Judith Jones, Editor of Literature and Culinary Delight, Dies at 93 – New York Times

“Here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of — one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe,” Ms. Jones recalled in a New York Times article in 2004, a few months after Ms. Child died. “It spelled out techniques, talked about proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes; it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes.”

Photo

Judith and Evan Jones in Vermont in 1982.

Credit
Bronwyn Dunne/Alfred A. Knopf

The book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” by Ms. Child and two French colleagues, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, was not a blockbuster best seller when it was published in 1961. That did not happen until 48 years later, when in 2009 the book, often revised but still in print, got a lift from a new movie, “Julie & Julia,” which combined scenes from Ms. Child’s discovery of cooking in France with the story of a modern blogger cooking her way through the book. (Erin Dilly played Ms. Jones and Meryl Streep played Ms. Child in the film.)

But the book was so popular over decades that it warranted scores of reprintings and a second volume in 1970, and it eventually sold more than a million copies. It gradually shifted the culinary landscape under a nation raised on canned vegetables, cake mixes and back-of-the-box recipes. It also launched the fluty-voiced Ms. Child on a celebrated, long-running public television career as host of “The French Chef.”

For Ms. Jones, who had previously edited translations of the French philosophers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, the Child book opened a new career path, editing culinary writers: James Beard and Marion Cunningham on American fare, Madhur Jaffrey (Indian food), Claudia Roden (Middle Eastern), Edna Lewis (Southern), Lidia Bastianich and Marcella Hazan (Italian), and many others. Ms. Jones also commissioned and edited regional and ethnic food books for the “Knopf Cooks American” series.

A Knopf vice president, Ms. Jones also edited some of America’s best novelists and nonfiction writers. She shepherded all but one of Mr. Updike’s scores of books of fiction, short stories, poetry and essays to publication, and edited Ms. Tyler’s novels on the American family and works by Mr. Hersey, Elizabeth Bowen, Peter Taylor and William Maxwell.

Ms. Jones and her husband, Evan, an American food writer she met in Paris in 1948, wrote three books together, two of them on breads and one on New England cooking. They also collaborated in the kitchen on dinners for friends at their homes on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and at Bryn Teg Farm, in Walden Township in northern Vermont. The film and theater critic Stanley Kauffmann once called their New York apartment “the best restaurant in New York.”

After her husband died in 1996, Ms. Jones began cooking for herself and wrote a book about it, “The Pleasures of Cooking for One” (2009). It was a blend of kitchen advice and encouragement for people who live alone in their final years.

Like Ms. Jones, many older people faced the prospect of living alone and cooking for one, Julia Moskin wrote in The Times in 2007, adding: “Ms. Jones is an evangelist for the psychic, spiritual, physical and intellectual benefits cooking can bring old people: the math and concentration required for following a recipe, the exercise of kneading bread or whisking eggs, the self-regard that shows in setting a place and sitting down for a meal.”

Photo

Ms. Jones said she was enthralled when a shopworn 800-page manuscript about French cooking landed on her desk. “Here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of.”

Credit
Evan Sung for The New York Times

Judith Bailey was born in New York City on March 10, 1924, to Charles Bailey, a lawyer, and the former Phyllis Hedley. Judith and her sister, Susan, grew up in Manhattan in a prosperous but frugal household where garlic was shunned as vulgar. The food shopping was done by telephone and the cooking by a nanny. Evening meals were English-style meat and boiled potatoes. Sometimes, on Saturdays, Judith’s father took her to a French restaurant.

Judith attended the Brearley School and Bennington College, graduating in 1945 with a degree in English. After three years as an editorial assistant with Doubleday in New York, she moved to Paris. She and her future husband, sharing rooms and a love of French cuisine, scoured the food stalls and markets and turned their apartment into what she called a speakeasy restaurant, making a meager living with meals prepared together.

To make ends meet, she took a job in Doubleday’s Paris office, reading manuscripts and advance copies of books in French in search of material for publication. “The Diary of Anne Frank” had already been published in Dutch and German, but not in English. Attracted by the girl’s picture on the cover of the French edition, which had been consigned to the trash, she began reading. Her boss found her in tears late in the day.

“We have to send this book to New York,” she said. “It’s wonderful.” In 1952, Doubleday published “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” to wide approbation.

Judith Bailey and Evan Jones were married in Vienna in 1951. He had two daughters by a previous marriage, Bronwyn and Pamela, and the couple had two adopted children, Chris Vandercook and Audrey Vandercook Bierman.

Ms. Jones, who joined Knopf in New York in 1957, wrote for Vogue, Saveur and Gourmet magazines. She won many honors, including the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, and retired in 2013.

In her 2007 memoir, “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food” (the French epicure and gastronome Brillat-Savarin wrote of a 10th muse, Gasterea, goddess of the pleasures of taste), Ms. Jones concluded with — what else? — many of her favorite recipes.

“At the table, one never grows old,” she explained to a discussion group at a bookstore in Washington, quoting an old Italian saying. “Isn’t that enough reason to come home at the end of the day, roll up one’s sleeves, fire up the stove and start smashing the garlic?”

Continue reading the main story

Comments

Write a Reply or Comment:

Your email address will not be published.*