Category Archives: Authors

How did Marion Cunningham find her calling?

According to Judith Jones:

… it was not until middle age that she found her calling. Until then she had been a suburban mother and housewife, afraid even to leave the house and go shopping by herself, and gradually she had become far too dependent on alcohol. But on her forty-ninth birthday, something snapped in her, and she decided she was missing too much and had to turn her life around. She drove to the nearest airport, in Oakland, bought a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles, and made herself get on the plane, flying there and back the same day. When she returned home that evening and told her family what she had done they were astonished. With her newfound confidence, she announced that she was starting a new life and as of that moment giving up drinking.

Cooking had always been Marion’s secret love, and she began right away taking cooking classes. Before long she was giving lessons in her own kitchen in Walnut Creek and was part of the burgeoning food network around San Francisco. Inevitably, she heard about James Beard’s classes at Seaside, Oregon and wrote him asking if she could attend. She fit right in, and the next summer Jim asked her to come back as his assistant.

Marion Cunningham assisting James Beard in the kitchen

Marion Cunningham assists James Beard

From then on she was his right hand, helping him with classes and demonstrations whenever he was on the West Coast, and chauffering him around Europe. Jim trusted the pureness of her palate and he admired the surety of her taste as well as her warmth and openness with people.

James Beard’s biographer Robert Clark says this:

The classes that began in June exceeded his (Beard’s) expectations, with a large number of returning students, including Marion Cunningham, whom he has been corresponding with and had visited in California the previous year. The entire class became caught up in James’s passion for food and for the food of this place in particular, but Cunningham understood West Coast cooking as perhaps no one in James’s life had since Helen Brown. Although the classes dealt largely with preparations life puff pastry, terrines, souffles, and the rest of the repertoire of high-level cookery, Marion could also appreciate without condescension what less sophisticated inhabitants of the Oregon coast were cooking, the sort of thing you might find in The Fishwives of Charleston, Oregon, Cookbook, a community cookbook for sale that summer not far from Gearhart.


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Marion Cunningham 1922-2012

Marion Cunningham (February 7, 1922 – July 11, 2012 ), well-known for her role in revising and expanding The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and for authoring The Fannie Farmer Baking Book and the Breakfast Book, died this morning from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 90 years old.

Cunningham authored the following books:

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. 1979.

The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. 1984.

The Breakfast Book. 1987.

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. 1990.

The Supper Book. 1992.

Cooking with children : 15 lessons for children, age 7 and up, who really want to learn to cook. 1995.

Learning To Cook. 1999.

Lost Recipes : meals to share with friends and family. 2003.

* lists major works only

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Thank you Nora Ephron.

Nora Ephron passed on June 26. A lot has already been said about her.

In the Los Angeles Times: “Nora Ephron Wrote A Cookbook” and an obituary.

I particularly like Diane Jacobs’ piece, Nora Ephron, My Writing Mentor.

I want to say this:

Nora… thank you for telling the story of how the most important cookbook of the 20th century, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking on screen.


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Bill Granger embroiled in legal battle

Australian publisher Murdoch Books, recently released two Bill Granger “best of” collections. The problem is, Bill Granger says they were produced without his permission. Murdoch says they are using Granger’s recipes under a licensing agreement and that they have been paying him royalties on the new “best of” books.

Granger’s grudge is that “each individual recipe is the result of an application of independent skill and labor, and therefore able to be copyrighted in the same way as any work of literature, photography or painting.” And, that a “collection of recipes itself is a separate, distinct work of art.”

I say, “Equal rights for the cookbook as an art form! Any cookbook is a work of literature and should be treated as such.”





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Filed under 21st Century, Authors

Interview with Antonio Carluccio

Read an interview with Antonio Carluccio by Charlotte Pike. Carluccio’s memoir is expected to be out Oct. 8. His first book, An Invitation to Italian Cooking, was published in the U.S. under the title: A Taste of Italy in 1986.


A Taste of Italy


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Gwyneth Paltrow responds to ghostwriter controversy on Rachel Ray

Watch the ABC news story.


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Filed under Authors, Food Writing, on TV

Jennifer Brennan dies in house fire

Jennifer BrennanJennifer Brennan, renowned cookbook author/illustrator, died this morning in a house fire, in the Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego, Calif. She was 76.

In 1935, Brennan was born into a family of the British Raj in India. Her mother and her maternal grandmother were born in Calcutta. Her father was posted on the Northwest frontier at the time of  her birth.  She was raised in the Punjab and Mysore.

As an adult, Brennan lived all over the world.

Creative in earning a living, she played “host to the Beatles during their trip to Hong Kong.”

She also taught Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine at her Los Angeles cooking school, The Asian Experience. Her weekly column on Asian food and cooking appeared in Los Angeles Herald Examiner for about five years. She also contributed to various food magazines and  co-owned Curries and Bugles, a British Raj restaurant, in San Diego.

Her cookbooks:

  • The Original Thai Cookbook. 1981.
  • The Cuisines of Asia. 1984.
  • One-Dish Meals of Asia. 1985.
  • Curries and Bugles: A Memoir & Cookbook of the British Raj. 1990.
  • Tradewinds And Coconuts: A Reminiscence And Recipes From The Pacific Islands. 2000.

The IACP chose Brennan’s extraordinary cookbook-memoir, Curries and Bugles, as ‘Best Book in Literary Food Writing’ for 1990.’ In the book, Brennan superimposed her Indian childhood against the historical backdrop of the British Raj with photographs, drawings, recipes and memories; interjecting quotes from the literary British Raj, and excerpts/recipes from culinary texts of the period.


Curries and Bugles


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Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OS

A Covert Affair

Jennet Conant has written extensively on World War II and the intelligence community in her previous books:  The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington; Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II; and 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos. Her articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Newsweek, and The New York Times.

Read this informative piece regarding the author and A Covert Affair at the History News Network.


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Filed under 21st Century, Biography, Memoirs, Interviews

A grand dame of cookbook selling dies at 95

Marion Gore in 1974

Antiquarian cookbook seller Marian Gore passed on October 11.

Read the Los Angeles Times article.

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More Marcella Hazan

Today Matt Davis, of the Portland Mercury, published a refreshing post, On Not Interviewing America’s Most Famous Italian Cookbook Author.

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Filed under 20th Century, Interviews, Italian