In 2005, Marcella Kriebel was a college student working on a double major in art and anthropology. For her, art and cooking went hand and hand. She tried to use color in cooking just as she did in art. When she chose to spend a semester in Ecuador, she found food was a springboard for conversations. Those around her would talk about where they learned their recipes, and that led to rituals and family history. “Food allowed me to get to know people,” she said.
That year in Ecuador, Marcella fell passionately in love with Latin culture. She loved the rhythm of life, the art, and the color. She never stopped traveling. Whether she was in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, or Puerto Rico, food was always the most exciting part. She collected pages and pages of culinary notes. Marcella imagined she’d share her new recipes with friends and family in the states. She had no idea she would illustrate and publish a successful cookbook.
As Marcella translated her notes from Spanish to English, she realized they described a traveler’s journey through Latin America. She kept that when she turned her notes into the cookbook Mi Comida Latina. “It’s all handwritten,” Marcella explained, “So it’s like a diary or journal. It’s very personal.” Each hand-lettered recipe or page of advice is accompanied with watercolor illustrations. Marcella was drawn to recipes with vibrant colors to paint. In 2012, a Kickstarter for her masterpiece raised $30,000: 6 times the amount she hoped for. Her cookbook was an astounding self-published success.
The third edition, published this April and distributed by Simon & Schuster, is a hefty volume. Tamales, ceviche, empanadas, and flan fill the pages, adding up to over 100 recipes. For Marcella, gratification comes from sharing food with others. She loves it when readers return the favor by telling her their own recipes and food stories. “Everybody’s mother has a different way of pairing tortillas,” Marcella said. “It’s really fun to learn all these pieces of these independent things that have been passed down through physical experience.”