This is no ordinary cookbook, not unless the latest editions of Fanny Farmer and Julia Child rhapsodize about puffy grains of rice metamorphosing into fishes and birds, or describe a runnel of milk from a bottle transformed, à la Ovid, into a splendid white waterfall. But that’s the sort of magical food-based realism in which Salvadoran émigré poet Jorge Argueta works, and that’s just the sort of thing that happens in the pages of his elegant, entertaining bilingual celebration of a favorite childhood treat. “I spent part of my life in a popular restaurant where flavors and words came together in a loving way,” says Argueta. “My mother used to make rice pudding for my brothers, sister and me. Behind the few words that compose this poem exists a universe of memories.” Fernando Vilela’s paintings, with their hints of the folkloric anarchy of Miguel Covarrubias, complement Argueta’s poem/recipe, which yields—with adult assistance, of course—a tasty payoff, both sweet and spicy. There’s no nap time to follow the treat for Argueta, who is already hard at work writing his next “cooking poem,” this one about the wonder that is guacamole. Delicioso.
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Arroz con leche / Rice Pudding
Jorge Argueta; illustrated by Fernando Vilela
Groundwood / October / 9780888999818 / $18.95 / 3-7