Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - I recently caught up with Alondra Maldonado Rodriguera from Tepic, Mexico. She is a chef, author and much sought after lecturer and teacher. Her beautifully presented book "Sabores de Nayarit," was recently translated into English as "Flavors of Nayarit."
A year-long work of love, Alondra wanted to dig deep into the foods and dishes of her native Nayarit, Mexico. This took her into the small villages and jungles, where she cooked and shared food and stories with almost 200 people, including those from the native Cora and Huichol tribes. Following is some of what she shared with me.
Her book is a journey into the very heart of Mexico. She takes us by the hand to show us how the food of Nayarit is woven by nature, culture, choosing of ingredients, technics and a very deep sense of corn as a sacred seed among the native people.
The Cora cultivate corn, beans and edible herbs known as "quelites," all of which are often incorporated into their daily meals. The sacred recipes use many ingredients, such as rice, cloves and cinnamon, which were brought into their remote mountain villages by the Spanish. These ingredients are found even in their ritual dishes prepared during the Cora holy week celebration.
One of her favorite memories is when she joined some San Blas fishermen to experience one of their everyday routines. They departed at 2:00 am from shore to the open sea with no life vest available or roof to protect them from the sun. That's when she understood why ceviche (raw fish) is a fishermen's meal. The first fish that is caught is filleted, diced and mixed with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice; a very Mexican flavor. Another memory is when she was told by the Huichol people that corn needed to have ritual in order to grow happy so people bring chocolate, tiny tortillas, and other offerings to the plants as they grow!
"She participated in sacred and secular celebrations, and plunged into chores to show that the value of a product is in its process. If the reader does not like to cook, it does not matter; every page offers savory accounts, incidents and images of magnificent allure."
- Alma Vidal, Poet
"This book is overflowing with anthropological intuition, love for knowledge and research, but above all with affection for human beings and their circumstances."
- Rebeca Maldonado, Doctor of Philosophy
Along with the many stories shared with her, Alondra shares over 150 recipes in "Sabores de Nayarit." In addition, the book's color photography is outstanding. Puerto Vallarta photographer Roberto Zepeda combines documentary photography with the gastronomy of the original dishes. He accompanied Alondra to the villages to photograph the dishes as they were being prepared. What an adventure!
This book has won the Gourmand Cookbook Awards, 2015, as Best Local Cuisine, Best First Book, and Best Historical Recipe Cookbook, in addition to the Best in the World, Yantai China, 2015 and the Best of the Best in 20 years, Frankfurt, 2015!
"Flavors of Nayarit," the English version of the book, won Best Translation in Mexico and in the World, 2018. Alondra was also named as the Delegate of the Nayaritan Cuisine by the Mexican Gastronomic Culture Conservatory, which is part of UNESCO in Mexico.
Alondra Maldonado will be cooking at El Arrayán Restaurant on November 21st for a Tamale night and on November 23rd for a tasting dinner. El Arrayán is located in downtown Puerto Vallarta at 344 Allende, just a short stroll from the Malecón.
For further information on her book, cooking classes and lectures, send an email to Alondra at alondrachef(at)gmail.com, or visit her website or Facebook page. Be sure to tell her that you learned about her from Your Cultural Insider, Sandra Cesca. We will both appreciate it!
Sandra Cesca has traveled the world, but found herself returning to Mexico more and more. She moved to Puerto Vallarta in 2008 and never looked back. She currently offers eight different Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours, which include history, architecture, culture, artisanal crafts and ecology. Her photos and articles can be found on puertovallartawalkingtours.com; yourculturalinsider.com; sandracescaphotography.com; Instagram and Facebook. She can be contacted at sandra.learn.vallarta(at)gmail.com; or sandra.cesca.photography(at)gmail.com.