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The South American Table

by Maria Baez Kijac (Harvard Common Press)

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The South American Table

The South American Table

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If you're looking for a comprehensive cookbook on South American cooking, Maria Baez Rijac’s The South American Table is one of the best you will find. It is a treasure trove of 450 authentic recipes that the author gathered from her extensive network of family and friends, with fun anecdotes and background information accompanying each recipe.

Lots of Background Information

Try not to skip the first few chapters in a rush to get to the recipes, because you will miss a wealth of information on the history of South American food. There is a fascinating chapter on Pre-Columbian civilizations and how their crops and food preparation techniques have survived and influenced modern menus. Rijac also explains how South American cuisine has evolved since the Spanish and Portuguese colonization, as well as African and Asian influences.

450 Delicious Recipes and a Glossary

The recipes are adapted so that they are easily made at home, with clear and detailed directions, and advice on finding ingredients. The author’s delicious recipe for Tamales de Papa (Potato Tamales) is an old family recipe from the highlands of Ecuador. Rijac describes how her aunt made the tamales, and includes all the variations on the traditional fillings. Her chapter on tamales lists the 12 different names in spanish and portuguese for the dish, explains the different wrappings and techniques used in each region, and includes recipes from several countries. Even if you have always loved Mexican tamales, you won’t be able to resist trying some of these.

You will find the same thorough detail in each section of the book, from the 15 recipes for ceviche in the appetizers chapter, to an array of unusual and delectable desserts. Don’t overlook the excellent glossary or the Spanish/English/Portuguese food dictionary. The next time you visit a Latin food market you’ll be able to identify and cook with everything you find there.

You will enjoy reading this cookbook for its wealth of entertaining information, but it won’t be long until you are in the kitchen, trying some of these wonderful recipes.

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