An absorbing episode of BBC Radio Four’s “Food Programme” featuring British-born Mexican food guru Diana Kennedy, which aired on June 29, is available as a podcast.
The informative show highlights the career and achievements of this intrepid writer and explorer, whose nine volumes devoted to Mexican cuisine have helped preserve hundreds of regional recipes that otherwise might have been lost amid the tsunami of culinary globalization.
Now in her 90s, Kennedy came to Mexico in 1957 with her husband, New York Times correspondent Paul Kennedy. He died from cancer within a decade, leaving his wife to make her own way in the world. Having learned many of the basics of Mexican cooking from her maid, Kennedy set out on a quest to track down recipes and ingredients in some of the remotest corners of Mexico and record them in great detail for future generations and the rest the world. Given the scale and diversity of Mexico and its cuisine, it turned into a lifetime’s work, for which Kennedy has been widely recognized both here and abroad.
Kennedy’s zest for life and love of Mexico come through in abundance in her interview on the “Food Programme,” which visits her isolated home and kitchen garden in the state of Michoacan. The episode also features input from several other sources, including Geoffry Pilcher, professor of History at Toronto University and author of “Planet Taco - A Global History of Mexican Food.” And in another segment, the owner of a Mexican restaurant in London concocts a delicious salsa taken from the pages of one of Kennedy’s books.
The program also touches on serious issues facing Mexico, including its changing diet brought on by unfettered free trade, obesity and food security. The future is challenging, says Pilcher, noting that “Kennedy’s record of the ingredients and cuisines that sustained people for thousands of years will (now) come into its own,” He concludes: “Rather than telling people what to eat (Kennedy) has listened to how they’ve eaten. I think these sturdy peasant cuisines are the best hope for finding a way to adapt in a changing world.”
Listen to or download the program by clicking this link: Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as"). Also available on iTunes. Additional podcasts are available at the BBC's website.
Salsa de tomate verde y aguacate (Mexican green sauce with avocado)
Diana Kennedy’s books are chock-full of Mexican salsas from every region of the country. She gleaned this one from the tables of a restaurant that she often stopped at on her way back from her travels to her home in Zitacuaro, Michoacan. Although it uses avocado, Kennedy says it is not a guacamole, as it only uses enough aguacate to “lend richness and body to the sauce.”
Ingredients: 1/2 pound (225g) tomates verdes (about 10 medium); 1/2 cup water; 4 serrano chiles or to taste, roughly chopped; heaped 1/2 cup firmly packed roughly chopped cilantro; 1/2 cup mashed avocado; salt to taste.
Method: Remove the husks from the tomates verdes, rinse well, and roughly chop. Put the water into a blender, add the chiles and onion, and blend until fairly smooth. Add the tomates verdes and cilantro and blend to a textured consistency. Stir in (do not blend or the texture will be lost) the mashed avocado and salt. The sauce can be prepared an hour or so ahead but should be eaten the same day. Serve with corn tortillas.