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Read All About It : From once-obscure Asian cuisines to classic French to the lastest grain craze, the variety of cookbooks available for gift giving swells as Christmas approaches. To help cull the best from the rest, The Times' Food Staff has reviewed the year's most intriguing cookbooks. : The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy (Bantam Books: $24.95, 526 pages, illustrated)

December 17, 1989|ROSE DOSTI

Perhaps more than her books, I like the idea that Diana Kennedy is an author who has a global view of the cuisine about which she writes, an historical perspective beyond its limited boundaries, beyond its immediate purpose and beyond herself as the communicator.

I was most impressed recently, reading an article about Kennedy in a travel magazine, to learn that the British author who lived in Mexico City for 30 years, works hard on her organic farm teaching farmers the technics and benefits of organic farming.

Her new book projects an expansive outlook rarely seen in cookbooks or authors. It is the way in which she presents her overview of the Mexican cuisine that describes the art of Mexican cooking. Indeed, her chapters are filled with discussions about ingredients, the equipment needed to use them and menus that incorporate them. And there are how-to's on correct ways to prepare tortillas, tamales, shaping chalupas, slicing filet mignon paper-thin for carne asada.

The dishes vary from the simple, everyday fare, to aficionados' attempts at interpretation. There is tacos de requeson (ricotta cheese tacos) that makes a lovely appetizer or vegetarian snack. A pit barbecue chicken, wrapped in avocado and banana leaves, makes you want to try it.

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