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Mexican Cookbooks: Kennedy or Bayless?


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So, which Kennedy book would you recommend to a beginner but a beginner with access to a supermercado?

And, conversely, which Bayless book should a beginner use?

Okay, I'm gonna weigh in here since I have more than a little bit of experience and expertise with this topic. I will preface this by saying that I have had the opportunity to spend time cooking with both Rick and Diana. Personally, I think both of them are fantastic. I own every Diana Kennedy cookbook save one and every Rick Bayless cookbook save one. I've cooked extensively from both. My avatar is actually chorizos I helped make hanging in from a peg in Diana's kitchen :laugh:

I like Diana Kennedy better mostly because I prefer the flavor profile of the final dishes after they're done being prepared. Diana's technique is impeccable (and so is Rick's for that matter) and her method and instructions well thought out and easy to follow. The structure of her recipes is solid; I've had to expand them for up to 100 servings and I've never, ever had one fail. In fact, I've had very few of her recipes ever fail. The Art of Mexican Cooking was her 2nd book and is an excellent choice. Essential Mexican was issued several years later and is also good.

Either would make a good choice for a beginning Mexican cook. Her first book was The Cuisine's of Mexico and it is worth borrowing from the library just to read it as there is so much information from the anthropological standpoint that it helps you understand where the food came from and how it evolved. DK is a purist, dedicated to preserving traditional Mexican ingredients, methods and dishes. She was into local and sustainable (her house in Zitacuaro is a prime example) long before it was fashionable and trendy.

Authentic Mexican was Rick's first Mexican cookbook and came out in 1987, or at least that's what my book says. This is about as traditional as you can get and is very similar to Diana Kennedy in content. The recipes are well researched and work. It's a very good book. I prefer, however, Mexican Kitchen as it's a little better laid out and easier to follow and I like some of the contemporary twists he include. I also like the recipe choice better in this one.

The best Rick Bayless cookbook for a beginner is Salsas That Cook. It begins with 8 basic salsa recipes that include 3 different yields and suggestions for substituting chiles either because of availability or different taste profile. The rest of the book is 50 recipes using the 8 basic salsas. I like Everyday Mexican too because it maintains the integrity of the flavors while making it easier and more doable. My least favorite is Mexico - One Plate at a Time . Not sure why, I just never found it that satisfying. I think my biggest complaint with some of Rick's later books is that he's gotten to verbose and wordy.

Patricia Quintana's books are good, however, be careful with Taste of Life as the English translation was not well edited and there are errors (I used to have the errata list but have lost it over the years).

Marilyn Tausend's books would be good for a beginner as would Mexican Family Cooking by Aida Gabilondo. And even though it's got a dreadful title - 1,000 Mexican Recipes - Marge Poore's tome is really pretty good too.

My first Mexican cookbook was The Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy as it was about the only on the market at the time. This is a good, solid book and will provide anyone that can read and knows how to follow a recipe a good foundation and basis for understanding the cuisine and techniques needed to adequately cook it.

Good luck and just have fun cooking from whatever cookbook you purchase. Don't stress about one being better than the other, both are equally good and have far more positive attributes and merits than not. Both are authentic (whatever the heck that means) DK is more traditional and RB is more contemporary.

Edited by kalypso (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's how I feel. I have most of the books that each one has written. I use and enjoy my Bayless books.

But I cannot imagine my life without Kennedy.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I love them both and would hate to have to do without either, but at gunpoint, I'd grab the Kennedy books. She's an excellent writer and goes narrow and deep, which is welcome if you enjoy the subject.

The reality is that there are many Mexicos and one book isn't likely to do it. I like to think I know a lot about Mexican food but I also am well aware of my huge pockets of ignorance.

Having said all that, I think the crockpot recipes for Bayless' Mexican Everyday are muy clever.

(Hi Kalypso. Nice to see you. Where have you been?)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I think that part of the "lesson" of this thread is that one cookbook rarely covers a subject. Mexico is too big for one cookbook, or one author.

I have a good selection of books by Bayless and Kennedy (as well as others), but I really enjoy cooking from "The New Complete Book of Mexican Cooking" by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz.

It is a reprint of the classic paperback. Although I have a good selection of books, I only actually "cook Mexican" occasionally. Ortiz' book often has the recipe I like best.

Unfortunately it is out of print, and getting expensve.


Food is all about history and geography.

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