Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food
University of Texas Press 2016
Diana Kennedy, Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food (University of Texas Press, 2016). Don’t be misled by this title. Its author, Diana Kennedy, has written nine cookbooks and spent forty years researching, preserving, and protecting the cuisines of Mexico. She teaches its regional cooking techniques in her kitchen at the Diana Kennedy Center, Quinta Diana, in Michoacan, Mexico, as well internationally through cooking tours as an ambassador of authentic Mexican cuisine.
Her expertise grew through decades of driving the length and width of Mexico in her truck, learning cooking techniques and ingredients from local cooks in towns and villages. Along the way, she kept notes on the locales, growing seasons, and uses of all the herbs. She even learned how to deal with the occasional scorpion (there’s a spray).
The word redoubtable certainly applies. Kennedy is English; she spent the war years in the English Forestry Corps in Wales and Wiltshire, to which she attributes the awakening of her appreciation for local country foods. She traveled to North America after the war, staying in Canada. It was through marriage to an American journalist who she met to the Caribbean that she arrived in Mexico City, his new posting. From this beginning–the profusion, colors, and variety of Mexican foods astonished her–she was drawn slowly but inexorably into the world of Mexican cooking.
First published in 1984, Nothing Fancy covers Kennedy’s many lives: foods from her English childhood as well as Mexican favorites and recipes from friends. In nineteenth-century cookery book style, it also contains a section on drinks and home remedies.
In this 2016 edition, Kennedy delivers two sallies to the food world (at 94, she sees no need to mince words): the sections “My Betes Noires” and “My Betes Noires Vertes” will open your eyes and joggle your convictions. Ready to abandon kosher salt?
Over her long career as an authority on Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy has been awarded the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the Order of the British Empire (OBE), the James Beard cookbook award for Oaxaca al Gusto, about the cuisine of Oaxaca, on the country’s southern coast, and the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame award.