The postman rang the bell at Mexico Cooks!' house today and caught me in the middle of roasting and peeling the last of a batch of chiles poblanos for our comida (midday meal). Mildly annoyed at the interruption--peeling chiles is a messy job and I just wanted to be done with it--I accepted the package. My annoyance instantly turned to joy and delight: Fany Gerson's long-awaited new cookbook, My Sweet Mexico, was in my hands at last.
The publication date for My Sweet Mexico was scheduled to coincide with the 2010 celebration of Mexico's Bicentennial and gives even more reason to celebrate. I, for one, am ecstatic. The book is a huge accomplishment: beautiful to look at, written with love and fond remembrance, and clear as the call of the tzintzontle (Mexico's nightingale) for ease of use. My Sweet Mexico brings Mexico's traditional pastries, breads, candies, sweet beverages, and frozen treats into the home kitchens of the English-speaking world.
Fany Gerson, a native of Mexico City, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, the foremost cooking school in the United States. Her work as a pastry chef includes stints at three-star restaurant Akelare in Spain, Eleven Madison Avenue in New York City, and Rosa Mexicano (also in New York City), where she prepared a hugely popular new menu of deliciously modern Mexican desserts. A well-known food writer, her work has been featured in Gourmet magazine, the New York Times, Fine Cooking, and other top spots.
Publisher's Weekly has this to say about My Sweet Mexico: "Rare is the cookbook that successfully infuses scholarly research with the pure joy of food, but this collection, focusing on the sweets of Mexico, nails it...American readers who have only encountered the occasional tres leches cake in a Mexican restaurant will be stunned by the breadth and depth of recipes here, ranging from coffee-flavored corn cookies to guava caramel pecan rolls and hibiscus ice pops, all culled from Gerson's family, friends, and generous strangers."
Rick Bayless (author of Mexico: One Plate at a Time) waxed poetic: "Mexico’s sweet kitchen is a wellspring of captivating tastes and seductive textures; it courses through Fany Gerson’s veins like caramely cajeta, like a rich flan, or a silky hot chocolate...This is a treasured volume I’ll own two copies of: one for home, another for our restaurant’s kitchens."
Roberto Santibañez (author, Rosa's Mexican Table) echoed my feelings exactly: "My Sweet Mexico is fascinating and charming—it is much more than a collection of great recipes. Fany takes readers on a voyage through our country’s marvels and realities, capturing all of its fabulous grandeur with her clever scene of humor. I actually got teary-eyed as Fany’s words carried me on a sweet trip back to my childhood, full of heartwarming memories. I love this amazing cookbook; it is an enormous addition to the archives of Mexican cooking!"
Fany's recipe for traditional mueganos (sticky, sweet, crunchy dough balls) came from a mutual friend, José Luis Curiel Monteagudo. When it comes to antique recipes for candy and other sweets, Professor Curiel is the most knowledgeable person in Mexico.
Few cookbooks have elicited this sort of visceral response from other chefs and food writers. Fany's anecdotes that precede each recipe take us back to an almost forgotten time in Mexico, a time when the sweet smell of caramelizing sugar, simmering seasonal fruit, cinnamon-scented chocolate and woodsmoke wafted from kitchens all over whichever Mexican town we happened to be living in. Santibañez's tears welled up in my eyes, too, as I read Fany's classic recipe for ate de membrillo (quince paste) and was plunged into the old memory of how I learned its preparation in a convent kitchen in Tijuana. In my mind's eye, I can still see Sister María Luisa stirring, stirring, and stirring the quince and sugar until, with her sixth sense of a lifetime of kitchen experience, she pronounced the ate to be al punto--ready to pour into its molds.
Fany's pastry repertoire includes an easy-to-follow recipe for conchas (shells), one of the most common (and delicious) forms of pan dulce, a sweet bread to eat for breakfast or a light supper. When you make them, serve your conchas with a cup of Mexico's foamy, cinnamon-laced chocolate caliente (hot chocolate).
My Sweet Mexico is destined to be a classic of the Mexican kitchen. In my opinion, it's the best single cookbook published in 2010. World, take note: look for My Sweet Mexico on the short-list for all the cookbook awards. Get your copy now: simply click on the book cover just to the left; it will take you to Amazon.com to buy My Sweet Mexico. If you love Mexico, if you love Mexico's kitchens, if you love sweets of any kind--this is a two-thumbs up, marvelous tour of remembrance, love, and most of all, extraordinary deliciousness. Mexico Cooks! is simply wowed.
Pan de muertos (dead man's bread)! The bread dough is flavored with orange and the knobby top represents bones. November 2 is Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead)--order your copy of My Sweet Mexico now, in time to honor your deceased relatives and friends by making this marvelous bread. Just click on the book cover at the top of the left-hand sidebar--you'll be taken to the Amazon.com page to order My Sweet Mexico.
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