Maria Baez Kijac spent more than a decade pouring her heart into this dense but accessible book. Her goal: to knit together the cuisines of 10 nations for an American audience that has little idea about food traditions from Rio to Buenos Aires.
This is a no-glitz book, without photos. Recipes are organized by kind rather than country so that the reader can trace the interpretation of ceviches or tamales from region to region. Kijac's scholarly approach yields recipe headnotes that can stretch to almost a page (as for Purple Corn and Berry Soup, which she traces to an Inca ritual), but they're a pleasure to read. Recipes are wonderfully diverse: mango soup, partridge in coconut sauce, and Paraguayan polenta. Interesting uses of healthy ingredients prevail: A sauce of Peruvian peppers, goat cheese, and roasted peanuts is thickened with quinoa's whole-grain goodness.
GIVE THIS TO: The anthropologically inclined cook. —Sidney Fry