Cultural Essence of Cookbooks in Latino Heritage: A Conversation With Ericka Sanchez

Nicholas Clayton, Librarian, Multilingual Collections,
Author Ericka Sánchez and her cookbooks, ¡Buenos días!, Aguas Frescas and Paletas, and ¡Buen Provecho!
Author Ericka Sánchez and her cookbooks, ¡Buenos días!, Aguas Frescas and Paletas, and ¡Buen Provecho!

Cookbooks are more than just collections of recipes—they are vessels of memory, culture, and storytelling. In the Latino community, these culinary treasures hold an even more profound significance because they connect individuals to their heritage and provide a bridge to cultural understanding. One shining example of culinary storytelling is Ericka Sánchez, a cookbook author, food stylist, recipe developer, and the creative mind behind the award-winning website Nibbles and Feasts.

Born in Torreon Coahuila, Mexico, Ericka and her family immigrated to El Paso, Texas, when she was just eight years old. Now residing in Los Angeles, Ericka's journey helped her develop a deep appreciation for her bicultural roots, which she shares through her award-winning website. Nibbles and Feasts, Launched in 2010, documents Ericka's cherished memories in the kitchen, particularly those spent with her grandmother and mother in Mexico.

Ericka's culinary voyage has led her to rediscover and reimagine traditional recipes, infusing them with her unique twists while staying true to her Mexican heritage. Her website and recipes have garnered recognition, making it onto the Babble top 100 food bloggers for 2012 and 2013. Her creations have also been featured in esteemed publications like Oprah Daily, Taste of Home, and Cosmopolitan for Latinas, to name a few.

At the heart of Ericka's heritage is her cookbook collection Refreshing Drinks & Frozen Treats Enjoy Your Meal! Her collaboration on Good Morning! A Mexican Breakfast Book. Ericka's cookbooks center on the role of memories and storytelling for people who know about Mexican food and people who may not be very familiar with Mexican food. Ericka shared, "Food is always a celebration for me. And since my cookbooks include my culture, my recipes, and my stories, I hope people with the same background as myself can identify with similar memories. My books also introduce many people who don't have a background like mine to the Mexican food I grew up with who are also looking to learn how to cook Mexican food".

While Ericka's passion lies in the kitchen, she also recognizes the power of literature and storytelling in connecting communities. She believes these connections extend beyond symbolism and manifest in the ingredients we find on supermarket shelves. Her culinary creations often feature ingredients so readers can savor Mexican cuisine's essence without barriers. When unique ingredients are necessary, Ericka ensures accessibility for all by providing resources.

Discussing the impact of libraries in promoting cultural understanding, Ericka highlights events like the L.A. Libros Fest, which amplifies diverse voices and cultures. Libraries, she notes, play a vital role by representing historically underserved communities and giving them a platform to share their stories. As she continues to make culinary waves, Ericka's ongoing projects include the completion of her T.V. show's first season and the development of another book centered around the delectable world of salsas. Her dedication to cooking and culinary talents shine through in her adaptability and creativity, crafting dishes that resonate with familiar and unfamiliar palates.

Ericka's advice is golden for aspiring authors and creators: maintain a journal, jot down ideas, and revisit them when creative blocks arise. This practice helps break through barriers and allows for the evolution of youthful concepts into mature creations.

Ericka Sánchez's culinary journey exemplifies the power of cookbooks as vessels of culture, memory, and shared experiences. Through her website, cookbooks, and passion for storytelling, she extends an invitation to explore the vibrant tapestry of Latino heritage one delicious recipe at a time.

Ericka Sánchez will be one of the featured authors at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family celebrating stories and music from Latin America and the United States. L.A. Libros Fest will be streamed live on YouTube on Friday, September 29, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The Festival will be in-person at Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, September 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Book cover for Aguas frescas and paletas: refreshing Mexican drinks and frozen treats, traditional and reimagined
Aguas Frescas and Paletas: Refreshing Mexican Drinks and Frozen Treats, Traditional and Reimagined
Sánchez, Ericka

Book cover for ¡Buen provecho!: traditional Mexican flavors from my cocina to yours
¡Buen provecho!: Traditional Mexican Flavors From my Cocina to Yours
Sánchez, Ericka

Book cover of ¡Buenos días! : the Mexican breakfast book
¡Buenos días!: The Mexican Breakfast Book
Sanchez, Ericka