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the first book to bring the richness and authenticity of the foods of Mexico’s 25 major, national holidays and festivals, from the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe AND Carnaval to Cinco de Mayo.

A "cultural cookbook”, Celebraciones Mexicanas offers insight into Mexican life and provides more than 200 original recipes AND 40+ complete menus. appropriate for those seeking basic knowledge of Mexican cooking and customs as well as aficionados of Mexican cuisine.

 

praise for celebraciones Mexicanas

“I like to think I have an educated impression of Mexico but reading Celebraciones Mexicanas makes it clear how much I didn’t know before I read the book. You can use it as a reference piece, but if you’re like me, you’ll want to read every word from the beginning and not miss one delicious detail. Both the fiesta and the food are put into context and I get the feeling this will become a treasured family heirloom for those who remember and for those who want to start celebrating a la Mexicana. /Steve Sando, founder, Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food; author of The Heirloom Beans Grower's Guide and Supper at Rancho Gordo

“To talk about Mexican food is to look well beyond what is actually prepared and consumed to what can be described as “a way of life on plate.” It means embracing cultural practices and shared knowledge that are the common root of Mexico’s gastronomy, extensive and diverse, passed along from generation to generation without recipes but through practice alone. Celebraciones Mexicanas disseminates these practices, traditions, and recipes and in doing so makes an important contribution to traditions of the great nation that is Mexico.”/Enrique Farjeat, assessor, Conservatory of Mexican Gastronomy; representative to UNESCO’s recognition ceremony honoring the addition of Mexican Cuisine to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity

Co-authored with Adriana Almazan Lahl.

Interview

with Chef Andrea Lawson Gray

History, Traditions and Recipes

Text by Laura Albert

NOVEMBER 24, 2013 by DIANE PERNET   SHARE  TWEET  PIN  SHARE

Dear Shaded Viewers,

With 35 complete menus, over 200 recipes and one hundred color photos, Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes broadens the reader/cook‘s understanding of Mexican cuisine and culture by delving into the history behind the special events that occasion fiesta menus. The book begins with the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe and that most quintessential of Mexican foods, tamales; and chapter-by-chapter reveals a culture rich with folklore. Included are all major holidays celebrated nationally, for which special foods are prepared. Much of what we know about Mexican cuisine had, for years, been passed down through an oral tradition, and to this day, recipes are faithfully written by hand in personal notebooks of Mexico’s daughters, as dictated by their mothers and grandmothers. Every family has its own unique menus, and every family has its own special and secret recipes. Celebraciones Mexicanas shares the recipes of the Almazan family with complete menus, sometimes several, for each festive event, so as to allow the reader to plan a meal very much like that which would be prepared in Mexico for the occasion.

Why made you decide to write this book?

 Andrea: I had an idea that I might write a cookbook one day, but my plan was to write ii after I moved to Mexico, when I would have more time and be more immersed in the culture. But, as they say, “Man plans and God laughs”.  I met my editor, Ken Albia, and learned about his Food Studies and Gastronomy Series for Rowan Littlefield and I met my co-author, Adriana Lahl Almazan through La Cocina and everything just sort of fell together. Next thing you know I was writing a book proposal. When my proposal was accepted, I couldn’t believe it!

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Andrea: Really, it was a combination of personal experience and feedback from my readers. It seemed that, every time I was in Mexico— and I go frequently because I am building a small Casa de Huespedes or guest house there — there was a always a party, a fiesta, some kind of holiday and I found myself participating in the preparation of a special dish. As I began to share some of these recipes in the column I write for the Examiner, I noticed that these were the most popular of my articles. There just seemed to be a lot of interest in Mexican holidays and related food. I didn’t even realize that ours was the first book to combine the history behind and traditions of Mexico’s fiestas as well as the recipes for the dishes served, until I saw the marketing materials from our publisher.

The book is organized in an unusual way, by menus. What made you decide to do it this way?

Andrea: This was something that grew, almost organically, out of early meetings with my co-author, Adriana Almazan Lahl.  As we began to create a list of recipes for the book, it was logical to approach them like this. I would ask Adriana what her family might typically share for any given holiday, and she would rattle off a litany of dishes, really, a complete menu.  Given that the premise was to bring the richness of those meals and traditions to an American audience, it struck us that the menu presentation would really communicate that.

Aside from the beautiful food photos, there are many photos of people in very colorful, traditional garb. Can you tell me about those?

Niñas Mazahuas. Photo by Jorge Ontiveros from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Niñas Mazahuas. Photo by Jorge Ontiveros from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Andrea: We were very lucky to be able to work with in-country photographer Jorge Ontiveros, whose passion is photographing Mexico’s indigenous people in their native environments. These are photos of a few of the diverse groups that make up Mexico’s indigenous population; taken as they are preparing food and/or celebrating a holiday. They did not dress up for the photos, the clothing they are wearing is part of the culture and tradition that has been preserved over time, it is what they wear. All of the apparel and accessories are made in each of the indigenous communities in a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation. This is one of the aspects of the book that I am most proud of— that I was able to share just a little of the history and culture of these people with our readers.

What surprised you most as you were researching the book?

Andrea: I would have to say two things: One, how very little cooking techniques, implements and ingredients have changed since pre-Columbian times.  I knew tamales and tortillas were part of the Aztec diet, but what I learned was that the very heart of the cuisine has stayed true to the foodways of Mexico before the colonization, and this in spite of real pressure to “modernize”. The food politics of Mexican history fascinate me: I also learned so much about the folk Catholicism that is at the heart of many festivals, and the push and pull between the Catholic Church and Aztec customs that evolved to create celebrations as they exist in Mexico today.

I know Mexican cooking can be complicated. What dish would you recommend to someone who wants to try his or her hand at something

special but is not familiar with Mexican cuisine?

Andrea: The recipes are designed for a broad audience. There are many recipes that work for a person who is looking to learn to cook Mexican. To begin with, we have included an entire section of Basic Recipes and Cooking techniques, which include everything from making a basic chicken stock to rendering lard. There is a section on Salsas, which are such a key component to many dishes. Making enchiladas is a great place to start because it can begin with making masa from which you can make tortillas by hand, and a salsa, plus a filling… these are great basics to have under your belt when  learning Mexican cuisine.

Laura Albert

http://www.celebracionesmexicanas.com/

  • Nominations: Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Fiction, Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award