A Puerto Rican Cookbook
Over 90 delicious, deeply personal recipes that tell the story of Puerto Rico's Stateside diaspora from the United States' first Puerto Rican food columnist, award-winning writer Illyanna Maisonet.
“A delicious journey through purpose, place, and the power of food that you won’t want to miss.”—José Andrés, chef, cookbook author, and founder of World Central Kitchen
ONE OF THE TEN BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR: Simply Recipes
ONE OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Saveur, Smithsonian Magazine, Delish, Vice
Illyanna Maisonet spent years documenting her family’s Puerto Rican recipes and preserving the island’s disappearing foodways through rigorous, often bilingual research. In Diasporican, she shares over 90 recipes, some of which were passed down from her grandmother and mother—classics such as Tostones, Pernil, and Arroz con Gandules, as well as Pinchos with BBQ Guava Sauce, Rabbit Fricassee with Chayote, and Flan de Queso.
In this visual record of Puerto Rican food, ingredients, and techniques, Illyanna traces the island’s flavor traditions to the Taino, Spanish, African, and even United States' cultures that created it. These dishes, shaped by geography, immigration, and colonization, reflect the ingenuity and diversity of their people. Filled with travel and food photography, Diasporican reveals how food connects us to family, history, conflict, and migration.
Food writer Maisonet discards the rose-colored perspective many cookbooks offer in this provocative look at the food traditions of Puerto Rico. Though she learned to cook from her grandmother, it's "not a romantic story," Maisonet writes, but rather "one of generational poverty and trauma with glimpses of pride and laughter." Unsentimental essays on the complicated history of diasporic food and Maisonet's family story intersperse recipes that are unafraid to buck tradition: wrapping pasteles in foil rather than banana leaves caused a stir when Maisonet posted these "pasteles de California" on the internet. A chapter of delicious fried foods (a technique descended from Africa) includes lacy bacalao fritters and puffy coconut shells split and filled with shellfish. Flavors are bold—chicken kebabs are slathered in a guava sauce—and the fare isn't "quick and easy" cooking (pork pernil roasts for six to seven hours and lechón requires two days' prep), though desserts offer some shortcuts, such as a pineapple upside down cake that incorporates pudding mix, cake mix, and coconut soda. Another bonus is Maisonet's fascinating look at the island's ice cream parlors, traditionally owned by Chinese Cuban families. The ample head notes are as bracing as the spicy-enticing food in this bold combo of memory and recipes.