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America: the world's bounty


LATIN AMERICAN Culture & Cuisine

The Latin American kitchen is as diverse as the people who inhabit the 20 Latin American countries. It is a magnificent blend of most of the cuisines of the world with the foods and the traditions of America's indigenous peoples, which I have condensed in my books.

Latin America is a region of great cultural diversity. While people from around the world have settled in the region, most traditions are anchored in the cultures and histories of three races: Indian (early inhabitants of the Americas), Hispanic (settlers from both Spain and Portugal), and African (most of whom arrived as slaves brought by the Portuguese).

Our history begins with the landing of Christopher Columbus on the island of Hispaniola in 1492. He came looking for spices but he found instead a stunning variety of new foods. The Spaniards, on their return trips to Europe, took with them corn (maize), potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, avocadoes, squash, sweet potatoes, peanuts, beans, cassava, chocolate, pineapples, papayas, vanilla, and turkey.

When Columbus returned to the New World on his second trip, he brought back vegetable seeds, wheat, chickpeas, sugar cane, onions, garlic, pigs, cattle, and rice, all of which were to become vitally important foods of the Americas. The mixing of these cultures occurred because the Spanish, for most of the region, and Portuguese, in Brazil, came without their women and were not adept at kitchen activities. As a result, they had to depend on the Indian women to prepare their food and to bear their children.

I am a child of that cultural blending. As I explained in my book, The South American Table, my heritage is Indian and Spanish, though my father says there is some Portuguese, as well. It is my love of this remarkable cuisine and the culture that created it that has motivated the creation of all my books, including the highly acclaimed, award-winning The South American Table.

This website gives me an additional way to share the culture and cuisine of Latin America. The links above will take you to recipes from various countries, as well as to blog posts, which will explain traditions and celebrate holidays--and share more recipes, for things that are suited to those traditions and holidays.

I also hope you'll click on the "Books" link and learn more about my bigger works, including The South American Table, named Best Latino Cookbook in the world at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, and which Publishers Weekly has said should be on the shelf of every serious cook, Gourmet Magazine declared it to be "absolutely indispensable" and Cooking Light Magazine recognized it in their highly acclaimed “Top 100 Cookbooks of the Last 25 Years.”