The Bookshelf, The Parlor, The Young Texas Reader, and the Monthly

The Texas Bookshelf is different from the The Texas Parlor, . The Texas Parlor carries "general" bookish information and non-book information and even different Texana news and notes of use to the bibliographically challenged and other nosey folks intersted in historical, literary, and cultural observations. Will's Texana Monthly may carry material from either blog, but extends itself beyond those, especially for longer compilations or treatments. The Monthly, the Bookshelf and the Parlor are all companions. So, is the Young Texas Reader which specialized on books and such things for the youngest to the teenagers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dishes From the Wild Horse Desert - Melissa Guerra

Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert:

Norteño Cooking of South Texas.

By Melissa Guerra. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. ISBN: 0-7645-5892-7 Hardcover 288 pages colored and rose & white photos, map, bibliography, index. US $29.95

Melissa Guerra ( is deep in family culinary traditions of the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas and Northern Mexico. Her PBS series and book “The Texas Provincial Kitchen” has attested to her reliability and popularity.

This beautifully designed and lovingly written volume mixes history, cultural anecdotes with a hundred recipes fit for the common Wild Horse Desert kitchen, a part of Tex-Mex in general. The food originates from the ranch tradition rather than the city, but some springs from coastal restaurant inspirations, geographically outside the Desert but nearby. Most Tex-Mex, as well as most American Mexican cooking, first came up through this region that was a lush area until only a few centuries ago, and this book takes cook and diner home again. Local tea brews are included without particular reference to the curanderas. The chapter introductions and topical notes throughout are graceful and filled with accessible, detailed information. Guerra has been touring at the October Texas Book Festival, Common Market grocery outlets, and elsewhere.

The background for masa, tortillas, and tamales provides a basic lectionary for the northern corn and flour kitchen. The section on “Beverages” is just inspirational; get your blender and head for the fruit market. The “Enchilada Norteñas” are straightforward: ancho chiles, beef, onion, flour, and spiced with garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin, wrapped in corn tortillas, and topped with Cheddar. I’ve never tried cactus in my cornbread, but now adventures await me. The “Tortilla Soup” recipe is refreshing just to read and set my jowls watering. Pork is the proper flavoring for the frijoles. The section on “Game and Goat” will be attractive for those wishing to re-capture the days of the Wild Horse Desert range life.

Although she uses some lard, Guerra introduces the increasing use of corn oil. Beyond the expected fare, one finds recipes for “Whole Wheat Pancakes with Fresh Peach Syrup,” “Chile Con Carne,” “Traditional Bacalao (prepared salted cod),” “Speckled Trout Ceviche,” and “Chicken-fried Steak with Cream Gravy.”

Whether as cook or guide or conversationalist, Melissa Guerra is one to treat you well.


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