Cookbook of the week: The reissue of Diana Kennedy’s ‘Nothing Fancy’

Book cover of "Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food" by Diana Kennedy.

Book cover of “Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food” by Diana Kennedy.

(University of Texas Press)

“Nothing Fancy” by Diana Kennedy (University of Texas Press, $29.95). This isn’t a new book from the esteemed cookbook author, now 93, but rather a revision of one published in 1984. It’s not just a reissue, though; Kennedy has added about a dozen recipes, revised old ones, reworked some sections and added more, including itemized lists of things that she loves (croissants, escamoles) and things she vehemently dislikes (kosher salt, high tea). All this is noteworthy because “Nothing Fancy” is as close as Kennedy ever came to writing a memoir — it chronicles her life in Mexico, where she has lived for decades, and includes personal recipes, many of which date to her British childhood — and because it’s likely her last book.

It’s a tremendously fun read, loaded with wit and outrage, recipes for crumpets (crumpets!), jellied tongue and “natural remedies,” in addition to many of the homey dishes she makes at her home in Michoacan. It’s a decidedly slim volume, by the standards of the Kennedy oeuvre. (Her last book was the magnificent “Oaxaca al Gusto,” an anthropological cookbook about the size of a King James Bible, and for many of us, just as influential, which won a James Beard Award for best cookbook in 2011.) Another reason to read this book is Kennedy’s plea, which runs throughout the pages, for sustainability. Some 30 years after the book’s original publication, Kennedy reexamines not only her own pages, but her own environment — as well as the one that belongs to us all.