I received The Art of Mexican Cooking as a gift a few years ago. It wasn’t long before I was hooked on her writing and recipes. Though calling it a ‘cookbook’ hardly seems to do her justice. I coveted Kennedy’s other cookbooks, but couldn’t justify splurging on myself when I already had a perfectly lovely copy of The Art of Mexican Cooking.
A few nights ago I was looking for an authentic horchata recipe for my son’s class project. I didn’t find one in Kennedy’s cookbook so I went back to my bookshelf. I found a cookbook given to me by my mother-in-law- Cocina Yucateca, Tomo 1- but I wasn’t up for translating the entire recipe for a class cookbook. Then I stumbled across an unfamiliar cookbook- Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. What? I didn’t remember buying it, but I cracked it open and settled in, thrilled to find I had a new Diana Kennedy book to discover. A few pages in I found this note.
The note is at least ten years old; about the last time I talked with Woody. I met Woody, a retired veteran with an enormous appetite for the written word, while working at the library. Each time he visited the library, I’d learn a little more of his incredible life story. He was a born storyteller. I was a writer. It was inevitable that we would connect. I invited him to coffee where I proposed he tell me his story and I would write it down. He agreed and we met every few weeks. His life unfolded onto my notebook.
He was a master of language. A word magician. I reveled in his stories about studying at the New School for Social Research in New York, a cold and wealthy philatelist father, and a mother who everyone called Johnie because “you had to give her a male name. She was hell on wheels”. I wanted to capture every story that came out of his mouth.
Sadly, I didn’t get to record more of his life. When I became a mother, we lost track of each other. He sent me cards and letters occasionally, but I haven’t seen him in many years. I miss those talks over coffee.
Until this week I hadn’t thought about Woody in ages. How serendipitous that I would find this cookbook (and a flood of memories) when I could appreciate its value. It really was ‘Terra’s book’. I just didn’t know it until now.