The Hungry Traveler, a Mexico book by Marita Adair

articles Food & Cuisine

reviewed by Karen Hursh Graber

Mexican Kitchen

The Hungry Traveler: Mexico
by Marita Adair

(Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City)

Available from Amazon Books: Paperback

You are famished. After hours on the Mexican highways, you’ve finally checked into a hotel, but know that rest will not come until you’ve done something to stop that growling in your stomach. You find a restaurant that’s open and looks fine, sit down and summon the waiter by wiggling your index finger, as you normally do. Uh-oh. You’ve made your first mistake before even managing to get your hands on a menu. If you had a copy of Marita Adair’s The HungryTraveler: Mexico, you’d know which ways are acceptable for summoning a waiter in Mexico and which are not. “Cultural Pointers for Ordering and Dining” is only one of the many features that make this book far superior to any other menu translator or Mexican food guide I’ve seen yet.

This pocket-sized handbook is part of the Andrews McMeel Publishing series of dining guides, and they couldn’t have chosen a more qualified person to write the definitive handbook on Mexican cuisine. The winner of numerous travel writing awards, including Mexico Concurso, the Lowell Thomas Award and the Westin/Camino Real Award for travel journalism about Mexico, Ms. Adair has been traveling and writing about Mexico for over twenty years. Apparently, she has eaten just about every national and regional dish the country has to offer, and shares her first-hand knowledge in a practical, informative and enticing little volume.

The Spanish/English Menu Primer contains a comprehensive list of menu offerings, from the humblest street fare to sophisticated alta cocina, as well as explanations of how each dish is prepared, what ingredients are used, and how it may vary from one part of the country to another. There is also a section on regional and seasonal specialties, which is particularly helpful for those wishing to try something uniquely delicious without being “surprised” by something to which they may have an allergy or aversion. (Now that I know what it’s called,for example, I will never mistakenly order a fried goat’s blood patty. I will, however, be sure to try a chilmole sauce on my upcoming trip to the Yucatan, as well as several other regional specialties described in the book.) It is also useful to know that many foods go by different names or are prepared distinctively in various parts of the country, and the author has done a thorough job of explaining the differences.

Far from discouraging people from trying the intriguing variety of food Mexico has to offer, as is done in a disheartening number of “travel guides”, the author encourages visitors to venture into the smaller restaurants, fondas and cafés, and even gives several sensible tips on how to enjoy the wondrous meals in the food markets and still maintain proper hygiene. Yes, it can be done, and Ms. Adair’s advice is easy and practical to carry out. She also provides tips on shopping in the market, an especially helpful section for those eager to bring home authentic ingredients with which to duplicate some of the tasty food they’ve had in Mexico.

As a cookbook author and travel writer living in Mexico, I’m always interested in adding new books to my references on Mexican cuisine, and I can honestly say that l’ve learned as much about Mexican food from this beautifully organized little book as I have from eleven years of working and traveling in Mexico. Whether a first-time visitor, a seasoned traveler, or a reader interested in a comprehensive look at Mexico’s technical and cultural approaches to food, you’ll get it all here, from soup varieties to tortilla etiquette.

The Hungry Traveler: Mexico can be ordered from your local bookstore or direct from the author at Rabbit in the Moon, Inc., 7028 Bandera Road Rd.#309, San Antonio, TX. 78230.
It is also available from Amazon Books: Paperback

Published or Updated on: November 1, 1998 by Karen Hursh Graber © 1998


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