Remember a few weeks ago when we were thinking about what
defines "American" cooking? I don't think we arrived at any
conclusions, but what an interesting conversation! This week,
a cluster of books forced me to recognize that even the term
"American" is hard to agree upon.
What prompted this thought was the rapid upsurge of Latino or
Latin American cookbooks this summer. What we consider Latino
cooking here in North America is principally influenced by Mexican
cooking, and it's a flowering of kitchen creativity which, I think,
can only be just beginning.
I don't just mean the more or less
yearly offerings from Rick Bayless (as welcome as they are), or the
occasional great standards from Diana Kennedy. These
cookbooks are distant, pop descendants of the Nuevo Latino movement
dating back to when chef Douglas Rodriguez was a brash young chef,
in the 90s, when most Latino and Latina kitchen staff worked brutal
hours on the line, or washing dishes. Today's books feature
fresh, second-generation faces--journalists, restaurateurs, Food
Network stars. Here's what's come in just the last week or
I have yet to formulate a Grand Unified Theory of these Latino/a
cookbooks; indeed, they are so different it would be hard to do so.
But one thing they have in common is a certain disregard for
tradition, a light hand with authenticity; an urge to take the
moles and enchiladas and salsas into uncharted waters.
Where these pioneers will end up, I don't know. But check
back in this space in four years and I bet we'll be able to say we
were there at the start of a revolution.