Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Nate Hood on Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy (2019) which hits virtual cinemas May 22nd and VOD June 19th.
The brilliance of Elizabeth Carroll's new documentary Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy is how it balances these two aspects of her personality, perfectly illustrating her life-long love affair with Mexican cooking while embracing instead of downplaying her truculent coarseness. The first half of the film dutifully recounts Kennedy's life for the uninitiated: after vacationing in Veracruz with her new husband after leaving the army following World War Two, she fell in love with Mexico and spent the next fifty years road-tripping throughout it meticulously documenting regional cuisines and the cultures that created them. Flash-forward several cookbooks, cooking classes, and television shows later and Kennedy has become such an integral part of Mexican food culture that she received the Order of the Aztec Eagle award by the Mexican government for her contributions. (Carroll sidesteps any potential controversies about Kennedy, a white British woman, being one of the largest figures in Mexican food. She is, though, careful to include interviews with chefs José Andrés (Spain) and Pati Jinich (Mexico) where they authenticate her bona fides.)
There's plenty of the food porn one would expect, but the film veers sharply into the melancholy in the last half where Kennedy shares her fears and frustrations towards the state of the world, particularly climate change and the loss of traditional Mexican food culture to fast-food modernity. As she mutters at one point: "What are you going to do when I’m gone? Who’s going to start screaming?”