If this year's "Maya--Treasures of an Ancient Civilization" exhibit at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum awakened interest in that part of the world, take a look at Marks' book, which explores the fascinating cuisine of the Mayan region. Marks concentrates on the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Yucatan is not included, which means there are no Mexican dishes in the book. There is, however, guacamole, made Central American style with cheese and eggs. And there are tamales, enchiladas, tacos, rice and beans, with a difference. For example, Mexican chilaquiles, a dish of cut-up tortillas soaked in sauce, becomes chilaquilas in this region and, in the examples in Marks' book, is composed of folded filled tortillas coated with egg and fried.
The arrival of many Central American immigrants in Los Angeles has resulted in the opening of small cafes serving their native foods, most commonly the Salvadoran pupusa, a sort of tortilla sandwich. Marks gives three styles of pupusa filling--a black bean paste, a simple cheese mixture and a paste made with chicharrones. Restaurants here also serve the quesadilla, a rich, sweet cheesecake, several versions of which are provided in the book.
Other interesting desserts include borracho, a rum-soaked cake from Guatemala that would be nice for the holidays. And for those who like the unusuals, there are Guatemalan style bunuelos soaked in a syrup seasoned with fresh fig and geranium leaves.