Yummer Reading

Yummer Reading

Spirit of the Earth: Cooking From Latin America

by Beverly Cox with photographsby Martin Jacobs Stewart Tabori & Chang, 240 pp., $40

The native foodstuffs of the Americas radically changed eating habits the world over. The Americas gave the world corn, tomatoes, squash, beans, potatoes, and chocolate, to name a few. Most of these ingredients are now staples of our everyday diets, and one can't easily imagine life without them. Unfortunately, due in great part to the ignorance displayed by the conquistadors, very little solid evidence remains of how these ingredients were prepared and consumed in ancient American societies.

Spirit of the Earth offers a peek into the recipes of ancient and modern Latin American indigenous societies. This beautiful, oversized cookbook takes the reader on a journey to discover the recipes and cooking techniques of the ancient cultures of Latin America, following in the footsteps of their IACP-award-winning Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking. Cox has done a great amount of research on the recipes, and Jacobs' stunning photography enhances each and every page and brings the recipes to life.

Each recipe is introduced by a tidbit of history, an anecdote, or a cooking tip. The recipes are straightforward, easy to read and to prepare, and, as far as I can tell, very authentic. The book is divided into three chapters: the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca, each introduced by well-known authorities on the anthropology and ancient history of these people. However, I must say that upon careful reading, I was slightly disappointed with some aspects of the book, namely misspellings and the fact that many of the recipes discussed in the section on the Aztec empire are from the culinary-rich states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Veracruz, which are not historically known as the most representative of Aztec culture.

The section that intrigues me the most is the one on Inca cuisine, since this is not something I am very familiar with. As is to be expected, many of the Inca recipes include potatoes of all different kinds, sometimes used in unexpected combinations of ingredients, like the pink trout and potato soup. Quinoa, the Inca staple grain, is also present in gratins, tamales, stews, and breads, and there are several different recipes for Peruvian-style ceviches that I am very interested in trying.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 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  

READ MORE
More by Claudia Alarcón
Savory Characters
Savory Characters
Cooking up the next generation of cocktails

Feb. 6, 2015

Calling the Shots
Calling the Shots
The women defining Austin's cocktail culture

Jan. 23, 2015

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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