In 1991 Ruth Reichl, then a Los Angeles Times food writer, observed that much of the style now identified with California cuisine, and with nouvelle cuisine du Mexique, was practiced by Encarnación Pinedo a century earlier. A landmark of American cuisine first published in 1898 as El cocinero español (The Spanish Cook), Encarnación's Kitchen is the first cookbook written by a Hispanic in the United States, as well as the first recording of Californio food—Mexican cuisine prepared by the Spanish-speaking peoples born in California. Pinedo's cookbook offers a fascinating look into the kitchens of a long-ago culture that continues to exert its influence today.
Of some three hundred of Pinedo's recipes included here—a mixture of Basque, Spanish, and Mexican—many are variations on traditional dishes, such as chilaquiles, chiles rellenos, and salsa (for which the cook provides fifteen versions). Whether describing how to prepare cod or ham and eggs (a typical Anglo dish labeled "huevos hipócritas"), Pinedo was imparting invaluable lessons in culinary history and Latino culture along with her piquant directions. In addition to his lively, clear translation, Dan Strehl offers a remarkable view of Pinedo's family history and of the material and literary culture of early California cooking. Prize-winning journalist Victor Valle puts Pinedo's work into the context of Hispanic women's testimonios of the nineteenth century, explaining how the book is a deliberate act of cultural transmission from a traditionally voiceless group.
"It's a rare cookbook that is as pleasurable to think about as it is to cook from. But that's what Dan Strehl has accomplished with his elegant translation of Encarnación’s Kitchen, a book that provides a fascinating look at the life and cooking of the wealthy Californios in the final days of the rich Rancho culture of California."—Russ Parsons, author of How to Read a French Fry
"At long last! It is with enormous pleasure that I greet Dan Strehl’s authoritative English translation, Encarnación’s Kitchen. I should like to have had the original Spanish edition as well, but I dream."—Karen Hess, author of The Carolina Rice Kitchen
" Encarnación’s Kitchen is far more than a historical curiosity, or a mere kitchen fragment that sketches silhouettes of ingredients and techniques. The recipes of Encarnación Pinedo’s kitchen, brought alive and set in context by Dan Strehl (and Victor Valle’s lucid introduction), offer rich examples of how California’s Mexican culinary culture developed as it bumped into—and cross-pollinated with—young, multifarious America. These dishes lay bare the often overlooked reality that food can be more than a reflection of culture. Food, as Encarnación understood, can be a seductively delicious catalyst for social understanding, change, even rebellious protest."—Rick Bayless, author of Mexico One Plate at a Time
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