Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
** Last week, Francisco and I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Arts and Design, where the exhibit “New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft, and Art in Latin America” had just opened.
Like the Guggenheim, the physical lay-out of MAD doesn’t always work; we’ve seen really excellent exhibits there and some that really suffered from poor use of space. Fortunately, “New Territories” avoids those problems, mainly because the work is so strong and varied that the visitor’s interest is held and there’s a thrill in going from one floor to the next (the exhibit is spread out over three floors) to see what else you’ll find.
There are some heavy hitter artists/designers in the show, including Vik Muniz and Pedro Reyes, as well as those who will likely be new to most viewers. Our visit was far too cursory, so we’ll be back for a more leisurely experience before the show closes on April 6, 2015.
Text & Instagram Photos: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Back in early December, I read more than half a dozen cookbooks for gift round-up pieces on FOX News Latino and The Latin Kitchen. A couple of the cookbooks that made the cut were so good I thought they warranted some singled-out treatment.
By far, my favorite of the bunch was–no, is–Maricel Presilla’s Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America. I feel about this book the way I feel about The Joy of Cooking: it’s an essential volume. For more than a decade, Joy has been my go-to cookbook, not just for recipes, but for conversions, substitutions, and decoding ingredients and techniques. It also does what so many cookbooks fail to do: provide context.
Gran Cocina Latina is to Latin American cuisine what Joy is to the North American kitchen, but even better because it’s an engaging read. Cuban-born Maricel Presilla, who owns two restaurants in Hoboken, New Jersey, brings a varied personal, academic, and professional history to Gran Cocina Latina; her experiences give the cookbook a breadth and depth that are unparalleled in English-language Latin American cookbooks.
Presilla has a PhD in medieval Spanish history, and her studies in that field were what sparked her interest in the transcontinental journeys of ingredients and the evolutions of foods that have come to signify entire countries and cultures: ajiaco in Colombia, arepas in Venezuela, moles in Mexico… and so on.
She brings that academic depth, then, but melds it with the impressive breadth of her experiences traveling in Latin America. It’s those experiences of standing at the sides of home and restaurant cooks that keep Gran Cocina Latina from being too dry; her appreciation for and admiration of the people from whom she has learned give the book life and carry over to the reader. I wanted to pack my cucharamama spoon and hit the road.
Besides the history and the human interest stories, Presilla provides pages and pages of essential information about ingredients, implements, and techniques. She does so in a way that’s equally accessible for the hobby cook who has little familiarity with Latin American cuisines and cultures and the pro chef who specializes in them. Though I hope I can keep it clean, I’m dubious I will; I’ve already hauled it to the kitchen several times for cooking-in-progress consults.
It’s amazing that W.W. Norton took a chance on this book. It’s massive, weighing in at almost 900 pages, and it’s $45.00, beyond the spending range of the impulse “That’s a pretty cover” cookbook shopper. And it’s also, despite North Americans’ growing interest in Latin food, still fairly niche. I hope their gamble pays off; it’s a fantastic book that deserves a wide and appreciative audience.
Text & Instagram Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
** I’ve left fashion and design behind in Managua, setting out first to the west (Leon) and then to the east (Granada) to see what I can see of Nicaragua in just a few days.
My brain is on information overload and I have a hundred questions, at least, but for now, I’m just taking in as much as I can.
Lion’s head door knocker in Leon, Nicaragua.
Bell of La Catedral Metropolitana de Leon, Nicaragua.
Water vendor with “Madonna! Madonna! Madonna!” cap. (Yes, he actually likes Madonna).
He was quiet, alone, and–seemingly, at least–contemplative, sitting by the river in Paramaribo, Suriname. I stood at a distance so as not to intrude on his thoughts, and depressed the button to take a picture. Though I didn’t know what he was thinking, of course, I identified with the need to just sit down and be quiet and still and stare out at the river’s swift current for a little bit.
Last Tuesday was my final day at Matador, where I’d worked for about five and a half years. It’s a transition that’s been on my mind for a while, and one that, finally, I decided to make, even though I wasn’t entirely sure what was next for me, apart from continued freelance work. I debated with myself for a couple months- Should I? Shouldn’t I? I have a child; jumping out of a job without a Plan B seemed far more irresponsible and impulsive than it was eight or nine years ago when I did it the first time.
Eventually, though, I ran out of excuses. I sent in my resignation, took a deep breath, and stepped out into nothing. And the net appeared- immediately.
There are lots of projects and possibilities I’ve been offered, some of which take me in completely unexpected and exciting directions that will provide new, interesting challenges. And they’re coming together faster than I could have hoped, proof–once again–that when we trust ourselves to know that it’s time to take a risk and welcome the unknown, everything we need appears. As I consider my options and wait for some details to get sorted, I’ve been enjoying spending some much-needed and long-overdue quality time with my family.
I hope you’ll keep following along and stay in touch to keep me up to date about your own projects.