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Jul 9, 2008 06:48 PM

"art of mexican cooking" or "authentic mexican" -- which is better IYO?


I have to choose between Kennedy's "Art of Mexican Cooking" and Bayless' "Authentic Mexican" for my Cookbook Club. I know that both authors have other books as well, and I've read about other recommended books on Mexican cooking, but I have to limit my choice to these two. Which of the two would you recommend, since I can only get one, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each? Thanks for the help!

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  1. My experience in general with Kennedy vs. Bayless is that Kennedy learns recipes from people in Mexico and records them nearly exactly as she learned them, Bayless also has tons of experience in Mexico but then he seems to work on the recipes and refine them. With Kennedy's recipes the food feels more rustic and simple, with Bayless there are often longer and more involved steps but the food is often to die for. I don't think you'll go wrong with either, just depends what you're after. I will say though that I've cooked more recipes from Rick Bayless' books than I can count and they normally come out ridiculously amazingly well. My friend from Durango thinks my tamales--from Mexican Kitchen and Mexico One Plate at a Time--are great and just exactly as they should be. Also, I think Authentic Mexican is Bayless' first cookbook and from looking at it he seems to stick closer to the basics than he does in Mexican Kitchen and Mexco One Plate at a Time. I've cooked a lot more from the last two. How does your cookbook club work?

    3 Replies
    1. re: lowandslow

      Thanks to both of you for the recs! The Cookbook Club is called The Good Cook. Basically, you agree to fulfilling the "commitment" of your membership, which is to purchase two books from them in the first year of being a member (no sale books though). Then, they send you four books when you sign up for a dollar each. They also have some cool sales throughout the year, especially around Christmas time. I'd recommend it, but it is kind of addictive, and I'm thinking I should get out soon, because my bookshelves are groaning already...

      1. re: berkeleygal

        I agree with exactly everything lowandslow says, perfect comparison of the two. I also cook more out of Mexican Kitchen than any of the others, including Diana Kennedy's books, though, of course I like them all.

        The Good Cook is an enabler, isn't it? It's really contributed to my cookbook addiction. Great sales, and they really describe the books in a way to make you want to immediately order them. I've had to buy more bookcases solely because of the club (I joined in 2004). I also like the accrued point system for discounts on books.

        I keep telling myself NO MORE cookbooks for a while, but the current featured book "Mario Batali's Italian Grill" sounds really good.....

        1. re: Rubee

          I might have to check out this cookbook club...

    2. Personally I'd go for Bayless.

      1. Please do Bayless' authentic mexican

        1. In my opinion... it depends on how advanced in Mexican techniques the members are. Kennedy is better for novices (imo) because her recipes are more exact... Bayless I use as a reference knowing that for some reason his recipes rarely turn out the way the dish should be (that is a very common complaint I have heard about him)... but advanced cooks will enjoy Bayless because he provides a good outline & background. Kennedy on the other hand assumes her readership doesn't know what its doing and so I have noticed her recipes are much more detailed and "fool proof".

          5 Replies
          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            that's really fascinating...which Bayless book do you use? I normally find Bayless to give such exact instructions, he goes on and on about little details, sometimes when i cook from other books I wish they'd give me as much info as he does. Maybe it's a learning styles thing or something?

            1. re: lowandslow

              I cook from Mexican Kitchen... which I really, really like... but I have read other CHers review as difficult to follow. My personal observation is that his ingredient proportions (Dried Chiles, Baked Goods etc.,) don't match what I would do to reach the goals he states for the dish.... so I don't know if the terroir he is sourcing ingredients from is dramatically different than what I have access to in California and that affects the flavor... but sometimes his proportions just don't make sense to me.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                You should start cooking/ getting ideas from Authentic Mexican EN. Its the only Bayless book I use and I think its superior to his others.

                I like that its annotated with regional variations or modern techniques - that you can play with the recipes.

                Kennedy I think is the wrong way to go - I love all of her books and her recipes but they are intimidating for the novice and I don't like that she is not lenient - I doubt cooks in Mexico are going to go to the anthropological lengths as the englishwoman.

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  Come on man... whats so complex about making your own vinegars, lard, cheeses, masa & Mamey pit moles? =)

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    haha! :^)

                    Do I need to pick up a bag of those pits for you at Mercado Hidalgo?!?

          2. just got back from a weekend trip to find all of these really useful suggestions! thanks to everyone -- i think i'm going to go with the kennedy, because i'm new to mexican cooking and despite my best intentions, i've found that really long ingredients lists end up keeping me from trying recipes, especially when my pantry isn't stocked with most of the necessary foods...

            7 Replies
            1. re: berkeleygal

              Usually its Kennedys recipes with the long ingredient lists.

              1. re: berkeleygal

                I learned to cook Mex. 25 years ago from Diana Kennedy when I was living in the coal mine fields of Appalachia. She has stood me in very good stead all these years, but she can get very bossy in her recipes. Don't be afraid to dive in, substitute if you have to (many times I've not been able to use exactly the chili she specifies but don't let that stop you!), or skip a bit in a recipe if you have to. She is an amazing resource. However, my new man is a professional chef (and much younger than I am) and he's a Bayless man. So there you go! YOu really couldn't go wrong. Enjoy!

                1. re: pickypicky

                  Good advice, always, to just dive in and not be too worried about exact ingredients (hard lesson to really learn, sometimes). And hey, congrats on the new guy ...

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Good point... its hard to criticize a woman who has done so much for Mexican cuisine but among my few criticisms is that she seems to fail to understand the big picture of Mexican cooking and gets too literally in a culture that is contextual par excellence... and where recipes are practically non-existent & useless.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Having limited travel experience in Mexico, I'm stuck with these author's cookbooks and little of the big picture. Surely you must exaggerate when you say that recipes are non-existent in Mexico? What about Bayless's collection of 2,500 antique Mexican cookbooks. Somebody wrote them. :) Please explain.

                      1. re: Romanmk

                        Yes... I should have qualified that statement... I think its fair to see that the bulk of antique & historic cookbooks have been Creole "Best" Families centric. Many recipes are really the work of the hired help etc., so thankfully there is documentation for Native Mexican cooking... but Creole Mexico is only 15% of the picture...then you have immigrants in Mexico the late 19th Century Italians, early 19th Century French, Spanish Civil War refugees, Ottoman Genocidal War refugees etc., (about 5% of the picture)... the Indians, Mestizos, Blacks make up the remaining 80% of the picture and they rarely cook from written recipes... its a strong oral tradition... with very rough outlines.

                        In fact, since you mention Bayless... I really like his concept in Mexican Kitchen of introducing 16 sauces / flavor combinations as foundations in the Mexican gastronomy... because that really is how most Mexicans think about cooking... they have certain flavor combination in mind... and then they think up of all the permutations of Cooking Technique, Sauce & Major Ingredient possible and come up with that day's meals.

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Eat Nopal, I totally agree with your thinking...most of my Mexican cooking is past down from my mother who got it from her grandmother who got it from who knows where and most is not exact...add such and such until the consistency or flavor or color is what you think it should be...quantifying that has been tough.