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Sor Juana’s recipes and her contributions to Mexican gastronomy

24 mayo, 2021

What did Juana de Asbaje not do? For a woman of the viceregal era, it is surprising the scope she had regarding her knowledge and activities. And today we want to talk to you about Sor Juana’s recipes, which are a valuable contribution from New Spain to Mexican gastronomy.

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Sor Juana’s recipes: a poetic delight

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a nun who belonged to the Calzada de las Jerónimas order, where she could dedicate herself to study and writing, which was what she was most passionate about in life.

However, being a member of an order, he had to carry out other activities besides prayer, including cooking.

Cooking was one of the many manual activities that women of the time had to know and perform, such as weaving and embroidery.

And Sor Juana not only worked wearing a cook’s attire, but also collected various recipes that emerged in her time, writing, in this way, one of the New Hispanic cookbooks that would form part of the foundations of modern Mexican gastronomy.

New Spanish cuisine in a convent

Novoshispana conventual kitchen, a place where Sor Juana’s recipes surely came to life. (Photo: Getty Images)

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“If Aristotle had cooked, more would have written”

In the viceregal era, it was quite common to include techniques and ingredients from other parts of the world, such as Europeans, Afro-descendants and of course indigenous people.

Only from Spain came many recipes that were prepared in New Spain; However, other ingredients typical of the country were used to make them, and the kitchens of the convents were ideal places to create different dishes and sweets, as happened with the quince paste.

And of course, in addition to the ingredients, the nuns found new dishes and flavors from the Mexican lands, which they combined with techniques and foods brought from the old continent.

The Cook Book, attributed to the pen of Sor Juana, is considered a historical jewel of great value for the cultural heritage of Mexico, as it protects these recipes that are a testimony of the confluence of the various cultures of New Spain.

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Sor Juana’s recipe book

According to the foreword to a 1996 edition of the Cook BookThis is “a palaeographic version of a manuscript attributed to Sor Juana, who is supposed to have selected and copied a recipe book from the San Jerónimo convent.”

In it, some of the aspects of the culinary art of New Spain are revealed, as well as the multifaceted character of the nun.

The issue has 37 recipes, and among them are instructions for making manchamanteles moles, how to cook cacahuacintle or Oaxacan clemoles.

There are also recipes of Spanish heritage such as burnt milk, cottage cheese fritters or pineapple suede.

In addition to being a rich testimony of Novoshipana gastronomy, Sor Juana did not lose her touch of muse, dedicating the book to her sisters with one of her many sonnets:

Flattened, oh, sister, of my self-love.

I conceptualize myself to form this writing

of Cook Book and what madness!

finish it, and then I saw how badly I copy.

Discover more curiosities about Mexican gastronomy in Easy Kitchen