I am an avid cook, but after moving to Costa Rica, I was presented with new ingredients that I didn't know what to do with. Though willing to try my gringo favorites, my Costa Rican boyfriend was used to a different diet and "comfort foods" that I had never even heard of. I wanted to adjust to my new life and environment, and learning to cook traditional Costa Rican & Latin American foods was a key part of the process.
My suegra (boyfriend's mother) gifted me this book for Christmas, after I had fawned and drooled over it at one of my favorite bookstores. It has been an incredible resource for me, detailing each ingredient with incredible detail, explaining how it is used throughout South America.
One of my favorite details is that Laurd tells readers the names of each ingredient in different countries, which if you're familiar with Latin American Spanish, can vary greatly. After each one of her detailed descriptions, Laurd provides two or three typical recipes that include the ingredient, giving new L.A. cooks a good beginning typical foods arsenal.
If you're new to Latin American cooking, I can't recommend this book highly enough. However, keep in mind that it's more of a learning tool than a recipe book.