Enchilada : Aztec to Tex-Mex

Photo via The Rivard Report
Photo via The Rivard Report

Every day people come together and share stories over food. Rarely however, does the food in which people gather around become the story itself. San Antonio restaurateur, Cappy Lawton, is changing this trajectory with the publication of his first cookbook, Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex.

Enchiladas de Camote; Photo by Sunni Hammer
Enchiladas de Camote; Photo by Sunni Hammer
Potosinas
Potosinas

On a sunny fall day, Lawton sat at a tiled table on the patio of Cappy’s, his eponymous, 38-year-old restaurant in San Antonio’s Alamo Heights neighborhood. Between eating a cup of soup and waving intermittently to his cohort of loyal patrons, he chatted with Mission about his past, his present, and his highly anticipated, debut tome.

In addition to Cappy’s, Lawton is the owner of a handful of successful restaurants in the Alamo City, including La Fonda on Main which he has owned for 19 of the restaurant’s impressive 83-years in business. The venue’s success is credited largely for its commitment to preparing authentic Mexican food with recipes that have been lovingly passed down through generations. Over the years, Lawton and his wife, Suzy, have made an effort to delve deeper into this authenticity by traveling throughout Mexico.

Photo by Mark Menjivar
Photo by Mark Menjivar

With each trip, the couple discovers more about the country’s unique culture and unparalleled cuisine. Alas, Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex is an exploration of this culture through the lens of one of its most profound foods: the enchilada. At the same time, the book’s publication is changing the way people think and talk about the country at large, with the enchilada acting as an an eloquent metaphor for Mexico’s rich history and vibrant story.

Left: Cappy Lawton; Right: Chris Waters Dunn
Left: Cappy Lawton; Right: Chris Waters Dunn

In order to write the book — which titillates the senses with its delectable photography, mouth-watering recipes, rich cultural lessons and savory cooking techniques — Lawton teamed up with good friend, Chris Waters Dunn. Together, they compiled over 60 traditional and contemporary enchilada recipes, plus recipes for accompaniments such as salsas and salads. Readers of Enchiladas will also learn how to roast tomatoes, make homemade tortillas, prepare beans and crema Mexicana, to name a few! With every page, Mexican cuisine oozes, as does interesting historical information on staples such as chiles, cheeses, nopales (cactus paddles), avocados – and last but certainly not least – corn.

Colored Tortillas made with vegetables, herbs and chilies; Photo by Sunni Hammer
Colored Tortillas made with vegetables, herbs and chilies; Photo by Sunni Hammer

There is no question that Lawton is a great restaurateur (he’s designed, developed and operated 29 restaurants in his day!) Nor is there argument of his own personal diversity. As a high school student, Lawton worked as a draftsman and design engineer at the San Antonio airport. After studying business and engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, he went on to have a successful career as an aeronautical designer before foraying into the restaurant industry. Meanwhile, co-author Chris Waters Dunn led a successful career as a songwriter (he has dozens of hits including 9 #1 bestsellers!) before earning a graduate degree in Creative Writing and a degree in culinary studies from the Culinary Institute of America. After being introduced by mutual friends, Dunn and Lawton decided to make something of their shared ambition for the written word and Mexican cuisine. Three years later Enchiladas was born.

Photo by Mark Menjivar
Photo by Mark Menjivar

For both men, these three years were filled with effort and collaboration. “All great ideas ultimately denigrate to hard work,” said Lawton who noticed an interesting similarity between book publishing and the food service business along the way. “It’s very akin to building a restaurant,” he said of the book’s creation, which took conceptualizing, designing, photographing and hiring people to make it a reality. The publication of Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex shows that both Dunn and Lawton have talents that transcend their respective culinary communities. Luckily for all of us, the fruits of their work are now available to the masses. 

Ready to get your hands on a copy? Simply visit www.EnchiladasBook.com to buy one online. (And remember… if you buy 3 copies, you will get a 4th book free!)

If you’re in San Antonio, stop by Cappy’s or La Fonda on Main to pick up a signed copy autographed by Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn! If you buy 3 copies or more at the restaurant you will get a $25 gift card towards your next meal.

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