in October (2007). It might be of help. There's also information in it on bookstores throughout Mexico. As you can see from this email, two of my favorite bookstores towns are Puebla and Xalapa. I did not mention in that email that the small cramped CONACULTA bookstore at the Xalapa Museum of Anthropology is superb and has arguably the best collection of Veracruzana anywhere: everything from rare monographs on local flora to the newly-published biography, called Olor de Santidad (great title!), of the late, recently-sainted Archbishop of Xalapa, Monsignor Rafael Guizar. Add to these bookstores the marvellous La Proveedora in Oaxaca and the old bookstores on Donceles in the centro historico of Mexico, and you have a near complete list of the best places in the country to look for books. We started talking about bookstores bec I had mentioned spotting a copy of Ricardo Munoz Zurita's Diccionario at a bookstore in Puebla back in Feb and had not picked it up (if anything, it was suggested that I could have resold it for a tidy sum on ebay or amazon).

                    From email:

                    Well, the bookstore where I saw his Diccionario was not at 5 Ote as I thought but nearby at 3 Sur near 5 Ote, just down the street from Tacos Tony in Puebla (it's called Angeles bookstore-there are 2 or 3 Angeles-es in Puebla-and actually has a decent gastronomy section). It wasn't there anymore of course and they could not track it down for me at all. Well, I should probably have grabbed it back in Feb when I saw it-but again as I said, I wasn't that impressed with this work. I had time to do a complete circuit of all the major bookstores in Puebla and also in Xalapa. Xalapa is also a great bookstore town: both new bookstores as well as the specialists in libros agotados. There are at least 6 great bookstores on Xalapenos Ilustres alone + La Rueca de Gandhi which is a huge used bookstore. Never saw that book anywhere. In the marvellous La Profetica in Puebla however, (this is just down the street from Angeles, at 3 Sur and I think 9 Ote) I saw the hardbound older edition of the Nuevo Cocinero Mexicano en forma de Diccionario, a fascimile copy of Guadalupe Rivera's copy of the famous work (published in Paris) from 1888. It was going for P500 when the newer reprint (paperback) is being sold for P560. I also grabbed a copy of Cristina Barros and M Buenrostro's superlative Panaderias de Tlaxcala Ayer y Hoy and a study of the old recipe book (early 18th century) of Dominga de Guzman. Recetarios antiguos are the biggest thing now in Mexican Culinary Studies. Also found several older books from 80s like one accompanying the Museo de Artes Populares (Coyoacan) show (1982?) on El Maiz, organized by the great Bonfil Batalla. In Xalapa bus terminal, there are several used book sellers-these usually display cheesy popular titles-and I never expected to find here a copy of the La Cocina Vercruzana, which was published by the Veracruz state government in 1992. Luxury coffee-table-book format, lush food-porn type photography, "serious" recipes from old families in each region and investigation of very local foodways. It's arguably the first serious "contemporary" investigation into Veracruzan cuisine (but more on this later//there are problems//and I found out by pursuing some of the restaurants whose recipes were included in the book). Never thought I would ever see a copy of it in my lifetime (saw references to it in Diane Kennedy etc) but voila there it was. The stall owner wanted P700 for it, insisting that it was a collector's item (which of course it was) but I played dumb, poohed poohed it, didn't let him know how much I was salivating, didn't let him see the lust in my eyes, complained about the frayed edge of the dust jacket etc and finally haggled him down to P500 ($50) which I think is a fair price since all new hardbound books of this type nowadays start out at at least $50 anyway (cf Patricia Quintana's stuff) and the bookseller later admitted that he got a whole box of this book for P350 each when it was first released and $15 is a fair mark-up I think for a book from 1992 that you could not find anywhere else.

                    End of pasted quote


                    1. re: RST

                      <<green rays of envy emanating from my every pore of my being>>


                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Are you referring to these? I saw them in the airport on the way back from DF and they looked tempting:


                  Speaking of books at the airport, gandhi had this book:


                  for only 69 pesos, but I passed it over for a compact book called "la cocina mexicana" that had a more regular layout with table of contents and recipe steps, while the linked Cocinas del Mundo: Mexico book wrote in a paragraph style...which I thought would confuse me at my Spanish level. Turned out I had missed the introduction page after the table of contents that clearly states "la cocina" is TEX-Mex. Sigh. It was 30 pesos more, too! They were both beautifully-laid out and -photographed books for being inexpensive paperbacks, I just wish I'd looked more closely.

                  Also, I now know that the Cocinas del Mundo book is written by some very well-respected chefs. What a bargain...too bad not available on Amazon, or on gandhi online. Does anyone have this book who can report back?

                  1. re: NancyC

                    Yes that is one part of the series... the "Comida Familiar"... the better one is the "Cocina Indigenia y Popular" similar style... but the content is imho much more interesting & academic (but I like the more exotic, more indigenous side of Mexican cuisine better)

      2. One more... if you have satellite or cable... try to get "Once Mexico" so that you can watch La Ruta del Sabor, and Rincon de los Sabores. With Rincon you can find the recipes online.... la Ruta del Sabor is more documentary than cooking instructions... but will give you an idea of dishes to look for.

        1. Susanna Trilling has a wonderful Oaxacan cookbook, Seasons of My Heart.

          1. "La Tradicional Cocina Mexicana y sus mejores recetas" by Adela Fernandez
            1985 Panorama Editorial

            I found this great cookbook at a bookstore in Monterrey.In both Spanish and English.

            1. You have to add the well-rounded cookbook by Aida Gabilondo (Ballantine Books) called "Mexican Family Cooking". This cookbook not only has the most authentic recipes I've ever seen but she also tells the stories and backgrounds of the recipes. Easy to follow instructions abound in this wonderful collection of recipes that have become some of my family's favorites.