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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: September 22, 2003
Volume 39, Number 5

Mexican cookbook collection on display in Herzstein room

By Carolyn Gonzales

A new exhibit, “El Sabor del Mestizaje: The Cuisine of Mexico in Print, The Baca Family and Bueno Foods’ Mexican Cookbook Collection,” is currently on display in the Herzstein Latin American Reading Room on the second floor of Zimmerman Library.

“We have nearly 700 cookbooks as part of the collection and about 40 of them are part of the exhibit,” Carolyn Mountain, director of the Division of Iberian and Latin American Resources and Services (DILARES), in the UNM General Library, said.

At left, the poster created to publicize the exhibit features the 17th century Convento de Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Ángeles, Mexico and was photographed by Tim Burciaga of Albuquerque.
“Mole” an Aztec word meaning “concoction,” “stew” or “sauce,” is a Mexican chocolate sauce prepared in a variety of ways. The most famous mole is a complex dish using dried chile, nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices and chocolate, preferably ground, toasted cacao beans, but Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra brand, is also used.
Historical origins of mole indicate that it was created between 1680 and 1688 in one of the convents in the Mexican city, Puebla de los Ángeles. The most frequently told story is that Sor Andrea, sister superior of the Santa Rosa Convent, created the dish to honor the Archbishop for having a convent built for her order. Another spin suggests she was honoring the Viceroy, Don Tomás Antonio de la Cerda y Aragón. She wanted to create the perfect dish, trying to blend the ingredients of the New World with those of the old.

Mountain and Russ Davidson, curator of the library’s Latin American and Iberian collections, worked with a collector in Mexico to put together the collection.

The oldest cookbooks are a three volume set, “El Cocinero Mexicano,” published in 1831. Approximately 10 volumes will need preservation work before they will be able to be used by patrons. Most of the items, however, are mid-20th century books produced for popular audiences, Wendy Pederson, Ibero-American collections and acquisitions specialist, said.

“The collection has not yet been fully processed yet, so the items aren’t listed in LIBROS. Once cataloged, the books will be accessed through the paging desk at the Center for Southwest Research,” Mountain said. They will not be available for checkout but patrons will be able to use them in the Anderson Reading Room, she said.

Among the items are several pamphlet-type cookbooks put together by a Mexican agency much like the agricultural extension service in the United States.

“Those items are crumbling and will definitely need some preservation work,” said Pederson, who helped Mountain put up the exhibit.

“We are extremely grateful to the Baca family for their assistance in putting together the exhibit,” Mountain said.