Desserts with history: UTSA digitizes ancient Mexican recipes for you to cook
Anyone with Internet access will be able to cook everything from a rice pudding recipe from 1831 to churros as they were made after the Mexican Revolution.
After 20 years of gathering collections of Mexican recipes, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) decided to start a project to make these wells of gastronomic knowledge accessible to everyone — there are an estimated 2,000 of them — some of which date back to 1789.
Now, in the wake of the pandemic that has prompted people to cook and make more of their lives at home, UTSA has launched the first of its Cooking in the Time of the Coronavirus mini recipe books, which is dedicated to Mexican sweets. Such unusual delicacies as a recipe for rice pudding written in 1831, or even a 15-year-old cake orchestrated by Mexican gastronomy pioneer Josefina Velázquez de León, that requires about 14 cups of butter, 18 cups of sugar and 22 cups of flour, plus several pounds of toppings (both tasty and high in calories).
"I want anyone with an Internet connection to be able to see these works," UTSA Special Collections librarian Stephanie Noell, whose team managed to digitize more than 50 cookbooks before the pandemic, told Gastro Obscura.
Noell added that since librarians have been unable to continue their work by digitizing manuscripts, "we wanted to provide people with another way to access them," so these documents often appear alongside transcribed recipes for delicious desserts that have inspired many Mexican restaurants to serve history with a knife and fork.
Rico Torres, chef and owner of Mixtli in San Antonio — that uses indigenous ingredients and pre-Hispanic techniques in its food preparation — wrote the foreword to the first e-book, Postres.
"It has taken a while for Mexican cuisine to be recognized as a major player on the world stage. Seeing these recipes and stories in a book validates everything we are doing," he told Gastro Obscura.
The next digital recipe book to be launched by the UTSA team will be a booklet on main dishes that will appear in the Fall and another on appetizers and drinks that they hope will be ready by 2021.
In the meantime, take note of this delicious recipe for "Buñuelos de leche" from an early 20th century manuscript by Josefa Dammi Ortigosa and Susana de Sánchez Irazoqui.
3 cups of flour ⅓ (1 lb.)
1 cup of milk
2 egg whites
1 cup melted butter
To a pound of flour, add one cup of milk, eight eggs, two egg whites, one cup of melted butter, a little bit of ground aniseed and a little bit of salt.
Make the dough and fry the fritters.
Pour the syrup over them.
Simple, don't you think?