La Reina Diana

The queen of real Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy reigns from an exotic villa in Michoacán, serving heavenly uchepos and spicy barbs aimed at pretenders to her throne.

It is teatime at Diana Kennedy’s house in San Pancho, a tiny town that clings to a hillside in the mountains of Michoacán, about a two-hour drive west of Mexico City. Diana Kennedy, the high priestess of Mexican cooking, is fiddling with her English teapot and apologizing for the butter knives, which, she points out, “are not the proper English knives.” Her small, curved knives look perfectly charming to me, and besides, I am preoccupied with one of her scones—a high, buttercup-yellow affair with a crisply browned bottom and a hidden trove of sultana raisins. There is sweet butter tasting faintly of meadow, courtesy of the Holstein cow that is ruminating alongside a Brown Swiss at the manger just down the hill on Kennedy’s five-acre ecological rancho, the Quinta Diana.

Through the windows banked along two sides of the kitchen, I watch the hunched, powerful form of El Cacique—”the Chieftain”—a mountain that broods over the volcanic San Pancho landscape. Vivid red pañolandas, the local poinsettias that soar to ten feet in the absence of hard freezes, toss their heads around Diana’s terrace. Layers of sound drift up from below: a bell, fussing chickens,

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