Judith Jones, the editor who changed the world of at-home cooking with her discovery of Julia Child, recovered Anne Frank’s diary from a reject pile, and edited the works of cookbook and literary giants alike, passed away on Wednesday.
According to her stepdaughter, Bronwyn Dunne, her death was the result of complications from Alzheimer’s. Jones died at home in Walden, Vt. at the age of 93.
More than five decades in the publishing industry resulted in a culinary legacy — a distinct change from the rather unexciting cuisine she grew up eating. Born on March 10, 1994, in Vermont, Jones wrote in her 2007 memoir, The Tenth Muse: My Life In Food, that she was raised on “unadulterated English-style food.” Her mother even forbade the use of garlic because it “represented everything alien and vinegar.”
As an adult Jones not only explored bolder flavors, but discovered works by a myriad of great authors. In 1950, while still an editorial assistant, Jones found The Diary of Anne Frank — a moving, personal account that transformed the world’s understanding of WWII. In 1957, she was hired by Knopf where she worked mainly as a French translator.
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But Jones went on to become the editor of many iconic cookbook authors — like Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Joan Nathan, Claudia Roden, and Edna Lewis, to name a few — which was heightened by her own experience with French cuisine while she was living in Paris. She also edited literary works by authors like Anne Tyler and John Updike. Jones later became senior editor and vice president of Alfred A. Knopf.
It was in 1959, two years after she was hired by Knopf, that Julia Child’s huge manuscript landed on her desk. Jones was delighted by the recipes she tried.
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“If the book was so right for me, there were bound to be maybe thousands like me who really wanted to learn the whys and wherefores of good French cooking,” Jones wrote in her memoir. “Ordinary Americans, not just the privileged, were traveling to Europe now, in droves, and their taste buds had been awakened. I hoped we’d had our fill of quick-and-easy, and there was an appetite for the real thing.”
In the process, Jones became an expert cook herself. She co-authored cookbooks with Evan Jones and, in 2009, released The Pleasures of Cooking For One. Her husband, Evan Jones, died in 1996. Ten years later, she won the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.
For Jones, cooking was never a chore but one of life’s purest pleasures — one that she helped others discover. “Instead of walking into what might have seemed an empty apartment — actually, I’ve always had a dog who is hungry to greet me — I gravitate toward the kitchen,” she wrote.