Decolonize Your Diet: Chicana’s take back the kitchen.

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What I love so much about Luz Calvo & Catriona Rueda Esquibel’s new cookbook “Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing” is that it does not shy away from the politics of food.

The cookbook begins with a love story. Luz and Catriona fell in love. Luz was diagnosed with breast cancer. As college professors, they did what they do best – research. The two began to investigate ways to heal the body and they found the best way to do so was through the eradication of toxic foods.

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“Our project was born out of both struggle and love, both personal and political…[it] begins with the premise that we are living with the legacy of over 500 years of colonization in the Americas (15).” The cookbook asserts that the best way to take control of your body and your life is by decolonizing your diet. The introduction lays out their philosophy thoroughly: that the personal – what we put into our mouths – is political and related to what goes on in the economic food system. “We need to find ways to truly value the labor that goes into all aspects of food preparation: growing, gathering, raising, distributing, and cooking food as well as the labor of keeping the kitchen clean and well-stocked (34).”

The cookbook feels like the fruit of third-wave and Chicana feminism, with quotes from Anzaldua’s Borderlands philosophy. Their belief that less processed food is healthier is something that fellow food philosophers have been suggesting for a while now. In “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” food writer Michael Pollan describes that bread – a simple food staple that has been cooked from scratch for hundreds of years – has been so processed that bread from the store often lacks a lot of the nutrients it once provided. Margarita Carrillo Arronte, chef and author of Mexico: A Cookbook, has noted that the unhealthy method of frying foods wasn’t even used by the indigenous Americans until it was introduced by the Spanish. (See: A Taste of the Past, Episode 186 – Mexico’s Culinary Heritage).

If you are interested in learning more about the philosophy behind Luz & Catriona’s cookbook, I suggest listening to the Bite interview they did about the cookbook. The recipes in the book itself are pretty simple and straightforward. The biggest challenge is in finding the suggested ingredients. The authors suggest perusing Mexican grocery stores for most of the ingredients, but if you live in a place that doesn’t have a lot of diversity in it’s grocery options then this could get difficult. Not only that, but if you weren’t exposed to things like nopales and hibiscus flowers in your household, these ingredients might seem very foreign. As someone who has eaten these but never worked with them myself, I am excited to finally become more familiar.

Right now, I am trying to decide which of the following recipes to try out first:

  • Ceviche de Coliflor (Cauliflower Ceviche)
  • New Mexico Green Chile Stew
  • Chicana Power Chili Beans
  • Portobello Fajitas
  • Hibiscus Flower Tacos

Let me know which one you think I should try in the comments!


What to read next?

Deciding what to read next is always one of the biggest challenges for me. Between what I have on my bookshelves (always more books unread than read) and what is available to me on library bookshelves and audio book libraries, I become annoyingly indecisive.

So maybe it is easiest to let my blog readers decide. Based on what I have on my bookshelf right now, here are the fiction novels I am looking forward to reading most. Let me know what you think I should read next.

Reading Inspiration 7.31.16

“Take a good book to bed with you – books do not snore.” – Thea Dorn

Publisher’s weekly has released their list of books to look out for this fall. A few I am excited about:

  • Zadie Smith’s Swing Time
  • Modified: GMO’s and the Threat to Our Food, Our Land, Our Future by Caitlin Shetterly
  • They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of #BlackLivesMatter by Wesley Lowery
  • Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson
  • IQ by Joe Ide

James Alan McPherson, the first black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, died this week. Read more about his personal journey as an author here.

A beautiful excerpt from Andrés Neuman’s essay collection about traveling through Latin America “How to Travel Without Seeing.”




The year in reading so far: Highlights and low points.

The best books I have read in 2016 so far…


Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. (Overdrive Audiobook). I’ve had a bit of a woman crush on Cheryl Strayed since I read “Wild” (side note: the movie did NOT do the book justice). I think she is one of the best white woman authors out there right now. Her voice is absolutely humanizing and beautiful. I am not generally one to seek out advice columns, but if she is the one doling out advice then I can make an exception. And if she ever wants to run an inclusiveness workshop with me, I am so in.

{E04CAB6D-D4B9-4C46-8385-057612C72299}Img400Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, The Sleep You’re Missing, The Sex You’re Not Having, And What’s Really Making You Crazy by Julie Holland M.D. (Overdrive Audiobook). This was very informative. Holland is well-versed in the world of pharmaceuticals and she does not shy away from telling you the truth about the conspiracies behind your over-prescribed meds. As a psychiatrist, she discusses how women are still very much second class citizens when it comes to the world of medicine: our pain is much less likely to be taken seriously and we are much more likely to be put on anti-depressants. The book was centered around the idea that most ailments can be healed through changes in diet, exercise, sleep habits, and stress management. (And a positive sex life, of course.)

22295304Young Adult:

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. (Overdrive Audiobook). I wish I had come across this book when I was a teenager. I loved everything about this novel. I loved that it wasn’t about a girl who was crushing on a boy (okay, so she was interested in a boy, but that wasn’t the main plot line, okay?). I loved that it was about a young boricua figuring out how to maneuver her culture and the secret histories that have been passed along to her. I loved that it was about oppression and art and religious expression. And I loved that the villain was an “evil” white professor trying to appropriate Latino culture. So much yes. This is the only book by Older that I have read so far, but can’t wait to pick up another one.

Historical Fiction:

Comfort Woman by Nora Okja Keller. This book came out in ’97, it was Keller’s debut novel and I thought it was beautifully done. It focuses on a Korean mother-daughter relationship and also grapples with the experience of being a comfort woman during Japan’s invasion of Korea during WWII. The story is so haunting and well written that you won’t be able to put it down. I will be adding this one to my soon-to-be-compiled list of best books by Women of Color.

Books I was supposed to read in college but just now finally got around to:

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep – a classic. It was a decent read, especially if you are looking to explore the origins of noir fiction. Lots of rain and cigarettes and long-legged women. (Overdrive Audiobook).

Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem – I loved this book. Didion nails the eccentricities of Californian’s right on the head. She is a Sacramento native though, so I expected no less.

brownsvilleShort Story collection:

Brownsville by Oscar Casares. All of these stories are set in the Texas border town that provides it’s namesake. Casares deals a lot with gender roles within the Mexican American family in this collection, and it didn’t feel one-sided. I thought it was very masterfully done.



41sTyJP03JL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. For some reason, I have yet to read a book that I liked by a white female author who went to law school and then decided to be writer. Susan Cain turned being shy, a defining aspect of her personality that she has struggled with over the course of her law career, into a 352-page novel. Most of us could probably get away with writing an essay or two on shyness and wipe our hands of the issue. But no, Cain thought the topic deserved a whole book. The chapter that made me wince he most though, was the mildly racist, very ethnocentric chapter on Asian cultural “quietness” and how they benefit from this cultural “eccentricity.” As a fellow introvert, I just don’t see why she treats being reserved in a loud culture like it is some kind of trauma. I also had trouble with Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.” This book was a little more useful – it at least had practical tips as to how to formulate productive habits (Lord knows, I needed this). But even so, how is it that a publisher thought it was a great idea to contribute to the vast number of self-help books piling up in the dark corners of bookstores. But then, I picked this book up, didn’t I? So who am I to speak.

Wally Lamb’s We Are Water. (Overdrive Audiobook). I read She’s Come Undone back in high school based on a teacher’s recommendation, hated it, and told myself I would never revisit a Wally Lamb book ever again. But this year I decided that maybe I shouldn’t trust the judgment of my 15-year-old self. So I gave it another go. To be fair, I thought this novel was okay. I particularly liked the character of Annie Oh – she was thorny and problematic in all the ways well-written female characters should be. Many of the characters were well done, like her ex-husband Orion who has that fatal male character flaw of always trying to be the hero in every situation. But I had a really hard time digesting the pedophile perspective of older cousin Kent. I’m sure Lamb was was striving to make his readers uncomfortable. However, I’m not sure what the intent was behind making  parallels between Kent’s death (persecution?) and the death of a black male killed at the hands of a Klan member in the 1950’s. If it was intentional to compare the injustice done to black American’s in the pre-Civil Rights era with the modern day punishment of pedophiles, then I’m not sure I can get with that.