Baja Books

Baja Books

Baja Books

by Beth Purcell

Beloved Statue
By Pat Tyson

Baja BooksTraveler Publication’s beloved Executive Editor, Pat Tyson, has written her first book! The short novel, titled Beloved Statue; A Different Love Story, is full of bygone charm. The novel is short, only 70 pages in length, including the Preamble and the Epilogue, so it may actually be better categorized as a novella.

The story is somewhat predictable, but well written and presented in such a manner that you’re perfectly content to know where the plot is headed. It’s a refreshing read in that there is no profanity, no violence and barely a cross word. Although there is a passionate passage or two, the story never devolves into cheap romance-novel shenanigans. It’s instead a straightforward, lovely story, during which you find yourself rooting for a happy ending. It’s simple and sweet – a welcome change from the mostly negative daily news and frenetic pace of modern life.

The story is few in characters, centering around a paralyzed man, Michael Brooks, his mother, Maggie Brooks, and a younger acquaintance of hers, Julie Carson, of whom Maggie is very fond. When Maggie discovers that she has advanced breast cancer, and a less-than-an-optimal chance of recovery at her advanced age, she hatches a gutsy, go-for-broke plan to ensure that her invalid son will remain in good care in the possible event that she doesn’t survive her surgery or recovery.

Following a quiet dinner at her home, and the introduction of Julie to her son Michael for the first time, Maggie asks an almost impossible question of Julie: Will she consider giving up her job and apartment in Boston to marry her son Michael, who lays almost motionless in the next room? Will she trade in her solitary and somewhat empty life for one of care-taking for a husband she doesn’t even know? The proposition is not without its benefits, including complete financial security and a comfortable life in the Brooks’ stately home, as well as the reasonable chance of Michael recovering his brawn and vigor of pre-accident days. But, as the book jacket asks: Can a marriage of convenience bring two strangers together to find pleasure in a close relationship and a fulfilling life? I urge you to find out.

Born and educated in England, Pat Tyson moved to the United States in the early 60s. Landing in Chicago, she worked for two large advertising agencies, then later moved to San Diego where she earned a master’s in telecom and film at SDSU. She taught college journalism for 10 years, as well as joining San Diego Home/Garden magazine when it was first published in 1979. As Executive Editor, Pat has written for Traveler Publications since the beginning, in 1998. She now she lives in New Jersey; still loves to write – and enjoy her grandchildren.

Personally, I wish Beloved Statue; A Different Love Story were a short story in a collection of other short stories written by Tyson, as I would be delighted to read more of her engaging work. (That’s a not-so-subtle hint, dear Pat!)

Baja California: Not Food For Old Men
A Mexican Culinary Adventure
By Giovanni Simeone and Sime Books

Baja BooksThe first thing you notice when you pick up the book Baja California; Not Food For Old Men is its rich leather-like cover and amazing cover artwork – a colorful Dia de los Muertos-styled calevera (skull) with a bright red chile pepper between its teeth. The book is very pleasing to the touch and beckons you to open it, for which you will be duly rewarded. You’ll be treated to gorgeous full-color, full-page photos throughout. It’s a true visual feast that will quickly draw you in, compelling you to read through every single recipe.

I did just this, and ended up with a substantial list of must-try recipes. A very simple Mint Ceviche featuring Grouper grabbed me on the very first recipe page, as did the Kiwi and Jalapeno Margarita close to the book’s end. In between there are too many to mention. There are a number of recipes for vegetarians including Tomato Confit, Chiles Toreados, Mushroom Soup, Bean Empanadas and Cactus Salad. But with Baja’s immense coastline, it’s unsurprisingly seafood that’s the real star: Mesquite Octopus, Shredded Manta Ray Meat Burritos, Marlin Tacos, Fried Crab and Palapa Clams? Yes please! Meat eaters aren’t left out though. There ample recipes for the carnivore, with some featuring less common ingredients such as, Goat Tacos, Grilled Quail, and Shredded Deer Burritos.

Preceding the recipes is a short history of Baja California, which, like all the recipes and other text in the book, is presented in both Spanish and English. It’s apparent in some passages that the text was originally written in Spanish, then translated into English, but the slight twist on everyday English language doesn’t take away from the book. Instead it’s a reminder that this region is, as the book jacket so aptly states, “suspended between the US and Mexico.”

In between the various recipe sections – which are arranged like most recipe books, starting with snacks and appetizers, moving on to soups and salads, progressing to various entrees, then ending with drinks and desserts – Not Food For Old Men includes other interesting snippets about Baja California. Subjects include whale watching, the tortilla’s culinary identity in Mexico, the Baja 10000, and legends about Hotel California, the Caesar salad, and Jim Morrison’s visits to Ensenada. There is also a write up about Mexican wine and Baja wine country, which includes handy descriptions of 12 individual wines.

The book concludes with background information about the chefs who contributed to the book. They come from all over the peninsula – La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos, Rosarito, Loreto and San Jose del Cabo.

This unique and beautifully crafted recipe book belongs in your collection if you fancy yourself a Mexican food connoisseur or cook. The book, produced by Sime Books, was the concept of Giovanni Simeone, who is the photographer of the vast majority of the book’s exquisite and captivating photos.

The United States-Mexico Border
The Controversial History and Legacy of the Boundary between America and Mexico
by Charles River Editors and Gustavo Vazquez Lozano

Baja BooksThis short book drives home the fact that the United States – Mexico border is an ever-changing, man-made boundary that has always been complicated and will continue to change due to cultural, economic and political forces. As the Introduction states, “In the beginning, it was an idea…Then, it was a line on paper – a porous boundary with no physical barriers…” Today, it is the world’s busiest border – one that is in most areas well-demarcated, semi-militarized, and heavily patrolled.

The fact that the 2,000 mile-long border is currently a hot-button political issue, with President Trump set on replacing already existing border fencing with “an unbreakable barrier,” makes this book an important and timely read.

Luckily, it’s a pleasure to do so; the authors do a great job of capturing the history of the U.S.-Mexico border in an interesting and concise manner. At only 75 pages, it can easily be read in one sitting. The content is compelling and educational, and although I have a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies I learned (or relearned) many intriguing facts from this book.

Did you know:

  • The U.S. and Mexico haven’t always been neighbors – the Louisiana Territory of France once separated the two.
  • The first great migration between the two countries was from north to south when thousands of defeated troops from the Confederate States fled to Mexico. In the last week for the American Civil War 10,000 men (some with families) crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico.
  • Land grants from Mexico to American settlers gave rise to an independent country, the Republic of Texas, which lasted for 10 years, and which when annexed to the United States in 1845 as the State of Texas led to a short bloody war between Mexico and the U.S.
  • Pancho Villa’s invasion of Columbus, New Mexico brought the two countries to the brink of war in 1916 and was the first time that the U.S. used its air force in military actions.
  • The treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, in which Mexico lost over a million square miles and which left 300,000+ Mexicans stranded on the U.S. side of new border, is what prompted the first artificial marking of the border – a series of 276 6-foot high obelisks every few miles from El Paso to Tijuana, which still remain today.
  • The California gold rush and its subsequent population explosion was the start of the population movements from Mexico to the U.S. for needed agricultural labor, which continue today.
  • There are currently more immigrants coming to the U.S. from India and China than from Mexico, and that nearly a million Americans live illegally in Mexico and constitute the largest population of illegal immigrants in Mexico.

I don’t know about you, but I find this all fascinating. And the photos of key players (politicians, bandits, military leaders), places, and events included in the book help to bring it to life. If you’re compelled to learn more, online resources and a bibliography for further reading are also included.

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