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About the Author

Amber M. O'Connor has an extensive background in food studies. She's been a cook, an advocate for food sustainability and security, and a culinary anthropologist. Amber started in the food world as a cook. During culinary school she worked in Oaxaca, Mexico in culinary tourism. Later, she worked in non-profits related to food security. Her current research interests involve researching how processes designed to promote cultural diversity seem to instead constrain individual creative endeavors. In particular she is focused on the impacts of UNESCO's recognition of the indigenous cuisines of Mexico as "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" and the re-imagining of authentic "Maya" cuisine by the tourist industry in Quintana Roo and the greater Yucatan peninsula. E. N. Anderson is Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at the University of California, Riverside. He has done research on ethnobiology, cultural ecology, political ecology, and medical anthropology, in several areas, especially Hong Kong, British Columbia, California, and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. His books include The Food of China, Ecologies of the Heart, Political Ecology of a Yucatec Maya Community, and The Pursuit of Ecotopia. He has five children and five grandchildren. He lives in Riverside, California, with his wife Barbara Anderson and three large dogs.


K'oben is the Yucatec term for the famous three-stoned hearth that centers the kitchen throughout the Maya region-and turns out to appear relatively recently in Maya history. What the two authors do best is move readers away from the stereotype of the Maya 'triad' (corn/tortilla, beans, squash, plus chiles) to understanding the historically emergent, postcolonial nature of Maya cooking, eating, and influence on world cuisines. O'Connor and Anderson (emer., anthropology, Univ. of California Riverside) organize most of their book chronologically; the last two chapters bring their account to the present. One details the cuisine of each Mexican 'Mayaland' state. The closing (and best written) chapter explores how expanded tourism and UNESCO efforts to curate and protect distinctive cuisines instead homogenize them and objectify Maya women. A useful appendix presents ingredients and recipes. The book is a lively read....The authors have filled it with sustained symbolic analysis as well as choice tidbits, such as the fact that the emblematic Mexican mole poblano is actually an Arab-Andalusian staple with chocolate and chile added, or Cuba's role in Yucatec Maya flavors. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. * CHOICE *
K'oben is an intriguing conversation between two anthropologists about the absolute delight of cooking and food among Maya communities in Yucatan and Southern Mexico. In the Popol Vuh, the Maya classic book, the universe is created through a conversation; K'oben is likewise a dialogue, one that creates a wonderful universe of the foodscapes of Maya homes and Maya lands. The conversations of Amber O'Connor and Eugene Anderson range from the deep and profound history of Mayan language, history, and archaeology to fast foods, junk foods, and food tourism in Mexico today. These two people love the foods of Mexico, and their appreciation goes far beyond academic curiosity. Reading this book is to taste, see, and even smell the fires that give Maya cuisine its characteristic flavor. As they note, black beans are so good because, "The smoke from the k'oben gives them a heavenly flavor." Opening K'oben to any page is like joining a long and wonderful food journey replete with anecdote, science, history, and good recipes. Sometimes in Mexico you get on a bus and listen in on a fascinating conversation going on among the other passengers. O'Connor and Anderson's style is reflective yet deliciously enjoyable and so this book will whet not only your palate but also your curiosity about people who are Maya. -- Allan F. Burns, PhD, DuPont/Magid Professor of Indigenous Languages and Literatures Emeritus, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; Visiting Professor, Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, China
In K'Oben, O'Connor and Anderson take us in a journey through time by weaving together evidence from archaeology, history, linguistics, and their own ethnographic research on food and society in the Maya area. Readers will learn about food in society, religious ritual, art, gender roles, social class, and an infinite variety of areas of social and cultural life that are affected by food. Starting in the earliest villages in Mesoamerica and finishing in modern day Mexico, K'Oben will surely leave readers with a solid foundation on food studies in the Maya area, and a healthy appetite for more learning and tasting. -- Enrique Rodriguez-Alegria, associate professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
This book, written in an accessible language, provides an encompassing review of the transformations of cooking among the Maya people of Mexico. Based on archaeological, historical, and anthropological sources it describes the technologies, techniques and ingredients used through time in that region. It is highly informative for those interested in the cooking of the Maya. -- Steffan Igor Ayora-Diaz, PhD, Facultad de Ciencias Antropologicas, Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan. Editor of Cooking Technologies: Transformations of Culinary Practices in Mexico and Latin America (2016)
Deeply informed yet readily accessible to the non-specialist, this work on Mayan cuisine moves easily and convincingly from ancient foods to contemporary issues of culinary heritage, from farming to recipes. A landmark treatment of an important and distinctive culinary tradition. -- Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

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