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Why Best New Chef Diana Dávila stockpiles rare Mexican cookbooks.

Elyse Inamine and Nina Friend
July 19, 2018

When she's looking for inspiration, F&W Best New Chef Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya Antojería flips through her collection of vintage Mexican cookbooks. “Whenever I start thinking about what we should do, I just open one up,” she says. She’s been visiting La Huasteca near the Gulf of Mexico since she was a kid, when she spent summers with her aunt and the rest of her family exploring the local markets and making meals out of their haul. After each trip, her aunt would send her home with a new book, from history tomes to regional recipe compendiums. Here, the chef shares her most cherished cookbooks. 


Breve Historia 
De La Comida Mexicana (A Brief History of Mexican Food) 
By Jesús Flores Y
 Escalante


“I love this book because it’s about the birth of Mexican food. From the Spanish colonization to how they integrated with indigenous people, it shows that melding of the two into the Mexican food we know today.”

El Libro De Todos Los Moles (The Book of All the Moles) 
By Paco Ignacio Taibo I


“There are absolutely no recipes in here. Rather, this book is about the history of mole. What I’ve learned from this book is that mole is actually a concoction of what the earth gives you, striking a balance of ingredients that almost don’t go together.” 

Cocinando Con Flores (Cooking with Flowers) 
By Sebastián Verti

“The romantic in me loves this book. When flowers bloom, they use up all the energy of the plant, so it’s full of agave. You’ll find 
recipes for tortas with flowers, petal syrups, 
and stuffed flowers. 
This is my kind of romance novel.” 


Best Places to Find Old Mexican Cookbooks

In Mexico City, visit Calle Donceles, a street in Centro Histórico that’s lined with shops specializing in antiquarian books. Pop into Librerías de Ocasión for a good selection of well-loved cookbooks. Or hunt for vintage finds at La Lagunilla, a Sunday antiques market near the city center (López Rayón 46, Centro).

Editor's Picks: Our Favorite Culinary Getaways for the Inveterate Cook

If you've been wondering what’s next for chef Anita Lo, who closed her beloved New York City restaurant, Annisa, last year, look no further than Mérida, on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, where this October, Lo will be heading a luxe culinary immersion tour and cooking class. The getaway, organized by Tour de Forks, includes a week of touring Mayan ruins, exploring local markets, and drinking unlimited margaritas. The final touch is a cooking class, taught by Lo, influenced by everything the group has learned. Sign up at tourdeforks.com ($2,450 per person; October 25–31), then check out these other great ways to journey—and cook—abroad. 

1. Seasons of My Heart


In Oaxaca, chef Susana 
Trilling offers cooking classes and tours—think mushroom 
foraging and getting to know your chiles. Classes from $65;
 seasonsofmyheart.com

2. Marilau Mexican Ancestry Cooking School

Marilau Ricaud teaches skills like tamale making and the many uses of corn at her cooking classes in San Miguel de Allende. Classes from $97; 
mexican-cooking-school.com

3. Los Dos

Chef David Sterling hosts cooking classes at his private home, a restored colonial mansion in Mérida. You’ll take a deep dive into seasonal produce and learn about the impact of Mayan culture on Mexican cuisine. Classes from $125; los-dos.com

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