Autumn is a perfect time to hit the books. Especially if we’re talking about cookbooks! I’m Annette Tomei, and this is my sixth season of hosting the Kitchen Arts & Letters and 92nd Street Y cookbook group and I couldn’t be happier about it! Even better, I’m writing to you from a new location. After years of blogging about our group experiences on my site, Wander, Eat and Tell, I now have the opportunity to reach a greater audience here on the Kitchen Arts & Letters website – thanks Matt, for making this happen!
Each season we select four books based on a theme. Since much of my work is in culinary tourism, our themes often take deep dives into the cuisines of specific places. This year, much of my attention is focused on the foods and cultures of the Caribbean, Central, and South America. And when I dig deep into a subject, I love nothing more than to share my new-found passions with you!
So, in celebration of the diversity, history, and deliciousness of the foods of Central and South America and Spanish-speaking Caribbean, our theme this season is Savoring Latin America. That’s a lot to cover in four books. And I know we’ll barely scratch the surface. But I also know we’re going to have a great time trying!
How it Works
Cookbook group meets live on Zoom for four 90-minute sessions (7-8:30 pm Eastern). This season’s dates are Tuesdays: October 18, November 1, 15, and 29. As soon as you register, the first three books will ship to you (or you can visit the store in person). Book four is a new release that will ship as soon as it’s available.
By September 18 I’ll start sending menu “assignments”, pantry staple lists, and other fun information to the group and open the discussion before our first meeting even happens. Cook what you like from the list (or go rogue!), or just read the books at your leisure. Send me photos of your creations, send me questions, share your stories.
We have four exciting and diverse books to cook from this season, and I expect the conversations will get lively! We may even have some of our authors join us for Q&A during meetings – more on that soon!
There’s still plenty of time to register, have your four cookbooks shipped to you, and get cooking! Registration is through our friends at the 92nd Street Y – for more information click HERE.
about the books
The Latin American Cookbook by Virgilio Martínez
Spanning two continents, 20 countries, multiple languages, and countless culinary traditions, Latin America is a huge topic to take on. This book’s coverage of smaller countries whose cooking is not otherwise well documented in English is a big part of why it’s the first book we’ll work from this season.
Author Virgilio Martínez is the chef of Central, a much-celebrated restaurant in Lima, Peru. He is known for his focus on local ingredients and respect for food traditions and culture. This is evident throughout this 432-page book. Recipe notes include the country from which each is derived, their local names, typical styles of serving, and often tidbits of folklore and history.
(all registrants will get a signed copy!)
The Chilean Kitchen by Pilar Hernandez and Eileen Smith
Hernandez is a Chilean expat and award-winning blogger. Smith, a former New Yorker now living in Santiago. Together, they bring details of Chilean culinary culture to life. It’s the little things like, lentils, beans, and chickpeas are all eaten, but never mixed together in the same dish. Chileans very rarely eat food with their hands. And when it comes to a summery tomato and meat sauté called tomaticán, members of the same family are often divided!
Colombiana by Mariana Valasquez
Bogota-born Mariana Velasquez, a former restaurant cook and practicing food stylist, presents traditional and regional food and drink and revealing a distinctive culinary culture, with an emphasis on ingredients and techniques.
For those of us who have not travelled to Colombia, or dined at the home of Colombian friends, Colombianareveals fresh ways of combining and using ingredients that reflect the diversity of the distinct regions of this small country (Pacific, Amazonian, Andean, Orinoco, Caribbean, and Insular). We’re going to try to sample it all!
Diasporican by Illyanna Maisonet
This visual record of Puerto Rican food, ingredients, and techniques traces the island’s flavor traditions to the Taino, Spanish, African, and even United States' cultures that created it. Each dish is shaped by geography, immigration, and colonization, and reflects the ingenuity and diversity of their people. In it, the author shares how food connects family, history, conflict, and migration.
Author Illyanna Maisonet spent years documenting her family’s Puerto Rican recipes and preserving the island’s disappearing foodways through rigorous, often bilingual research. In Diasporican, she shares over 90 recipes, some of which were passed down from her own grandmother and mother.
This book is a new release and won’t be available to ship until approximately October 18.
the cooking part…
For each cookbook the club cooks from, I create a menu featuring a selection of recipes from the book in order to provide some structure for the prep and for our conversations. These are only suggestions, and many people experiment with whatever strikes their fancy. Here’s just a hint at the recipes we’ll chose from this season:
October Stew (Jopara kesu, Yopará – Argentina, Paraguay)
Bahian Chicken Stew
Uruguayan Fish Soup
Sweet Plantain Pudding
Hearty Winter Squash with Barley (Zapallo con Mote)
Turkey Soup with Cornmeal (Casuela de Pava con Chuchoco)
Smokey Lentils and Chorizo (Lentejas Ahumadas con Chorizo)
Potato Soup with Corn, Chicken, and Capers (Bogotánian Ajiáco)
Chocolate, Tamarind, and Cashew Tart
Bacalaitos (salt cod fritters)
Sancocho (Puerto Rican beef stew)
Picadillo (spiced ground beef)
Coquito (Puerto Rico’s elevated answer to eggnog – perfect time to put some down for the holidays!)
Can’t Join in Person?
I’ll be writing more about each of the four books and our experiences with them as the season progresses… Check back here on this blog for updates!
Want to Catch Up from the Beginning?
If you’re just joining us and would like to catch up on previous cookbooks from past seasons, you can catch up from the start HERE.