Diana Kennedy is considered the leading English-language authority on Mexican cuisine. She has written numerous cookbooks documenting the regional cuisines of Mexico since the 1970s. With so many great options to choose from, which of Diana Kennedy’s books is the best?
Who is Diana Kennedy?
Diana Kennedy is a British-born food writer who has spent over 50 years researching and documenting the regional cuisines of Mexico. Kennedy first traveled to Mexico in 1957 and soon became enchanted by the country’s diverse culinary traditions. She decided to settle in Mexico indefinitely in 1959 in order to dedicate herself to learning about authentic Mexican cuisine.
Since the 1960s, Kennedy has authored numerous cookbooks and recipes on Mexican cooking. She has traveled extensively throughout Mexico, visiting remote villages and home kitchens to discover traditional and indigenous dishes. Kennedy’s written works are known for their meticulous recipes and comprehensive explanations of ingredients and cooking techniques.
Many regard Diana Kennedy as the world’s foremost scholar on Mexican cuisine. She has received numerous awards and honors for her cookbooks and preservation of Mexican culinary heritage. Kennedy’s contribution to Mexican cuisine has been compared to Julia Child’s impact on French cooking.
What are Diana Kennedy’s most popular books?
Here are some of Diana Kennedy’s most well-known and influential books on Mexican cuisine:
– The Cuisines of Mexico (1972) – Kennedy’s first cookbook covering dishes from around Mexico. It helped introduce Mexican cooking to a wider audience.
– The Art of Mexican Cooking (1989) – An expanded and revised version of her first book with additional recipes. It’s one of her most comprehensive works.
– My Mexico (1998) – Part cookbook, part travelogue of Kennedy’s explorations around Mexico. Contains 200 recipes and anecdotes.
– Oaxaca al Gusto (2010) – Focuses on the diverse cuisine of the Oaxaca region including moles, empanadas, and chocolate.
– The Essential Cuisines of Mexico (2000) – A collection of Kennedy’s favorite recipes gathered from her previous books. It’s a great sampler of Mexican cooking.
– The New Taste of Chocolate (2009) – A unique book exploring cacao growing and chocolate production in Mexico.
The best Diana Kennedy book for authentic recipes
For cooks interested in authentic recipes using traditional ingredients and cooking methods, Diana Kennedy’s “The Art of Mexican Cooking” is likely the best choice. Here’s why:
First published in 1989, “The Art of Mexican Cooking” contains over 200 recipes exploring dishes from every region of Mexico. The recipes go deep into details on traditional preparation methods, explaining the origins and significance of each dish. Kennedy provides more context and background than a typical cookbook.
Focus on authentic techniques
Rather than simplify or substitute ingredients, Kennedy’s recipes aim to preserve traditional Mexican cooking techniques. She includes recipes for labor-intensive moles, tamales, and other dishes made exactly as Mexican home cooks prepare them. The instructions help create authentic texture and flavor.
Use of regional ingredients
The recipes highlight ingredients specific to each dish’s place of origin. For example, the tamal recipes specify whether they use the masa typical of that region. Unique herbs, chiles, and vegetables take center stage in each recipe.
Drawing from her decades of firsthand experience, Kennedy often includes tips only a seasoned cook would know. She explains the nuances of when a dish is done based on look, feel, and taste – insights beyond what a basic recipe provides.
Recipes are organized by region with detailed chapters covering cuisine highlights from each part of Mexico. It offers a structured way to experience authentic dishes from around the country.
For intermediate to advanced home cooks seeking an immersive and educational Mexican cooking experience, “The Art of Mexican Cooking” can’t be beat. Kennedy’s expertise on display in each recipe makes it the ultimate choice.
The best introductory Diana Kennedy book
For beginner home cooks looking to start exploring Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy’s “The Cuisines of Mexico” is the ideal introductory text. Here’s a look at why it’s a great first Kennedy cookbook:
Range of recipes
Originally published in 1972, “The Cuisines of Mexico” was Kennedy’s first cookbook. It presents a solid foundational selection of recipes covering salsa, beans, rice, tamales, fish, meat, vegetables, and more. There’s enough diversity to begin cooking confidently.
While still authentic, the recipes in “The Cuisines of Mexico” use fewer complex cooking techniques compared to Kennedy’s later books. Ingredients are more commonplace and accessible for home cooks. The dishes serve as an approachable introduction.
Kennedy uses concise and straightforward language to explain each recipe, making them easy to follow for Mexican cooking novices. The focus is on key steps rather than advanced details and background.
The recipes include helpful tips on preparation, recommended side dishes, potential ingredient substitutions, and more. Kennedy shows her expertise while keeping things digestible for beginners.
After cooking through “The Cuisines of Mexico,” home cooks will have a grasp of core ingredients, methods, and regional distinctions. It provides the base needed before diving into Kennedy’s more advanced cuisine-focused books.
For entry-level home cooks seeking an accessible and authoritative introduction to Mexican cooking, “The Cuisines of Mexico” is Diana Kennedy’s most helpful guide. The simplified yet still traditional recipes make Mexican cuisine less intimidating.
The most comprehensive Diana Kennedy book
For the most extensive survey of regional Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy’s “My Mexico” is the definitive cookbook choice. Here’s what makes it such an invaluable resource:
Coverage of diverse regions
True to its name, “My Mexico” is Kennedy’s most personal ode yet to Mexican cooking. The book contains 200 recipes gathered from Kennedy’s extensive travels across Mexico. It offers a glimpse into distinct regional cuisines most cookbooks overlook.
Mix of recipes and stories
Along with recipes, the book shares Kennedy’s anecdotes and experiences during her journeys. Part cookbook, part travelogue, it provides cultural and historical context other books lack. Readers gain memorable insights into each dish.
Rare and unique dishes
From indigenous southern cooking to the complex cuisine of Puebla, Kennedy focused on hard-to-find and uncommon recipes. Foods like Mixtec poc chuc offer tastes not seen in mainstream Mexican cookbooks.
Local ingredients spotlight
Kennedy calls attention to Mexico’s diversity of ingredients by incorporating different chiles, beans, heirloom corn, herbs, tropical fruits and more into recipes. Home cooks can replicate plates once enjoyed solely in small Mexican villages.
Range from basic to advanced
Dishes vary from quick salsas and tacos to multi-step moles and tamales. Kennedy included introductory recipes without leaving out pillars of Mexican gastronomy. There’s something to learn for cooks at every skill level.
For home cooks seeking the ultimate educational journey into Mexico’s cuisine, “My Mexico” is Kennedy’s paramount achievement. With its blend of intriguing recipes, ingredients, and personal stories, it’s the definitive gateway to Mexican cooking.
The best Diana Kennedy book for moles, salsas and sauces
With its extensive detailing of moles, salsas, and other complex sauces, Diana Kennedy’s “Oaxaca al Gusto” stands out as her best book in this regard. Here’s what makes it so noteworthy:
Focus on Oaxaca
The state of Oaxaca has one of Mexico’s most sophisticated regional cuisines, which Kennedy captures here. She traveled Oaxaca’s seven regions to document flavorful sauce recipes unmatched elsewhere in Mexico.
Oaxaca is the land of mole, with each town boasting unique versions. Kennedy provides in-depth mole negro, mole amarillo, and coloradito recipes, explaining their key local differences and customization.
The book has an entire salsa chapter with recipes spanning fiery chile de agua to fruited salsa de piña. Kennedy highlights salsas eaten in Oaxacan homes not found in restaurants.
Kennedy walks readers through making complex sauces like pipian rojo, mancha manteles, and chocolate atole. Her detailed guidance ensures proper technique and authentic flavor.
In describing each sauce, Kennedy also explains their cultural significance. Readers gain a deeper connection to how moles and salsas define Oaxacan cuisine and identity.
For cooks seeking to master Mexico’s saucy cuisine in all its shades and flavors, “Oaxaca al Gusto” holds all the secrets. The book’s unparalleled detail on regional sauces makes it Kennedy’s standout work in this area.
Throughout her storied career, Diana Kennedy has produced numerous award-winning books on authentic Mexican cuisine. For home cooks, “The Cuisines of Mexico” makes the best introduction. “The Art of Mexican Cooking” offers Kennedy’s most complete guide to traditional recipes from around the country. “My Mexico” gives a sweeping overview of diverse regional cuisines. And “Oaxaca al Gusto” stands as Kennedy’s definitive book on complex moles, salsas, and sauces.
With their combination of culinary expertise and cultural storytelling, Diana Kennedy’s Mexican cookbooks educate and inspire. For anyone seeking an authoritative voice to unlock the diversity of authentic Mexican cooking, Diana Kennedy remains the undisputed gold standard. Whichever books our passions lean toward, her writings provide the deepest pathway home cooks can take into Mexico’s flavors and ingredients.