Cookbook author, blogger, and Senior Account Executive of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial USA Verónica Cervera was born in Cuba and has been living in Miami for more than 25 years. On her blog La cocina de Vero
, she features recipes from around the world. In 2013, Verónica was selected as a LATISM Top Blogger and was a finalist in the Best Food Blog category. In 2016, she was designated as one of the Top Latina Bloggers to be Watching
by the NBC network. In 2017, she was among the finalists in the Top Food Creator of the Hispanicize Tecla Awards
. Verónica's dishes have been spotlighted on BabyCenter en Español
, El Nuevo Herald
, Telemundo 51, People en Español
, and Nuestra Voz
She is the author of La cocina cubana de Vero
(Vero's Cuban Kitchen - Oberon, 2015), La cocina cotidiana de Vero
(Vero's Everyday Kitchen - Oberon, 2020), and co-author of Yo cocino latino
(I Cook Latin Food - Grijalbo, 2021).
What inspired you to write and publish your cookbooks, and what was your process in writing them?
It was a dream to publish a book. Being in the publishing world for years taught me how difficult it was. The opportunity for my first one, La cocina cubana de Vero
, came through a fan of the blog that asked me to write a proposal for a friend of hers that works in Anaya. I wrote it and forgot about it until the day the good news arrived. It was a big surprise.
The first thing is to create the concept, then the structure and the recipes for each chapter. After that, I will either choose the material from my blog (meaning, my files) and edit it as necessary, or cook the recipe and write everything down (something I started doing for the blog, because I cook “al ojo” most of the time). Even if I made the recipe a hundred times before, I will make it again to be sure that everything works and that I have all the exact amounts for each ingredient. Finally, I will take a few pictures of each plate, so I have where to choose from later. My husband is the one who usually takes the pictures. He is also in charge of cleaning the kitchen at the end, and he is the first one to proofread my texts.
What things has writing your cookbooks taught you about cooking?
That even the simplest recipe should be carefully described. There are people who even burn the water, as a friend of mine says. You have to write having the beginners in mind, and assuming the reader does not have an idea of how to make it. Now, I always make a critical reading on recipes from magazines and cookbooks. To write them is something that seems easy, but it needs a very detailed approach. Working for the cookbooks also reminded me how good it is to cook with the right “mise en place.”
What was your favorite part when creating your books? Did you encounter any challenges? Any advice for aspiring cookbook authors?
My favorite part is the happiness of testing a recipe and finding out it is just as good as the one my grandma made for me when I was little (and the Proust moment it brings!). I have to say that having the printed book in front of me, even years after publishing it, makes me not only happy but proud of myself. After three books, sometimes I still can't believe it.
The main challenge for me was to learn to use a professional camera. That was something I had to do fast when making my first book. Before that, all the pictures on my blog were taken with my phone. I was lucky my husband knew how to, and my editor sent me a great book to learn the main concepts. I cried sometimes in front of the setting knowing how I wanted the picture to be, but being unable to have just the right light for it.
I encourage aspiring cookbook authors to treat every recipe as a child that is learning to walk, and to always write them well and take the best shots they can from the beginning, so they will have everything ready when the opportunity comes around. In addition, they should work on their social media before they send any proposals.
You are a co-author, with four other bloggers, of Yo Cocino Latino. How did the collaboration come about? What did you enjoy the most while working with the other contributors?
Four of us met at a blogger conference, and all of us followed and supported each other for a while. There were some other bloggers on the list when I started defining the concept of the book with Penguin Random House. However, the editorial team chose us from a list of more than 20 Latin-American bloggers.
I enjoyed naming the chapters and choosing the recipes with the editor from the list each author created. We want it to be joyful and fun and very Latino in the sense of how we appreciate food as a nexus of our family, friends, and culture.
So, we came out with “Para comenzar el día” (“Starting Your Day”), “Para el día a día” (“Easy Daily Meals”), “Para el fin de semana” (“For the Weekend)”, “Para celebrar” (“To Celebrate Special Occasions”), “Para picar” (“Food to Share at Parties”), and “Para endulzar la vida” (“Making Your Life Sweeter”).
It has been a pleasure to work with my co-authors on the very same lines, but using and respecting our own voices. All the recipes are written using the Spanish of our country of origin, naming the ingredients as we always do in our homes.
Yo cocino latino
has a delightful glossary, so readers from different countries can always find out how they will name that ingredient they are confused about. For example, palta. Let’s go to those pages at the end… Ahhh, that’s aguacate (avocado)! Betabel? Hmmm… it’s just remolacha (beets)!
We played a lot with those terms later while doing the promotion, planning the virtual interviews, and presenting the book. A priceless moment was when Cristina from Books & Books asked us for five must-have ingredients for la cocina latina, and every one of us had a different name to call the bell peppers.
If you could invite any three authors for dinner, whom would you invite and why? Any particular dish you would serve?
I will invite José Andres, because I admire him a lot and love the way he cooks and what a fun big man he is. Ottolenghi, so he can cook some healthy and rich Mediterranean dishes while talking with us with his sweet paused voice. Molly Baz, a new author I met this year, who always has an ingenious approach to recipes. I will serve moros y cristianos (a Cuban recipe made with rice and black beans), and they can cook whatever they choose. I’m sure we all will enjoy it.
Photo credits: Zoe Plasencia