What’s the USP? Mamacita is, on the face of things, a cookbook about Mexican food, and the immigrant experience. But it is also a lifeline. It was originally compiled as a self-published cookbook that was sold to help author Andrea Pons fund her family’s legal fees as they attempted to navigate the US immigration system. Now it finds its way into print once more, via a more traditional publisher, with additional recipes and plenty of glossy photos. It’s the American dream come true.
Is it good bedtime reading? There’s much to enjoy as a casual cookbook reader here. Though there isn’t much extended reading besides a thorough introduction at the beginning of the book, Pons shares her story, and that of her family, throughout the recipes themselves. This is a life, and a community, seen through food – and exploring each dish, and understanding how it fits into a bigger picture, makes what might otherwise be a fairly straight-forward collection of recipes a whole lot more enjoyable.
How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Despite listing a UK price on the back cover, this is a very US-centric cookbook, with measurements only listed imperially. If you can work around this, though, you’ll enjoy Pons’ uncomplicated writing.
Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Where are you cooking? Again, if you’re in the UK, you’ll have a more difficult time – even the most simple authentic Mexican ingredients, from chipotle in adobo to corn tortillas, can be a struggle to source here. Americans will likely fare better. The back pages list resources for immigrants in the US – but a list of resources for those looking to pick up Maseca flour and authentic Mexican cheeses might have been a useful addition too.
How often will I cook from the book? There’s plenty to love here, including showy dinner party dishes like Conchitas de Pescado (a fish gratin served in scallop shells). But the heart of this recipe book is family cooking, and so top of the agenda is simple, delicious food that’s easy to make at home. I tried out the Sopa Azteca at home last week during my lunch hour. It’s a fallacy that a good soup takes a long time, and the rich bowl I mustered up in little over thirty minutes couldn’t make a stronger case for the prosecution.
Many of the dishes here would make fantastic weeknight dinners from families with relatively open minds. Why would anyone bother with an Old El Paso dinner in a box (everything is included! All you need to buy is chicken breast! And an onion! And two bell peppers! And a jar of our branded guacamole!) when the same money and effort will put Pons’ stunning Pork in Green Sauce with Potatoes on the table?
Killer recipes: Chilaquiles, Pollo al Curry, Chicken in Adobo, Pork Chops in Spicy Tomato and Poblano Sauce, Mexican Bread Pudding
Should I buy it? Mamacita isn’t a perfect book. You sort of suspect that being self-published, and then picked up by Princeton Architectural Press (who, unsurprisingly given their name, have limited experience with cookbooks) might explain a few of the simple missing elements that another cookbook wouldn’t have skipped over. But these are relatively small qualms – this is bright and positive food, beautifully written about and passionately presented.
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book: Mamacita by Andrea Pons
£21.99, Princeton Architectural Press
Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas