Unforgettable Famous Female Foodies
USA- San Francisco, CA | Aug 21 2012 | (22:47:58 - EDT)
Michael Bauer, The San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic writes below about three women who changed cooking in America: Julie Child, Marion Cunningham, and Edna Lewis. Judith Jones was the editor for all three women.
This past Wednesday would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. Leading up to Aug. 15, I received many releases and e-mails about how this day was going to be celebrated, including events around the country sponsored by Les Dames d'Escoffier, a philanthropic organization that supports women in the culinary arts.Julia died in 2004, but because of her books, television shows and, more recently, the movie "Julie & Julia," starring Meryl Streep, she remains high in our culinary consciousness.
Yet it's alarming how soon we forget those who blazed the trails. I've talked to chefs such as Gayle Pirie of Foreign Cinema and Russell Moore of Camino, who say that when they bring up Marion Cunningham's name, young chefs don't know who she was. Marion, who had Alzheimer's and had been out of circulation for about five years, died last month. Marion gave life to American cooking with her revision of the "Fannie Farmer Cookbook." She then went on to write the "Fannie Farmer Baking Book," "The Breakfast Book" and other works.
One of her contemporaries, Edna Lewis, who died in 2006, is another name that needs to be kept alive. Edna was born in Virginia, the granddaughter of an emancipated slave. In 1949 she became a cook at Cafe Nicholson in New York and in the late 1980's she cooked at Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn. Her legacy is solidified with her cookbooks, including the "Edna Lewis Cookbook" and "The Taste of Country Cooking" - to my mind still the best book there is on Southern cooking. She had a charming, distinct style that explored the region's food from the African American perspective.
All three women had something in common: Alfred A. Knopf cookbook editor Judith Jones, who not only brought "The Diary of Anne Frank" to the United States, but 10 years later, in 1960, embraced "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," a work that had been rejected by many other publishers. Judith, who also was John Updike's editor, is a legend who wisely gave voices to three women who might have forever remained mute if not for her keen sensibilities.
I was lucky enough to have known all these women, and their contributions shouldn't be allowed to fade into obscurity. One translated high-holy French food for Americans; another gave voice to the African American contributions to cooking; and the third helped preserve classic recipes and champion the importance of cooking for family and friends.
Judith has done her part by editing their works for posterity; now it's up to us to make sure what they accomplished and how they changed the way we think about food isn't forgotten.
[Information Courtesy: Michael Bauer, The San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic]
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