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The Food and Life of Oaxaca, Mexico Hardcover – December 22, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1 edition (December 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0028603508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0028603506
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Food and Life of Oaxaca, by New York restaurateur Zarela Martinez, is a fascinating cultural study disguised as a great cookbook. Martinez is part of the new renaissance of Mexican food writers and chefs, including Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy, who reaffirm that culinary awareness goes hand in hand with cultural awareness.

In fact, Martinez, a Mexican, credits her time in Oaxaca as "redefining my whole understanding of Mexico." Oaxaca is one of the most biologically and culturally diverse regions in Mexico, echoed throughout The Food and Life of Oaxaca in both the recipes and the accompanying essays. Martinez adamantly insists that to cook a dish, you must first understand it. She provides not only the how-to of a recipe, but also the why. In the chapter on moles, she provides seven outstanding recipes and explains beautifully why the sauces predominate Oaxacan cuisine. Her section on tamales is simply one of the best available, providing solid instruction and Oaxacan variations of the traditional Mexican party food. Chefs new to Mexican cuisine will find the glossary of ingredients indispensable. And any chef will find Martinez's passion for her subject inspiring.--Mark O. Howerton

From the Inside Flap

Deep in southern Mexico lies a magical place—a land of dramatic beauty, proud heritage, and food that some aficionados consider Mexico's best. The state of Oaxaca is a tapestry of many cultures still close to their pre-Hispanic roots. The rugged mountain ranges pocket the ancient languages, traditions, and foodways of the many different peoples who lived here even before the Aztecs, in the great days of the Zapotec Empire. In this very special collection of recipes and memories, author Zarela Martínez shares her love of The Food and Life of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is the most biologically and culturally diverse state of all Mexico. A proud village life still recalls the heroic resistance that the native peoples put up against the Spanish conquerors. The glorious state capital, Oaxaca City, offers a rich fusion of the Spanish and Indian (especially Zapotec) legacies, and sits in a valley where all good things grow abundantly, from wheat and apples to walnuts and cabbages. Other areas produce delicious tropical fruits; from the Pacific coast come fish and shellfish. All parts of Oaxaca grow a profusion of wonderful chile varieties used with bold subtlety throughout the region and special strains of corn that surpass even the usual excellence of Mexican corn. Created from this bounty are dishes that come from the hearts and souls of the Oaxacan people. The regional cuisine is inextricably tied to the days of the religious calendar and the deep communal life of the villages. The Food and Life of Oaxaca captures this interrelationship through traditional recipes from the major church celebrations — the most colorful being the Days of the Dead on November 1 and 2 — as well as through simple everyday dishes. Zarela shares the authentic tastes of Wedding Stew (a savory, Spanish-influenced braised chicken dish with pickled chiles), Gaspacho (a shredded meat salad, not a soup!), Potato-Cheese Fritters, and many of the state's famous tamales. In a richly detailed chapter, Zarela unlocks the secrets of the renowned regional moles — those sublime main-dish sauces that have earned Oaxaca the fond nickname "The Land of the Seven Moles." And what real chocolate-lover could resist the thrill of grinding chocolate from the actual beans? From the full-bodied and extravagant flavors of the major cities' most illustrious dishes to recipes from small villages, market stalls, and street peddlers, The Food and Life of Oaxaca explores the difference and delights of Oaxacan cooking. Even cooks already passionate about Mexican food will discover whole new worlds of flavors and techniques, some dating back to before the Conquest. Complementing the recipes, Laurie Smith's sensitive black and white photographs reveal the dignity and vitality of the Oaxacan people. The Food and Life of Oaxaca captures the vibrant spirit and lasting traditions that are leading more and more travelers to this alluring region of Mexico.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
Most ingredients are readily available at the store.
J. Richardson
Well written, lots of details and step by step instructions.
Danny
I haven't tried any of the recipes but they look good.
surfola

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Many practical recipes can be found in this book and they are good for. Probably the best part of the book is the Basics of Oaxacan Cooking, including an explanation of different chiles and techniques. My favorite recipe is "Gallina en Tesmole". The yellow and green mole recipes are also excellent. I have impressed many Oaxaquenos with recipes from this book, and I am just learning to cook Mexican-style. Highly recommended!
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By dan@s-alchemy.com on February 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is the finest cookbook on Oaxaca's world famous regional cooking. I have been there several times to enjoy the people and food. I have looked for years for recipe to make "yellow moles". The book is clear, well-researched and loving presented.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By nelst@nh.ultranet.com on August 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book captures the true spirit of the State and City of Oaxaca better than anything that I have read. It describes the diverse subcultures that make up that magic that is felt there and gives insight into the reasons those cultures survived through the past hundreds of years. Since food is an important part of that, or any other culture, the book does an outstanding job of presenting this aspect as well. As a long time visitor to the area I would rate this book as important for anyone who anticipates visiting there.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By barbara@lodelink.com on January 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is an absolutely wonderful book, especially for those of us who love Oaxaca. Ms. Martinez descriptions of Oaxaca make one want to pack and go now. The recipes are great and very authentic. They are also clear and understandable for cooks who may not be accustomed to Mexican cooking methods. Thanks, Zarela for another great book.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Details. What I love about Zarela's writing is her attention to details. The recipes and stories inspired me to take a trip to Oaxaca. I garden and was looking for the elusive Oregano de Oaxaca! I will share this with you; If you are going to Oaxaca just to sample the food, there is no need. Cook the recipes. You are there! This book is worth it's weight in love!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MTS on April 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book contains a collection of carefully crafted recipes that will satisfy everyone. While some of the recipes can be a bit labor intensive, they are all very doable. And, you will never regret the time spent when you taste the results!

And, thanks to the number quality markets across the country today, almost all of the ingredients are now attainable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Richardson on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oaxaca is the home for some of the worlds best food. This book has a lot of great recipes, including some moles which I can't wait to make. There is a nice narrative about the region, people, ingredients, and of course cooking. This is a must have for any person wanting to venture out and try a different cuisine. One of my favorite cookbooks for sure. These aren't 30 minute meal recipes, but if you love to cook, and have some time, this is a great book.

Update: Made the Mole Negro de Oaxaca, though a bit time consuming, definitely worth it! It was the best mole I have ever eaten, and I am a mole lover! Most ingredients are readily available at the store.
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31 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found the recipes, especially those of moles, to be excellent when prepared. The text is very straightforward and the descriptions of techniques and spices was very helpful. One thing that kept detracting my attention was the sometimes condescending tone that many of the necessary ingredients will never (or rarely) be found 'north of the border,' and thus the approximations that we Americans must make will never measure up to real Oaxacan cuisine. A rather disturbing little quirk in an othewise excellent cookbook.
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