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The masa mess

(article, Culinate staff)

Diana Kennedy, the British-born expert on traditional Mexican cooking, is not a quiet little old lady. As a recent profile in Houstonia magazine noted, she's outspoken when it comes to other Latin American cooking types:

bq. She once kicked chef Rick Bayless, a fellow Anglo obsessed with Mexican cooking, out of her car for being "brash." In our interview, she doesn't mince words when it comes to chefs such as New Jersey-based Maricel Presilla, of whom Kennedy rails: "She thinks she's the next great Mexican chef and she's not!" Presilla's latest sin in Kennedy's eyes is being quoted in a recent New York Times article which did not adequately describe the process of making nixtamal. "It's full of misinformation!"

That Times article, in fact — written by Julia Moskin and with quotes from several different Latin American cooks, including Hugo Ortega, one of Kennedy's protegés — irritated Kennedy so much that she penned a letter of rebuttal, dismissing most of the article's facts and explanations, and concluding with a gender-politics reminder:

bq. I am rarely at a loss for words but the chatter in this article about women being the tortilla makers because of their maternal skills leaves me speechless. I have never so much as pinched a baby’s bottom, but I can turn out a pretty mean tortilla!

Kennedy's classic book My Mexico has just been reissued in a new, updated edition. If you dig her straight talk, check it out.