Friday, December 28, 2007

List of Josefina's Books (Part 2)

We continue the list of Josefina’s books with 4 titles published in the 1940s.

Title: “Bodas de plata, oro, y aniversarios”
By: Velázquez de León, Josefina.
Collection: El tesoro de la cocina. Colección fiestas económicas
Date Published: 1940s
Country: Mexico
Publisher: Academia de Cocina Velázquez de León
Pages: 29

Title: “Cocina de Chihuahua”
By: Velázquez de León, Josefina.
Date Published: 1940s
Country: Mexico
Publisher: Academia de Cocina Velázquez de León
Pages: 70

Title: “Cocina de Cuaresma: Menus económicos para vigilia”
By: Velázquez de León, Josefina.
Date Published: 1940s
Country: Mexico
Publisher: Ediciones Josefina Velázquez de León
Pages: 24

Title: “Cocina de Zacatecas”
By: Velázquez de León, Josefina.
Date Published: 1940s
Country: Mexico
Publisher: Academia de Cocina Velázquez de León
Pages: 127

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

List of Josefina's Books (Part 1)

The first thing people want to know when talking about Josefina is “Where can I get her cookbooks?” Unfortunately, Josefina’s books went out of print in the late 1960s, and although some Mexican publishers reprinted some titles in the 1970s and 80s, even those are no longer available. I recently have a great conversation with Beverly Joy-Karno during the Guadalajara Book Fair (FIL). Beverly is the owner (with her husband Howard) of the best resource to find Josefina’s books in the United States: Howard Karno Books, a bookstore in California that specializes in new, out-of-print, and rare books from and about Latino America. As it happens, Beverly is also a huge Josefina follower and extremely knowledgeable about the more than 140 books that she published. So if you are looking for a specific Josefina title, Karno Books should be your first stop, either online or in person. After that the choices are to borrow a copy from a library, or dig deep into the dark corners of old Mexican bookstores. I know most large American libraries, such as NYPL in New York and LAPL in Los Angeles have some copies available for researches and Beverly tells me that the University of San Diego and the University of New Mexico have purchased large collections of Josefina’s books from her.

My meeting with Beverly was also a very helpful step towards building a comprehensive list of all the titles that Josefina published in an astonishing career that yielded hundreds of cookbooks and a cooking magazine. Beverly was too generous by sending me a list of all the titles the bookstore had carried with information about dates, page counts, edition, and comments. Combining this list with two other (much smaller) lists I have I will be posting here a chronological list of all titles published by Josefina.

If you have a copy (or copies) of any of these books, please email us or write a comment in this blog. We would love to hear from you.

Today we start with the two first book published by Josefina in the late 1930s.

Title: “Manual practico de cocina”
By: Velázquez de León de González, Josefina.
Date Published: 1936
Country: Mexico
Publisher: Academia Calrod,
Pages: 334p.
Binding: library binding.

Title: “Reposteria Selecta. El arte de hacer pasteles”
By: Velázquez de León de González, Josefina.
Volumes: 3
Date Published: 1938
Country: Mexico
Publisher: Academia Calrod,
Pages: 97.
Binding: 20cm

Notes: This are two of the few books where Josefina uses her marriage name “Velázquez de León de González, but by the time these books were published she was already a widow. The publisher of these books is the Academia Calrod, the original name of Josefina’s cooking school. Calrod heating elements are responsible for the first electric stoves and ranges and where strongly marketed by GE, a sponsor in Josefina’s books. For more information about this topic go here

Friday, November 16, 2007

The beginnings (Part 2)

[To read the first part of this post, go to The beginnings (Part 1)

The kitchen may have seemed a natural way to Josefina to support herself and her family after these shaky years. Teaching cookery, however, was a risky endeavor for Mexican women who had almost no presence in the workforce in the Mexico of the 1930s. At the time, only one cooking school catering to the upper middle class was in operation in Mexico City, managed by a Spaniard, Alejandro Pardo. To complicate things further, Josefina didn’t have any formal training in cooking, nor receive an academic education beyond high school. In an interview she granted to a newspaper in the 1950s, she mentions an Italian cooking teacher, but acknowledges that her skills came from her mother and her own domestic experience.

This didn’t stop Josefina who started building a reputation writing cooking columns for magazines such as Mignon, la revista de la mujer, a publication that educated socially privileged women. By the time she opened the school, at the end of the 1930s, the place became a primary destination for women from different barrios. But beyond the culinary curiosity, the academy fulfilled a prominent role in the social dynamics of the city. For Mexican women, attending Josefina’s classes was also one of the few acceptable ways to leave their homes.

Josefina, second from right, during a cooking class on her cooking academy. Circa 1953

By the end of the 1950s, Josefina’s classes were so popular that she rented a second location to accommodate the increasing number of students. Soon two of Josefina’s sisters joined the business, Guadalupe, her second sister, as bookkeeper and typist, and María Luisa, the youngest, in charge of shipping, and other administrative chores.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The beginnings (Part 1)

Josefina was born in 1899 in the hacienda El Pabellón, in Aguascalientes, a state 260 miles north of Mexico City named after the abundance of thermal waters in the area, Josefina was the oldest of the four daughters of Juan Luis Velázquez de León, an engineer, and María Peón Valdez, the heiress of a prominent family from Guadalajara.

Josefina and her sisters. From left: María Luisa, Josefina, Dolores and Guadalupe.

Growing up in the hacienda, and later, in a comfortable home in Mexico City where they moved to in 1905, Josefina received an education with emphasis in penmanship, respect for the Catholic Church, and French cooking, a common practice with the Mexican elites at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, it is fair to say that Josefina’s culinary career was the result of the tragic events that her family and her country were destined to experience.

Mexico was ruled at the time by Porfirio Díaz, a man who got elected in 1876 as president of a democratic republic but who became a dictator that remained in power seven consecutive terms. By 1910, the political model maintained by PorfirioDíaz had become impossible to sustain, and the Mexican Revolution started on November 20th. During the next ten years, Josefina would witness the spread of the armed conflict, live the hardships of 1915, the “year of the hunger,” and loose the family hacienda as a result of the agrarian reform. In 1921, the same year the Revolution ended, Josefina’s father died of heart failure.

Post-revolutionary Mexico was not an easy time for women. The new Constitution of 1917 gave them legal equality, with the same rights and duties as men, including signing contracts and managing their own businesses. However, married women still needed their husbands’ permission to work, and they were still required to carry out domestic chores and care for their children. In this environment, and approaching her thirtieth birthday, Josefina married Joaquín González, a businessman twenty years her senior.

This blurry photograph of her wedding day is one of the few memories left from the union that ended abruptly eleven months later with Mr.González death.

More to come...

Friday, October 19, 2007

RECIPE: Aguacates Tampico

Avocados Tampico-Style
From the book: Mexican Cookbook devoted to American Homes (1947)
By: Josefina Velázquez de León

These versatile avocados can be served as appetizers, as a salad, or paired with grilled fish. In Tampico, a port city bordering the Golf of México, fresh crabmeat is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. If you can’t find it fresh, canned or frozen crabmeat will also work. No crabmeat? Try these avocados with shrimp.

3 ripe haas avocados, halved and pitted
1 cup shredded crabmeat, picked over
2 leaves lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and chopped

1. Scoop out some of the avocado flesh from each avocado half, making a slightly large cavity than was left by the pit, into a medium bowl. Add crabmeat, lettuce, and mayonnaise and gently stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Divide crab salad between each avocado half, mounding the salad in each avocado cavity. Arrange avocados on a lettuce-lined serving platter, if you like. Garnish avocados with chopped eggs.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mexican Cookbook devoted to American Homes

Mexican Cookbook devoted to American Homes
By: Josefina Velázquez de León
First Edition: 1947
Editions: 8 (Last, 1971)
Paperback, Bilingual (English-Spanish)
363 Pages

Josefina published her first book, Manual Práctico de Cocina (A Practical Cooking Manual), in 1936. The book was a big success and helped launching Josefina’s own imprint, Ediciones Josefina Velázquez de León that published more than 140 cookbooks, all of them written by Josefina.

This entry is dedicated to Mexican Cooking Book Devoted to the American Home, Josefina’s celebrated bilingual volume. First published in 1947, the book underwent, to the best of our knowledge, eight editions, the last in 1971. The 1947 edition credits Concepción Silva Garcia as the translator, and Josefina’s sister Guadalupe was responsible for the drawings, including, it seems, the delightful cover that shows a pretty Mexican brunette offering food from a traditional cazuela surrounded by flags: colonial buildings rising over the Mexican flag, while skyscrapers elevate over the American pennant.

“It is a great honour to dedicate the present book”, Josefina writes in its introduction (original spelling has been respected) “to the Distinguished Feminine Society of this Continent and specially the North American Women, in their own language, that has demostrated interest and pleasure in learning the “Authentic Mexican Cookery” by the continuons petitions of my Academy pupils, from the United States.”

The 1947 edition of “Mexican Cookbook devoted to American Homes,” is divided in four sections. The first is a lengthy explanation of Mexican food including an installment called “How to Cook the Mexican Way in the United States.” The two following sections portray an array of recipes (for a recipe from this book click here) from well-known Mexican dishes like tamales and moles that remain unchanged to this days, to some forgotten delicacies like Caguama (sea turtle) Soup, a “favorite dish among Baja Californians”. The last section of the book offers a look at Josefina’s ambitious project to research recipes from all the different Mexican regions, a work that she had published a year before in Platillos regionales de la República Mexicana (Regional Dishes of the Mexican Republic).

Check back for a recipe from this book in the next post.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A little of Julia Child; a dash of Martha Stewart

It is tempting to describe Josefina's career by saying that she was the
Julia Child of Mexico. But Josefina's career is important in another
way, one that makes her accomplishments look more like Martha
Stewart's. You can read about Josefina as a multitasker and a a self-made woman who created a nationwide empire from her kitchen table, in this article published by the award wining website Leite's Culinaria.