Mexico’s Early CookbooksMarch 8, 2019
This essay is published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History.
Summary and Keywords
During the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519–1521), gastronomic literature was alreadyprevalent in Europe, yet not so in Mexico. The use of the printing press in Mexico was limited to print and disseminate ecclesiastical and legal documents; it was not used for subjects as seemingly superfluous as recipes and food. This is not to say that food was not a source of fascination, or a means of social control.
Kitchen manuscripts written before Mexico became independent of Spain (between 1810 and 1821) show that there was an abundance of food writing before Independence, especially by nuns in colonial convent kitchens. However, the earliest printed cookbooks did not make their debut in Mexico until 1831, a decade after Independence.
Mexican cuisine can be examined beginning from the diaries of conquistadors and missionaries to colonial kitchen manuscripts to the cookbooks published afterIndependence through the Porfiriato (1876–1910) and Revolution (1910–1920). Reading between the lines of the recipes in these sources, one sees the shifting attitudes toward food, as it ceases to be a status marker and a divider of classes and becomes a tool for unifying the country.
Keywords: cookbooks, kitchen manuscripts, Mexican cookbooks, national identity, Porfirio Díaz, culinary history, women in the kitchen, Mexican Independence, Mexican Revolution, colonial cooking