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‘Gran Cocina Latina’ is an instant classic

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In a seminal essay on the Latin American novel, Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier talked about “culinary context” as one of the essential elements of the region’s fiction. As in his own novels, Carpentier was reaching for that overarching component that made Latin America, well, Latin America.

Maricel E. Presilla titles the first chapter of her 902-page “Gran Cocina Latina” (Norton, $45), “What is Latin America?” The book is an ambitious work that encompasses all Latin American cooking, thus claiming that,…

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