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.