Marion Cunningham, a woman who championed home cooking in America, succumbed to complications from Alzheimer's Disease this morning at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She was 90. Some of her most noteworthy tomes, Learning to Cook and the humorous Fannie Farmer Cookbook, are (and should be) staples of any home.
Kind words from noted food ilk poured forth after news of her death.
"More than anyone else, she gave legitimacy to home cooking," Michael Bauer told the New York Times. "She took what many people would say was housewife food and really gave it respect by force of her own personality."
“She was the glue that held the nascent food movement together,” former Times critic Ruth Reichl said, adding, "the touchstone, the person you checked in with to find out who was doing what all over the country."
Cunningham also discovered a little known cook named Alice Waters after brining James Beard to her Berkeley joint back in the 1970s. She apparently brought Beard to the restaurant in 1974, which prompted him to "put it on the culinary map," thus sparking the California cuisine and the organic movement. (Kim Severson, now at NYT, penned this excellent piece for the Chronicle in 2001 regarding Cunningham and Waters' close friendship.)
Of all the stories we've read today regarding Cunningham (e.g., her conquered agorophobia, her humor, her finger on the pulse, her suggestions for opening coconuts), this is our favorite takeaway, via the New York Times:
Mrs. Cunningham bought a Jaguar with her first royalty check from The Breakfast Book, one of her most enduring cookbooks. The Jaguar became identified with her, and she would drive it to a different Bay Area restaurant every night, sometimes logging 2,500 miles a month.