The Mexican Cook Book (1971) – Sopa Seca de Fideos / Dry Noodle Soup
Wallace, George and Inger. The Mexican Cook Book. Concord, CA: Nitty Gritty Productions, 1971. [TX716 .M4 W35 1971]
The Mexican Cook Book (1971) was authored by photographer George Wallace and his wife Inger Wallace, who accompanied on him on photography shoots throughout Mexico. The forward includes an abbreviated history of Mexican cuisine and its influences:
During the past forty years, we have travelled throughout Mexico, seeking to know its people, delighting in the discovery of modern customs that are related to the past…Mexico’s cuisine is a result not only of her own products and people, but the influence of her conquerers: First, the Spanish Conquistadores… introduced cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, olives, grapes, rice, wheat, sugar, and cinnamon to Mexico, as well as new herbs and spices…Then on September 16, 1810, in a small village in the state of Cuanajuato, Padre Hidalgo y Castillo cried out to his impoverished native flock “Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Death to the ‘gachupines’! – and thus signaled the end of domination from [Spain], and the beginning of a courtship of everything French. Today, Mexican cuisine, a composite of all three, is uniquely flavorful, and almost addictive.
The rest of the cookbook combines recipes with Wallace’s striking photographs of rural Mexico and includes a wide range of dishes organized into the following chapters:
- Entremeses / Hors de’Oeuvres
Sopas Secas / Dry soups
- Ensaladas / Salad
- Enchiladas & Tamales
- Verduras /Vegetables
- Pescado / Fish
- Pollos y Carnes / Chicken and Meat
- Huevos / eggs
- Reposteria/ bakery items
Somewhat unusually for a cookbook aimed at a U.S. audience in the early 1970s, the Wallaces do not eliminate chiles or replace them all with chili powder, but call for ancho, chipotle, pequine, green (New Mexico), and jalapeño chiles. At the back of the cookbook, they include a short description of each, along with a capitalized warning for cooks unaccustomed to the properties of chiles: “KEEP HANDS AWAY FROM EYES AND WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY WITH SOAP AND COLD WATER IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARD.”
In the section on Sopas Secas / Dry soups, the authors describe these dishes thus:
Substantial and delicious, dry soups occupy a regular place on comida menus across the land. Served on individual plates just after the soup course, and topped with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, these dry soups resemble Italian pastas in their use. They can also accompany a main course in lieu of potatoes, rice, or other similar dish
The following recipe for Sopa Seca de Fideos is a little bit like a noodle casserole, but cooked on the stove-top, rather than in the oven.
Sopa Seca de Fideos
½ pound vermicelli
- 2 T oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup canned tomatoes, drained, chopped
- ¼ t sugar
- ¼ t oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Break vermicelli into 2-inch strips, and fry in hot oil, stirring constantly until lightly browned. Remove, leaving as much of the oil in the pan as possible.
Saute minced onion and garlic in the hot oil, then add the tomatoes, sugar, and oregano. Return the vermicelli to the pan, pour in broth, and stir well. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cover pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Finish cooking with pan uncovered if there is much liquid left.
Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese before serving.