Last week we took a trip to New Orleans in Up From The Streets, this week, strap in for an expedition to Mexico in DIANA KENNEDY: NOTHING FANCY now playing in our Virtual Movie Palace. From Director Elizabeth Carroll, the documentary gives us a glimpse into the energetic, honest and extraordinary mind of the most prolific expert and authority in Mexican cuisine, who has been regarded as a key influence to the respect and presence authentic Mexican food has had in the culinary arts.
In her efforts to preserve the traditions and environment of the planet, you’ll agree there is much to learn from Diana Kennedy; and as you dive into her life story, you’ll find there’s even more to be admired about her. With a delightful quip for every occasion, which she delivers with a fiery wit, she’s also an incredibly entertaining personality that above all, makes this a delightful and heart-warming film.
Honestly, there could not be a better documentary to watch in quarantine. Not only does it offer a virtual vacation to the beautiful terrain of central Mexico, but it also provides humor, a rare and unique story, and from it you may also find tomorrow night’s dinner plans as well as the perfect method of preparing guacamole. However, a bit of warning about the film in that regard: don’t enter it hungry because that’s a sure-fire way to torment yourself.
Born in England in 1923, she moved to Mexico with her husband in the late 1950s and has spent most of her life in the country since. In the film you’ll hear her described as the “Mick Jagger of Mexico”, as she still maintains a proper English accent, as well as the “Indiana Jones of food”, because though her primary form of expression is in its preparation, she is also a considerable educator in the traditions and culture of Mexico. Many even label her a “culinary anthropologist,” as she has traveled to just about every corner of her adopted homeland to discover and enlighten herself to new recipes, ingredients, and traditions. Though her recipes are simple, they come from the deep, and not-too-often advertised rural homes of the country, that we can suspect have been passed down for generations.
And where the documentary will really leave you motivated, is her dedication to the ecology and purity of the natural environment. From her insistence on using all-natural ingredients, many grown from her garden, and her patronization of the local food markets, to her adobe home in the center of a lush orchard, her lifestyle is a sight of inspiration. Think Biggest Little Farm on a smaller, more pragmatic scale. Given the amount of time she’s spent in Mexico, she speaks fondly of her time in Mexico City before the smog, and in her voice is a determination to do everything in her power to preserve not only the traditions of her home, but the environment as well. In her own words, “there are generations coming after you and you have a responsibility.”
Diana Kennedy has a unique, admirable, and infectious personality that comes solely from an unabashed passion to protect as well as to comfort. The film begins with a quote by journalist Craig Claiborne, “If her enthusiasm were not beautiful, it would border on mania”. And at breezy 73 minutes, this film is simple and pleasant enough that you may just want to start it over again. Enjoy your weekend and let us know if it inspired any weekend meal plans as it has for me.