• Mike Sula
  • A steaming pile of. . . asado negro

Last week I said I’d get a bit more into Maricel E. Presilla’s sprawling Gran Cocina Latina while my tepache was fizzing. It’s a huge, fascinating, and improbable-seeming encyclopedia; an attempt to unify all the cuisines of Latin America—from Mexico, across the Caribbean, and down through Central and South America. In this day of increasing awareness and pride in regional food this seems untethered from reality—Borgesian, even. But Presilla, a Hoboken restaurateur of Cuban descent, was first a food historian, and her extensive study and travel led her to conclude something that’s actually pretty obvious: all of these cuisines are profoundly influenced by Spanish and Portuguese colonialism. She writes:

As I began to piece together a connected understanding of what I was tasting I was amazed at the centrality of what were essentially medieval cooking techniques brought from the Iberian peninsula that got a new lease on life in Latin America.