Diana Kennedy, who has been my guide, my inspiration and my teacher ever since I fell in love with Mexican cuisine, has published a new book, Oaxaca al Gusto. In March, I had the great thrill of meeting Mrs. Kennedy at a book signing for the Spanish language edition at Thierry Blouet’s restaurant, Café des Artistes, in Puerto Vallarta.
I had arrived early before anyone else, and there was Mrs. Kennedy, sitting by herself. I introduced myself, and she could not have been more gracious, more friendly, more willing to share with me memories of past experiences in small Mexican towns, stories about meeting the towns’ best cooks to gather recipe material, about little incidents that happened in places I knew well from past travels. I could not believe my good fortune that I was really sitting down with someone I had admired from afar for decades. It was incredible, a once in a life time experience.
This was an evening event and I had my camera with me, but knew using the flash was out of the question. Here is my poorly lit photo taken during Thierry’s introduction of Mrs. Kennedy, before her slide show to share with us how and where she collected the material for Oaxaca al Gusto. The slide show itself was fascinating, a glimpse into her efforts to collect new recipes, often in remote areas where she relied on the local school teachers to translate the indigenous language.
And some pages from the book …
Mrs. Kennedy has been recognized for her achievements in Mexican cooking and writing by being awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest award given by the Mexican government to foreigners. And she has been decorated with an Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for advancing ties between Great Britain and Mexico. Her home in the state of Michoacán reflects her interests in ecology and a sustainable life style.
I paged through a Spanish copy of her book at the book signing. This book and its photos are so beautiful, it could be called a “coffee table book”, but it will spend more time in my kitchen than on the coffee table, and become dog eared and stained with use. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m looking forward to sharing her recipes and inspiration with you.
An excerpt from the publisher:
Organized by regions, ‘Oaxaca al Gusto’ presents some three hundred recipes—most from home cooks—for traditional Oaxacan dishes. Kennedy accompanies each recipe with fascinating notes about the ingredients, cooking techniques, and the food’s place in family and communal life. Lovely color photographs illustrate the food and its preparation. A special feature of the book is a chapter devoted to the three pillars of the Oaxacan regional cuisines—chocolate, corn, and chiles. Notes to the cook, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index complete the volume.
Oaxaca al Gusto can be ordered from the University of Texas Press at a 33% website discount of $33.50.
An Interview with Diana Kennedy (Miami New Times)