Cookbook Reviews

Cookbook Reviews

The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao With Recipes

by Maricel E. Presilla

Ten Speed Press, 208 pp., $29.95

Maricel E. Presilla is a woman of many talents: anthropologist, author, restaurateur, chef, and cacao importer. With such a résumé and a family that includes generations of Spanish-Cuban cacao farmers, Presilla has an affinity for and mastery of the subject of chocolate that few other authors could ever hope to achieve. Her book, The New Taste of Chocolate, is a fascinating piece of work that provides serious culinarians and chocolate lovers alike with a clear understanding of theobroma cacao -- the "food of the gods" of Linnaeus' description -- from "the bean to the bar." Presilla establishes chocolate in its historical context and goes on to educate readers about the genetic, environmental, and chemical factors that critically impact the ultimate quality of finished chocolate products. She also, in her own words, reveals "the human face of cacao farming," with stories and pictures of chocolate workers taken from the many steamy equatorial regions where chocolate is now grown. Perhaps the most interesting information Presilla offers deals with the current revolution in the chocolate business that has companies such as El Rey, Omanhene, and Scharffen Berger marketing exclusive, upscale lines of single-origin chocolates with high percentages of cacao content. For those cacao-o-files prone to further study, Presilla includes a thorough glossary of cacao-related terms, a listing of mail-order sources, and a detailed bibliography. In my estimation, the least compelling aspect of the book are the 23 recipes provided by pastry chefs and chocolate experts from around the country, but it's possible that they would appeal to cooks with a passion for chocolate greater than my own. Regardless of the recipes, Presilla's well-researched and approachable book is a must-have for any cook with a serious desire to understand the cultural and natural history of chocolate.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Virginia B. Wood
Top 10 Savory Bites
Top 10 Savory Bites

Jan. 1, 2016

Open Secret
Open Secret
The not-so-hidden pleasures of dine

Dec. 25, 2015


Maricel E. Presilla, Ten Speed Press

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle