The Austin Chronicle

'La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine'

By Virginia B. Wood, October 4, 2012, 8:00am, On the Range

Award-winning cookbook author Marilyn Tausend has explored the culinary diversity of Mexico for more than thirty years. The author's wealth of knowledge and experience are reflected in a collection of recipes that illuminate the various ethnic and cultural roots of Mexico's amazing cuisine.

In order to best describe how the cultures of many remarkably different peoples combined to produce the unique flavors of Mexican cooking, Tausend teamed up with Mexican chef and regional cooking authority Ricardo Munoz Zurita. Both have strong ties to Austin. Marilyn Tausend co-authored the IACP-award-winning cookbook Cocina de la Familia: More than 200 Authentic Recipes from Mexican-American Home Kitchens with Fonda San Miguel chef Miguel Ravago. Chef Munoz worked in the Fonda San Miguel kitchen for a time several years ago and has collaborated for years with noted Mexican cookbook author and longtime Fonda menu consultant, Diana Kennedy. La Cocina Mexicana - Many Cultures, One Cuisine (University of California Press, $39.95 336ppg)is Tausend and Munoz' first literary collaboration.

What their collaboration brings to this book is a depth of understanding of the varied ingredients and cultural influences that come together to make up a nation's cuisine. The authors offer recipes created from the basic ingredients historically available to Mexico's native peoples and then broaden the plate to include dishes featuring the staple foods and cooking techniques of the colonial Spanish and French arrivals as well as the more subtle culinary contributions of enslaved Africans. It's a fascinating and educational approach, told through recipes, personal relationships, anecdotes, and family culinary genealogies documented through years of travel and research.

While this book offers many recipes for Interior Mexican dishes that aficionados and students of the cuisine are surely to recognize, the most appealing aspect to me is the inclusion of recipes that reveal culinary roots I had never considered, such as a cream of garbanzo soup based on the hearty beans that became a component of Spanish cuisine as a result of centuries of Arabic occupation. I'm truly grateful to Tausend and Munoz for enhancing my understanding of one of the world's most compelling cuisines and I'm sure a more in-depth exploration of these recipes is in my future. Marilyn Tausend will sign copies of this new book at El Naranjo restaurant this Saturday afternoon from 3:30-5:30pm and Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop) during brunch this Sunday from noon until 2pm.

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