I believe I have never eaten a "real" taco.
I'm not easily intimidated by cooking/food books, however, Alex Stupak's Tacos: Recipes and Provocations, left me quivering. Not only did I discern a visceral sense that I would never be able to measure up in the taco making realm while reading Stupak's book, I also sensed a longing for said "real" taco that may never be fulfilled. All in all, I felt a bit empty.
The book is lovely to look at and inspiring in its attempt to familiarize us gringos with the foods that are so much more familiar to those living closer to the southern border and beyond it in foreign lands. Although my part of the country has some immigrants from Mexico and points south of there, most people in my immediate area equate Mexican food, and tacos, with the national chains. For us tortillas come in "shelf stable" packages that last forever, and salsa comes in jars or packets.
Thus the overwhelm I felt when Stupak writes, "There is absolutely no substitute for a fresh, homemade tortilla, and suggesting any kind of store-bought alternative would keep me up at night. To fully use this book as it's intended, you have to reconcile to the idea of making your own." (p. 27) Despite my gut screaming, "Turn back! You're in too deep!", I forged ahead with the discussion of types of corn. (I live in Iowa. I am surrounded by fields of field corn. Every kid in Iowa gets a detailed education on the bamboo-related grass that is corn which is growing all around us. Still, onward I read.) Stupak presents an interesting and detailed account of the types of corn, the process needed to make field corn digestible, and the tools and machinery needed to make it happen. On page 33 you learn the truth: masa fine enough to make tortillas with cannot be made at home. He tried. Extensively. It did not work. (At least according to his standards--yours may vary.)
I was quite disappointed at this stage of the reading, because I realized I was never going to make a tortilla.
I'm glad I kept reading, however. I eyed all the recipes for the delicious varieties of tortillas Stupak offers with equal parts longing and jealousy. There is a wonderful section on the many different types of chilies available along with their various attributes (taste, heat, etc.). I found this very educational. I wanted to be able to taste the different proteins that Stupak offers readers. The wide variety of salsa types blew my mind: I had no idea there were so many options to choose from!
If you are a serious foodie or a very adventurous cook, you may want to get your hands on a copy of Stupak's Tacos. Perhaps you've never really spent much time considering the taco from the perspective of artful cuisine. This book affords you that opportunity. Thanks to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this review!
From the Publisher . . .
Superstar chef Alex Stupak’s love of real Mexican food changed his life; it caused him to quit the world of fine-dining pastry and open the smash-hit Empellón Taqueria in New York City. Now he’ll change the way you make–and think about–tacos forever.
TACOS is a deep dive into the art and craft of one of Mexico’s greatest culinary exports. We start by making fresh tortillas from corn and flour, and variations that look to innovative grains and flavor infusions. Next we master salsas, from simple chopped condiments to complex moles that simmer for hours and have flavor for days. Finally we explore fillings, both traditional and modern–from a pineapple-topped pork al pastor to pastrami with mustard seeds.
But TACOS is more than a collection of beautiful things to cook. Wrapped up within it is an argument: Through these recipes, essays, and sumptuous photographs by Evan Sung, the 3-Michelin-star veteran makes the case that Mexican food should be as esteemed as the highest French cooking.
About the Author . . .
(From his Facebook page): Alex Stupak is the chef and owner of Empellon Cocina and Empellon Taqueria in New York and is one of Food & WIne's Best New Chefs 2013.
His address on the Web is:
I really enjoyed returning to a mystery and discovering a new author whose writing I found engaging.
Secret Sisters is written mainly from the viewpoint of the main female character, Madeline Chase, who is called back to the scene of her traumatic childhood incident that has changed the lives of several people. She arrives just in time to witness the death/murder of the man who has been the property's caretaker for the intervening 18 years. From there, I found it a compelling read with a variety of suspects, motives, and danger to keep me flipping pages as quickly as possible.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the book is the fact that there were several crimes that had to be sorted through. The 18-year old incident that involved Madeline and Daphne, revealed an older murder two states away and prompts a closer look at the current deaths for signs murder too. This makes the perpetrator unfold more dastardly deeds in an attempt to throw off suspicion.
The romance part of the mystery didn't bother me as I thought it potentially might. (I generally like to keep my genres separate.) It is integrated into the overall story in such a way that it unfolds naturally but does not detract from or overpower the mystery.
If you enjoy a good "who-dun-it" that keeps unfolding even when you think it has wrapped up, you need to give Krentz's Secret Sisters a read. (Be warned that it does involve a child abduction and near rape, if that is a trigger for you.) Thanks to the publisher for the Advance Reading Copy I received in exchange for this review!
About the Book . . .
No one does romantic suspense better than Jayne Ann Krentz. Now, the New York Times bestselling author of Trust No One and River Road delivers a novel that twists and turns into a read that will leave you breathless.
Madeline and Daphne were once as close as sisters—until a secret tore them apart. Now it might take them to their graves.
They knew his name, the man who tried to brutally attack twelve-year-old Madeline in her grandmother's hotel. They thought they knew his fate. He wouldn't be bothering them anymore...ever. Still their lives would never be the same.
Madeline has returned to Washington after her grandmother's mysterious death. And at the old, abandoned hotel—a place she never wanted to see again—a dying man’s last words convey a warning: the secrets she and Daphne believed buried forever have been discovered.
Now, after almost two decades, Madeline and Daphne will be reunited in friendship and in fear. Unable to trust the local police, Madeline summons Jack Rayner, the hotel chain’s new security expert. Despite the secrets and mysteries that surround him, Jack is the only one she trusts...and wants.
Jack is no good at relationships but he does possess a specific skill set that includes a profoundly intimate understanding of warped and dangerous minds. With the assistance of Jack's brother, Abe, a high-tech magician, the four of them will form an uneasy alliance against a killer who will stop at nothing to hide the truth....
About the Author . . .
The author of over 50 New York Times bestsellers, JAYNE ANN KRENTZ writes romantic-suspense in three different worlds: Contemporary (as Jayne Ann Krentz), historical (as Amanda Quick) and futuristic (as Jayne Castle). There are over 35 million copies of her books in print.