“People can’t come in to look at the cookbooks, and we’re limited in the number of cookbooks we had scanned, so we just wanted to provide people with another way to access them.”
The University of Texas at San Antonio has been digitizing the largest collection of historic Mexican cookbooks in the United States. While the spread of COVID-19 has delayed that project, the university is now releasing recipes from the collection in free e-books. The UTSA Libraries released the first of the e-cookbooks, Postres: Guardando Lo Mejor Para el Principio, or “Desserts: Saving the Best for First.”
The e-book series, Recetas: Cocinando en los Tiempos del Coronavirus/Cooking in the Time of Coronavirus, is the product of twenty years of collecting by the UTSA Libraries Special Collections. Beginning with a five-hundred-book donation in 2001, the collection now boasts more than two thousand Mexican recipe books, dating back to 1789.
Special Collections Librarian Stephanie Noell has sought to make the collection more accessible. “People can’t come in to look at the cookbooks, and we’re limited in the number of cookbooks we had scanned, so we just wanted to provide people with another way to access them,” Noell told Gastro Obscura. Noell hopes the e-book offers inspiration for cooks during the pandemic.
Scans of the original documents appear alongside several of the transcribed recipes in Postres, ranging from an 1831 recipe for rice pudding to a churro recipe written shortly after the Mexican Revolution. The final recipe, written by Josefina Velázquez de León, a pioneer of Mexican gastronomy, is for a quinceañera cake, which includes fourteen cups of butter, twenty-two cups of flour, and eighteen cups of sugar.
Rico Torres, chef and co-owner of Mixtli, a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, wrote the foreword for Postres. “It’s taken a while for Mexican cuisine to be recognized as an important player on the world stage, as far as techniques and ingredients go,” he said, adding that Mexico is the home of cacao, chilies, and vanilla. “There’s a lot of historical value here.”
The entire e-book is available for download on the UTSA Libraries website. Recetas V2: Main Courses will be released in the fall, and Recetas V3: Appetizers and Drinks will follow in 2021.
To learn more about the special collections at UTSA libraries, please visit https://lib.utsa.edu/specialcollections/.