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Books I Like: Street Food of Mexico and La Cocina Mexicana


I have a scary number of Mexican cookbooks. And there are a scary number of books out there celebrating, documenting, glorifying and sometimes unintentionally misinforming. If you're really interested, there are many books in Spanish which isn't as intimidating as it sounds. The kitchen vocabulary is pretty consistent and instructions tend to be vague, but the inspiration is priceless!

I'm going to tell you what I think, both positive and negative, about some of the books in my collection.


Hugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico by Hugo Ortega with Ruben Ortega.
Bright Sky Press

I had a chance to eat at Hugo's, Ortega's restaurant in Houston, and he really knows what he's doing. It's a nice, comfortable place with killer food, good music and I can't wait to go back. His book is about street food but so much of Mexican street food is a replica of what's cooked in the home, that the limitation seems a little silly. And since the food is so regional, it would take a monster volume to cover the subject. But I really like this book for many reasons. Hugo is a great recipe writer. His instructions are straightforward and it's easy to imagine what the end result will be. He covers a lot of territory that others have done already but his non-nonsense style will be refreshing for a lot of us. Another reason to love the book is the participation of photographer Penny de los Santos. The matte-finished photos are colorful, a little gritty and never patronizing.

La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine by Marilyn Tausend with Ricardo Muñoz Zurita
University of Texas Press

Marilyn has been giving tours to Mexico for years and writes good cookbooks. The theme of this one is Many Cultures, One Cuisine and in her introduction she makes a case for all the influences that make up La Cocina Mexicana. I'm not so sure the theme is all that cohesive or that the recipes go on to support this but they are great recipes and it's great discovering Marilyn's Mexico, which is somewhat different than My Mexico and I'm sure Your Mexico. Like Oretga's Street Food book, some of the dishes and recipes will be too familiar but there are lots of gems and obscurities that make the book worthwhile. Marilyn's stories are great and often helpful in conceptualizing the dish.

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