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Coconuts & Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South

Coconuts & Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South


Von Diaz
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by Von Diaz

A remarkable cookbook and memoir

Adapted from Matt’s discussion of this book for Food52’s Piglet contest:

Von Diaz was born in Puerto Rico and spent her early life there before her family moved to Georgia, trading “plantains, roast pork, and Malta for grits, fried chicken, and sweet tea.” Her affection for her mother and grandmother, and the food they made, is clear—sometimes poignant. She doesn’t always seek to replicate their food, or that of the good Southern cooks she met growing up. Instead, she notes that “with history and culture as your guides, the path to creating delicious foods…can reveal connections to your past and to others that you wouldn’t otherwise see.”

People who love cookbooks often say something along these lines: “If I can find just one recipe I like in a cookbook, then the book is worth having.” I found that recipe in Asopao de Pollo, a dish that Diaz says is inspired by her mother—a hardworking woman who was often forced to be thrifty. The dish is a chicken and rice soup, with a little tomato, some sofrito and fresh herbs, chicken breasts, (theoretically optional) peas, capers, more olives, and sliced avocado.

The rice had given the soup a comforting body; the herbal notes made me think of spring; and the chicken was tender and had absorbed just enough seasoning to taste like it was part of the soup, but still chickeny. And I knew that the next time I stopped in the grocery store on the way home, without having planned what to make for dinner, I could remember this soup and have it on the table not long after. That’s the kind of recipe I enjoy, one that makes me recommend a book eagerly.

Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.

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