Jean Anderson, the "indefatigable and exacting Southern-born food writer and author of nearly 20 cookbooks, including The Doubleday Cookbook--a kitchen bible that rivaled The Joy of Cooking--and The Food of Portugal, which introduced American cooks to the lore, culture and food ways of her favorite country," died last month, the New York Times reported. She was 93. Anderson had studied food science at Cornell, and "made it her mission to lead baffled home cooks firmly by the hand through the basics of baking, as well the esoterica of the world's cuisines. Her recipes were considered foolproof."
"She loved being that voice in your ear and guiding you through," said Kim Sunée, a food editor and memoirist. "She was relentless in her testing, and lamented the chefs and celebrity food writers who weren't. She found it both baffling and disheartening."
Barbara Fairchild, the former editor in chief of Bon Appétit, to which Anderson contributed for decades, called her "a meticulous chronicler of the history of American cooking in the latter half of the 20th century."
Jacques Pépin said he learned the origins of American staples like brownies, lobster rolls and tuna casserole from Anderson's The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century (1997).
Chef, cookbook author and TV cooking show personality Sara Moulton turned to Anderson whenever she was stumped by a viewer's question. When Moulton was the host of Cooking Live, a call-in show that ran for six years on the Food Network, she said Anderson was her "red phone," the expert she had on speed dial.
Anderson also took her own lush photographs for the hundreds of travel and food articles she contributed to magazines like Bon Appétit, Gourmet and Food & Wine.
The Doubleday Cookbook (1975) was 10 years in the making. In 1965, Anderson "quit her job at Ladies' Home Journal to tackle the project (James Beard and Craig Claiborne had already turned it down), roping in a colleague, Elaine Hanna," the Times wrote. The 1,300-page work, with more than 4,000 recipes, won many awards and sold more than a million copies.
"It was a breath of fresh air in the general cookbook category," said Matt Sartwell, managing partner at Kitchen Arts & Letters cookbook store in Manhattan. "Jean was a serious, passionate and very deliberate cook, and those qualities made the book reliable and they also made it serious."
Anderson left New York in 2007, returned to Chapel Hill, N.C., and published A Love Affair with Southern Cooking. Her last book, From Kiln to Kitchen: Favorite Recipes From Beloved North Carolina Potters, was published in 2019, when she was 90.