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Book Review: Foods of the Americas, Native Recipes and Traditions

One of the most interesting museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Ten Speed Press, in association with the museum has published a cookbook written by Fernando and Marlene Divina that celebrates the native ingredients of the Americas. Foods of the Americas, Native Recipes and Traditions highlights over 100 recipes featuring corn, potatoes, chile, berries, wild rice, and other iconic new world ingredients. In addition to the recipes, the Divinas’ have included a wealth of information on the history of such ingredients, the dishes created from them, and the people who have enjoyed them for centuries. The cookbook also features full color photography of recipes, ingredients, and historical vignettes.

I have made the tomatillo salsa, guacamole, tamales, and the empadas (South American version of empanadas) featured in Foods of the Americas. Everything was quite enjoyable, although it was my preference to add more seasonings to the empadas than the recipe called for in order to bring out the best flavor.

There’s a little bit of something new for everyone in this cookbook. If you’ve grown up in the American southwest for example, you might find the recipes that arose from the Pueblo and Navajo to be common to your childhood, but you’ve probably never been exposed to the culinary traditions of the Cherokee, Algonquin, Multnomah, or Chippewa. Likewise, if you’re from New England, Oneida cuisine might be pedestrian to you but what about the food of the Utes or Coos?

Foods of the Americas is a worthwhile addition to your cookbook collection. You can pick it up at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian or order it directly from Amazon.com.

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