The British Guru of Mexican Food, Diana Kennedy, dies at 99

Diana Kennedy

Diana Kennedy, a British-born food writer whose dedication to Mexico’s culinary heritage helped popularize the richness of the national cuisine in the English-speaking world, has died. She was 99.

The Mexican culture ministry confirmed her death, and paid tribute to Kennedy’s legacy, saying that she “like few others” understood that conserving nature and its diversity was crucial to upholding the myriad culinary traditions of Mexico.

Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States, on Twitter described the death of the “great” Kennedy as a “huge loss for Mexico, the UK, and Mexican gastronomy.”

“She changed the narrative and perceptions of Mexican cuisine from a bland mish-mash of TexMex towards a sophisticated tapestry of regional cuisines” as rich as those celebrated in China, India, France, or Italy, Sarukhan told Reuters.

Kennedy, whose works include “The Cuisines of Mexico” and “The Art of Mexican Cooking”, was born as Diana Southwood in Loughton, England in 1923 and emigrated to Canada in 1953.

Later in the decade, she moved to Mexico after marrying New York Times journalist Paul P. Kennedy. Her husband died in 1967, and Kennedy spent years living in Michoacan, a rugged state in western Mexico with a strong, deep-rooted culture.

It was at her home in Michoacan that she died on Sunday, the New York Times said. The cause of death was not clear.

Plaudits flooded in on Twitter for Kennedy, including from renowned chef Jose Andres, who, calling her his friend, wrote:

“She loved Mexico, Mexicans, and Mexican cooking like no one! Her books open a window into the soul of Mexico! She gave voice to the many Mexican cooks, especially women. She was my teacher and already miss her. Will cook together one day again!”

Josefa Gonzalez Blanco, Mexico’s ambassador to Britain called Kennedy a “remarkable woman” who had put her “heart and soul” into researching, chronicling, and promoting the vast diversity of Mexican culture and gastronomy.

Kennedy won many prizes in recognition of her work, and in 1981 the government honored her with the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the country’s highest award for foreigners.

According to her website, Kennedy was compelled to preserve native ingredients and traditional recipes under threat from growing urbanization, and spent decades documenting cuisines she found in villages, markets, and homes across Mexico.

“Now, these traditions are collectively designated as a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO,” it noted.

Source: El Informador

Mexico Daily Post