Monday, March 25

Penny De Los Santos: Five Real Kitchens, from Mexico to Senegal

Food and travel photographer Penny De Los Santos blogs for us about her sources of inspiration, her travels, and her favorite bites and sips along the way. You can follow Penny on Twitter at @pennydelosantos. 

I’m redesigning my website, and so I’ve been going through my photo archive the past few weeks. I keep coming across these incredible cooking spaces—some are so humble, modest, and simple. These are the ones I’m drawn to most, the ones that tell me about the history of a place, or the story of their family line. They evoke a feeling and a sense of place. You know where you are just by the details of their kitchen.

With each kitchen I flip through, I realize how sweet, beautiful, and intimate it is to let someone into the space where you make and share your food, and how honored I felt when I visited each of these kitchens.

The really cool thing I see when I step into someone’s kitchen is how differently people cook. At the end of the day, I realize that what really matters is what is behind the food. What is the inspiration, where is the soul? Who passed down the recipe? Why do the people in a certain regions cook a particular way? It never matters how fancy or beautiful the kitchen is; when I’m there, it is because their food has depth, soul and meaning.

Here are a few of my favorite food spaces I have had the privilege of shooting.

All photos by Penny De Los Santos. Click to enlarge.

[Above] The great Diana Kennedy in her home kitchen in Michoacan, Mexico. Her kitchen was more like a personal food library/archive of Mexican culinary history. I loved being there.

A subject's kitchen in Mexico City.

A roadside kitchen in northern Honduras, where I stopped one morning to have coffee and eggs before the long trek to a remote village. This cook used maguey leaves, sugar cane, and anything else she could find to create a fuel for her fire.

A kitchen in Croatia, where the house had a wood-burning oven next to the more modern gas stove.

A sweet, tiny kitchen in Dakar, Senegal. The family made the national dish of Senegal for me that day: a fish-and-rice stew called Thi├ęboudienne, or Ceebu J├źn. [Editor's note: Click the link for a recipe courtesy of Saveur—including Penny's shot of the finished product!]