"You can split a hairy, brown coconut in two with a machete, if you’ve got one lying around. The force of a well-aimed throw against concrete will sometimes do the trick. At close range, you can clobber away at it using the blunt side of a cleaver and plenty of muscle, and it will, eventually, fracture all the way around the middle so that you can get to the sweet-smelling water inside and the firm, fatty meat. On a recent Friday morning in her kitchen in Brooklyn, Von Diaz was going to use an electric drill to break in, but when she realized its battery was dead, she improvised."
- The New York Times | June 20, 2018
"When I was a kid, the Luis Muñoz Marin airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a madhouse. I’d walk off the air-conditioned plane into a sweaty, tropical inferno that punched me in the face like a closed fist."
- The Washington Post | July 2, 2018
"Von Diaz discusses her new book, Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South. When her family moved from Puerto Rico to Atlanta, Diaz traded not only locations, her diet also changed. Brimming with humor and nostalgia, this recipe-packed memoir takes a close look at what it means to grow up Latina in the Deep South."
- WNYC | June 29, 2018
"Part cookbook, part memoir, this recent release shares recipes from author Von Diaz’s heritage, as well as memories of growing up in Puerto Rico and the American South."
- New York Magazine | June 8, 2018
"When Von Diaz was growing up, her mother sent her away from her home outside Atlanta to spend summers in Puerto Rico. Diaz was born on the island in Rio Piedras, but she found the trips back disorienting. She didn't speak Spanish well. She lay awake at night, pestered by mosquitoes and wilting heat. In her grandmother's kitchen, she found relief in grilled cheese loaded with ground beef picadillo, aromatic olive oil infused with garlic and oregano, and fried cinnamon donuts."
- NPR Weekend Edition | March 18, 2018
"On the surface, Coconuts & Collards by Von Diaz is a cookbook slash memoir about a family’s journey from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico to Atlanta and the blending of Puerto Rican and Southern dishes in Diaz’s kitchen. There are recipes for adobo, sofrito, sazón, and the flavorful caldos (stocks) that are the building blocks of Puerto Rican food. But, beyond the surface, Coconuts & Collards is about the complex blend of history and agriculture that have shaped the island’s food and how Diaz found a way to blend two distinct cultures in a way that felt true to her own life."
Bon Appétit - Healthyish | April 23, 2018
"The recent release Coconuts & Collards, by Von Diaz, puts three varieties—chicken and seafood, pork, and beef—right after the sofrito, the island’s foundational cooking sauce."
- TASTE Magazine | June 4, 2018
"This week, Cathy sits down with Von Diaz, a radio producer and the author of Coconuts & Collards. Guided by generations of female survivors, Von breathes new life into the cuisine of Puerto Rico and the American South in her recipes, and shares their stories in this highly narrative book. Listen to their discussion on why food is the perfect focal point for storytelling, and the importance of diversity in today’s food media."
- Heritage Radio Network | June 3, 2018
"Let's turn the idea of authenticity on its head.
That's the provocative idea Von Diaz introduces at the beginning of her new book, Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South. "People are very interested in eating authentic food from the places that they're not from," Diaz told me over the phone recently. "But authenticity, when it comes to a culture, a community, an island like Puerto Rico, is really complicated to drill down."
- Epicurious | March 27, 2018
"The first book from writer Von Diaz is part memoir, part cookbook, part photographic tribute to the landscape of Puerto Rico. Diaz moved from Puerto Rico to Atlanta, Georgia as a small child. The book chronicles the food of her two homes: Puerto Rico and the mainland American South. The recipes aren't strictly Puerto Rican and they aren't strictly Southern—they're Diaz's own, based on her personal food history and her love of both cuisines."
- Epicurious | March 21, 2018
"Diaz may not be a trained chef or have a direct connection to a restaurant, but she has the voice to bring Puerto Rican cookery, as it exists today, into a broader consciousness. Recipes — especially her PR antipasto, fried plantain soup, and sofrito Bloody Mary — read like modern American Puerto Rican cookery. Like soul food, it’s a cuisine that is about making something nourishing and nurturing out of almost nothing."
- Eater | March 21, 2018
"It’s too simple to call Diaz’s dishes fusion food. What emerges through these recipes is something greater than the sum of its two cooking cultures—the mainland South and the United States’ island South. “The goal was to interpret the flavors and dishes that I love from my childhood and adapt them to a style of cooking that looks more like how we cook on a day to day basis,” she says."
- Garden & Gun | March 15, 2018
"In a hypothetical venn diagram of Puerto Rican and American South cuisines, Diaz fills the overlap with adobo-marinated fried chicken and coconut milk grits. The book is at once a memoir, an ode to the inspiring women in her family and a resource for highly original recipes."
- Tasting Table | March 14, 2018
"Diaz doesn’t candy-coat the rougher contours of her dichotomous experience, the bumps and bruises, the sorrow and pain, the yearning. “Coconuts & Collards” is a clear-eyed, achingly tender confession of how food can hurt, and how it can heal. What we swallow doesn’t just fuel the body: It nourishes the soul and awakens the heart.
Just as Diaz was putting her book to bed, Hurricane Maria devastated her island home. Now she is haunted by the ruin, what she might encounter the day she returns.
In a way, though, the tragedy makes this book all the more urgent, as a tribute to a way of life, and a cuisine, that may be slowly washing away.
In essence, “Coconuts & Collards” is every bit as poignant as it is appetizing: a testament to how change and upheaval can force us to grow even deeper roots."
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 1, 2018