Decorator and style icon Juan Carlos Arcila-Duque distills the essence of Latin Style for worldwide readers.
Inspiring you to adapt the joyous spirit and the flavor of the latin cuisine into your own home and lifestyle. Through gorgeous photos and colorful prose that highlight vibrant decor details, delicious recipes and lively tips on how entertaining with latin style.
It is no coincidence that words like “spicy, saucy and zesty” are used to describe the spirit of the Latin American people, given the robust culinary scope and traditions that have been passed down throughout its generations. Historically, we have always been entertainers a culture of visitors, gatherings, tradition and families. It is very simple: on a land so endlessly brimming with cultural expressivity, food and drink are emblematic of unity and love, the two forces that are meant to prevail every time people come together to dine. I grew up watching tropical fruits like sun-ripened papayas and mangoes dripping from the trees, and inhaling the dizzying aromas of fried fish, crispy plantains and perfect coffee, my taste buds perpetually alive and kicking in this sensual atmosphere of sacred food-worship.
Indeed, Latin America’s passionate love affair with food goes way back, and it is a dramatic story of true fusion, its origin the result of historical entanglements, regional customs, natural resources, and dynamic biodiversity. Though the language itself serves as a common denominator across the continent, each country therein possesses a unique essential character, replete with its own cultural underpinnings and ecological basis. These variables have given shape to an innovative and eclectic network of gastronomical palates that can at once be sweet and savory; earthy and tangy; cozy and quirky.
It is a palate reflective of sheer multiplicity, a sense of taste that evolved with the European sensibilities of the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors that came and claimed towards the end of the fifteenth century, and the culture of the West African slaves that they would also bring to the New World—both of which would collide with the Native American cultural mainstays—the entire culinary saga playing itself out on a massive stretch of land that is capable of almost anything. On this vast continent the sweltering humidity of the sultry jungle meets with arid desert expanse; mountainous valleys mingle with grassland savannahs; and rivers pump and course like giant wild veins through it all. Each region is nuanced by its distinguishing topography and climate, giving way to different natural resources, which, along with the social customs of the people who dwell there, engender distinct culinary practices.
But what I adore most about the Latin kitchen is its devout allegiance to simplicity, a sense of resourcefulness that cleaves only to nature. Coastal towns become the hubs of sea-food delicacies, whereas expansive grasslands give way to a culture of quality steak. The staples of each region arise directly from what is there, and the recipes always comprised of fresh, local ingredients—are born from the peoples’ close communion with their land.
I believe it is this very sense of immediacy and expediency that lends itself to a contemporary American understanding of the Latin kitchen. By exploring the gastronomic customs of Latin America in a modern American context of practicality, we can bridge the old with the new, and bring a sense of folklore and history into our everyday. The goal of this book, then, is to respectfully acknowledge the roots of some of my favorite Latin recipes, by reinterpreting them in a current and more approachable way, so that through the art of authentic, Latin-inspired hospitality, your guests will be undeniably seduced.
You may encounter names of certain ingredients that sound more like foreign countries than ingredients. Do not be alarmed, and remember that the first actual ingredients you will need to begin this culinary tour-de-force are courage and determination. On my end, I’ll do my very best to explain where you might find such seemingly exotic fare, and I’ll also offer up alternatives for certain items that may be less easy to locate.
But before we get cooking with fire, it will be helpful to divide our understanding of the Latin kitchen into four distinct lifestyle themes—which I refer to as Cabana, Hacienda, Paradiso and Pueblo—each one resonating with its own flavors and motifs. A little background here is in order: as a Colombian-born designer whose craft was honed in the United States, my personal understanding of Latin American aesthetics was only truly crystallized when I began to play with the magical nuances therein, a study of inspiration that is documented and explained from a décor standpoint in my first book, Latin Style. That project was the result of a long and winding journey across the Latin American continent that allowed me to visually flesh out my sundry ideas about Latin chic, which essentially became a book of distinctions: in the sun-scorched Cabana lifestyle I intuitively saw semblances of summer, the beach, the sand and the enormity of the sea; whereas the autumnal world of Hacienda inspired for me a world of dark leather, mountain air and red wine; in the fantasy of Paradiso, I allowed myself to get lost in the green remoteness of the lush, Amazonian jungles; while in the playful Pueblo lifestyle, I found a sense of whimsical color and clutter that I saw born from a rustic bustle of everyday. Each of these lifestyles, to me naturally came with its own.