'Fannie Farmer' Reviver Emphasized Home Cooking

We remember professional cook Marion Cunningham, who died Wednesday at the age of 90. She championed home cooking and re-wrote The Fannie Farmer Cookbook which became a bestseller in 1979.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now, we end this hour with a remembrance of a champion of home cooking and American cuisine. Marion Cunningham died yesterday in Walnut Creek, California. She was 90 years old. Cunningham knew and worked with many top chefs. She taught some, advised others and appeared with one of the best known several times.

Here she is being introduced on the PBS show, "Baking With Julia," from 1996.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION SHOW, "BAKING WITH JULIA")

JULIA CHILD: If your popovers won't pop and if your muffins crumble and if your scones are like lead, you need a lesson from Marion Cunningham and here she is. What are you going to start with?

MARION CUNNINGHAM: I'm going to start with crumb muffins, Julia. This recipe has been around about 100 years and I'm going to use all purpose flour. I happen to level it off right...

CHILD: You just level it off with your fingers?

CUNNINGHAM: Yeah.

BLOCK: Marion Cunningham was best known for her revisions to the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The new version published in 1979 became a best seller. Over the years, she went on to write several more cookbooks and hosted her own TV series on the Food Network. She told NPR contributors, The Kitchen Sisters, a decade ago that it was her mission in life to remind people just how important it is to cook meals at home.

CUNNINGHAM: Eating food that strangers cook is vastly different than eating what's cooked at home. The real key is sharing food at that table and, believe me, we know we're not born civilized. We're small savages, so you have to be taught the table is the place where you learn who you are and where you're from, understanding that a lot of people just do nothing but fight at the table. Nonetheless, you come to know one another. The result is you know who you are.

BLOCK: Marion Cunningham became a professional cook at age 50. A friend had urged her a few years earlier to take a cooking class with Chef James Beard. She later became his assistant. Cook and author Marion Cunningham died of complications from Alzheimer's disease yesterday. She was 90.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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