cover image Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook

Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook

Illyanna Maisonet. Ten Speed, $32.50 (256p) ISBN 978-1-984859-76-1

Food writer Maisonet discards the rose-colored perspective many cookbooks offer in this provocative look at the food traditions of Puerto Rico. Though she learned to cook from her grandmother, it’s “not a romantic story,” Maisonet writes, but rather “one of generational poverty and trauma with glimpses of pride and laughter.” Unsentimental essays on the complicated history of diasporic food and Maisonet’s family story intersperse recipes that are unafraid to buck tradition: wrapping pasteles in foil rather than banana leaves caused a stir when Maisonet posted these “pasteles de California” on the internet. A chapter of delicious fried foods (a technique descended from Africa) includes lacy bacalao fritters and puffy coconut shells split and filled with shellfish. Flavors are bold—chicken kebabs are slathered in a guava sauce—and the fare isn’t “quick and easy” cooking (pork pernil roasts for six to seven hours and lechón requires two days’ prep), though desserts offer some shortcuts, such as a pineapple upside down cake that incorporates pudding mix, cake mix, and coconut soda. Another bonus is Maisonet’s fascinating look at the island’s ice cream parlors, traditionally owned by Chinese Cuban families. The ample head notes are as bracing as the spicy-enticing food in this bold combo of memory and recipes. (Oct.)