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October 26, 2007

The Most Influential Nineteenth-Century Mexican Cookbook

164. [MEXICAN COOKBOOK]. El Cocinero Mejicano refundido y considerablemente aumentado en esta segunda edición. Mexico: Imprenta de Galván, a Cargo de Mariano Arevalo, Calle de Cadena Núm. 2, 1834. Vol. I: 414, [22] pp., 2 lithograph plates (1 folded) of place settings; Vol. II: 362, [22] pp; Vol. III: 351 [15] pp. 8vo (15.8 x 10.5 cm), original full brown tree sheep, Vols. 1 & 3 with gilt-lettered spine (binding of Vol. 2 is not exactly uniform but appears to belong to this set). Moderate shelf wear and rubbing, spines rubbed at extremities, hinges starting, some signatures slightly sprung, some text leaves lightly age toned. In Vol. 2, several leaves are torn, one with slight loss of text (pp. 209/210). Overall, a very good set, difficult to find with all three volumes and complete.

            Second edition of an important Mexican cookbook. Not in Bitting, Cagle, Palau, Vicaire, etc. The rare first edition (Mexico, 1831) was an immediate classic and “possibly the country’s first printed cookbook and certainly the most influential” (Pilcher, “¡Vivan Tamales! The Creation of a Mexican National Cuisine, p. 258.). References to first edition: Cagle, A Matter of Taste (2d edition) 1200. Pinedo, Encarnación’s Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California, p. 200. Puig & Stoopen, Historia de la cocina mexicana a través de sus publicaciones, p. 2 (noting that the book went through about a dozen editions under various titles before its last edition in 1909). All editions are difficult to locate.

            According to the Preface, the sale of the first edition was quite successful and this new edition has been thoroughly updated by removing recipes deemed uninteresting and providing new ones to take their places. This is an omnibus publication that covers all aspects of cooking, from setting the table to preparing both the simplest and most elaborate dishes. The number of recipes sometimes given that rely on a single main ingredient, such as those for beef or chicken, are occasionally extensive. Unlike some other Mexican cookbooks of the time, this one has a large number of recipes for “pescado y otros animales del agua,” totalling nearly 200 individual entries covering such items as sardines, eels, tuna, and shrimp, all of which can be prepared numerous ways. Two chapters cover light lunches or brunch, featuring dishes made with eggs or corn. The dessert recipes in Vol. 3 include numerous dishes containing frozen ingredients, such as sorbet. This cookbook is as extensive a one as one could desire and covers recipes from the simplest to the most complex, with an emphasis on Mexican raw ingredients and preparation methods.

            Jeffrey M. Pilcher (“Tamales or Timbales: Cuisine and the Formation of Mexican National Identity, 1821-1911” in The Americas, Vol. 53, No. 2. (October, 1996, pp. 193-216), comments of this oft-reprinted nineteenth-century Mexican cookbook:

El cocinero mexicano (The Mexican Chef), published in 1831, a decade after independence, set the tone for Mexican culinary literature. Possibly the country’s first printed cookbook and certainly the most influential, it passed through a dozen editions and served as a model for cooking manuals throughout the nineteenth century. The anonymous author adopted a sharp nationalist voice in both linguistic and culinary matters. He denounced the Spanish Academy and insisted on using words of Mexican origin, even as he praised “truly national” spicy dishes and derided delicate European palates unaccustomed to chile peppers. The publisher, Mariano Galván Rivera, edited out the most chauvinistic phrases from future editions; nevertheless, the insistence on a distinctive national taste continued to flavor the work....

The anonymous author of the Mexican Chef employed many themes of the Enlightenment and denounced Spanish conservatism. His publisher, Mariano Galván, was a political moderate who produced Mexico’s first almanac as well as countless editions of women’s calendars, travel guides, and textbooks. Although later jailed for supporting the French intervention, Galván had employed liberal ideologue Jose Maria Luis Mora in Guerra, a hero of the French Intervention, may have tasted his namesake cod, but Moctezuma never ate the dessert named in his honor, which was made of candied sugar, ground almonds, and bread rolls....

An 1834 volume [present edition] explained that the moles of Puebla and Oaxaca “owe their particular good taste to the types of chiles employed; the first making use of a sweet chile called the mulato, and the second from a Oaxacan chile called the chilohatle. By defining even chile peppers in Creole terms, the nineteenth-century national cuisine ignored a gastronomic geography dating back to Precolumbian times. Native culinary traditions centered around civilizations such as the Nahua, Maya, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, and Totonacs-ethnic groups that rarely corresponded to Mexican political boundaries.


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

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