Coconuts and Collards

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When her family moved from Puerto Rico to Atlanta, Von Diaz traded plantains, roast pork, and Malta for grits, fried chicken, and sweet tea. Brimming with humor and nostalgia, Coconuts and Collards is a recipe-packed memoir of growing up Latina in the Deep South. The stories center on the women in Diaz's family who have used food to nourish and care for one another.

Inspired by her grandmother's 1962 copy of Cocina Criolla--the Puerto Rican equivalent of the Joy of Cooking--Diaz celebrates traditional recipes while fusing them with her own family history and a contemporary southern flair. Diaz's funche recipe is grits kicked up with coconut milk. White beans make the catfish corn chowder creamy and give it a Spanish feel. The pinchos de pollo--chicken skewers--feature guava BBQ sauce, which doubles as the sauce for adobo-coated ribs.

Diaz innovates for modern palates, updating and lightening recipes and offering vegetarian alternatives. For the chayotes rellenos (stuffed squash), she suggests replacing the picadillo (sauteed ground beef) with seitan or tofu. She offers alternatives for difficult-to-find ingredients, like substituting potatoes for yucca and yautia--root vegetables typically paired with a meat to make sancocho. Diaz's version of this hearty stew features chicken and lean pork. And because every good Puerto Rican meal ends with drinks, desserts, and dancing, Diaz includes recipes for besitos de coco (coconut kisses), rum cake, sofrito bloody marys, and anticuado, an old-fashioned made with rum.

With stunning photographs that showcase the geographic diversity of the island and the vibrant ingredients that make up Puerto Rican cuisine, this cookbook is a moving story about discovering our roots through the foods that comfort us. It is about the foods that remind us of family and help us bridge childhood and adulthood, island and mainland, birthplace and adopted home.