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The Good Life according to Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert

December 8, 2014
The Good Life (1949) by Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert.  UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

The Good Life (1949) by Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert. UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

Cabeza de Baca Gilbert, Fabiola. The Good Life: New Mexican Food. Santa Fé, NM: San Vicente Foundation, Inc., 1949. [TX725 .G48 1949]

Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert grew up as part of a prominent New Mexico ranching family. As an adult, she became the first Hispanic woman hired by the New Mexico Agricultural Extension Services and worked among New Mexico’s rural communities for over 30  years. Although working to introduce modern methods and technology, her interest in history and desire to preserve cultural traditions led Cabeza de Baca to emphasize the importance of cultural and historical context in her books.

The first half of The Good Life: New Mexican Food is a fictional narrative of the Turrieta family in an rural northern New Mexico village, describing seasonal events, family celebrations, and culinary practices. The second half consists of recipes in the New Mexican culinary tradition.

The Editor’s note preceding the recipe section of the book notes that one of the characteristics differentiating New Mexican cuisine from Tex-Mex or Interior Mexican-style dishes is the relative absence of herbs and spices, “True New Mexican chile dishes are seldom seasoned, other than with onion salt and garlic, with many herbs. Orégano, grown in New Mexico, is sometimes used, but not once in this cook book is Cumin, an herb popular in Old Mexico, used.” The recipe for Gallina Rellena below slightly contradicts that description, as it includes coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. However, most of the recipes in this cookbook more closely resemble the simple chick pea stew that follows.

Gallina Rellena / Stuffed Fowl (p. 57)

  • 1 roasting fowl (12-15 lbs.)
  • 1/4 lb. butter
  • 1 lb. cooked beef
  • 2 c. raisins
  • 1 c. shelled piñon nuts
  • 2 squares melted chocolate
  • 1 t. coriander seed
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. cloves
  • 1 c. meat stock
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • salt

Clean and prepare fowl for roasting as usual. Rub inside with butter. Grind beef, add raisins and other ingredients except wine. Cook until thick. Add wine and let come to a boil. Stuff fowl as with other stuffing and roast until tender.

Cocido de Garbanzo / Chick Pea Stew (p. 61)

  • 1 c. garbanzo
  • 6 c. water
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 c. chopped ham
  • 1 c. Spanish or Mexican sausage
  • 1 t. orégano
  • Salt and pepper

Soak chick pea overnight. Drain and add boiling water. Cook and when partly done add onion, garlic, ham and sausage. Cook until chick peas are tender. Season with orégano, salt and pepper.  A chile pepper added before it is quite done gives it a special flavor.

Sopapillas / Sweet Fried Cakes (p. 76)

These are nice cakes for serving with chocolate or tea

  • 4 c. flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 4 t. fat
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • Water or milk

Sift flour with salt and baking powder. Cut fat into flour. Beat eggs, add sugar, and add to flour mixture. Add enough milk or water to make a medium dough neither stiff nor soft. Let dough stand for 1/2 hour. Roll out 1/4 inch thick, cut into 1 1/2 inch squares and fry in deep fat until brown.

To 1/2 cup sugar add 2 teaspoons cinnamon and mix well. As the sopapillas are fried and drained and still hot, roll in the sugar and cinnamon mixture.


Davis, Kate K. “Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert (1894-1991)” In American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Eds. Laurie Champion and Emmanuel Smpath Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

“Inventory of the Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert Papers, 1602-1996” The University of New Mexico, University Libraries, Center for Southwest Research. 2000.

Rudnick, Lois. “La Fabulosa Fabiola: First Lady of New Mexico Cuisine.” El Palacio vol. 117, no. 4 (Winter 2012): 72-75.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2014 3:29 am

    Wow, that “stuffed fowl” recipe is really compelling and seems easy too– might try it with a pheasant? (am in the UK.)

    • Juli McLoone permalink
      December 11, 2014 9:59 am

      I think that this recipe could probably be prepared with any kind of poultry. One would just have to adjust the amount of filling to suit the size of the bird. Any extra filling could probably be fried as patties or cooked as a meatloaf.

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