Photo By Thomas Bravo | Mexico, September 2008
Food has always been the epicenter of culture. For Mexican Cuisine, food intersects with family, language, communication, history, environmentalism, and more. With great attention to these nuances and details, Diana Kennedy spent her life documenting and sharing the regional food cultures of Mexico. The British-born cook and writer moved to Mexico with her husband in 1957 and fell in love with our country, where she lived until her recent passing on Sunday, July 24, 2022 at the age of 99.
When describing Kennedy’s home, colloquially referred to as Quinta Diana, writer Daniel Hernandez from the LA Times noted that “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,” – a visual representation of her emotional and cultural connection to the land of Michoacán state. Diana lived in the town of Coatepec de Morelos, within the central highlands of Mexico. However, she traversed the entire country three times over throughout her career, deepening her knowledge of regional cuisine from locals which she eventually translated into books to be shared across the globe. “Ms. Kennedy wasn’t trained as a journalist, and never really identified as one,” noted New York Times writer Tejal Rao. “but she formed her own model for reporting recipes as she went along, traveling Mexico in her pickup truck, working beside home cooks and farmers, and documenting their work.”
Photo by Ann Summa | Getty Images | Mexico, 1989
Through her own form of culinary anthropology, Diana became increasingly aware of and angry with the way Mexican food was treated, re-created, and imported around the world. Hernandez continues to note Diana’s frustration with “the corporatizing, the genetic modifications and unfettered, market-driven globalization” that had disturbed the taste and preservation of authentic Mexican food. She recognized and appreciated the natural beauty and bounty of Mexico’s agricultural landscape, and the intersections of land, food, and cultural conservation. In her writing, as an author of over 10 cook books, she never strayed from local teaching and techniques and continued to put Mexico in the spotlight. “Ms. Kennedy never considered the recipes she published to be her adaptations or interpretations” continued Rao. “Instead, she saw herself as a keeper of and conduit for Mexican culinary history.”
While she is sometimes compared to her contemporaries as “The Julia Child of Mexican Cuisine” or even “The Indiana Jones of Food” – she remains unduplicated, in a league all her own. She illustrated not only the generalized deliciousness of Mexican culinary arts, but provided a richly textured and intricate portrait of regional differences in culture and food, providing the world with a deeper understanding of Mexico as a whole.
All of Diana Kennedy’s works are available today to read and enjoy, and her legacy will live on in the culinary traditions of Mexico, both home and abroad. Today, many renowned chefs in Mexico cite her body of work as an inspiration, and fold her teachings into their own unique blend of techniques. Our clients from all over the world often visit these restaurants for a chance to experience a part of our dining culture which carries the flair and mark of Diana’s work.
Photo by Paul Harris | Getty Images | Mexico, June 1990