Real Housewives of Oaxaca

Diana Kennedy documents Mexico's home kitchens

In the United States, our benchmark for Mexican food is misplaced in burritos, quesadillas and all their generic renditions. It's understandable: No taco chain could hope to convey the country's complex and sweeping food culture.

If anyone has a shot, it's Diana Kennedy, the Julia Child of Mexican cuisine.

In her new compendium, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy, Kennedy renders a personal-yet-intelligent travelogue of the time she's spent in the region. The majority of more than 250 recipes are straight from home kitchens, suggesting that Kennedy knows every cook from La CaƱada to the coast.

Such a spectrum ensures a recipe fit for your home kitchen, whether you want to stay casual or get experimental; for the former, try a simple shrimp salsa, while the latter category's thrill seekers could make a weekend project out of Kennedy's recipe for mole with black iguana.

The tome is just as fun as an armchair read, enriched equally by thoughtful interjections of a knowledgeable cultural historian as it is by M.F.K. Fisher-style practicality. Kennedy's recommendation for chapulines (Mexican grasshoppers) is no-nonsense: "Delicious...containing a high proportion of proteins and amino acids."

We bet Julia would get behind that.