Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy

Director: Elizabeth Carroll

Cast: Diana Kennedy, José Andrés, Gabriela Camara, Alice Waters     

Run time: 72 minutes

Synopsis: ‘Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy’ is a feature-length documentary offering a candid look into the world of 97-year-old British chef and cookbook author Diana Kennedy, widely regarded as the world’s authority on Mexican cuisine.

Diana is a force of nature, living entirely in harmony with it. She designed and built her ecologically sustainable property outside Zitácuaro, Michoacán in 1974, where she continues to cook, recycle rainwater, use solar power, and grow her own vegetables, coffee, and corn. 

URL: https://youtu.be/yhDRU-Zb2Zw

Director Elizabeth Carroll’s fascinating documentary was the winner of the 2019 SXSW Special Jury Award for ‘Excellence in Storytelling’. Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy provides an intimate look into the world of ‘Mexicanophileand nonagenarian Diana Kennedy – a veritable gastronomical anthropologist who has dedicated over six decades of her life to the cause of Mexican cuisine. This has involved her in traversing the country collecting, preserving, and sharing a wealth of distinct regional dishes and preparatory traditions across nine acclaimed cookbooks.

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy is a thoroughly watchable docu-portrait of Kennedy as she shows us her life in Michoacán in western Mexico, actively engaged with her community, lecturing and giving media interviews and masterclasses in Mexican cooking. Diana enjoys long walks and driving around the country in her battered old van, visiting markets and engaging warmly with the local stallholders, though never hesitating to let them know if their produce is not up to scratch.

Elizabeth Carroll’s revealing documentary on the remarkable life of this culinary trailblazer and eco-activist tells us also about Kennedy’s eventful, romantic early life. Born Diana Southwood in Essex, and after war service in the Women’s Timber Corps, she became a world traveller. In New York she met and fell in love with the New York Times’ Mexico correspondent, Paul Kennedy, and it was while living with him in Mexico City that she developed her love of Mexican food. After his death, and crucially with the encouragement of the paper’s food correspondent, Craig Claiborne, she began to publish the wondrous recipes she had uncovered on her travels throughout the country, thus introducing the world to Mexican cooking.

She is now a passionate campaigner for authentic Mexican food – which means doing it the way she says, with little prospect of contradiction, we gather. In one amusing scene in the film, even some timid souls who ask innocuous questions in her culinary class are subjected to the sharp side of her tongue.

A passionate environmentalist, scrupulous about sustainability and recycling, she has this to say about modern life: “It seems the more we are connected electronically the less we are unified.”  A perfect sentiment from a film for our times.

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy is available on digital platforms now.

Images courtesy of Dogwoof