Latin Twist: Thought for Food

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Lately many people have been asking me about my source of inspiration for my Latin-influenced recipes. Well, my friends, many of you know, there are so many: I pull from my collection based on my travels, life abroad, and my friends, and my students—who hail from all over the globe. But there’s another great resource for my inspiration: my cookbooks!

Three of my favorite books Three of my favorites: Tapas:the Little Dishes of Spain by Penelope Casas, The Art of South American Cooking, By Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, and Clarita’s Cocina, by Clarita del Palacio Valdes de Garcia

Cookbooks are still ever-present elements in my cocina. My library, started oh-so-many moons ago, is still expanding. Post-its and all kinds of notes mark my most-beloved recipes. Still, there’s so much more room for discovery!  Today I’d like to share the top three ways that cookbooks give me thought for food:
1) Through the visual images
As many of us are, I’m a lover of the visual image and food photography is no exception! Just turning the pages (real pages, mis amigos,) of cookbooks can feed! From inspiration to presentation, shots of dishes, drinks, tables,  kitchens, and my personal favorite—markets—are motivating.  Food photographs magically take a viewer by the collar and lead them in. Even if I don’t end up making a dish or recreating a particular food scene, I can so easily fall under the spell of what my eyes are taking in.
2) Through the ingredient lists
It’s such great fun to see how different chefs combine ingredients. There’s such a huge world of spices to blend, vegetables to combine, and more and more. Looking at ingredients lists can give you ideas for new ways to recreate a dish you’re already making, or perhaps give you the impetus to make one you’ve sampled but never cooked. After you look over new recipes, and you’re inspired to incorporate a new methods or ingredients into your cooking, your horizons will continue to broaden. AND you can build from there.
3) Through the tales that accompany the dishes
As much as I’m a visual person, I’m a story person: I love to hear the background for different dishes. (Maybe that’s also why I’ve loved playing ghost writer—so I could retell other peoples stories!) My father has always said that food is love. The narratives that people recount when sharing family dishes are rich on so many levels—including the motivational one! When I make a dish, I often remember the first time I tried it, who I was with, and more. Hearing the stories behind other people’s dishes also makes me want to try them.

Well, my friends, I’m sure that if you’re reading this,  you also have your go-to collection of recipes and, again, thought for food! I’d love to hear about it all! In the meantime, ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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