There are some excellent South American food cookbooks out there that are written for the North American market, and I am working my way through as many of them as I can find. South American food seems to bring out a story-telling tendency in cookbook authors, which make them a lot of fun to read even if you never actually cook from them. The recipes tend to be passed down unchanged through families, and they have to be made a certain way, with exact ingredients that can only be found in that one particular mountain town (the cheese has to come from a certain family's cow, etc). But it is possible to recreate many of these traditional recipes in modern-day North America with great success. Many ex-pat South Americans put a lot of effort into that, because they greatly miss the food from their home countries.
This cookbook, Secrets of Colombian Cooking, by Patricia McCausland-Gallo, is an example of this phenomenon - she includes many stories with the recipes, as well as lots of cultural and geographic information. There are so many interesting recipes in this book, and a very thorough glossary of ingredients. I enjoy just browsing through it, learning about the different regions of the country and their unique cooking styles. There is so much to know about South American cooking. Hopefully more cookbooks like this will be written and published in English, before the fast food culture takes over and traditions are lost.
If you know of a great South American cookbook, please let us know about it in the South American Food Forums!