Treasure trove

University of Texas at San Antonio receives archives of global culinary icon

University of Texas at San Antonio receives archives of culinary icon

Diana Kennedy
Diana Kennedy has given San Antonio a huge gift. Photo by Betsy McNair

In the international culinary community, it is hard to think of a person more revered than Diana Kennedy. A self-described “ethno-gastronomer,” Kennedy has devoted her life to documenting the foodways and traditions of Mexico’s cooking. Throughout her career, Kennedy has penned nine cookbooks and earned an induction into the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Mexican government for her namesake foundation along the way.

Now, San Antonio will forever have a piece of the culinary legend. On April 17, the University of Texas at San Antonio announced it has acquired Kennedy’s archives. The 96-year-old expert traveled from her home in Michoácan to hand-deliver her life’s work to the university.

“I think it seems to be a natural bridge between Mexico and the U.S.,” said the famously plain-spoken food expert via release. “San Antonio has always been a good crossing point, and I think it would be used here.”

The collection includes 11 rare Mexican cookbooks from the 19th century, including the 1828 Arte Nuevo De Cocina y Reposteria Acomodado al Uso Mexicano, possibly the world’s only extant copy.

The archive also encompasses eight linear feet of personal papers detailing culinary and botanical research from the entirety of Mexico. Over the course of her career, Kennedy painstakingly noted cooking techniques, indigenous ingredients, and traditions and documented her travels. Ephemera such as scrapbooks, menus, photographs, and correspondence with food legends like Julia Child and Daniel Maye round off collection.

Kennedy’s gift is a feather in the cap of UTSA Libraries Special Collections. Already boasting a 1,900-volume cookbook collection, the new acquisition complements one of the nation’s largest resources on Mexican cooking.

“The acquisition of Diana Kennedy’s archives further advances the UTSA Libraries in the direction of being the national model for Latinx-serving libraries,” said Dean Hendrix, dean of UTSA Libraries in the release. “We thank Diana for her generosity and entrusting UTSA to bring her passion for Mexico and its food to the rest of the world.”

A few lucky San Antonians will soon get a chance to further extend that gratitude. Kennedy is the featured guest at the library’s sold-out Ven a Comer event on May 5. Acclaimed Mexican chef Juan Cabrera and locals Elizabeth Johnson, Sergio Remolina, John Brand, Jaime Gonzalez, and Silvia Hernandez McCollow will be tasked with creating a feast fit for a legend.