There are books from a handful of small presses and imprints that I can pick up and read without any hesitation. As soon as I see the logo on the spine, I know I’m in for a good read, one that has been ‘pre-screened’ if you will. Unbridled Books is one of these, “a premier publisher of rich literary quality.”
Several Unbridled Books that I’ve enjoyed include Last Night in Montreal and The Singer’s Gun (both written by Emily St. John Mandel), In Hovering Flight(written by Joyce Hinnefeld; my review was blurbed on the paperback … how cool is that?!), 31 Hours (written by Masha Hamilton, whose work in founding the Afghan Women’s Writing Project is inspiring), and The Islands of Divine Music, written by John Addiego, whose most recent novel, Tears of the Mountain, was published a few months ago; I’m looking forward to reading it!
Today John joins us with a fun romp through “what if.” When asked what author, dead or alive, he’d invite to a holiday dinner, he also shared a recipe for what he’d serve at that meal! John’s essay incorporates his family and the inspiration for his choice of guest and meal. Read along, I think you’ll agree that you’d like to be a fly on the wall (or a guest at the table!) at this meal:
The author of The Barron in the Trees and The Cloven Knight might find my choice of words interesting here: I would love to have him for a delicious Mexican dinner.
Calvino is one of my favorite writers. Shortly before his death in 1985 he began a collection of five stories about the senses, finishing only three. Under the Jaguar Sun (about the tongue) was a gastronomic description of Mexico in which, after much exploration of an Aztec history of daily human sacrifice, one suspects that the regional cuisine, with its heavy and exotic spices, was developed to disguise, or enhance, the consumption of all that young human flesh being thrown off the pyramids.
To put everybody at ease, I would feed Calvino this meatless recipe my daughter Emily picked up while studying in Mexico. She was raised on Calvino’s Italian Folktales; I read them to her night after night. We both love the magic and humor in all of his work, the way he blends fable and realism, the way something very familiarly Italian pervades the tone: the peasant wisdom, the foibles of the powerful, and the courage of girls facing ogres and evil princes with silver noses.
So, I would love to listen to Calvino describe his work and his life over this simple meal from the center of colonial Mexico.
- 10 corn tortillas
- 2 potatoes
- 4 carrots
- 1 head of lettuce
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cups cojita cheese, shredded
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6-8 ancho chiles, dried
- 2-3 cups warm water
- pinch of salt
- crema mexicana
- Cut the potatoes and carrots into chunks and steam until tender. Set aside.
- To make sauce, remove stems and seeds from chiles and soak them in water. When they are rehydrated, blend chiles, water salt, garlic, and half the onion. Sauce should be thin but not watery.
- Mix together remaining chopped onion and cheese.
- In a large skillet, heat a few tbsp of oil medium heat. Dip 2 tortillas in the sauce so they are coated on both sides and fry them flat for about 30 seconds. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of the cheese and onion mixture onto tortillas and fold them over. Fry for another minute or until cheese melts. Tortillas shouldn’t harden; if they do, they’ve been cooked too long, so remove from pan as soon as cheese melts. Repeat this process with the rest of the tortillas.
- Serve enchiladas on a bed of lettuce with potato and carrot pieces. Top with crema mexicana and any remaining cheese.
Yum! Thank you, John, for sharing both your family story and this favorite recipe. And, of course, for the assurance that none of the ingredients originated from the pyramids
Feliz Año Nuevo!