Diana Kennedy was in Austin this week for two events, the first a reception and book signing at Fonda San Miguel and the second a free talk at the Central Library downtown.
I ended up having to miss her party on Monday night, but the Tuesday talk at the library was a delight. At 96, Kennedy is as sharp as ever, talking frankly about birth control as a tool to fight climate change, why guacamole shouldn't have garlic and what her guests can expect when they stay at her house.
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Here are some of the best one-liners from the event:
On her personal life: "I didn't have kids...I'm selfish."
On visiting her house in Michoacán, where she has lived for 34 years: "I tell guests: When you take a shower, you only get two minutes of water."
"If you're a vegetarian, you have to tell me two days ahead. If you're a vegan, two weeks."
On the best way you can help the planet: "Not having six children. Nobody wants to talk about it, but by golly, I will."
"With plastic bags, I wash them, fold them neatly and use them again until they die."
On the importance of lard: "I worked in a bakery. I'm entitled to criticize the pan dulce when you use vegetable lard. If you come to my house, beans have lard."
On fat-free dairy: "I believe in whole milk. I can't believe people drink that 2 percent business. What are you doing having yogurt if you're having low-fat yogurt?"
On finding cooking inspiration: "You have to do what you can, even if it's just on the weekend."
"A cookbook should inspire you to want to get into the kitchen."
On everyday restaurant criticism: "If you criticize food, you have to be able to suggest how to correct it."
"I judge a restaurant when I'm walking out and I'm thinking about when I want to go back."
On guacamole: "Don't put avocado in the blender. Don't put garlic in it."
On sharing food culture without giving credit: "Where did you get the idea from? Is it so difficult to say where?"
When she's in a market and see dried chiles that are mislabeled: "I change them."
What's the key to her persistence after so many years? "Fresh air, coffee, liquor, but not too much. Staying in touch with the world. Exercise."
On the documentary that premiered during SXSW: "I still haven't seen it."
On what's ahead: "I'm trying to make it to 100. My driver's license goes to 100."