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Encarnacion's Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California

Encarnacion's Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California

by Encarnacion Pinedo, Dan Strehl (Translator), Victor Valle (Essay By)

In 1991 Ruth Reichl, then a Los Angeles Times food writer, observed that much of the style now identified with California cuisine, and with nouvelle cuisine du Mexique, was practiced by Encarnación Pinedo a century earlier. A landmark of American cuisine first published in 1898 as El cocinero español (The Spanish Cook), Encarnación's


In 1991 Ruth Reichl, then a Los Angeles Times food writer, observed that much of the style now identified with California cuisine, and with nouvelle cuisine du Mexique, was practiced by Encarnación Pinedo a century earlier. A landmark of American cuisine first published in 1898 as El cocinero español (The Spanish Cook), Encarnación's Kitchen is the first cookbook written by a Hispanic in the United States, as well as the first recording of Californio food—Mexican cuisine prepared by the Spanish-speaking peoples born in California. Pinedo's cookbook offers a fascinating look into the kitchens of a long-ago culture that continues to exert its influence today.

Of some three hundred of Pinedo's recipes included here—a mixture of Basque, Spanish, and Mexican—many are variations on traditional dishes, such as chilaquiles, chiles rellenos, and salsa (for which the cook provides fifteen versions). Whether describing how to prepare cod or ham and eggs (a typical Anglo dish labeled "huevos hipócritas"), Pinedo was imparting invaluable lessons in culinary history and Latino culture along with her piquant directions.
In addition to his lively, clear translation, Dan Strehl offers a remarkable view of Pinedo's family history and of the material and literary culture of early California cooking. Prize-winning journalist Victor Valle puts Pinedo's work into the context of Hispanic women's testimonios of the nineteenth century, explaining how the book is a deliberate act of cultural transmission from a traditionally voiceless group.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Under the guidance of Strehl, a writer (One Hundred Books on California Food and Wine) and a librarian at the Los Angeles Public library, Pinedo's classic El cocinero espanol (The Spanish Cook), first published in 1898, finds a modern audience. The first cookbook written by a Hispanic in the United States, it succeeds on two levels. First, it presents many sophisticated and mouthwatering recipes. In Pinedo's time, Mexican cooking was a celebration of Spanish and other gourmet cookery, not humble food. While the measurements are not as precise as those found in today's cookbooks, the recipes seem both workable and intriguing. Second, the book allows a glimpse at a proud woman whose culture was trampled by Anglo settlers. Readers will sense the place and the role of a woman-and an unmarried one at that-in a 19th-century kitchen, but, more important, they should gain a clear picture of how the Mexican populace in California clung fast to its heritage. While this may make for more learned reading than for easy cooking, this volume deserves inclusion in both academic and large public library culinary history collections, especially in California.-Peter Hepburn, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

University of California Press
Publication date:
California Studies in Food and Culture Series
Edition description:
First Edition, Selections from Encarnacion Pinedo's El cocinero espanol
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

Encarnacion's Kitchen

Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California
By Encarnacion Kitchen

The University of California Press

Copyright © 2003 Regents of the University of California
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-520-24676-4

Chapter One

A Curse of Tea and Potatoes

The Life and Recipes of Encarnacion Pinedo

Victor Valle

There is nothing new in saying that cookbooks are read in bed or the garden as often as they are read inside the kitchen, for motives that have nothing to do with cooking. List all the cookbooks that have made the link between childhood memories and unsatisfied adult hunger, and you have filled a library with culinary nostalgia. But what about a recipe book that is intended to settle old scores, or one that is intended to protect its user from disappearing and doubles as a disguise from mortal enemies?

That, among other things, is what Encarnacion Pinedo serves forth in El cocinero espanol (The Spanish Cook), a work of obvious importance for culinary historians. Published in 1898 in San Francisco, it is California's first, and clearly most extensive, Spanish-language cookbook. Anyone who reads Spanish and is lucky enough to get a copy of the thousand-recipe collection-you can find a copy in the Los Angeles Central Public Library-will discover a seminal text of Southwestern cuisine. Pinedo's Cocinero documents thestart of California's love affair with fruits and vegetables, fresh edible flowers and herbs, aggressive spicing, and grilling over native wood fires. Her book also gives us California's first major collection of Mexican recipes, reason enough, it would seem, to translate and republish Pinedo's recipes. But recent scholarship suggests that she wrote more than just a memorable cookbook.

Pinedo and her book stand out in a time and place where men dominated the world of letters, and those letters were published in English. She was among that handful of nineteenth-century Latinas who published their works in the period following the conquest of Alta California. Moreover, Pinedo wrote exceptionally well, read and wrote in at least two languages, and received some formal education. Her literacy and education clearly mark Pinedo as a member of California's cultural elite.

A recent study by Rosaura Sanchez allows us to appreciate Pinedo's unique status. In her rereading of the nineteenth-century Californio testimonies collected by historian Hubert Howe Bancroft, Sanchez argues that his comprehensive history of California silences Mexican women in several ways. First, Bancroft allows the testimonies and histories written by Mexican, European, and American men to define Mexican female identity. The American and European writers, for example, typically stressed the beauty and subservience of the Californio women, and the indolence and effeminate character of the Californio men, in order to justify taking "possession of both land and women." Second, Bancroft and his collaborators collected fewer testimonies from female Californios. Third, although he utilized parts of their testimonies, he rarely identified them as sources. The silences he created gave him the liberty to fragment and reassemble their accounts in ways that suited his apologies for Manifest Destiny. These silences also hid the individual voices of his informants. We know now that the female informants Bancroft's collaborators interviewed did not speak with one voice, but instead interpreted the conquest from different and sometimes conflicting political and social perspectives. At moments, their testimonies challenged the idea that Anglo conquest represented progress, and at other moments acquiesced to the new order. Bancroft's glosses, however, effectively suppressed the complexity of the female Californio testimonies for more than a century.

Pinedo's Cocinero, meanwhile, fell into obscurity despite her best wishes. In the Cocinero's introduction, she addresses her subscribers, a clear indication of her efforts to defray the cost of publication. Like other nineteenth-century authors, Pinedo had sought advance sales of her book to demonstrate its sales potential to her printer, a Mr. E.C. Hughes. Judging from his publishing record, Hughes did not run a vanity press. The steam-driven press he operated in his shop published government and technical manuals, corporate bylaws, travel guides, commemorative speeches by visiting diplomats, and an occasional literary work. Nevertheless, Pinedo's book suffered the fate of others written in a recently conquered language.

As a result, El cocinero and other seminal Californio texts languished in private libraries, while the life stories of other nineteenth-century Latinas collected dust in Bancroft's folios. For decades, few scholars thought to call upon these women as historical witnesses of the conquest and its aftermath. Instead, they preferred images of beautiful senoritas as objects of description. In recent decades, however, scholars from a number of disciplines have unearthed these nineteenth-century texts in an effort to reconstruct their voices. These efforts have yielded important cultural texts.

Published in 1885 in San Francisco, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton's novel, The Squatter and the Don, would be the first to retell California's conquest from a Mexican perspective. Written in English, her historical romance revisits the past in order to question "the 'American way' as a just, democratic and liberating system." Ruiz de Burton also subverted the negative Mexican stereotypes circulated by the Anglo press of her day. She created Mexican characters-though economically and politically subordinate-that were culturally and intellectually superior to their Yankee counterparts. Pinedo's Cocinero, which was published in the same city fourteen years later, appears to have nothing in common with Ruiz de Burton's novel. It does not narrate a history; it does not create an imaginary world, or redress wrongs. It does not appear to be any more than it is-a book filled with culinary instructions, or so it would seem.

Scholars from various disciplines have now begun to read memoirs, letters, personal testimonies, and even cookbooks as literary texts rich in cultural meanings. Pinedo's Cocinero is simultaneously a book of recipes and identities. She shows us how her family dined, and how she reimagined her identity during a period of violent upheaval. By listing the ingredients of family recipes, she invoked the ghosts of a culture that was fast disappearing. By explaining how these ingredients were combined, she reconnected the fragments of her life, her individuality, and sense of feminine self-worth in a present filled with uncertainty. Pinedo's recipes can thus be read as testaments of hunger. She hungered for culinary and cultural continuity in a time of upheaval. Yet sating her special appetites depended upon her creative powers of memory and imagination. Through such an exertion of memory, she recalled the recipes of her childhood. The recipes she recorded summoned her past to the table. Once published, the recipes fixed her formulas for invoking that past, especially for family and friends who had not lived the glory of the ranchos. Pinedo, a custodian of memory, thus emerges as a precursor of such Latina memory artists as Denise Chavez, Maria Helena Viramontes, and Sandra Cisneros.

As with her literary descendants, however, her act of remembering was fraught with ambiguities and contradictions. Dead worlds revived by memory are not replicas of the past. They are interpretations riddled with gaps; the survivors fill in these gaps with their own inventions. These inventions of a past recreated in the present reveal much about the author's desires. The title of El cocinero espanol also betrays the author's desires. In her cookbook, she elected to bring aspects of her past to the foreground, while pushing others to the background.

Before Anglo conquest, Pinedo's ancestors had used the label of gente de razon (people of reason) to stress their status as Catholic settlers, and to downplay their mestizo ambiguities. Among the racially mixed population of settlers, culture, religion, wealth, and regional loyalty counted more than skin color alone as social descriptors. Like other settlers in the borderlands, Pinedo's ancestors did not want to be confused with heathen indios. And by calling themselves Californios they stressed their local loyalties and their distance from the administrative centers of Guadalajara and Mexico City. But after conquest, Lisbeth Haas argues,

That comparatively ample tolerance for color difference was not shared by the Anglo population, which had generally accepted a set of ideas about "white" racial superiority just prior to the Mexican War of 1846. After 1900, difference in terms of skin color superceded all other distinctions, and it became harder for Californios to negotiate a favorable status.

While the new Anglo majority invariably racialized poor Californios by labeling them "Mexicans," some elite Californios insisted on calling themselves Spanish. Some chose this label because they believed it. Some elite Californios had fashioned their Spanish cultural identities before the Yankees arrived, while others deployed the label to pass as second-class whites. Some Anglos were inclined to accept the ranchero elite as honorary whites, and ignore antimiscegenation laws, if doing so brought them land, money, or higher social status. European Americans "were not oblivious to the advantages of marrying into wealthy ranchero families," writes historian Tomas Almaguer. "With eligible white women being scarce in the territory, fair complexioned, upper-class Mexican women were among the most valued marriage partners available." Few Californio women could have matched the social prestige of the women in Pinedo's family tree. Not surprisingly, many of the women of Pinedo's generation and social station used their family names and reputations, real or embellished, to marry into the new Anglo elite. As Pinedo's family history reveals, a woman's decision to marry the conqueror often provoked a sense of bitterness, disappointment, and betrayal among her immediate relations.

On June 28, 1846, at San Rafael in the northern borderlands of Alta California, a group of Bear Flag rebels led by Kit Carson noticed a small boat in which a pair of teenage boys rowed an older gentleman toward shore. Jose de los Reyes Berreyesa, one of California's wealthiest ranchers, had just crossed San Francisco Bay with his two nephews, Francisco and Ramon de Haro. He had traveled north from San Jose to find his son, who, at that moment, was jailed in Sonoma for allegedly conspiring against the rebels, an allegation that was later proved false. Carson intercepted the party, suspecting them of spying. He had been instructed by Major John C. Fremont to take no prisoners, an order he interpreted with perverse literalness. Carson gave the signal to fire. Some accounts report that Carson's men fired upon Francisco and Ramon as they rowed to shore. The Berreyesa descendants, however, say the men executed don Jose's nephews after they had disembarked. Both accounts agree that the sixty-one-year-old don Jose then flung himself over the bodies of the young boys, asking Carson's men why they had not taken his life instead. They promptly obliged don Jose's request.

Eight years later, in a bid to take control of the New Almaden Mine-a fabulously rich mercury deposit that soon proved invaluable in refining the Gold Rush ore-a gang of hooded men lynched Nemesio Berreyesa, don Jose's son. By 1856, Yankee miners and vigilantes had lynched or shot eight Berreyesa men, including the brother, named Encarnacion, of Pinedo's mother, Maria del Carmen Berreyesa. Crooked lawyers and squatters also beset the family's 160,000 acres of Santa Clara Valley land. And so it went until this family, once one of the most land-rich among Californio families, lost everything. Broke and mired in litigation, the seventy-member clan had no choice but to beg the San Jose town government for a small plot on which to build new homes. The family blamed treacherous Yankee lawyers, freebooters, and squatters for robbing and murdering them, and the Mexican government for failing to protect their vast holdings. To other disillusioned Californios, the Berreyesa tragedy came to symbolize the measure of their collective defeat.

For Encarnacion Pinedo, that decade must have seemed a nether world in which a dying past coexisted with a hostile future. Pinedo, the daughter of Maria del Carmen Berreyesa, was born May 21, 1848, a year before the second onslaught of Yankee miners into California. She lived close enough to her past to invoke its presence, and long enough to see its decline. At age fifty, a spinster living upon her married sister's generosity, she preserved her family's recipes even as the world to which they belonged was ending. She began her book with a dedication to her nieces: "So that you may always remember the value of a woman's work, ... study this volume's contents." Her dedication does not mention that her nieces married Anglo men. The omission disguises the dual nature of her gift: the recipes would not only contribute to their domestic happiness, but her descendants would also use these formulas to transmit the Californio half of their newly hybridized cultural identities to another generation.

Pinedo builds her bridge to the past without mentioning her family's persecution and material losses. I believe her evasions have a strategic function. In an article written in 1901 for Santa Clara's Sunday Bulletin, she relates her family's role in developing the New Almaden Mine, but without mentioning Nemesio's lynching. She merely notes that "the Government of the United States took possession of the mine," a version of events that neither asserts nor contradicts her family's claims. Years later, the Berreyesa family accused Major Fremont of ordering their uncle's murder. They insisted that the men he commanded had killed Nemesio to force Nemesio's wife into selling their ranch.

One of the last surviving members of the Berreyesa clan said she understood Pinedo's silences. Naomi Berreyesa, who was ninety-two years old when I interviewed her, said her family feared their tormentors. "My great-grandfather was afraid his family was going to get it next. That's why he said to his family, 'Let's go back to Mexico.' Even to this day, we have been treated like criminals," she said, referring to her fruitless efforts to persuade the government to acknowledge the legality of her family's land claims. "You wonder why my blood boils over. There are still family members who feel this way."

And felt that way in Pinedo's day as well, judging by Maria del Carmen's order forbidding her daughters to talk to Gringos, whom she still blamed for killing Pinedo's grandfather and uncles. Yet Pinedo would see her sister and six of her nieces defy her mother's wishes and marry Yankee men. Surely, Pinedo sensed the disappointment and betrayal these marriages provoked in the elder Berreyesas. Surely, her mother and relatives reminded her that she bore the name of an uncle lynched by the Yankees. Her aunt Engracia, for example, refused to forgive Carson's men for killing her father. This is how she recounted the story of Jose's murder to a reporter: "When my mother heard the news of my father's death she fainted.... The Gringos were a bloodless people. They lived on tea and potatoes." Tellingly, Engracia used a culinary insult to denounce those whom she believed to be as soulless as their cooking.

Pinedo echoes her aunt's disdain for Yankee cooking, but with more refinement and with a flair for condescension. In the Cocinero's introduction, Pinedo casts Latinized Catholics, not Protestant Yankees, in the leading culinary roles. She conveys this idea by foregrounding her recipes with a culinary history that begins in classical antiquity, implicitly claiming Lucullus and Apicius as her culinary forerunners. She also notes the debt French cooks owed to Italian cuisine, and the superiority of French culinary technique above all others. Pinedo, in other words, by presenting her recipes as a continuation of a classic tradition, places her cuisine in the culinary mainstream, which for her was Catholic Europe. Pinedo stressed her Catholicity as her ancestors had. She belonged to la gente de razon. Then she turns a scornful eye upon the English:

The English have advanced the art a bit, enough that several of its writers have published on the subject: a Mr. Pegge in 1390, Sir J. Elliot in 1539, Abraham Veale in 1575, and Widovas Treasure in 1625. Despite all this, there is not a single Englishman who can cook, as their foods and style of seasoning are the most insipid and tasteless that one can imagine.


Excerpted from Encarnacion's Kitchen by Encarnacion Kitchen Copyright © 2003 by Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dan Strehl, Manager of the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, is the author of The Spanish Cook (1992) and One Hundred Books on California Food and Wine (1990). Victor Valle is Director of the American Communities Program at Cal State
Univerisity Los Angeles, Professor of Ethnic Studies at California Polytechnic
State University, coauthor of Recipe of Memory (1995), and a member of a Los Angeles Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Chicano community in Los Angeles.

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