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October 26, 2007

Rare & Humorous Cookbook Printed in Puebla, with Lithographs

163. [MEXICAN COOKBOOK]. AYGUALS DE IZCO, Wenceslao. Manual del Cocinero y Cocinera, tomado del Periódico Literario La Risa. Se dedica al bello sesco de Puebla. Puebla: Imprenta de José María Macías, Calle de Micieses número 2, 1849. 397 [18] pp., lithograph title page + 11 lithograph plates printed by Macías, 2 hand-colored (includes one duplicate plate). Pp. 105-112 and 137-144 supplied from another copy. 8vo (15.2 x 10.5 cm), contemporary dark olive sheep over red diapered paper boards, spine lettered and decorated in gilt. Small piece missing at head of spine, minor rubbing and shelf wear to boards, corners lightly bumped. Except for light scattered foxing and mild age-toning to some plates, very good.

            First edition. Cagle, A Matter of Taste (2d edition) 1201 (calling for only 8 plates). Pilcher, “¡Vivan Tamales! The Creation of a Mexican National Cuisine,” p. 259. Pinedo, Encarnación’s Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California, p. 200. Not in Bitting, Palau, Vicaire, etc. The Prologue is signed in type by famous Spanish author Winceslao Ayguals de Izco (1801-1873), the most widely read Spanish novelist of the 1840s, prolific playwright, humorist, and translator (including the 1853 Madrid edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin). The Prologue provides a sometimes stinging critique of diet and foodways. The author opens with these sentences: “En todos los paises civilizados se come: en todas las naciones del mundo está prohibido con pena capital por la ley de la naturaleza el crimen de NO COMER.... Comamos, pues, en gracia de Dios: aunque no sea mas que para no ser culpables” (p. [3], original emphasis). The text concludes with two decrees of Don Abundio Estofado, who is depicted in all his culinary glory on the final plate and who styles himself, in part, “Don Abundio Estofado, de la Salsa blanca, Peregil, Biftec de la Ensalada, Tomate y Fricandò; Señor del Mole Poblano de Guajolote, Caballero de los Pepinos rellenos, Gran Maestre de las Coles con Tocino...” (p. [395]). While admitting that others have written on culinary matters, he concludes that nobody’s cookbook is better than his (pp. 8-9).

            Humor aside, this is a highly sophisticated cookbook containing numerous recipes covering all classes of food and their preparation, including meat, soups, salads, eggs, and game. Extensive coverage is given to fish and seafood recipes. The plates nicely illustrate some of the techniques required, such as how to butcher and truss animals, how to set a table, and how to serve salads. The two lithographs concerning the last item are delicately hand-colored and illustrate “Ensalada de Romanitas” and “Ensalada de Escarola.” Two chapters cover proper place settings in various situations, and those possibilities are also illustrated by two plates. The author had apparently encountered many messy dinner mates and bad servers, for his first chapter, entitled “Ambigu,” gives advice on table manners, serving food, etc.

            Manuel Ramos Medina praises this cookbook in the most effusive terms, stating that it embodies “el toque y el sazón mexicano” and that it represents “un libro excepcional” (see introduction to the 1992 facsimile edition, published at Puebla by the Gobierno del Estado de Puebla). The text derives in part from recipes that appeared in La Risa, a Madrid periodical published April 2, 1843-September 15, 1844 (Palau 269404). (A version of La Risa was also published in New Orleans.) Despite whatever Mexican influences the book may contain, parts of it are heavily dependent on the recipes published originally in Madrid. For example, the recipes here on pp. 174-177 are taken word for word from Vol. III, p. 8, of the Madrid edition of La Risa. Other European influences are evident in various places, such as in sauce recipes (pp. 66-75) which include such things as “salsas españolas,” “salsa holandesa,” “salsa portuguesa,” and “salsa a la provenzala.” Jeffrey M. Pilcher points out that many writers erroneously date the arrival in Mexico of Continental cuisine to the Second Empire of Maximilian. Pilcher cites the present work as an earlier example of French culinary influence in Mexico (“Tamales or Timbales: Cuisine and the Formation of Mexican National Identity, 1821-1911,” The Americas, Vol. 53, No. 2, October, 1996, pp. 193-216).

            The supposed Don Abundio Estofado (i.e., fat, stewed guy) is mourned at length in the September 15, 1844, issue of La Risa itself, complete with pages of burlesque poetry and a description of his elaborate funeral procession that was attended by thousands and at which hundreds of musicians played. The funeral was held at Saint Paul’s in London. He died, of course, after eating something that disagreed with him. Given that he supposedly died in 1844 and that this book dates from 1849, rumors of Abundio’s death must have been, like Twain’s, greatly exaggerated.

            The lithographs are by the Puebla firm of José María Macías (listed by Mathes, Mexico on Stone, p. 65). It is difficult to find examples of the lithographic work of Macías, and these concern an unusual subject. The litho of Don Abundio Estofado is a masterpiece of Mexican lithography and humor. ($1,200-2,400)

Sold. Hammer: $2,200.00; Price Realized: $2,585.00

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