The University of Texas at San Antonio is working to bring diverse perspectives on Mexican cuisine together for a global audience through downloadable digitized cookbooks.
Archivists at the UTSA Libraries Special Collections are compiling recipes from a digitized collection of 2,000 Mexican cookbooks into a series of three cookbooks called "Recetas: Cooking in the Time of Coronavirus."
As individuals find themselves in the kitchen during the COVID-19 pandemic under stay-at-home orders, the university said it hopes to share the cookbook collection and make it accessible to those looking to explore Mexican cuisine.
According to the University of Texas at San Antonio, the series acknowledges that recipes are invested with cultural and familial significance, and cookbooks can be arenas for contesting cultural and national constructions.
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The first volume, "Postres: Guardando Lo Mejor Para el Principio" (Desserts: Saving the Best for First), focuses on classic Mexican desserts. Each recipe in the collection is drawn from cookbooks in the Rare Books Collection, the oldest of which dates back to 1789. Some of the selected recipes lack features familiar to modern chefs such as ingredient lists or exact measurements.
"We encourage you to view these instructions as opportunities to acquire an intuitive feel for your food," the creators of the volume said. "With a little experimentation, you'll have your very own secret specialty."
Some examples include a rice pudding recipe published in 1831where readers must learn to gauge "when the pudding is half done." A churro recipe from a 1928 unpublished manuscript uses "parts" to describe ingredient ratios.
Subsequent volumes in the series will highlight soups, sauces, sides, salsas, drinks, moles, and main dishes, the University of Texas at San Antonio said.
"A renewed sense of self-reliance has led to a resurgence of the home cook," chef and restaurant owner Rico Torres said.
According to the University of Texas at San Antonio, Postres is available in print, but many of the recipe collections held at UTSA are in manuscript form, and handwriting, archaic spellings, and physical damage can make the documents difficult to read.
Librarians at University of Texas at San Antonio are digitizing the texts, which can be viewed online, in an effort to bring these originals to a wider audience. Postres is available as a free downloadable PDF, and the other two cookbooks in this series are expected to be released soon.
The Mexican Cookbook Collection, the largest in the nation, is housed in the UTSA Libraries' Special Collections and includes over 2,000 titles documenting Mexican cuisine.