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.
“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!