Food Matters: Bosq and Aspen Film present dinner and a doc inspired by Diana Kennedy
Brown paper bags line a table pushed to the edge of the dining room at Bosq. Other tables have been cleared, too, making space for a lounge of club chairs set between potted leafy plants. A couple of patrons pay for to-go orders at the bar, scattered with the détritus of a business closed for dine-in service but staying open with takeout, delivery, gift cards, and creative projects to keep the operation running.
Chef C. Barclay Dodge emerges from the kitchen to fetch a clean white chef’s coat off a banquette. In short order, he’s changed and out the door with his wife and partner, Molly Dodge, clutching bags in each hand. It’s time to serve their guests.
Just as restaurants around Aspen have been forced abruptly to adapt this spring, so have entertainment organizations. In March, Aspen Film pivoted its annual weeklong Aspen Shortsfest program to a virtual series. Now, in lieu of release in local theaters, Aspen Film will screen the new documentary, “Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy,” online on Friday, May 29. While the concept of “dinner and a movie” looks much different than it used to—when cinemagoers might have shared spicy margaritas and tacos al pastor on house-made blue-corn tortillas at Bosq, then strolled one block down Mill Street to the Isis Theatre—the show must go on.
Though her name may be unfamiliar to many Americans, Diana Kennedy life’s work is unparalleled. “She was the first person in the English-speaking world that really mined the richness of Mexican cuisine,” notes chef-restaurateur Rick Bayless on camera.
The author of nine cookbooks and a two-time James Beard Award winner (including 2014 induction into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, at age 91), British-born Kennedy has devoted her life to traveling throughout the country from her home base in Michoacán, 100 miles west of Mexico City, learning, researching and sharing traditional recipes that might never have become known outside their respective villages otherwise. Her TV cooking show exploring the varied cuisines of Mexico began during a time when cooking schools were just blossoming in the U.S.
Filmed in 2018, the documentary weaves scenes of 95-year-old Kennedy’s robust daily life—driving her old pickup truck to markets, hosting cooking retreats at her eco-friendly home, tending to her magnificent gardens and, of course, cooking for visitors—with archival footage. Her tireless dedication and fiery opinions have earned her respect from modern culinary icons including Alice Waters, Dan Barber and José Andrés, the latter an executive producer on the film who calls her “the Indiana Jones of Mexican cuisine.”
Kennedy’s wisdom, scrutiny and sharp attitude are elixir for the times. “(She) really lives a sustainable life, which feels a bit isolationist,” says Aspen Film executive and artistic director Susan Wrubel. “The way she works and lives, her philosophy and how she carries herself feels a lot like what people are striving toward or discovering about themselves being in isolation.”
Bosq’s unique Mexican menu (still in the works at press time) makes a perfect pairing at home. Dodge, too, has spent much time traveling around Mexico, concentrated in the Yucatán, where he worked as a cook at a hotel, as well as during a monthlong, cross-country sojourn along La Ruta Maya. While those influences trickle into his food at Bosq, Dodge learned the most from a pair of expat cooks from Mérida, who apprenticed in the Bosq kitchen last summer.
“They really taught us how grandma in the village makes these recipes,” Dodge marvels. “It’s not Western cooking technique. They’ll burn their food to a crisp and then make a sauce out of it.”
Diana Kennedy, driven even today in search of authenticity, might approve.
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