by Diana Viola
Quite simply, Foods of the Americas
is a magnificent book. Whether you would like fresh new recipes, a deeper
understanding of the foodstuffs that the new world gave to the old,
an insight into Native American culture, or simply the pleasure of looking
at a beautiful book, Foods of the Americas belongs in your library.
It is rewarding in every aspect.
There is no separation between food
and culture to the Native American. The two are fused into a harmonious
whole. Every page of Foods of the Americas reflects this awareness.
With a profound respect for the native peoples of all the Americas -North,
Central and South- the authors, Fernando and Marlene Divina, have created
a book that seamlessly blends culture and food. The recipes are contemporary
and exciting, but are rooted in centuries of tradition. Presenting food
and culture from Peru to Oaxaca, across the Southwest US, to the Great
Lakes and Canada, the scope is wide and satisfying.
Stating that "we honor those
who came before us and recognize the contributions of all indigenous
people to our American cuisine," the authors have created modern
recipes that acknowledge the past, rather than imitate it. Working with
the staple foodstuffs of the Americas -salmon, squashes, berries, acorns,
quinoa, wild rice, tomatoes, chocolate, and corn- they have brought
tradition into the contemporary kitchen. There's a Great Lakes Pike
with Maple Glaze, a variation on a dish of the Dakota people, Corn and
Chayote Relish, inspired by the Mayan people in Mexico, an Imu-style
Salmon. Two recipes for Ceviche stand together, one made by the Peruvians,
the other by the Ecuadorians. There is a recipe for wild grape dumplings,
a favorite of the Cherokee and Choctaw, now made with Concord grapes.
Each of the nine chapters is enhanced
by a short essay by a Native American writer whose memories connect
present and past, illustrating the cultural connection to food. The
essays range from "Corn is Life" which describes Hopi ceremonies
centering on 'mother' and 'father' corn, to an essay that reminisces
about gathering molasses with the Anishinabe people of Quebec. Foods
of the Americas is illustrated with food photographs by Maren Caruso,
as well as with images from the Smithsonian's vast collections. There
is a glossary of terms and a list of sources for top quality ingredients.
authors: Fernando Divina has been the executive
chef at several acclaimed restaurants. Marlene Divina created and wrote
her own children's column,and has written non-fiction food related articles
for magazines and the Internet. She is enrolled in the Little Shell
Tribe of Chippewa of Montana, and is also of Cree and Assiniboine descent.
Fernando and Marlene own Divina Restaurant Concepts, which provides
restaurant planning services. They live in Arizona.