Text & Photo: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Book Cover Image: Courtesy of Hardie Grant Books
It’s been a long time since we’ve reviewed a book here, but after looking through more than half a dozen excellent Latino-themed cookbooks and including brief mentions of several in my gift list round-ups for FOX News Latino and The Latin Kitchen, I felt that a few deserved some more in-depth, individual treatment.
My Abuela’s Table: An Illustrated Journey into Mexican Cooking, by Mexican-Australian Daniella Germain, is almost quaint when compared against all the other cookbooks I looked at this winter. Mexican cooking– and Latino cooking in general– has become so mainstream in the US that many readers/cooks who buy cookbooks are looking for recipes that go beyond dishes that have become familiar. Yet Germain’s book is nothing but those classic plates and preparations: chiles en nogada, refried beans, tamales, enchiladas, guacamole, and a small selection of salsas, for example. She includes sections for meat, fish, and poultry dishes, too, as well as desserts.
For a reader who already has a command of Mexican cooking, My Abuela’s Table is likely to be of little interest. But for cooks who are just beginning to plunge their hands into this cuisine, Germain’s cookbook, which as its title suggests, is a compilation of her grandmother’s recipes, is a very handy primer.
Germain, who also illustrated the book, excels in making cooking accessible.
She’s not precious about finding “authentic” ingredients (she seems to like canned food just fine) and she provides almost no context for the origins and evolutions of the dishes she has included in My Abuela’s Table. As someone who loves Mexico and Mexican food deeply, I found this absence of background information a little annoying, but in a way, it makes the cookbook as accessible as possible for a reader who just wants to start pounding masa and learning basic techniques and preparations. As such, it’s the perfect starter cookbook for someone who knows little or nothing about Mexican food.