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On her blog, Muy Bueno, Yvette shares her family stories and takes her readers on a journey through old-world northern Mexican cuisine, traditional south of the border home-style dishes, and Latin fusion recipes. Muy Bueno was a finalist in the Saveur Blog Awards in 2012 and 2014, and Yvette has published two cookbooks: Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor and Latin Twist: Traditional and Modern Cocktails.
I am so thrilled to have Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack of Muy Bueno joining me here on the show today.
(*All photos below are Yvette’s.)
On The Role Food Played in Her Home:
I grew up in El Paso, Texas, which so many people think, “Oh, you have Tex-Mex food,” but if you’ve ever been to El Paso, it’s pretty much Mexico. Our home is literally a mile away from the Juarez Mexico border. My grandmother came from Chihuahua, Mexico, when she was 10 years old. She’s passed away. She passed away when she was 98 years old, but my mom was a single parent and we lived next door to my grandma. So it was basically my mom and my grandma who raised me, and it was food all the time. It was either see my mom in the kitchen all the time or my grandma in the kitchen. And that was why I named “Muy Bueno” what it is because my grandma would always be in the kitchen, and just anytime any visitors would come, she would always say, “Siéntate a comer, esta muy bueno,” which means, “Sit down, come and eat, it’s very good.” And so every time I thought about my grandma and trying to come up with a blog name, that name just kept coming to me.
My grandma was just always in the kitchen and I was always in there with her. I just loved to sit there and watch her make homemade flour tortillas. And I just couldn’t wait to get home from school and just sit there and just listen to her stories. She would just tell me, you know, growing up in the ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico, and during the Mexican revolution, and crossing over to Texas with her family when she was only 10 years old, and just how scary it was. And the things that she experienced, I just found it fascinating. I could just hear her stories over and over and over again. I just loved sitting there and just watching her cook. And that was what I fell in love with.
Although, growing up, what’s so funny is seeing her in the kitchen, my mom always in the kitchen, that was where I did not want to be. I just felt like they were under appreciated and just always there. But as I became a mom, I realized that’s just your gift to your family. And that’s your showing your love to your family, and that’s when I fell in love with cooking, once I had my own children. But in my teens and college, I was like anti the kitchen, anti-cooking.
On Rediscovering the Kitchen:
Everybody would tease me, my family would, especially my brother. He’s seven years older than me and he still teases me, thinking, “Oh, you still don’t cook. You just play one on the Internet.” Because he would be the biggest one. My grandma, too, would say I’m never gonna find a man because I didn’t like the kitchen. It was just like a running family joke. But it’s not that I didn’t know how to cook. I just chose not to cook. My love in the kitchen was when I would entertain. I would love to have friends and family over, and that’s when I would get creative and have fun, when I knew I could cook for a crowd.
It was until I had children, I was like, “Okay, now I kinda have to cook.” So that’s when I started calling my mom and asking, “Okay, How do I make some of these recipes?” She never had it written down. I never bothered to write them down. I would just make them as she was telling me over the phone. And so that’s how I would learn some of the traditional dishes that I grew up with.
Still to this day, when I make a dish that my grandma would make often, I just seriously feel her. I just know that she’s watching me and guiding me in the kitchen. So it’s really cool.
On Her Cookbook, Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor:
That was really challenging when we tried to come up with our tagline or subheading. It’s like authentic could be very misleading, I guess. People could be very judgmental when it comes to any type of cuisine, whether it’s authentic or not authentic. Everybody’s definition of authenticity is very different. And when it comes to cooking, it depends on what region. I just came back from Oaxaca, Mexico, and there were so many dishes and ingredients that I have never heard of. So my chicken mole is completely different than a mole that’s made in Oaxaca, Mexico. That’s why we named it “authentic flavor.” We’re not claiming that it’s authentic Mexican, but that it’s authentic to us, and it’s the flavor of Mexico that we know and love.
I just posted a recipe not too long ago of this very authentic traditional dish called chiles en nogada. And it’s not a dish that we necessarily grew up with, but I researched it enough and learned how to make it to share it with my fans. And there’ll always be somebody who’s like, “No, this is not authentic, because an authentic chiles en nogada, you have to peel the walnuts.” And it’s like, sometimes, I skip steps to try and make it easy for the everyday cook. Who has a time to be peeling walnuts?
So just little things like that, I try to make dishes that are authentic in flavor, but are easier to make and maybe adding a spin where it’s a healthier dish or just making it more simple, but keeping those traditional and authentic flavors in there.
On Co-Writing a Second Cookbook, Latin Twist: Traditional & Modern Cocktails:
It was funny because you never know who you’re gonna meet. That’s what I love about blogging is it’s opened up so many new relationships that sitting in my old job in a cubicle, I would have never had the opportunity to meet. And Vianney is another Latina blogger who is from Texas. So we automatically had that connection, and I followed her blog, she followed my blog. And one event, we went with Nestle to go to California and be a part of a tamalada.
And that evening, we were both flying out and had a long delay at the LA airport. We’re like, “Let’s get some cocktails.” And so we started with one cocktail, and another cocktail. She has a great section in her blog that’s called Margarita Love. And so I kept telling her, “Vianney, you need to write a margarita cookbook, you know, margarita cocktail book.” She’s like, “Yeah, that’s my goal. I wanna do that.” I was like, “Well, let me know if you need help, and I can design it for you, or I can talk to the publisher that I worked with and see if they might be interested.” And she was like, “Okay, okay.”
And so then, after I was on the plane and we parted ways, I was thinking, “I need to do something with her. I don’t wanna steal her thunder with a margarita book, because I would love for her to still do that on her own, but we need to team up together and write a cocktail book, not only just of margaritas, and not only just of Mexican cocktails, but cocktails of Latin America and Spain. And so that’s how the idea started. I approached her saying, “How about we team up together and we write a cocktail book together and share both of our loves of these fun cocktails that usually end up being Latin-inspired.”
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I love anything with Giada or Rick Bayless or Pati Jinich. It’s not so much of the show, but more about who’s cooking and who captivates my attention.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I would say White on Rice Couple. I’ve just always loved their photography style and just their whole life in general. They have this gorgeous garden and these orchards. It just looks fabulous. I also love Matt Bites, Matt Armendariz. I just love that he’s a Latino. He seems like he would be a fun friend. I love his photography and his styling. He works with his partner who has an amazing eye for food styling. And just together, they do some magic. For me, it’s all about visuals and photography, and capturing the story with it. And so those blogs have always kept my interest.
I also love Foodiecrush. She has an amazing, a completely different sense of style, where I think it’s more modern and clean, and she also has a background in graphic design. So I love her clean space when it comes to styling food.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I follow a lot of yogis on Instagram. I just love yoga girl, and she just always has some inspirational messages. It’s just neat to see all these amazing yoga poses that she does in the middle of nowhere, or like super tropical, exotic amazing spaces. But I just love that she always has positive messages or inspiring quotes, always to her photos.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
That’s an easy one. It’s my grandmother’s rolling pin. After she passed away, my mom asked me what it was that I would love from my grandma, and I just wanted that rolling pin that she would make flour tortillas with every day. And so come to find out she had two rolling pins, and my sister asked for one too. So we each got a rolling pin. I think it’s kind of like a baton, like your turn. It’s time to continue that legacy and those traditions of food with your family.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I would say nopales, which are cactus petals. It’s not even so much that I didn’t love it. It’s just we didn’t really grow up eating them very often. When I saw them, it was more in a jar and they just looked slimy and they just didn’t appeal to me. And so it was not, until recently, where it’s like you can honestly get them fresh. I put them in a smoothie every morning or mix some scrambled eggs or just in a fresh salad, it’s just such a fun ingredient that I think it’s underrated and it needs to be used more often.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I love Rick Bayless. I love Pati Jinich. I also love Marcela Valladolid. Anything Mexican, I just love to, not only read the recipes, but read their history or learn how they make the recipes. It’s just interesting, because you can have a tres leches cake in all the books, and they’ll all be completely different. I love seeing the variety of the same Mexican dish and how it’s made by different Mexican chefs.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I would say any old Mexican music. There’s Paloma Blanca, which is a white dove. And there’s another one called De Colores. So they’re just two old Mexican songs, and it’s like I’m flooded back with feelings of my grandma, racing to go pump up the volume and sing. Now I sing those songs and turn up the volume for those songs, and just know that grandma is there watching me cook, singing with me.
On Keeping Posted with Yvette:
I think Instagram’s definitely my new love. That’s where I post the latest and greatest, also on Facebook. I’m not on Snapchat yet. I do have an account, but I haven’t caught on to the Snapchat wagon, which I’m sure I will soon. But yeah, for now, definitely Instagram on Muy Bueno Cooking. And on Facebook, it’s under Muy Bueno Cookbook.