Right at the tip of the poblano chile that makes up the bulk of Mexico, right where the land squeezes together and pushes the Yucatán Peninsula out into the Atlantic Ocean, you'll find the state of Oaxaca. It's kind if a round state, like a grapefruit with a handle. Only Chiapas is further south, and beyond that lies Guatemala. This is to say that the Mexican cuisine Susana Trilling presents in her wonderful, informative book Seasons of My Heart has nothing to do with the generic food of the border. She follows in the tradition of Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, Zarela Martinez, Patricia Quintana, and Marilyn Tausend, both when setting a table and setting a standard.
Part of Oaxaca butts up against the Pacific Ocean; part of it is lost in the mountains. In between are valleys and plains. Susana Trilling lives, works, and raises her family in Oaxaca. Her knowledge of her adopted land is indeed intimate--and delicious. Take a restaurant owner and caterer out of New York and drop her in Oaxaca and it's guaranteed that she's going to zero in on the food and its traditions. Some Oaxacan food has roots in Spanish cuisine, but most of it is, well, Oaxacan, and has been that way since time untold. In Seasons of My Heart, Trilling walks the interested visitor through all the different regions and foodstuffs of Oaxaca. This book is like interactive anthropology: you read about Oaxaca, then you eat the food, filling your house with the cooking aromas of another land.
Trilling divides her book into chapters that reflect the distinct regions of the state, finishing up with chapters on mole, updated recipes for the modern kitchen and palate, and essential ingredients to make the food happen. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Trilling (owner of a cooking school in Oaxaca City) has done for Mexico what so many have already achieved for Italy: she has picked one of its most culinarily rich areas, the state of Oaxaca, and explored it in depth. The results are outstanding. Chapters are arranged by region, with a few extra chapters on mole sauces and innovative twists on traditional cuisine. The chapter on the Ca?ada region offers Chiled Chicken Wrapped in Herbs and Banana Leaves, and Layered Mango Pudding. The coastal region provides several fish dishes such as Shrimp and Potato Cakes with jalape?os and queso fresco, and Warm, Spicy Shark Salad. Throughout, Trilling evinces a fond understanding of her adopted home and shares stories that personalize the recipes, such as the description of her relationship with Bartola Morales, founder of a local human rights organization in the Tuxtepec region and an expert on the local cuisine. The chapter on the seven moles of Oaxaca is simultaneously funny and reverent of the tradition behind such complex pastes as Oaxacan Black Mole, with peanuts, cinnamon and five kinds of chiles, among many other ingredients. A chapter on essential ingredients (many of which readers may find difficult to acquire) includes a list of mail-order sources and several helpful glossaries. Trilling triumphs in taking Mexican cuisine far beyond the knowledge of most American audiences. (Nov.) FYI: Seasons of My Heart is a companion to the author's PBS cooking series.
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