During the course of the last year, Mexico Cooks! has received several new books about Mexico's people, places and things. You can see that my desk is stacked up--and this is just the short stack! It's time for holiday giving, and the Mexico-phile on your gift list would definitely enjoy one of these. In alphabetical order by last name of author, they are:
Many of you may already know Suzanne Barbezat, who writes extensively about Mexico travel for About.com. Suzanne is based in Oaxaca and has years of experience as a travel and cultural expert, particularly in the southern part of Mexico. She's taken her cultural expertise one step further--and a giant step, at that--with her newly minted book Frida Kahlo at Home. Photo courtesy Suzanne Barbezat.
Fully illustrated in both color and black and white, the book features Suzanne's writing, photos of Frida's paintings together with archive images and Kahlo family photographs, many objects and artifacts that the artist collected, as well as photographs of the surrounding Mexico City landscape to provide an insight into how these places shaped this much-loved artist and how the homes and streetscapes of her life and travels relate to and shape her work. Even though books about Frida Kahlo abound, Suzanne brings a fresh look at the artist in her hogar--her own home. New insights, fresh research, gorgeous photography, and a beautiful format make Frida at Home the perfect gift for any Frida fan.
Sheri Brautigam is extraordinarily well-versed in regional Mexican textiles. She's recently written Textile Fiestas of Mexico, a lovely and comprehensive book about the textiles fairs of several of those regions, including Chiapas, Michoacán, Puebla, and Oaxaca, among others. Photo courtesy Norma Schafer.
It's exciting to read this compendium of textile fiestas and shopping; the book is subtitled A Traveler's Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping and Sheri is as good as her word in sharing wonderful information with the reader. Sheri was at one time a well-known textile designer and collector and now sells fabulous things from her online Etsy shop, Living Textiles. Whether you want to go to a tempting textile sale in Michoacán, an indigenous market in Oaxaca, or a fair in the state of Chiapas, her new book will get you to some of the top textile venues in Mexico. The photos are terrific for studying the variety of hand-woven fabrics used in all sorts of indigenous dress. Regional differences in dyes, weaving, and dress are well-covered, and Sheri offers wise advice on everything from bargaining to laundering your acquisitions. This is a great starter book for sourcing textiles, both wearable and decorative, and I recommend it highly.
Meet Lydia Carey, the author of La Roma, the excellent new guide to Mexico City's Colonia Roma. La Roma (the neighborhood) is one of the truly hot spots in the city, filled with restaurants (and more restaurants!), galleries, street food, cantinas, pulquerías, mezcalerías, cozy little (and not so little) hotels, and up-to-the-minute modern shops. Lydia is a relative newcomer to the city and I was quite frankly surprised and delighted by the extraordinary scope of her research. She's done a superb job of scouting out the most interesting, most fun, most delicious of everything La Roma has to offer. If you're coming to Mexico City and want to explore the trendiest part of the city, you will want--nay, you will NEED this book. The book is bilingual English and Spanish--the cover means "Come right in!"
La Roma is organized by sections of the colonia (neighborhood), which makes it very easy to look up or walk the area, section by section, to see just what interests you. Whether you need a shoe repaired, need a street stand recommendation for tacos, want to buy wonderful fresh-baked bread, or you're thinking of buying a home, La Roma will point you in the right direction. It's terrific to have a bilingual guidebook dedicated to one of Mexico City's brightest and most entertaining colonias. Two thumbs up for Lydia and her book La Roma!
Lesley Téllez is the author of Eat Mexico, a book about the joys of Mexico City market stalls, food on the street, and more, featuring Lesley's updated recipes for classic street food and home cooking favorites. Lesley's personal story is about discovering her own roots; born in California into a Mexican-American family and raised on Cal-Mex food, Lesley moved to Mexico City when her husband's work brought him here in 2009. She quickly discovered that she knew almost nothing about the food of Mexico's interior, took a short course at a local cooking school, and started her own blog and her own Mexican food-oriented tour company. Lesley lived and wrote in Mexico City for about four years; when she moved back to the USA in 2013, she produced the book Eat Mexico. From her home in Queens, New York, she continues to direct a group of tour guides in Mexico. Photo courtesy Lesley Téllez.
Lesley's most impressive accomplishment is her zero-to-sixty zoom from neophyte to self-proclaimed expert. She writes with style, although not 100% accuracy, about a most complex subject. Her recipes look quite authentic to the casual observer, although many are simplified for cooks who might not have access to standard Mexican ingredients. Certainly we can't all follow Diana Kennedy's traditional methods and recipes that all but instruct us, "first you plant your corn". A good example of that simplification is her suggestion to use masa harina (corn flour) or even cornstarch to thicken atole (a thick hot drink with a corn masa [dough] base). It seems logical that not everyone who wants to prepare corn-based recipes has access to raw tortilla dough, and masa harina might well work as a short-cut thickener, but thickening atole with cornstarch gives the finished drink an unpleasant slippery texture; I wouldn't recommend that short cut. There are a number of similar conveniences in the recipes, created with the best of intentions for the modern home cook. Overall, Eat Mexico is a well-designed, well-organized cookbook that will get the user into the home kitchen to make Mexican food. It will be a start in learning about commonly eaten foods in Mexico City and its surroundings.
It's a month before the year-end holidays! You have plenty of time to order any or ALL of these books as gifts for that special someone on your list--and maybe even an extra of each for yourself. Enjoy!
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