The Caterer

Book review: Tu Casa Mi Casa by Enrique Olvera

30 May 2019 by

What initially inspired Enrique Olvera to leave Mexico and attend the renowned Culinary Institute of America was cooking for those he loved.

At first, he cooked for the girl who would later become his wife, then for friends. When his friends' fathers began to arrive at his dinners, he realised he may have hit upon his calling.

So it's fitting that Tu Casa Mi Casa, his second book to be published by Phaidon, should focus on the sort of meals that led him to open one of the world's great restaurants – Pujol in Mexico City. Much like his professional cuisine, Tu Casa Mi Casa represents a different sort of Mexico to the one frequently bastardised elsewhere. His care over the recipe for masa, the base for tortilla, tostada and tlayuda, is emblematic of his care for both his cuisine and culture – relating the history of the corn, from its domestication to the deified position it held in Mayan culture to its present-day, industrially planted existence.

The book is a 236-page anthology of Mexican home cooking, from the ubiquitous (huevos rancheros, barbacoa, churros) to the more unfamiliar, such as pistachio green mole or stewed pork and purslane, as well as basics, including recipes for rice, pulses and myriad salsas, from verde to bone marrow, stretching beyond the limits of many chefs' repertoires.

There are two reasons not to disregard this as a book for a home cook. The first is the clear wealth of knowledge with which Olvera writes, with support from Daniela Soto-Innes, his chef partner at Atla and Cosme; Gonzalo Goût, the original general manager at Cosme; and Luis Arellano, his former right-hand at Pujol – making this a resoundingly authoritative text.

The second is that home cooking is, in many senses, the foundation of this cuisine. Mexico's new gastronomy did not fully exist until Olvera forged a path at age 24 along with his contemporaries. Mexico's food is a culinary tradition created by mass societal changes along with macro innovations in homes, tweaking centuries of tradition, and there are few more equipped to serve as its guide than Olvera.

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