The Familia Kitchen Cookbook is here!
What once started out as a website, which hosts a multitude of Latin American – and Abuela-approved – recipes, is now coming to a bookstore near you!
“I spent every waking hour possible between October 2021 and June 2022 writing and editing and fact-checking the book’s 284 pages,” Caviness told BELatina News in a recent interview.
Familia Kitchen, spearheaded by Puerto Rican entrepreneur Kim Caviness and publisher Lisa Hunt Stevens, aims to collect, curate, and celebrate Latino culinary heritage at its most authentic level. It takes the “family route,” meaning the recipes are tried and true to the community as these recipes are provided by people from Latino households.
It is a community effort to preserve our deeply rooted Latino culture – and what better way to do this than with food?
It took about a year and a half for the Familia Kitchen cookbook to be completed. Though the Familia Kitchen website was launched in October of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the founders knew a cookbook was essential for Latino family food stories and recipes.
A cookbook would allow them to use impeccable food photography to detail the intricate, cultural stories behind a certain meal and bring the home cook’s background to life.
Now, the Familia Kitchen Cookbook will showcase the best of its first year from the website. It will also star the first 12 monthly recipes contest winners.
How did they gather their recipes?
Caviness started talking to a community of home cooks in the Spring of 2021. After she listened to every pinch and dash of seasoning, the specifications for the perfect Latino dish, and the heartstrings present in each step, she would research, cook, and photograph the dishes. There were over 120 dishes.
The Familia Kitchen Cookbook’s production started in July 2022. Months later, they finally have the books in hand.
Both Caviness and Hunt will now go on a five-city book tour – starting in Miami, Florida this 7th of October – to share the importance of this cookbook to the Latino community and to anyone who wants to give their life a little bit of sazón.
As opposed to Familia Kitchen’s premise online, the book builds a feast around each dish with expanded homecooked, crowdsourced recipes.
Starting with a delicious arroz con pollo recipe, traveling through the ceviche and tacos, and ending with tamales, the Familia Kitchen Cookbook is a roadmap to the complex yet rich tastes of Latin America.
Learn more about the creation of the Familia Kitchen Cookbook below. Caviness gave us lots of insight about it!
The interview was slightly edited for clarity and brevity.
What are some of your greatest strengths and how did they manifest in the process of crafting the Familia Kitchen cookbook?
At FamiliaKitchen.com, we are on a mission to preserve and celebrate those special family recipes that have been passed down for generations—from bisabuela to abuela to son or daughter and then to now: los grandkids. These are the recetas and food stories that define who we are, that make us feel like we are home — no matter where we may be living. A lot of us were born in a Latino country or island, like me in Puerto Rico, and we miss home — and by home I mean capital “H” home. I may no longer live in Puerto Rico, but I can cook my home back there — from my Chicago kitchen.
As to our greatest strength, it’s this: We help capture the stories of Latino home cooks who are cooking their way home. We talk to abuelas and tíos and primos and ask them about their recipes, to get them on paper for posterity. We want everyone to feel that they belong to a Latino family tribe and help them connect to our culture so that they feel like they really belong and are loved — one family-famous recipe at a time.
What is different between this cookbook to the website?
The amazing gift of this cookbook is the opportunity to celebrate the most popular recipes and stories into a cohesive narrative that paints a fuller picture of who we are, as Latinos living in the U.S.
Each chapter is organized around the monthly Recipe Contest of the first 12 months. So, you can see how tostones from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba compare to patacones from Colombia. The book weaves a fascinating throughline of the roots of Latino cuisine. How the collective foundational influences of Indigenous, Spanish, and African shift from Latino place to place—and how this food heritage has helped make us who we are today.
In the cookbook, we were able to explore the food anthropology we love to do by putting together a Latin American story across 12 chapters. We also include photography of Latino familias in their very own kitchens, such as in the last chapter, which creates a photo essay showing 12 of our cookbook families gathered around their famous dishes. This is something that we can’t do online in the same way. Plus, nothing beats having a physical book in your hands. It brings to life our mission: Cooking Our Way Home. I grew up loving books with all my heart. This is a dream come true for me. Literally.
What was the most challenging part of making this book come to life?
Honestly, the nuts and bolts of publishing itself: Going on press and shipping to bookstores. Homecooking photography and writing and recipe crowdsourcing are what we do all day long. That part is a joy and as natural as breathing for us. But actually printing the book? A whole different thing! Lisa and I both come from journalism and media backgrounds so we knew that we wanted to publish this book ourselves. We also knew we didn’t want to spend 3 years convincing a big publishing house that Latino home cooking has real value and that there is an audience for this. So, we launched our own Familia Kitchen Publishing arm, a division of FamiliaKitchen.com. And it’s been very fulfilling, but we had to educate ourselves on a whole new part of the physical publishing business, which has changed a ton in this digital age.
Do you have an absolute favorite recipe from the Familia Kitchen cookbook?
That’s a horrible question. I love every single one of them like they are my children. I’ve cooked each one over and over. If I had to pick just one… OK, I can’t. I’m picking two. One is simple and since I learned to make it, I try to always have it in my fridge. My cousin Anjie Villalobos’s incredible salsa avocado serrano salsa. The flavor is so sophisticated, so addictive, so serrano-forward yet creamy-smooth and mind-blowingly good. The second is the arroz con pollo that won our Grand Prize Contest. Homecook Michelle Ezratty Murphy sent us her Boricua husband Titi Rosa’s family-famous recipe and it is capital “I” Incredible. It is the best version I have ever had in my life. It has achiote oil, killer sofrito, and a perfect mix of spices. It also delivers pegao consistently. Arroz con pollo is my choice for the last meal on earth so I have to go with this dish if you force me to pick just one.
Why is this cookbook so important and what sets it apart from other Latino-based cookbooks?
Four things set it apart.
- We specialize in favorite family-famous home cooking and abuela recipes. So, our dishes are deeply accessible and cookable. We are not chef-fy or fussy. That’s a big relief for our audience. These dishes have been made for generations and are loved — so you know they will be good. And they are!
- Each of the chapters is organized around one of the No. 1 winning dishes of our monthly Recipe Contests, each dish is guaranteed delicioso and magical: a definite cut above the usual ways of making that dish.
- We cover a wider range than most Latino cookbooks in terms of destination. In this cookbook, you’ll learn about a rich range of cuisines from 9 Latino places, including Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, and more.
- We dig into the roots of each chapter’s winning dish. What are the Indigenous, Spanish, and/or African food traditions that inform this recipe, and how it came to our tables today? We love food anthropology at Familia Kitchen and are excited to share what we learn with our community of home cooks.
What’s next for Familia Kitchen?
We are on a book tour for the next few months. Also, the Familia Kitchen Cookbook is newly available as of Sept. 30, just in time for National Hispanic Heritage Month, so that’s our priority. We’ll be supporting the launch with bookstore events and readings in Miami at Books & Books on Oct. 7, then on to Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
Meanwhile, we are still committed and excited to keep adding to our treasury of Latino family-famous dishes across the 20 Spanish-speaking places we come from, one recipe at a time. The dream is to co-create the most complete, authentic, and largest treasury of Latino home cooking recipes. I see it growing to 20,000 recipes in one day!
After the cookbook launch, our next big dream for 2023 is to launch a TV series by reimagining the Familia Kitchen experience into a show where we can celebrate Latino food heritage and home cooking at its most authentic and delicioso.