Book Report

Frida’s Fiesta: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life With Frida.

Frida’s Fiesta: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life With Frida. By Guadalupe Rivera ( Painter Diego Rivera’s daughter), and Marie - Pierre Colle, photographs by Inacio Urquiza. Clarkson PotterPublishers. 1994. 224 pp. $37.50.

This is a book about Frida Kahlo, possibly the best known female artist in Mexico (1907-1954), and her husband, Diego Rivera, (1886-1957), an equally famous artist of the common people in Mexico, and also a muralist.

 This is our book store’s most expensive cookbook, but oh,what a treat!

Written by Diego’s daughter, Guadalupe, who lived with Frida and Diego in their Blue House at Lourdes near Mexico City while attending University, this book is both fun to read and useful to enhance your reputation as a concinera. (Cook)

 In the first two short chapters, the author relates anecdotes of the many highs and lows in Frida’s life, including her tragic streetcar accident in 1925, the beginning of her art career, meeting Diego, and then pages about the wedding of her father Diego, and Frida, which she describes as a fairy tale event, although the marriage went rather badly.  Guadalupe lived in the Blue House for several years, and describes her daily life there. Family life and celebration foods with color photos to illustrate are included with each fiesta. Frida’s style of dress, ( influenced greatly by the culture and dress of Oaxaca), is also described. The regard and love Guadalupe felt for Frida is apparent in all she writes here; a stepmother tale that is happy and loving.

Pictures of the gardens illustrate Frieda’s lifelong love of flowers, animals and birds, (including parakeets, songbirds, long haired cats, a dog, and a spider monkey named Fulong). Frida also liked to incorporate fruits into both menus and paintings, saying, “...fruits are like flowers....they speak a provocative language, and teach us things that are hidden.” There is an example of a still life of hers that illustrates her philosophy. Guadalupe also said that Frida told her she preferred nature and natural objects to people.

Life in the Blue House was usually full of guests and celebrations.The blue of their house is a deep blue (azule anil ), useful to ward off evil spirits, and it was trimmed with bright red and green. The book tells about family life; with many anecdotes I have never read in other books and stories about Frida and Diego. There are photos, full and double paged views of prepared food, views of Frida’s bright blue and yellow and copper filled kitchen, more than 100 recipes, vintage black and white photos of Frida, some reproductions of her paintings, and pages from her cookbook and notebooks. Fascinating!

I have written all of this, but still have not yet talked about the Fiestas and the recipes. And I have not yet described the real theme of the book, which is Twelve Fiestas, with recipes and photos, from Frida’s many celebrations, and all of her festivals in the Blue House. Frida loved laughter and parties, and wanted to rejoice and celebrate every possible occasion. Perhaps this springs from all of the tragedies, pain, and life-long health problems she suffered throughout her life.  

The first Fiesta is in August, and is of course, the wedding of Frida and Diego. Menus and recipes are included for all of the foods served, and of course, there are many photos. I would like to attempt the black mole from Oaxaca when I have all of the spices. Each Fiesta menu contains eight to thirteen dishes, photos, and recipes, and also several pages of anecdotes and memories of that particular celebration. All recipes contain both U.S. and metric measurements. Most of the ingredients are easily available, but a few recipes call for things I am not yet familiar with (what great fun!)

 Other fiestas include November’s Day of the Dead, December ‘s Posada, La Roscado Reyes, a baptism, boat picnic, May’s fiesta of the holy cross, the meal of the broad tablecloth stainer in June, (I love this concept and the menu, which includes squash blossom sopa, and potato tortitas).

 Then, finally, we have Frida’s birthday celebration in July, where tablecloth strainers are one of the many offered dishes. Guadalupe tells the reader that Frida sold a painting for the money to pay for that fiesta, and invited half of Mexico to her party. This is the menu for that day:

Shrimp broth, tablecloth stainer, Escabeche, Chicken Escabeche, PorkStew, Pork with Nopales, Fish Baked in Acuyo Leaves, Mole Poblano, Grilled Pig’s Feet, Radish, and Cheese Salad, Sweet Potato Pineapple Sherbet, Mamey Mousse, and Pine Nut Flan ( all recipes are included!) This was the most elaborate feast, in the book, but not my own favorite of her menus. Certainly, though, no one went hungry!

Mariachis were hired to sing Las Mananitas ( more beautiful than our happy birthday).

I have tried some of the simplest recipes with success; chiles stuffed with cheese in tomato sauce, flan, and want to make deadman’s bread this November, and also cats paw

 I recommend this book to anyone interested in a different view of Frida and Diego’s life, and to anyone who loves to cook (and/or eat)! Copies are available at El Caballo Blanco bookstore in Loreto.