Monday, June 27, 2011

Meeting Diana Kennedy in San Miguel de Allende

When I was at my casa in San Miguel de Allende, I was fortunate to meet Diana Kennedy at her book signing that Jim and Alfredo hosted at their lovely store, Camino Silvestre (Calle Zacateros No. 46).  Just around the corner from my house, my friend Shelley and I walked over that Saturday afternoon to meet her.  Ms. Kennedy has put Mexican cuisine on the map with her in depth knowledge from over 50 years of research and travels through out the country.  She has introduced the world to the authentic cuisine and flavors of Mexico, just like Julia Child did for French cuisine.  
Awarded the 2011 James Beard "cookbook of the year," Oaxaca al Gusto is an intensive cookbook featuring the cuisine of the diverse regions in the state of Oaxaca.  Ms. Kennedy pays special tribute to three "Pillars of Oaxacan Cuisine," chocolate, corn and chilies.  It is a rather unique cookbook with great photography (many by the author herself) and one that I have enjoyed reading over and over again and learning about the variety of cuisines and techniques that the state of Oaxaca has to offer. With 16 officially recognized cultures and indigenous peoples and with the most biodiversity in Mexico, it is no wonder that Oaxaca is noted for its vast cultural diversity from languages, foods, dress to its customs.
Oaxaca al Gusto is a great reference cookbook but not one for the occasional cook.  For example, I don't think I will be whipping up Tamales de Iguana anytime soon but the Pato en Guajillo (Duck in Guajillo sauce) looks really delicious.  Both recipes are from the 
south-eastern coastal region of Istmo.
You can see some of the wonderful Gorky Gonzales plates on the wall behind Ms. Kennedy.  Many of Gorky's pieces in the store are exclusive designs just for Camino Silvestre.
I have seven of her eight cookbooks and if I were going to recommend one of her cookbooks to first time buyers, it definitely would be From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients.  When visiting with Ms. Kennedy, she was pleased to hear that I thought From My Mexican Kitchen was my favorite and she was interested to know why is was on the top of my list.  What a great afternoon, what a nice lady!
From My Mexican Kitchen, the reader is introduced to spices, chilies, herbs, various cheeses, vegetables, beans, fruits, meat, poultry, seafood, rice, pasta and more.  There are chapters on making antojitos (little snacks), moles, salsas, tamales, tortillas, vinegar and breads.  There is a section on food and cooking terms.  I just really like the layout, the history of the ingredient with notes to its origin and the photography. 
Next time you are at the bookstore, check it out and let me know what you think.
Buen provecho.

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