Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: Good Food From Mexico

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, February 14, 1998

Review of Good Food From Mexico, with a recipe for Mueganos.

AuthorsRuth Watt Mulvey, Louisa María Alvarez
PublisherCollier
Year1950
Length253 pages
Book Rating7

This is another in the collection of thirty-cent “finds” I picked up at the local library booksale. By Ruth Watt Mulvey and Luisa María Alvarez, and written in 1950 (though mine was published in 1962), it is a handy little paperback of Mexican recipes from a time before Mexican restaurants were so ubiquitious.

“In Mexico, food is poetry,” they write. “This is the story of what is eaten in Mexico, but the eating itself is even more memorable.”

Good Food covers a wide variety of Mexican dishes, with no regard for calories or fat. In other words, they taste great! But you may want to be careful how often you indulge yourself.

The authors begin with “Appetizers, Cocktails, and Beverages”. At the beginning of each chapter they talk a bit about the importance of the subsequent recipes in Mexican culture. In this case, how the American contribution of the “coctel” is one of a long string of “contributions” of outside influence on Mexican eating.

From avocado canapés (Canapés de Aguacate) to Tortitas Compuestas (tiny rolls), you’ll find the few appetizers quite tasty. The cocktail section of this chapter is heavy on the tequila. I found particularly interesting the Coctel Amigo of tequila, vermouth, crème de menthe, and lime juice; and the Coctel Indio of pineapple juice, raspberry syrup, anisette, and rum. I’m afraid I haven’t tried either: I’m not a big coctail fan, and don’t have a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Within the non-alcoholic beverages, they go justifiably heavy on the chocolate, being as cocoa came from the area. There are also a couple of Horchata recipes, that staple drink of local Mexican restaurants.

The next chapter covers “Soups, Dry Soups, and Sauces”. A dry soup is a soup where the liquid has been fully absorbed by the rice or pasta. Here, the authors appear to show a prejudice against potatoes: “Mexicans are not fond of them [potatoes] and prefer, sensibly enough, to take their starch in the form of dry soup.” This chapter is a gold mine: avocado soup, banana soup, black bean soup, chickpea soup, and sweet corn soup. It is full of hearty and mouth-watering soups and stews. There is even “sopa de tortuga” if you can find sea turtle for your soup. Oysters and Rice, Spanish Rice, Tropical Rice and other dry soups bring up the middle, and various sauces: guacamole, fish sauce, fried sauce, sauce for chickens, mole poblano, salsa cruda, all spice up the rear of the chapter with traditionally Mexican condiments.

“Antojitos”, the “whimsical” fare served in stalls and small restaurants, are what we as Americans are most familiar with as Mexican food. These are the enchiladas, tacos, tamales, and tostadas, as well as the “sopes”, or corn cakes. Here you’ll find burritos and quesadillas. Lots of meat, corn, tomatoes, and fat.

The next three chapters cover “Sea Foods”, “Meat”, and “Poultry”. You can find fish in garlic sauce, in green sauce, hazelnut sauce, and mustard sauce. You can have kidneys with wine, brains with butter, tongue with almond sauce, lots of pork, veal, and beef. The poultry recipes mostly call for chicken, but there are a few duck recipes and turkey recipes, and even one “tortolas poglanas”, or Puebla-style turtledoves fried with garlic and chilies. Now you know what I did with those turtledoves my true love gave to me!

Beans are one of the gifts of the New World to the Old. “Beans, Eggs, and Cheese” covers “Other Main Dishes”. And, of course, you have refried beans, heuvos rancheros (as well as quite a few other huevos). Otherwise, however, the “beans” recipes are to be found with the meat that accompanies them. This chapter is quite short.

“Vegetables and Salads” covers vegetable-only dishes (with butter, milk, eggs, and fat, a far cry from vegetarian, don’t even try!), especially those involving squash. The chayote makes a number of appearances, and various chiles, and corn in pudding and tamale form. There are relatively few salad recipes: the authors explain that Mexicans eat their fruits and vegetables either simply prepared or cooked in other recipes, not generally as salads.

The “Desserts and Confections” and “Breads, Cakes, and Cookies” chapters are the high point of this book. “Ante de Almendras” (almond dessert), “Perones de Huevos Reales” (apples with royal eggs), “Tuna Delicia” (cactus fruit delight), start things out. There is a goodly amount of syrup here: cake slices in syrup, almond balls in syrup, pastries with syrup.

“Everyday, somewhere in Mexico, there is Fiesta.” And of course each Fiesta has its own food, whether it be Christmas Canapés or Day of the Dead Bread or simply Chicken, Fiesta style.

Finally, at the end of the book, is a good glossary of Mexican ingredients. If you are looking for an inexpensive, small book to introduce you to Mexican cooking, I can certainly recommend this one. It is out of print, however, so you’ll probably have to haunt the used bookstores. And shouldn’t you be doing that anyway? The best cookbooks I’ve found have almost all been picked up at used bookstores.

Mueganos

  • 8 eggs,
  • 1¼ cups blanched almonds,
  • 2 cups sugar,
  • ½ cup white wine,
  • ½ tsp cinnamon,
  • ½ cup cake crumbs,
  • fat for deep frying.
  1. Hard-boil six eggs, remove yolks and mash whites.
  2. Grind almonds and mix with yolks.
  3. Boil one cup sugar with ½ cup water to soft ball (236° F).
  4. Add syrup and wine to almond mixture.
  5. Stir in cinnamon and crumbs to form stiff dough.
  6. Mold into walnut-sized balls.
  7. Beat whites and yolks of remaining two eggs separately and fold together.
  8. Dip the balls in the beaten eggs and then fry in dep hot fat (350° F) until golden brown.
  9. Add to the remaining cup of sugar one cup of water and boil to a thick syrup.
  10. Put the fried balls in the syrup and cook over very low heat thirty minutes or until amost all of the syrup has been absorbed.

Good Food From Mexico

Ruth Watt Mulvey, Louisa María Alvarez

My cost: $0.30

Recommendation: Easy and interesting