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The Book of Latin American Cooking Paperback – August 1, 1994
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I had a most enjoyed and cherished very little culinary trip through Latin America (America Latina). I made Striped Bass with Vegetables (Corvina a la Chorrillana) -a very nice dish from my country of origin, Peru (Peru), which name I vaguely remembered but had never eaten before-; Lentils (Lentejas), the way they are made in Colombia (Colombia) -very nice-; Meatballs (Albondigas), as they make them in Uruguay (Uruguay) -delicious-; Chicken with Rice (Arroz con Pollo) and Beef in Tomato and Pepper Sauce (Carne en Jocon), dishes from the Dominican Republic (Republica Dominicana) and Guatemala (Guatemala), respectively, -both very nice dishes-.
I intend, of course, trying to cook other dishes -from those, as well as from other Latin American countries- given in this Recipe Book, as I don't wish to remain oblivious of all this array of flavours.
Thank you very much
She begins the book with a comprehensive list of common ingredients of South American cuisine, including a description of the ingredient and where one might find it. She then continues the book with the usual categories of Meats, Vegetables, Sauces, etc. She includes background and information about the food for each of her recipes. For example, she might describe when and where the meal might be served, or some helpful tips about a particular ingredient.
I have made several recipes from this book, and they've all turned out beautifully. The instructions are detailed and easy to follow, even for someone who, like me, has little experience in the particular cuisine. More importantly, though, everything is delicious!
I especially like to use the recipes in this book for special occasions. For example, my favorite dish, Pabellon Caraqueno (Steak with rice, black beans, a plantains--the national dish of Venezuela), while simple, takes several hours to prepare. However, I guarantee that, after you've arranged this meal on a platter and set it down in front of your guests, you will be rewarded with some 'Ooohs' and 'Aahhs' and many satisfied taste buds.
One of the first things I wanted to know about was humitas, which are prepared, with many variations, throughout Andean S.A. and also some areas non-andean. They are basically corn husks wrapped and tied around a filling, then boiled or steamed. The biggest regional variation is in the filling, with some dramatic differences from culture to culture.
No mention of humitas in the index. So, I thought maybe if I look under some regional entries, they might be there as a sub-entry. Nope. To contrast, in this same order, I bought Argentina Cooks!: Treasured Recipes from the Nine Regions of Argentina (Hippocrene Cookbook Library), which had two humitas recipes. Now, humitas are a popular Criolo dish in the Northern Andean regions of Argentina, but humitas are not as big a deal in Argentina as they are in Chile, Peru or Ecuador. So, to find two recipes in an Argentine cookbook and NONE in a pan-Latin American cookbook kinda says something about the Latin American one.
Okay, well Some people say that humitas are really just a big, elaborate tamale which is boiled instead of baked or fried. So I looked up "tamale". NO ENTRY FOR TAMALE?!?!?!? AT ALL ?!?!?!
Third lookup: no mention of quinoa at all. Anywhere in the book!
So there was another thing on my mind, Acarajé, which is a Brazillian dish common in the Bahia region, which is kind of like a Brazilian falafel, made from black-eyed peas and shrimp. I did find that, in a rudimentary version. But reading the discussion, she strongly recommends that one try to find the powdered pre-mix in a Latin American grocery store. Now, that kind of attitude is just completely perpendicular to my approach to cooking, and really not the philosophy of people who buy cookbooks in general. Mentioning that there is such a thing to be had sometimes, maybe, but recommending it as the preferred route? Does a cookbook for baking cakes steer you to the Betty Crocker section of the grocery store for a boxed cake mix?
This book has a lot of recipes(part of why I bought it), and I'm sure that I'll get some use out of it eventually, but it's not what I was looking for. What I would have liked best would have been a Latin American equivalent of Claudia Roden's book The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which has lots of breadth and depth, all the common regional recipes in their canonical forms with discussion of variations. This book is not that. If someone is familiar with Roden's book, and knows of a comparable Latin-American cookbook, please recommend it in a comment to this review.
In summation: a book with this kind of title should at least cover all of the regional basics, this book does not come close to doing that.