Diana Kennedy’s cherished cookbook collection gets a new home

One could argue that no one has done more to promote traditional Mexican cooking than a British transplant, the venerable Diana Kennedy. For over half a century, she has diligently researched the cuisine from every region of the country, carefully documenting what she finds and sharing it with the world. She has written a bevy of successful and influential cookbooks, and she has her own cookbook library that contains hundreds of volumes, including several extremely rare Mexican cookbooks. 

Diana Kennedy cookbook

The 96-year-old Kennedy is donating her cookbooks, along with papers from her decades-long career and hundreds of 35mm slides from her extensive travels, to the John Peace Library at the University of Texas in San Antonio. The university has already sent one of the oldest books in Kennedy’s collection, Arte Nuevo de Cocina y Reposteria Acommodado al Uso Mexicano, to Boston for repair, and is raising money to preserve the others. Published in 1828, Arte Nuevo de Cocina is the first known cookbook dedicated to Mexican cookery. 

It wasn’t easy for Kennedy to part with her cherished books. “They were my companions for life, I hate giving them up, but recognize they have to be under special care, where also they can be used,” she says. “I wanted them to be in a library, I didn’t want them to get to some mediocre chef or certain cookbook authors I do not admire.” 

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  • annmartina  on  May 16, 2019

    I'd love to read an article based on that last sentence!

  • manycookbooks  on  May 16, 2019

    Bravo for her! I, too, would like to know who the cookbook authors are, who she does not admire (I have a few on my own list!). I agree that parting with one's collection (of anything) is always difficult, if you have spent years amassing the collection and it has become near and dear to your heart. I have recently decided that upon my passing (which I hope isn't anytime soon!), to donate my 6,600 cookbooks to the culinary arts program of a local college. Hopefully, there will still be students, who enjoy old-fashioned thumbing through the pages of these books, which are really history books with a bonus: recipes!

  • UrsEva  on  May 16, 2019

    Diana Kennedy is to Mexican cooking what Julia Child was to French cooking. How wonderful that both collections are ending up at university libraries. What wonderful and inspirational women. My hats off!

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