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Abuéla Encarnación's El Cocinero Español #FoodieReads

Back in 2011 - when R was in fourth grade - I chaperoned his field trip to the Cooper Molera Adobe in downtown Monterey. I know that all California fourth graders study the state history, but I have always appreciated hands on learning. It was so neat to see these kids do all of these things...

Making Rope


Churning Butter

Grinding Corn

Pressing Tortillas

and Branding Leather

When we went into the adobe gift shop at the end of the trip, R found a cookbook - Encarnación's Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California, Selections from Encarnación Pinedo's El cocinero español* - and asked if I would get it for him. Of course I did. And we used it as inspiration for our very non-traditional Californio Thanksgiving dinner that year.

I found the book fascinating. First, she was a rarity. Not only was she a published female writer in the 1800s, but she wrote in both English and Spanish. So she was clearly a member of California's cultural elite who hailed from Spain but was adapting to Mexican and Yankee influences in her household. 

And, second, the way she writes her recipes displays a depth of knowledge of ingredients and cooking techniques. She includes very few measurements and just the most bare descriptions of how to make the dishes. It's as if you're learning from your grandmother, Abuéla Encarnación's.

Here's are some examples...

"Chiles verdes rellenos con queso: Slice the cheese not too thin and stuff the chiles; roll them in egg and fry them (pg. 123)."

"Adobo de rango: Make it with salt, vinegar, chopped savory, marjoram, garlic, wine, and all the spices (pg. 149)."

"Jiricaya de nuez: Sweeten two soup cups of milk and add eight egg yolks and fifteen well-ground walnuts. Strain it all, and cook the cream (pg. 176)."

In any case, I was reminded of this book when I pulled if off my shelf for inspiration in an upcoming enchilada event for Cinco de Mayo. I'm not sure how I'll use her recipes, but I like the first line of her enchiladas section: "Make a red-chile sauce...(pg. 127)." Okay. I'll figure that one out! I just received this generous shipment of chiles for the event. Get ready for recipe testing with some loose inspiration from Encarnación.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in April 2018: here.


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