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Descansa en Paz---Diana Kennedy

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Post by BisbeeGal July 24th 2022, 3:29 pm

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Post by SunFan July 24th 2022, 4:53 pm

I have a couple of her cookbooks. The Julia Child of Mexican cuisine.

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Post by Carry Bean July 24th 2022, 5:00 pm

Oh, no!

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Post by BisbeeGal July 24th 2022, 5:04 pm

I was lucky enough to meet her in Ajijic at a book signing. After the signing the rest of the group ran to the buffet. She and I stayed behind and talked alone for a bit (her driver was late). She told me how upset she was that so many of the chilies in Mexican markets were coming in from China. She said it was a travesty and the MXN government was complicit in it.
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Post by BisbeeGal July 26th 2022, 2:41 pm

From the LA Times obituary.

The house seems to grow out of the rocks and trees it’s set against, with a gargantuan boulder lodged into its center, anchoring the staircase to the second level. Kitchen counters and nooks are layered with hanging pots, pottery and various bottled legumes, spices and vinegars made from banana, pineapple, red wine and pulque.

Outside, fruit trees, pines and fronds of every sort seem to engulf the available sunlight. I spot stables down a ramble. Rounded, built-in stone ovens preside over the patio, as well as a modern solar oven, like a blinding silver flower, where a pot of beans sits bubbling.

This is how I remember the home of Diana Kennedy, who died there Sunday of respiratory failure at age 99. Nestled into the hilly countryside of Michoacán state, in the town of Coatepec de Morelos on the edge of the central highlands of Mexico, the house known as Quinta Diana was home base for the British-born cook for five decades as she diligently pursued a full-spectrum documentation of traditional recipes across every region of Mexico.

The woman moved through life in such a way that you could trick your brain into assuming she would live forever. I’d like to think her entrance to the afterlife occurred just as she damn well pleased it would.

I had one afternoon with Kennedy at Quinta Diana in spring 2014, and I had so many questions. I also sort of expected, comically, some kind of bountiful feast prepared for her journalist guest from Vice magazine. However, Kennedy, 91 at the time, was done with being a “good” host; she announced early on that we’d be eating nothing more than maybe a tamal veracruzano or some candied duraznos (peaches) she’d just finished.

That day I learned that, more than anything else, Diana Kennedy was angry.

She hated all the plastic. She told me she reused, over and over, every plastic bag or container she’d ever been given.

She was mad at all the wasted water in Mexico’s industries.

She hated pesticides.

She scorned industrialized tortillas.

And she truly hated, despised, the fact that Mexico was importing corn from the United States. Imported corn! In Mexico! Where corn, one of the planet’s greatest gifts to mankind, was born!

This fact, to Kennedy, seemed to encapsulate everything that was wrong with everything. And because of it, she expressed anger at the world of food itself — the corporatizing, the genetic modifications and unfettered, market-driven globalization that had pushed the world at large, she argued, to literally lose its taste. “Especially in the U.S.,” she told me. “And then it passes to Mexico.”

“Why is it that we have allowed people who are totally incompetent in food to design our food?” she said that day in her unapologetic British accent. “Our food doesn’t have the flavor it used to have. I remember the chile poblanos, full of flavor, thin-fleshed, very dark green, and that big. Now ¡olvidalo!”

Forget it.

“I was in Oaxaca in 1964, when it was just … lost,” Kennedy whistled, dipping into memories of a place not saturated with tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe, as it is now. “It was gorgeous, oh, not all that awful noise of traffic. It was just beautiful.”

Kennedy arrived in Mexico in the 1950s as spouse to a correspondent for the New York Times and fell in love with the country and the depth of its cultures. A totally Indigenous culinary geography in every state, despite colonization, seemed to bloom before her; markets teemed with countless varieties of corn and chiles; and recipes, she’d quickly learn, for staple dishes like tamales or moles varied wildly not only from state to state, but village to village. After her husband, Paul Kennedy, died in New York in 1967, Diana Kennedy decided to resettle in Mexico permanently.

She got in her truck and started driving. Little by little, she traversed the country on her own, defying norms about foreigners — and foreign women — traveling to non-touristy destinations in a country with weak standards of rule-of-law and ongoing violence between criminal cartels and the armed forces.

Despite the risks, she’d visit every market possible in every town she could. She’d return multiple times after befriending locals, and in her publications, she’d meticulously credit the women originators of the recipes she’d perfect alongside them.

A woman in a head scarf and flat-brimmed hat sits at the wheel of a pickup.
Diana Kennedy at the wheel of her then-17-year-old Nissan stick-shift pickup truck in 2018.

Her first cookbook in 1972, “The Cuisines of Mexico,” became a sensation. English readers were becoming acquainted with the reality that Mexico was more than combination plates and tacos — there was richness as deep as any to be found in China, India or Italy. Fifty years ago, this was new information for most Anglo and even many U.S.-born Mexican American cooks.

In the late 1970s, Quinta Diana was born. It was her dream to become one with the landscape, in how she lived, and especially in how she cooked. The house in its entirety was her lifelong project, distilled.

With nine books in English, induction into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame, and the highest of civilian decorations from the governments of both Mexico and the United Kingdom, Kennedy had been referred to as an “ambassador” or a “dame” throughout her life.

But she’d wave her hand at all that, approving of no such title other than simply “cook.” Not even chef, she’d say. Open a restaurant? Ridiculous.
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