Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes Text by Laura Albert

Dear Shaded Viewers,

With 35 complete menus, over 200 recipes and one hundred color photos,

Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes broadens the

reader/cook‘s understanding of Mexican cuisine and culture by delving

into the history behind the special events that occasion fiesta menus.

The book begins with the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe and that

most quintessential of Mexican foods, tamales; and chapter by chapter,

reveals a culture rich with folklore. Included are all major holidays

celebrated nationally for which special foods are prepared.


Much of what we know about Mexican cuisine had, for years, been passed

down through an oral tradition, and to this day, recipes are

faithfully written by hand in personal notebooks of Mexico’s

daughters, as dictated by their mothers and grandmothers. Every family

has its own unique menus, and every family has its own special and

secret recipes. Celebraciones Mexicanas shares the recipes of the

Almazan family with complete menus, sometimes several, for each

festive event, so as to allow the reader to plan a meal very much like

that which would be prepared in Mexico for the occasion.

Why made you decide to write this book?

 Andrea: I had an idea that I might write a cookbook one day, but my plan was

to write ii after I moved to Mexico, when I would have more time and

be more immersed in the culture. But, as they say, “Man plans and God

laughs”.  I met my editor, Ken Albala, and learned about his Food

Studies and Gastronmy Series for Rowan Littlefield and I met my

co-author, Adriana Lahl Almazan through La Cocina and everything just

sort of fell together. Next thing you know I was writing a book

proposal. When my proposal was accepted, I couldn’t believe it!

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Andrea: Really, it was a combination of personal experience and

feedback from my readers. It seemed that, every time I was in Mexico

— and I go frequently because I am building a small Casa de Huesperas

or Guest House there — there was a always a party, a fiesta, some

kind of holiday and I found myself participating in the preparation of

a special dish. As I began to share some of these recipes in the

column I write for the Examiner.com,  I noticed that these were the

most popular of my articles. There just seemed to be a lot of interest

in Mexican holidays and related food. I didn’t even realize that ours

was the first book to combine the history behind and traditions of

Mexico’s fiestas as well as the recipes for the dishes served, until I

saw the marketing materials from our publisher.

The book is organized in an unusual way, by menus. What made you

decide to do it this way?

Andrea: This was something that grew, almost organically, out of early

meetings with my co-author, Adriana Almazan Lahl.  As we began to

create a list of recipes for the book, it was logical to approach them

like this. I would ask Adriana what her family might typically share

for any given holiday, and she would rattle off a litany of dishes,

really, a complete menu.  Given that the premise was to bring the

richness of those meals and traditions to an American audience, it

stuck us that the menu presentation would really communicate that.

Aside from the beautiful food photos, there are many photos of people

in very colorful, traditional garb. Can you tell me about those?

Andrea: We were very lucky to be able to work with in-country

photographer Jorge Ontiveros, whose passion is photographing Mexico’s

indigenous people in their native environments. These are photos of a

few of the diverse groups that make up Mexico’s indigenous population;

taken as they are preparing food and/or celebrating a holiday. They

did not dress up for the photos, the clothing they are wearing is part

of the culture and tradition that has been preserved over time, it is

what they wear. All of the apparel and accessories are made in each of

the indigenous communities in a way of life that has been passed down

from generation to generation. This is one of the aspects of the book

that I am most proud of— that I was able to share just a little of

the history and culture of these people with our readers.

What surprised you most as you were researching the book?

Andrea: I would have to say two things: One, how very little cooking

techniques, implements and ingredients have changed since

pre-Columbian times.  I knew tamales and tortillas were part of the

Aztec diet, but what I learned was that the very heart of the cuisine

has stayed true to the foodways of Mexico before the colonization, and

this in spite of real pressure to “modernize”. The food politics of

Mexican history fascinate me: I also learned so much about the folk

Catholicism that is at the heart of many festivals, and the push and

pull between the Catholic Church and Aztec customs that evolved to

create celebrations as they exist in Mexico today.

I know Mexican cooking can be complicated. What dish would you

recommend to someone who wants to try his or her hand at something

special but is not familiar with Mexican cuisine?

Andrea: The recipes are designed for a broad audience. There are many

recipes that work for a person who is looking to learn to cook

Mexican. To begin with, we have included an entire section of Basic

Recipes and Cooking techniques, which include everything from making a

basic chicken stock to rendering lard. There is a section on Salsas,

which are such a key component to many dishes. Making enchiladas is a

great place to start because it can begin with making masa from which

you can make tortillas by hand, and a salsa, plus a filling… these are

great basics to have under your belt when  learning Mexican cuisine.

Laura Albert


  • Laura Victoria Albert is the author of writings that include works credited to the fictional persona of JT LeRoy, whom Albert described as an "avatar", saying she was able to write things as LeRoy that she could not have said as Laura Albert. Wikipedia
  • NominationsLambda Literary Award for Gay Men's FictionStonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award


Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.