By Judi Morales Meyer

Worldwide, cooking food is something all humans have in common. The offer of a shared meal says, you are family, you are welcome here. Food tells a story about who we are, where we’re from, our traditions, culture, and history. It expresses love, nurture, and comfort — that’s why eating a burrito from La Mexicana feels like a hug.

The Truckee and North Tahoe region is lucky to have a diverse Latino population. Xenia Dieter, a Nevada County Library technician at the Truckee Library, was seeking ways to reach out to Spanish-speaking locals. A community Latino cookbook seemed like an approachable solution.


“We’re trying to make sure Latinx people know that the library is a place where everyone is welcome,” said Dieter, using the more recently coined gender-neutral term for those of Latin American heritage.

Dieter, whose parents are from El Salvador, remembers extended family gatherings, where food and sharing a meal was a central part.

“I grew up sharing meals with my family,” she said. “My aunt managed a Salvadorian restaurant in Downtown L.A., so she would bring food like pupusas.”

Some describe pupusas as a cross between a tamale and quesadilla, a thick griddle cake filled with meats, beans, cheese, or vegetables. Dieter also recalled joining her Mexican peers in making tamales during the holidays while growing up in Los Angeles. Although tamales are common throughout Latin America, Mexico is the only region that uses corn husks. Everywhere else, banana leaves are used to make a moister tamale.

“There were very few Central American restaurants,” she said. “Salvadorian food is different from Mexican food.” 

Latin food recipes are unique to family heritage, and so the Latino cookbook is like peeking into your neighbor’s kitchen.

“Keeping family recipes secret motivated us to learn,” Dieter said. “I remember my mother saying she had to learn these things before her mother passed, making sure that it’s passed on.” 

The first edition of the Truckee Library Latino Cookbook project was published in 2022. The second edition was published in 2023, with a total of 26 recipes, submitted from 20 local contributors through outreach from the KidZone Museum and Sierra Community House, a food bank program that feeds around 3,000 local residents. Printed in both Spanish and English, the recent edition includes photographs and biographies of contributors.

Dieter’s contribution was a quesadilla recipe — but not the kind of quesadilla that most are used to stateside.

“It’s a sweet-bread type of dessert,” explained Dieter. She also included dairy-free and gluten-free alternatives.

Gabriela Islas provided a recipe for sopa de albóndigas (also shared below), a meatball soup, not to be confused with menudo, a tripe soup said to cure hangovers — or Ricky Martin’s 1980s Latin boy band.

“My maternal great-grandmother taught my grandmother how to make it. Then my grandmother taught my mom,” states Islas’ bio. “Now I cook it and hope that one of my daughters will continue the tradition of making it.”

The current edition features exotic recipes like tepache, a fermented beverage made from pineapple rind, and camarones a la diabla, a heroic-level spicy shrimp dish. Also included are recipes for enchiladas, chilaquiles, rice, pupusas, and soups.

The project was funded in part by the Friends of the Library, with plans to publish yet another new edition in the coming year. At the February launch at the Truckee Library, contributors were each presented with a copy of the book. To maintain the focus of the project, the book is not available for sale. However, six copies can be checked out by the public at the Truckee Library. For information about the Truckee Library Latino Cookbook project and other programs, call (530) 582-7846.

~ Judi Morales Meyer is a foodie. After culinary arts school, she worked in Bay Area restaurants and learned cook authentic Mexican cuisine from her mother, and while working in Sayulita on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Judi occasionally hosts tamale-making parties and is known for her Spanish rice and chocolate molé.  

Sopa de Albóndigas
Primeros ingredientes:
2 libras de carne de res molida
2 jitomates picados
½ cebolla picada
½ taza de arroz
2 huevos
unas ramitas de oregano fresco, picadas
1 cucharada de sal de ajo

Segundos ingredientes:
2 jitomates
½ cebolla
2 dientes de ajo
sal al gusto
1 cucharada de consomé en polvo de pollo
Opcional: zanahorias y paps (4-6) cortadas en cubitos

Primeros ingredientes:
Poner en un recipiente todos estos ingredientes y mezclar muy bien. Empezar a hacer su preferencia.

Segundos ingredientes:
Poner todo en la licuadora con poca agua. Licuar hasta tener una consistencia espesa. En una olla, poner poquito aceite para poner a guisar todo lo que se licuó. Agregar 3 tazas de agua y 2 cuchradas de consomé de pollo. Una vez que empiece a hervir, agrega las bolitas de las albóndigas. Una vez que las albóndigas estén hirviendo, agrega la zanahoria. Después de 5 minutos, agrega la papa y el cilantro. Dejar hervir por 30 minutos a fuego lento. Revisar que la carne de las albóndigas esté cosida.

Meatball Soup

First ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef
2 tomatoes, diced
½ onion, diced
½ cup rice
2 eggs
1 bunch fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tbsp garlic salt

Second ingredients:
2 tomatoes
½ onion
2 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp powdered chicken broth
Optional: carrots and potatoes (4-6) diced

First ingredients:
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Form the meatballs in the size you prefer.

Second ingredients:
Place all these ingredients in a blender with a little water. Blend until you get a thick consistency. In a pot, heat up oil to cook the meatballs. Add 3 cups of water and 2 Tbsp of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add meatballs and bring them to a boil. Add carrots. After 5 minutes, add potatoes and cilantro. Boil for 30 minutes with low heat.


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