Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Obituaries

Cookbook legend Marion Cunningham dies

Marion CunninghamMarion Cunningham, “Fannie Farmer” to an entire generation of American cooks, has died.

She died Wednesday morning at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif.,  at age 90, according to food consultant Clark Wolf, a long-time friend. She had been suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s for several years.

A Southern California native, Cunningham didn’t begin writing cookbooks until she was 57. She got the job of rewriting the monumental “Boston Cooking School Cookbook," first published in 1896, on the recommendation of James Beard, from whom she had taken cooking classes for many years.

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Her revision, titled “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook,” was an instant success and established her as one of the leading voices in American home cooking. After that, she wrote seven additional cookbooks, including the highly praised “Fannie Farmer Baking Book” and “The Breakfast Book.”

“Marion Cunningham epitomized good American food,” said Judith Jones, her legendary longtime editor at Alfred Knopf, in a statement. “She was recommended to me by Jim Beard when we agreed to take over ‘The Fannie Farmer Cookbook’ and update it from start to finish. She was someone who had an ability to take a dish, savor it in her mouth, and give it new life. At a time when Americans were embracing all kinds of foreign cuisine, Marion Cunningham’s love and respect for American food helped ‘The Fannie Farmer Cookbook’ once again earn a place in kitchens across America.”

Cunningham was also a longtime columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle and had a television cooking show called “Cunningham and Company."

Less known, but almost as important was her role as adviser and confidant to a younger generation of chefs, including Bay Area luminaries such as Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower and Judy Rogers.

In 1992, then-Los Angeles Times food editor Ruth Reichl wrote about the preparations for Cunningham's 70th birthday, which was overseen by Waters and was held at the Robert Mondavi Winery.

Among Cunningham's most praised recipes was her very simple and very delicious adaptation of traditional yeast-raised waffles, which she included in one of her columns for The Times in 1997.


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Photo: Marion Cunningham in 1999. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Joan Luther, longtime restaurant publicist, passes on [Updated]

Joan Joan Luther, a longtime restaurant publicist who began her career at the Brown Derby and Hollywood Park in the late '40s and has done work for nearly every major chef in Los Angeles since then, died Monday at age 83.

[Updated at 4:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this post reported that Luther was 82.]

"She was a legend," said Alain Giraud, former chef of Bastide, the erstwhile West Hollywood restaurant that was owned by commercial director Joe Pytka. "She knew everybody in town. She had something more than just connecting press with restaurants. She understood the vibe of L.A."

She started in publicity in 1948 at the Derby, then worked at Hollywood Park racetrack for 25 years. The list of restaurants she helped promote is long: Mastro's, the Grill, Kate Mantilini, Rocca's, Bastide.... Luther, who worked from an office in her Beverly Hills home, also had a hand in opening restaurants such as Michel Richard Patisserie and California Pizza Kitchen in the '80s.   

"The thing that makes Luther successful," former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl told Los Angeles Magazine in 2004, "is that she's just an unstoppable steamroller in her job." 

Luther is survived by her husband of 64 years, Charles William "Bill" Luther.

A Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 501 N. Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills.

For a full story, go here.


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Photo credit: Paul M. Boeis

Donald E. Goerke, creator of SpaghettiO's, dies at 83


Donald E. Goerke, the Campbell Soup Co. executive who hit the bull's-eye of prepared foods by overseeing the creation of the kid-friendly circular pasta called SpaghettiOs, has died. He was 83.

Gorke died Sunday of heart failure at his home in Delran, N.J., a Campbell spokeswoman confirmed.

In the mid-1960s, Goerke -- pronounced GUHR-kee -- was dubbed "the Daddy-O of SpaghettiOs" for leading the team charged with creating an easy-to-eat canned pasta.

Hundreds of shapes were proposed during the yearlong debate, but Goerke ended the chatter by saying, "Enough already! We're gonna do something that's simple," he told the Seattle Times in 1990.

When the canned spaghetti with tomato and cheese was introduced in 1965, pop singer Jimmie Rodgers sang the jingle that ended with the seemingly unforgettable tag line, "Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs."

The pasta was a hit because it was "spoonable," Goerke later said -- kids liked the O shapes and mothers the convenience.

To read the rest of Valerie J. Nelson's obituary of Donald E. Goerke, click here.


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