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In a world obsessed with celebrity chefs and glossy food photography, watercolor artist and Oregon native Marcella Kriebel offers a refreshing alternative with Mi Comida Latina. Each recipe and technique is painstakingly painted by hand, making her cookbook debut both vibrant and user-friendly. But it’s not just about the art: Kriebel’s authentic Latin-inspired recipes, from ceviche to empanadas, will make you wish you had an abuela to cook them with you. Kriebel shares her story (with real-life abuelas) below.

What inspired this book?

Ten years of travel in Central and South America, Mexico and Puerto Rico. I have sketch journals from my travels that are full of recipes. I got to know the folks I stayed with throughout my travels by cooking with them in their homes, and found food to be a wonderful lens to view their cultural backgrounds and family history.

How do you craft a watercolor recipe?

I start in pencil and rough out the composition of art and lettering. There has to be a balance between visual allure and useful layout of preparation and ingredients. After pencil, I move to the ink pen and outline everything. Then I paint the watercolor on top of that. It’s a fluid process that makes each page unique.

Overhead marcella kriebel 1 l283mi

Photo credit: Victoria Milko Photography

What’s your favorite recipe? 

A particularly unique recipe is the Red Cinnamon Salsa*. It really straddles sweet and savory. I learned this recipe when I was in Guanajuato, Mexico from a woman named Rosa Sanabria. She would always serve it with her tamales and chile rellenos.

Your publisher, Burgess Lea, donates profits to charity. Tell us about your charity. 

All the profits are going to Adelante Mujeres, who help Latin American women in Washington County start businesses and provide a variety of social services. They have an agricultural arm that educates women on organic growing practices—a lot of these women end up starting food businesses. 

What’s next for you? 

I have another food-related book project on the horizon. I also have an upcoming watercolor class in October at Nana Cardoon farm. I give everyone a black and white version of an illustrated recipe and they get to illuminate it themselves. Then we’ll prepare that recipe using Nana Cardoon’s beautiful outdoor kitchen. 

Visit Kriebel’s Etsy Store for more of her eye-popping illustrations. You can hear her talk in person at Hand-Eye Supply in September. Details here

*Red Cinnamon Salsa

½ white onion
½ serrano chile
1 clove garlic
3 large tomatoes
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Thinly slice onion, set aside. I use a mandolin for this.
  2. Devein and remove seeds of chile. Mince chile and garlic and cook lightly in oil to soften.
  3. While chile and garlic are cooking, blend tomatoes and cinnamon in food processor or blender.
  4. Combine tomatoes, chile and garlic in a bowl. Then add sliced onions and season with salt and pepper. Mix and serve.
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