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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Diana Kennedy’s classic Mexican cookbook reissued 30 years later

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Diana Kennedy
Diana Kennedy at home in Mexico. Photo: Diana Kennedy Center

The publisher that gave us David Sterling’s epic Yucatán: A Culinary Expedition now sends us an update of a classic Mexican cookbook first published in 1984.

The Los Angeles Times’ Cookbook of the Week is “Nothing Fancy” by Diana Kennedy (University of Texas Press, $29.95).

The British-born cookbook author, now 93 and living in eastern Michoacán, has added about a dozen recipes, revised old ones, reworked some sections and added more, including itemized lists of things that she loves, such as croissants and escamoles. And things she vehemently dislikes, like kosher salt and high tea.

The Times writes that “Nothing Fancy” is as close as Kennedy ever came to writing a memoir. It chronicles her life in Mexico, where she has lived for decades, and includes personal recipes, many of which date to her British childhood — and because it’s likely her final book. The Times continues:

Diana Kennedy
“Nothing Fancy” by Diana Kennedy

It’s a tremendously fun read, loaded with wit and outrage, recipes for crumpets (crumpets!), jellied tongue and “natural remedies,” in addition to many of the homey dishes she makes at her home in Michoacan. It’s a decidedly slim volume, by the standards of the Kennedy oeuvre. (Her last book was the magnificent “Oaxaca al Gusto,” an anthropological cookbook about the size of a King James Bible, and for many of us, just as influential, which won a James Beard Award for best cookbook in 2011.) Another reason to read this book is Kennedy’s plea, which runs throughout the pages, for sustainability. Some 30 years after the book’s original publication, Kennedy reexamines not only her own pages, but her own environment — as well as the one that belongs to us all.

Snacks from Yucatán cantinas

The book is not organized around regions in Mexico, but seems to cover a lot of the bases.

The Amazon critic Arthur Boehm writes: “In 20 chapters — from appetizers to sweets and drinks — the book presents old friends like Pozole de Jalisco and chile con queso, and new delights, including pico de gallo with peaches, Arroz à la Tumbada (rice with seafood), Pollo en Cuiclachoce (chicken in a sauce made with cuitlacoche, the wonderfully exotic corn fungus), snacks from Yucatán cantinas, and a delicious barbecued chicken from Chiapus.”

The book doesn’t seem to focus too heavily on Yucatecan cuisine, but she paid tribute to our region’s food in her classic “The Art of Mexican Cooking,” which shared detailed information on how to make Yucatecan tamales — which she has said put the rest of the country’s to shame.

The book will be released officially tomorrow.

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