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The Joy of Nuevo Cocinero Americano

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410.     [MEXICAN COOKBOOK]. LIBRERÍA DE CH. BOURET (publisher). Nuevo Cocinero Americano en forma de diccionario que contiene todos los procedimientos empleados en la alta mediana y pequeña cocina, la lista normal de los platillos que deben componer la distintas comidas, que con variedad de nombres se hacen en el dia, el método de aderezar los platos y de disponer los diferentes servicios de una mesa, y los mas selecto de las artes del pastelero, del bizcochero, del confitero, del destilador y del nevero, con todo lo relativo a la repostería.—Encontrándose en él todos los artículos importantes de las obras de esta clase que se han publicado en castellano, y otros nuevos, relativos tanto a la cocina Mexicana, como a la Francesa, tomados estos últimos del cocinero real, de las obras de Beauvilliers, de los tratados de Carême, del diccionario de Mr. Burnet, de la nueva cocina económica, y de otros autores. Paris & Mexico: Librería de Ch. Bouret, 23 calle Visconti 23, & 18 Calle de San José el Real 18, 1878. [8], [1] 2-966 pp., 8 lithograph plates (including half title), text printed in two columns. 8vo (24.5 x 17 cm), contemporary half black Mexican sheep over embossed black pebble cloth, spine with raised bands and gilt lettering, edges marbled. Moderate spotting, some shelf wear, a few small voids in cloth, corners bumped; hinges open but holding, text block somewhat shaken, scattered light foxing, first few leaves with edge wear and chipping, including title page, which has a small tear at the right blank margin not affecting text, last two plates loose but holding. Overall, a good copy of a book with a heavy, cumbersome text block but still in its original binding.

     Later edition (first edition 1831) of what is probably the most popular nineteenth-century Mexican cookbook. As Dan Strehl says in the introduction to Encarnación’s Kitchen: “In Mexico, the printing of cookbooks began in the 1830s, with large comprehensive books authored mostly by men. By that time Mexico possessed a highly evolved cuisine combining distinctive Spanish, Indian, and French influences. This is documented in the first cookbook printed in Mexico, in 1831, El cocinero mexicano. El Cocinero mexicano has had a remarkably long and important life in Mexican culinary literature. In 1845, the 1834 edition was rearranged in alphabetical order by Mariano Galván Rivera and published throughout the nineteenth century, with reprints through the twentieth century” (p. 24). Bitting, pp. 584-585: “Rare.” Palau 196445. Not in Cagle, Pilcher, Vicaire, etc.

     The editor of this edition reviews the history of this cookbook (and others) and explains the rationale for the present edition. He states that over 3,000 copies of his own cookbook have been sold since it first appeared in 1831, in addition to the many others both produced domestically and imported from abroad. He further remarks that he has thoroughly edited the text, removing some unpopular recipes and adding others, especially in light of the fact that “la cocina francesa ha invadido nuestros comedores,” thereby making Mexican cooking more cosmopolitan. In recipe revisions or new introductions, however, the recipes have been suited to Mexican tastes and ingredients. The publisher also remarks specifically on the lithographs, which he remarks have been included to clarify points and demonstrate how things are actually done. Finally, he observes that he has kept the price low so that the book is “al alcance aun de las personas de poca fortuna.” In keeping with the national character of the text, under the article “Bien-me-sabe,” he notes: “Con este nombre podia disignarse todas las confectiones y condimentos de que se trata en este Diccionario….” In an interesting typographical nod to the contents, most of the type on the title page is set in the shape of a glass.

     The book is an omnibus volume in alphabetical order from “Abadejo” to “Zuma de agraz,” complete with cross references. The main text is supplemented by two appendices. The first concerns “El Servicio de la mesa en las distintas comidas que suelen hacerse al dia.” This section covers in astonishing detail various types of meals and their possible courses and lists the appropriate recipes for each course. The second appendix concerns “El Modo de trinchar la mesa, las diferentes viandas que se presentan en ella, y de hacer platos a los convivados.” This section concerns carving various meats.

     The two appendices are actually the subjects of the lithographs, three of which show place settings and three of which show how to carve cuts of meat, fish, and fowl, including a diagram of an entire cow with the various potential cuts outlined and named. The lithograph at the front of the book shows a well-equipped kitchen with a chef and others at work and two salad services; the lithograph half title has a vignette of a family sitting down to dine. Both were done by “Lith. Jacquet, R.D. Marais, 97, Paris,” who was probably responsible for the others as well.

     Among the interesting cultural shifts one finds scattered among the leaves of this book are the discussions of various beverages. Under the entry for “Cha,” the beverage’s historic name, the editors note that the name is generally no longer in use and that they have opted to use the term “Té” instead. The main article on tea is a long discussion of its varieties, potential problems, and possible substitutes. In a comment that could have been taken from today’s headlines, the editors note, after remarking that much tea comes from China: “Se falsifica de innumerables maneras, y los Chinos, cuyo talento para el fraude es demasiado conocido, se valen de varios procedimientos para falsificar las diversas clases de té que venden tan caro a los demas naciones….” But they quickly conclude that there is little point in discussing the possibilities since “no está en mano de los lectores remediar estos abusos.”

     Reflecting elsewhere on a long-entrenched cultural tradition, the editors note in the article “Chocolate”: “Esta la bebida propria del país, y con la que de preferencia al té y al café, se desayunan generalmente todos los Mejicanos, tanto los ricos, como los de mediana fortuna y los pobres, tomandolo cada uno mas ó menos bueno, segun su gusto ó con proporción á sus facultades.” And to be sure the point is not wasted, the general article is followed immediately by “Chocolate (Modo de hacer una buena taza de).” The native Mexican drink pulque is also praised, primarily as “una bebida sana” with many medicinal uses. On the other hand, wine is not so highly praised, although Mexican wines are asserted to be “de los mejores del mundo.” Beer is passed over in silence.

     In many ways, one can learn as much about late-nineteenth-century Mexican society and life from this cookbook than from any sociological study.


Sold. Hammer: $750.00; Price Realized: $900.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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