Our website Muy Bueno Cookbook: Three-Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor is written by the three of us, my sister Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, our mother Evangelina Soza and me, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith. On our site we share our fascination with all the luscious ingredients which make up Mexican food and drinks. Along this flavorful journey we try to capture the memory attached to each recipe which allows our readers to understand how and when the recipe originated. Most of our recipes are good ol’ recipes handed down from our grandmother Jesusita, our mother, and finally Yvette and me, what we refer to as – the old world, the traditional, and the modern world.
HISPZ: What can you tell us about Mexican cuisine that is unknown?
Muy Bueno: Real Mexican cuisine is healthy – it uses plenty of fresh and healthy ingredients. Onions, tomatoes, and corn are all very healthy and these ingredients are found in a lot of Mexican recipes. Also, not all Mexican recipes are spicy. Some are very hot, some are mildly spicy, and others are aromatic without being hot at all. Salsas are very popular too and complement many different Mexican recipes. The only way to really fall in love with Mexican food is to lovingly create your own Mexican dishes and understand how the flavors mingle and combine perfectly.
HISPZ: What is your most delicious Mexican dish?
Muy Bueno: You would have to ask that question. Wow, how do I begin to answer that without feeling cheated out of so many favorite recipes? I guess if I had to pick one it would have to be my mother’s Enchiladas Verdes. I have made these for years using my mother’s recipe and people still talk about them years later. I have had a lot of enchiladas verdes but none compare to the unique creamy sauce my mother makes.
HISPZ: What would you like your readers to take away from your blog?
Muy Bueno: We would like our readers to feel inspired by our stories and remember how good it is to have homemade food. We want them to walk away and feel like they can make the same recipe and have it taste just as good as their mother or grandmother used to make. We pay a lot of attention to every detail in our blog, especially our pictures and how the recipe is written. We hope our stories rekindle an old memory and the picture lures them to want to make the recipe themselves. We call it the “wanna lick the screen,” effect. If the picture makes you wanna lick the screen then we are doing our job.
HISPZ: What gives Mexican food so much passion?
Muy Bueno: Mexican food gets its passion from all the simple and fresh ingredients like cinnamon, chocolate, roasted chiles, cilantro, and piloncillo. The names even sound exotic and passionate. When we blend all the perfect combination of these spices or ingredients together in a single recipe it’s enough to make one’s eyes roll toward the back of one’s head with a single bite – its orgasmic. After that the flavors just linger on ones tongue ever so provocatively. We love what we do and our passion for cooking and sharing it with others gives us the continued passion to keep on cooking.
HISPZ: What advice do you have for other food bloggers?
Muy Bueno: Most of all have fun! If you love food then it won’t feel like a job. Writing a blog should be fun and something that gives you joy. Show your personality through your writing. There are plenty of food blogs out there, so try to be unique and try to figure out what you want others to take away from your blog. Let your passion drive you and don’t give up!
Some blogs are in English, Spanish, Spanglish, or bilingual. Sometimes finding your own voice is a work in progress and the real you eventually will shine through. Once you find it, stick with it because the following you generate likes your voice and or content and counts on it. Stay true to who you are. With all the food blogs out there it is very easy to be influenced by other blogs…don’t…your readers will see right through it.
HISPZ: What was your childhood ambition?
Muy Bueno: We moved around a lot growing up and we never owned our own home so one of my dreams was to have a job where I could afford to buy my mom her own casita. I thought being an architect would give me that so I took drafting classes all through high school. I remember my drafting teacher; Mr. Perez was so supportive and really encouraged me to stick with it. My senior year in high school I got accepted to the college of architecture at UT Austin, unfortunately I never made it there. My ambition to succeed is still well rooted, but now I get to have fun doing what I love while I continue to seek the possibility of buying my mother her house.
HISPZ: Tell us about three people that you admire and why?
Muy Bueno: First and foremost my mother. I admire her because she is such a hard worker and is incredibly kind to everyone. We call her Mother Theresa because she always takes care of family members who can’t take care of themselves. Secondly I admired my grandmother; she was the strongest woman I know. My mother and I were just having this conversation yesterday where we discussed how grandma never complained about a single thing. She had eight children, lost two children under the age of three, was a widow in her 4o’s, helped raise many of her grandchildren, and lived to the great age of 98. I never once heard her complain about anything. Come to think of it I don’t think I ever saw her sick. Last but not least, Mother Theresa herself. She came from a wealthy family and chose to follow her hearts calling and work with orphaned children. She could have had a very different life but instead chose a life of selfless giving. Following ones heart takes true courage. I wish I had half that courage to follow my heart’s desire.
HISPZ: What is your favorite life or business quote?
Muy Bueno: Through life, our blog, and our cookbook journey we have tried to keep these two quotes in mind. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,” and “People don’t care what you know until you show that you care.” Humans are such social creatures and when others sense that we truly care about them then true friendships are made and business relationships can last a lifetime.
HISPZ: Tell us about your educational background.
Muy Bueno: I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Early Childhood Development from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). My sister has always been artistic and has a degree in Graphic Design. She has a wonderful creative eye when it comes to the aesthetic aspect of our blog and cookbook. We make a great team with our combined education. Our mom received her GED after having three children and continues to attend classes to learn things that interest her. Recently she attended classes at a community college to learn word processing.
HISPZ: What is one of the best lessons your parents taught you about life?
Muy Bueno: Los huevones trabajan doble. Lazy people work twice as hard. Growing up I heard this all the time and I hated it, but as I got older I began to realize that my mom was right. So much time and energy is spent on redoing someone else’s work or one’s own work because we don’t give it the time or attention it deserved the first time. So if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right the first time — that goes with everything and anything. I think about this anytime I tackle a project. When I think about taking a shortcut I remember this little saying. The idea of having to redo anything is not worth the shortcut.
HISPZ: What is the most important business habit you have?
Muy Bueno: Being a good listener is a business habit I’ve had to learn. I like to share information about myself just like any other person but I’ve come to realize that its way more fun to learn about others. I would much rather listen to someone else’s story rather than talk about myself. One of my dearest friends is an amazing listener, she has a way of bringing the conversation back to others, and she is the best listener I know.
HISPZ: What is the best book you’ve recently read and why?
Muy Bueno: It was not a recent read, but it has always inspired me. “Rain of Gold” by Víctor E. Villaseñor. It traces the lives of three generations of the author’s family, and recounts the circumstances that led them to emigrate from Mexico to the United States escaping the Mexican Revolution (the times of Pancho Villa). He explains how his family was forced as well as other families to abandon their beloved country because of the violence and danger the Mexican Revolution brought to its citizens. The story is very similar to our family history and it reminds me to be proud of who I am and where we came from.
HISPZ: What advice would you have for young people exploring Hispanic careers?
Muy Bueno: I don’t see careers as being Hispanic or non-Hispanic. My advice for Hispanics would be to learn to speak, read, and write Spanish, it will open more doors. Figure out what you LOVE to do and do it well, that alone will bring you more of it and real genuine joy.
HISPZ: Tell us something about you that would surprise even many of your closest friends?
Muy Bueno: I don’t always cook everything from scratch. As much as I love making tortillas and how great it makes my home smell, I often buy flour and corn tortillas at my favorite Latin grocery store. I also don’t always roast my green chiles the same day I use them. I often roast them in advance and keep them in the freezer for those times that I want to get my green enchilada fix in a hurry. This one is a tad embarrassing — I have been known to pop open a can of beans when I run out of my supply of homemade frijoles de la olla or black beans. Oh, the shame!
HISPZ: What do you believe helps differentiate your blog/website from others?
Muy Bueno: We have a talented friend (Jeanine Thurston) who is a professional photographer and she takes all of our food photos. They have the same rustic and vibrant feel throughout every post. We try to write how we speak, very casual and with some Spanglish thrown in. And probably my favorite aspect of our blog is that we try to have a story with every food or drink recipe. We believe that there’s always a great story behind every dish and drink and some of those stories are aching to be heard.
HISPZ: What is the biggest Hispanic marketing cliché you would love to see go away?
Muy Bueno: In general I believe sad stereotypes still exist with perceptions that are generally unfavorable. For example, Hispanics are viewed as lazy and ignorant and are often portrayed as housekeepers, gardeners, and the hired help. Although each of these requires hard work, Hispanics do have other careers. We do aspire to be teachers, lawyers, doctors and judges. Why we even own our own businesses. We are family oriented, hard workers, dedicated, and very passionate people.
HISPZ: Who is the target audience of your blog and what data can you provide us about the size of your audience?
Muy Bueno: Our target audience is two-fold. We have those who love our blog because they just love any and all Mexican dishes, Mexican or not, they consistently comment about how much they love our recipes and stories. Then we have another audience who loves our more traditional recipes which remind them of their youth. These followers comment about how our stories remind them of their mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. Their life regret is that no one in their family ever wrote the recipes down and they are glad to have stumbled across our site so they can make some traditional recipes. Our site fills a certain longing of lost memories.
We have followers from all over the world including, Africa, Germany, Okinawa, Italy, and Australia just to name a few. We even had some of our recipes published in a Chinese publication. We have only been blogging since August 2010 and our numbers have steadily increased. The power of exponential growth continues to amaze me.
HISPZ: What are your three favorite news sources to find out what is going on in the U.S. Hispanic world and what do you look for in these resources?
Muy Bueno: Thanks to the internet, news and inspiration is at our finger tips. Fox News Latino is a wonderful resource for general news, although we do not focus on “Hispanic” news only. For creative inspiration I look at Design*Sponge, for food styling ideas I look at What Katie Ate, and for food blogging tips I run to David Lebovitz. We also twitter and facebook with several smaller and more intimate Hispanic communities about issues pertaining specifically to Hispanic issues.
HISPZ: Do you have any accompanying Twitter, Facebook or other social media contact information you would like to share?
Muy Bueno: Twitter handle is @muybuenocooking, Facebook fan page is Muy Bueno Cookbook, Muy Bueno Cookbook blog is http://muybuenocookbook.wordpress.com
HISPZ: What is the key contact information for you and or your blog/website?
Muy Bueno: Verónica González-Smith OR Yvette Márquez-Sharpnack
Muy Bueno Cookbook blog is http://muybuenocookbook.wordpress.com
HISPZ: What are the best days and hours to reach you and/or your staff with a specific type of story or interview? What are the worst days/times?
Muy Bueno: The best way to reach us is via email — anytime. Calls and emails will be returned within 24 hours. Sundays are usually reserved for family time so it’s not the best time to reach us.
Veronica Gonzalez Smith I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, where I attended the University of Texas at El Paso, UTEP, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. After graduation I taught in Colorado and then Okinawa and now California. While living abroad I longed for my mom’s green enchiladas and my grandmother’s homemade tortillas. Over the years, I saved the recipes and promised myself to put them into a cookbook, but being a busy wife and mother the cookbook had to wait. Fortunately, now working alongside my sister and mom, the three of us will complete the cookbook together. Aye que bueno!
Evangelina (Vangie) Soza I was born in El Paso, Texas in the 1940′s. I am a homemaker and seamstress. I divorced young and was a single mother with a son and two daughters. As a single working mother, I worked several jobs trying to make ends meet. During the day I worked at a garment factory and worked nights at a hospital. As a means of making extra money, it was during these times that I made homemade chile relleno burritos, and sold them during my lunch hour. I am now retired, but not from homemaking. I am always busy cooking, baking, crocheting, or crafting something for my grandchildren. I especially enjoy sharing my delicious treats with family and friends.
Yvette Marquez–Sharpnack I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and moved to Arizona to study graphic design. I now live in Colorado and am a graphic designer, wife, mother and proud of my Mexican cultural background. I reserved my Mexican culinary skills for the weekends while entertaining family and friends. Once I started compiling recipes and cooking them I realized these big flavorful dishes were easy-to-prepare. They encouraged me to come up with additional modern Latin-inspired recipes with my own special twist.