Colombian family win award for world’s best cookbook

Mother-and-daughter team scoop gong at Gourmand awards in Paris for volume of traditional leaf-wrapped recipes

A Colombian mother and daughter’s celebration of their country’s traditional leaf-wrapped dishes has been named best cookbook in the world at the Gourmand awards in Paris.

Colombia’s envueltos are part of a culinary heritage that stretches across much of Latin America, from the tamales of Mexico and Guatemala to the humitas of Chile.

All involve some kind of dough, or masa, made with a starches that could be corn, yucca, bananas or rice, studded with tasty fillings. These can be pork, chicken and other meat, or beans and vegetables. The dish is then wrapped in a corn husk or other leaf for cooking, usually by steaming.

Mother Zoraida “Chori” Agamez and daughter Heidy Pinto, who have both been cooking since they were children, wrote the prize-winning book, named simply Envueltos, to chronicle the Colombian approach to these delicacies.

“In troubled times, in sad moments, in the middle of a pandemic, cooking will always be part of the solution,” they said in an Instagram post celebrating their win. “Long live tradition, envueltos and Colombian cuisine.”

The duo come from the northern Colombian city of Barrancabermeja, but decided nearly four years ago to crisscross their country collecting traditional recipes. “We had been teaching workshops on techniques for making envueltos. We focused on the masa, but people wanted to know more about the wrappings,” said Pinto. “So we began travelling across all of Colombia looking for envueltos, to find out where they are popular, what they are called locally, and how they make them. We collected more than 300 recipes.”

The details of these local traditions are all are mapped on their Spanish-language website El Toque Colombiano (The Colombian Touch), but for the book, they had to winnow down the list.

“We began trying them out, until we couldn’t face any more,” Pinto said with a laugh. They ultimately decided to focus only on recipes using corn, yucca and banana as the main starch.

Publisher Daniel Guerrero, a Spaniard who had been living in Colombia for years, stumbled across their blog and told them he wanted to publish the recipes.

The women told him they didn’t have a book yet but were searching for a publisher, so he snapped up the rights and planned to launch his new publishing house, called Hambre de Cultura – or hunger for culture – with Envueltos.

They were nearly ready to launch when the pandemic hit, but Guerrero decided to go ahead anyway. Lockdown helped with sales, as orders flooded in from homesick Colombians abroad in Europe, Asia and even in Australia, and they are now on to a third edition. The books was shortlisted in May, and last week the mother-daughter duo beat competition from Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Ireland and New Zealand to be named world best of the best.


Emma Graham-Harrison

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Without drug traffickers, we’d have peace’: Colombian villagers flee new killings
Two years after the end of the guerrilla war that killed 220,000, other players have moved in on the drugs trade, with poor local children now being bribed to take up arms

Karen McVeigh

22, Sep, 2018 @3:59 PM

Article image
We must agree peace by Christmas or hope will end, says Colombian leader
Juan Manuel Santos says he wants consensus for a deal with the Farc – but is not prepared to risk further delay

John Mulholland and Ed Vulliamy

29, Oct, 2016 @11:01 PM

Article image
Hip-hop schools and graffiti art saved Medellin. Can they do the same for Paris?
Urban planner Daniel Carvalho says embracing youth culture can transform France’s poorest suburbs

Kim Willsher

18, May, 2019 @1:30 PM

Article image
Harry Styles stadium show falls foul of football fans in Bogotá
Bid to move pop star’s Colombian tour date to capital’s biggest venue has united supporters of clubs who play there

Luke Taylor in Bogotá

24, Sep, 2022 @1:00 PM

Colombian cocaine ring targeted by UK

Prosecutors have drawn up a hit-list following evidence linking syndicate to the supply of drugs throughout Britain

Mark Townsend

16, May, 2009 @11:14 PM

Spain: Colombian cocaine baron held at hotel

US to request extradition for one of world's most wanted drug lords arrested in five-star Madrid hotel

Mike Elkin

06, Sep, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
No return to civil war, Farc leader promises ahead of Colombia vote
Guerrilla chief says it is the time to heal wounds, whatever next Sunday’s referendum decides

Ed Vulliamy and John Mulholland

25, Sep, 2016 @8:30 AM

Article image
Covid: political chaos and poverty leave South America at virus’s mercy
President Jair Bolsonaro’s prediction that the coronavirus crisis was nearing an end was misguided in Brazil and many of its neighbours

Tom Phillips in Rio

02, May, 2021 @6:42 PM

Article image
Colombia activist killings ‘will not be tolerated’ says minister
Clara López, key player in the peace process, vows an ‘end to impunity’ for rightwing death squads

Ed Vulliamy

19, Feb, 2017 @12:03 AM

Article image
Colombia’s cartels target Europe with cocaine, corruption and torture
Armed Belgian police raids have lifted the lid on a sinister new front in the drugs war

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

11, Apr, 2021 @6:45 AM