Barbara Kafka, a food columnist and cookbook author "who horrified American epicures by publishing recipes that placed her imprimatur on the microwave oven and the food processor as respectable tools for home cooking," died June 1, the New York Times reported. She was 84.
"How could you not love a woman who liberates us from the tyranny of conventional wisdom?" said Ann Bramson, her longtime editor. "I remember balking at a verb choice in one of her books--she had us 'slick' the vegetable with oil. I pictured the Exxon Valdez. But she was right. Slick--it's so vivid and visual and immediate. Who wouldn't love such precision and decisiveness in word choice?"
Kafka's books include The Microwave Gourmet (1987), The Opinionated Palate: Passions and Peeves on Eating and Food (1992), Food for Friends (1984), Roasting: A Simple Art (1995), Vegetable Love (2005) and The Intolerant Gourmet: Glorious Food Without Gluten & Lactose (2011).
Food journalist Corby Kummer said Kafka's writing displayed "the relentless intellectualism of the voracious reader that she became as the only child of two very successful parents ('two self-made men,' she called them) who weren't there much and left her in the care of a helper and cook she adored.... The food world was and is full of people who never really fit in anywhere until they discovered the kitchen, and could come together with the common vocabulary of cooking. She was one of them."
An eight-time James Beard Award winner, she was also inducted into the JBF Awards Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2015.
Mitchell Davis, executive v-p of the James Beard Foundation, said: "The food world has lost a strong, definitive, unequivocal voice about taste and quality with the loss of Barbara Kafka. Through her work in restaurants, her books and columns, her openness to new technologies, and her love of good food, she helped shape the way we eat and laid the groundwork for the great American food revolution of which we are the fortunate beneficiaries."