‘Tell me where you came from and I’ll tell you where you’re going’ is an old Spanish saying. Chef Jose Garces has taken that challenge personally in his excellent new book, The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru, an illuminating and detailed walk through his greatest culinary influences to date. As he travels through his personal and professional past, his wonderment and appreciation for each country and its qualities become infectious.
The book is divided into five sections: Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico and Peru. Each section contains four family menus, each named after the dish’s city of origin, as well as a few essentials for each country. The fourth menu in each chapter is more extensive, serving eight people and including several courses, a dessert, and a drink. A chef to his core, Garces also includes a "basics" chapter, which provides a refresher for the expert and a solid introduction for the novice on how to execute fundamental tasks; similarly, the book ends with a "sources" index.
Because Garces recognizes that any country’s cuisine is tied to its history, every chapter opens with an encyclopedic overview of the region, though the descriptions have a literary touch. Population, ethnic breakdowns, and food and agricultural summaries along with a historical timeline set the scene, which is highlighted by beautiful pictures of rarely seen landscapes and traditional dishes.
Gastronomical highlights of his journey include: from Ecuador, Fanesca (Salt Cod and Legume Chowder) and Enocado de Pescado (Citrus Marinade Halibut and Calamari in Coconut Broth); from Spain, Arroz a la Cazuela and a Pintxo Bar Menu (Tapas); from Cuba, Sopa de Calabaza con Cangrejo (Roasted Squash Soup with Crab and Zucchini) and how to make the perfect shot of Cuban coffee; and from Mexico, the Pescado a la Veracruzano (Red Snapper in Tomato Sauce) and Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña (Grilled Skirt Steak).
Garces hopes to encourage his readers to take a gastrotour from their table, to see the world through his eyes, to taste the food with his palate, and to meet the people with his warmth and generosity. By giving us so much information, we are able to trace how food across Latin America and Spain is in a conversation we’d be remiss to miss out on. The Latin Road Home weaves together charming family stories, succinct culinary instructions, and regional history, giving us a genuinely intimate and comprehensive take on Latin food. Garces promises this is just the beginning, and he has certainly piqued our appetite.
Here, Garces shares two recipes from The Latin Road Home.