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We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.
Today: We talk to cookbook author, TV personality, and Food52 Guest Editor Pati Jinich about Mexican food, career changes, and one of the hardest questions she'll ever answer. And luckily for you, we're giving away 3 copies of her new book!
Pati Jinich loves Mexican cooking (and food, and culture) so much that it sort of explodes out of her, and your only option is to absorb what she has to teach you and share in the joy. As this week's guest editor, Pati has been sharing recipes from her new book that translate authentic Mexican flavors into dishes that are accessible -- and useful -- to any home cook. And she delivers everything with zeal and humor -- just look at the way she avoids choosing between salsa and guacamole.
You were born and raised in Mexico -- what foods do you remember most vividly from your childhood?
Two things stand out: first, ripe and juicy fruta fresca, fresh fruit from each different season, sprinkled with ground dried chile piquín and salt, then drizzled with freshly squeezed lime juice. Second is pan dulce -- all the varieties of Mexican sweet rolls -- especially conchas, which my nana used to slice in half and stuff with refried beans and queso Oaxaca. I have a weakness for contrasting salty-sweet combinations!
What's the first thing you eat there once you arrive?
I always arrive very late at night. If I sleep at my mom’s, it's red pozole; if I sleep at my in-laws', it's green salsa enchiladas. The moment I am on the street the very next day, I do all I can to make it to Chiandoni, an old-fashioned heladería or ice cream shop that my late grandfather used to take me to, for the best ever Hot Fudge Sundae.
You started your career in politics -- when did you know that you wanted to work in food?
When I was asked to write a report on the differences between the democratic transitions in Peru and Mexico, and I couldn’t help myself from researching and writing about both countries' history with ceviches, I had the urge to taste my research and to share it on a bountiful table where communication is always easier -- sometimes without even the use of a word.
I still pinch myself now, after so many years, for having been able to take that leap of faith. In a way, I am thankful that I was ignorant about all the obstacles that lay in front of me or I may have not jumped from a stable position in the policy world. My husband had insisted for many years; but I was skeptical, and stubborn, and wondered if he just wanted to have a wife who spent most of her time in the kitchen.
More: Get Pati's step-by-step recipe for Cooked Salsa Verde. You'll want to put it on everything.
In your book, you talk about embracing Spanglish life. In what ways do you combine your Mexican roots and your life in America? How does this come out in your home cooking?
I have three boys that were born in the US and we have lived here for almost 15 years. I’ve learned to adapt to the American schedule while cooking foods that nurtured me growing up. I’ve found ways to streamline without compromising the soul -- the essence, flavor, and depth -- of my favorite Mexican dishes. At the same time, I’ve had the freedom to play with the Mexican ingredients that I know and love, respectfully, in new ways.
If you were forced to choose a lifetime without salsa or a lifetime without guacamole, which would you go for?
You're killing me here. That was a tricky question, so I will give you a tricky answer: no lifetime without salsa. Salsas are so big in any Mexican kitchen (wherever in the world it may be located) that they are like oxygen. Salsas flow through the veins of any proud Mexican. So huge are salsas that we have turned the word salsa into a verb: salsear (we add salsas) todo (to everything in any possible way). I would do without guacamole as long as I have ripe avocado to slice on things or whizz into a tomatillo avocado salsa (Ha!).
We're giving away 3 copies of Pati's Mexican Table! To enter, tell us in the comments: do you choose a lifetime of salsa, or a lifetime of guacamole? We'll pick the lucky winners this Friday, July 5th at 4 PM EST.