Nitza Villapol (1923-1998), a cooking teacher, food writer, and television chef, was at one time as well known in Cuba as Julia Child was in America. She was born in New York, but when she was nine her Cuban parents moved their family back to Havana. Interested in food from childhood, she went to London while still in her teens to study nutrition, and following her return to Cuba she worked in restaurants and taught cooking. Although her immensely popular book Cocina al Minuto (1958), filled with time- and money-saving tips, was a best-seller and is venerated by many Cubans, it is an earlier book that is widely regarded as her major contribution.
Cocina Criolla (1954) takes on a broad range of both traditional and contemporary Cuban cuisine—ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, bocaditos rebozados. It also includes dishes that had been incorporated from elsewhere, as might be expected in a country that attracted many tourists. Thus, we see recipes now well-known in Cuba—jambalaya, “arroz pilaf,” “and “pancakes y hotcakes”. Since the book appeared some time before the 1959 revolution, the food shortages of later years had not yet materialized; Villapol’s book is liberal in its use of the meat and dairy products that would, in time, vanish from store shelves. Much in demand in recent years, this book remains a major resource for Cuban cooking and is valued by both cooks and collectors.
This copy is a hardcover with dust jacket, carrying no publisher name on the title page, and is quite possibly a pirated edition printed in Florida after 1959 for the émigré community there. The text, in Spanish, presents more than 500 recipes. Hardcover copies are scarce and jacketed copies even more so. This one is in Very Good condition with a little staining on the front edge and one page (the recipe for pierno de puerco asada a la criolla!) heavily used—stained but not torn or wrinkled. The dust jacket, now in mylar, has light handling wear, a quarter-inch strip missing at the top of the spine, and some small staining on the blank back panel. Overall, a quite good- looking copy.