Culinary Crusader: Diana Kennedy

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Photo by Michael Calderwood
“In a quest to produce big, shiny, tasteless apples, we’ve forgotten about loquats, quince, and granadillas. That’s why I champion local produce.” —Diana Kennedy

From her ecological home in Michoacán, Mexico, cooking teacher Diana Kennedy writes about authentic Mexican cuisine–and is on a mission to raise awareness of regional food traditions.

Cooking A to Z: Her books chronicle how local foods–from aguacate (avocado) to zacalapeño (a chile)–are traditionally used. Read My Mexico (1998), The Essential Cuisines of Mexico (2000), and From My Mexican Kitchen (2003), all published by Clarkson Potter.

Savory Sleuth: Kennedy travels the country recording recipes and food folklore and asking people to recall their grandmother’s cooking. “I’m intrigued by the history of regional foods, how long a particular vegetable has been cultivated, and whether it’s changed in flavor over the years,” she says.

Pet Peeve: “Starchy messes of beans and tasteless corn mush blanketed in waxy cheese.”

Favorite Local Dish: Uchepos, delicate fresh-corn tamales indigenous to Michoacán, served with fresh cheese and cream.

Casa Kennedy: One wall in the kitchen is a rock face, appropriate because Kennedy’s naturally cool adobe home is built right into the land. A “big, old, clumsy solar heater” warms the house’s water, supplied by rainwater holding tanks.

Garden Gala: The organic garden is cause for celebration as plants come into season. She fertilizes with manure from a neighbor’s cow.

Food Philosophy: “It’s worth the money to get good organic ingredients. If you examine how cheap food is produced, there’s always something gone wrong–like underpaying workers, forcing the land, or using pesticides. We should be prepared to pay a decent price for food.”

For Diana Kennedy’s guacamole recipe, click here.

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