In Mexico City, la señora Diana Kennedy signed copies of her most recent book, Oaxaca al Gusto, for a long line of eager fans. If you would like to buy an English-language copy for yourself or as a gift, click on its book cover on the left-hand side of this page.
On May 6, 2011, Diana Kennedy's Oaxaca al Gusto, a work based in pure love of one of Mexico's best known cuisines, received the prestigous 2011 James Beard award as cookbook of the year.
Mexico Cooks! has been a Diana Kennedy admirer for more than 30 years. Her books, starting with her first, The Cuisines of Mexico, have taught me and countless others the pleasures as well as the travails of Mexico's regional cooking. I just counted: nine of her books are on my kitchen bookshelf, all of them well-spattered with the multiple ingredients from some of the hundreds of recipes that she has collected and published. The deep green color of roasted chiles poblanos, profoundly yellow speckles of flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), and brick-red splashes of salsa de chile guajillo (a sauce made of guajillo chiles) compete with the print on the pages to make a mosaic of well-remembered meals shared with friends.
Initial slide from the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) presentation of Oaxaca al Gusto on April 8, 2011, when old friends and new fans gathered to hear Diana Kennedy talk to us with great humor and obvious enjoyment of the occasion.
Since 1971, Diana Kennedy, born in Essex, England, has been the world's best-known authority on Mexican regional cuisines. In his April introduction of Oaxaca al Gusto, Dr. Robert Bye said, "Diana Kennedy does for Mexican cooking what Julia Child did for French cooking and Marcella Hazan has done for Italian cooking."
Were it not for her investigation, teaching, assessment, and promotion of the cuisines of Mexico, many of us would be stuck in a Tex-Mex web of gloppy yellow cheese, sour cream, and black olive-topped burritos. Instead, she has shared with us the wonders of the Mexican home kitchen, where the best of our cuisines continue to be found.
Dr. José Sarukhan, the biologist and esteemed rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, spoke eloquently about Sra. Kennedy and her newest book. "Her work is a treasure," he began, and ended his talk by saying, "The best pacholas (flattened and spiced ground beef patties made using a metate [pre-Hispanic grinding stone]) in all of Mexico are made from her recipe."
Sra. Kennedy's honors are many and entirely well-deserved. From an initial Mexican award given to her work in 1971, right up to the present, she has continued to garner ribbons, plaques, and prizes for what she has accomplished in her lifetime. Among her most prominent awards, she was decorated in 1981 with the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest award given to foreigners by Mexico's government. In 2003, she was made an MBE--a Member of the Order of the British Empire--by the British government, this time for her work in furthering cultural relations between Mexico and the United Kingdom.
In addition to offering a good deal of insight into Sra. Kennedy's research and investigation while writing Oaxaca al Gusto, the book presentation allowed an in-person peek at the tremendous esteem given to her by her Mexico City-based colleagues. Dr. Robert Bye and Maestra Edelmira Linares, co-presenters of the UNAM event, spoke lovingly of how her work has influenced even the Jardín Botánico (Botanic Garden) of the university, working in conjunction with Sra. Kennedy to rescue some of the plants and the knowledge about them that up until now, "She has only kept the knowledge in her head. Now we will all be the beneficiaries."
Maestra Edelmira Linares, co-organizer of the book presentation and a friend of Sra. Kennedy's. Her terrific smile is emblematic of the enjoyment we all experienced at the event.
During her talk, Diana Kennedy said, "This is not a formal book. It's a book from the people of Oaxaca, written for everyone." And like the informality and generous nature of the book, the book presentation itself was informal, generous, and, in a word, fun. In addition to the participation of Sra. Kennedy and her UNAM colleagues, we were delighted by a wonderful degustación (tasting event) after the various speeches. Several Mexico City restaurant owners and Sra. Kennedy herself had prepared marvelous examples of Oaxacan food for all of us.
A Oaxacan cebiche, prepared by Mexico City Restaurante Contramar and presented by the restaurant owner, Gabriela Cámara.
Gorgeous and delicious skewers of shrimp and vegetables, also prepared by Restaurante Contramar.
Wonderful frijoles refritos (well-fried beans) prepared by Diana Kennedy and brought to the book presentation. The beans, served on totopos (corn tortilla chips) were flavored with hoja santa and Oaxacan chile costeño.
What an afternoon! All of us who were present learned a bit more about the delightful Sra. Kennedy and her life's work, and we enjoyed the real taste of Oaxaca--Oaxaca al Gusto!
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