Molly O’Neill, a freewheeling author, born right into a family bent on elevating baseball gamers who might rework herself from a chef into certainly one of America’s leading chroniclers of food, died Sunday in Manhattan. She turned into 66.
Her circle of relatives said the reason changed into cancer; her lengthy and public bout with the sickness and an in advance liver transplant was, in traditional Molly O’Neill style, going to be the difficulty of her final e-book.
Ms. O’Neill ushered in an era of food writing inside the Nineties that was as plenty approximately journalism as deliciousness, built on the paintings of writers like M. F. K. Fisher, Richard Olney, Elizabeth David, and Craig Claiborne, the previous meals editor of The New York Times.
“I desired to be they all,” she wrote in 2003, “with a slice of Woodward and Bernstein on the aspect.”
Ms. O’Neill, who got here of age when the seeds of the current farm-to-table motion had been planted, has become a keen observer of what she referred to as the “vital tension within the American urge for food,” which to her reflected the conflicts in American culture. It becomes a tension between the refined and the lowbrow, the processed and the natural, “the civilized and the wild,” she wrote in “American Food Writing: An Anthology With Classic Recipes” (2009), which analyzed 250 years of American culinary records.
That ebook built off work she had performed in “The New York Cookbook,” published in 1992. In that e-book, she explored the nooks and crannies of all 5 boroughs, bringing lower back testimonies of pierogi makers and grillers of Jamaican jerk bird and stirrers of avgolemono soup. She covered 500 recipes from the famous and the individuals who should be famous, including roast chicken from the town’s 4-star chefs, Katharine Hepburn’s muffins, Edna Lewis’s greens, and Robert Motherwell’s brandade de more.
“For more than 20 years I tried to tease the excellent from the mundane, and to apply the familiar — the sprig of basil, the bottle of olive oil — to usher readers into social, geographic and cultural worlds where they in any other case won’t cross,” she wrote in The Columbia Journalism Review in 2003.
With American food writing these days together with many voices and cultures, it is simple to neglect that Ms. O’Neill became seeing you later earlier than the globe-trotting Anthony Bourdain and the Los Angeles eating place critic Jonathan Gold had been household names, at the least in meals-centric households.
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“This is exactly what Tony Bourdain changed into doing, and no person gave her any credit for it,” stated Ruth Reichl, the writer and former Times eating place critic.
“She celebrated all sorts of chefs and articulated very actually that cooking is what brings us together,” she introduced. “And she had no prejudice approximately whether this type of meals changed into higher than that form of food.”
Ms. O’Neill regularly wrote the forms of tales that other food writers chased, like a 1992 article for The Times. She located that salsa changed into replacing ketchup as the king of the American condiments.
“To the food enterprise,” she wrote, “the upward push of salsa symbolizes more than a developing gustatory sophistication. It is the death knell for the cooking ketchup compliments.”
“I just don’t forget reading that salsa piece and trying to shoot myself,” Ms. Reichl stated. “Why didn’t I think about that?”
In her later years, Ms. O’Neill committed herself to teach younger meals writers. She taught classes on-line, held monthlong summer season retreats and raucous weekend seminars at her property in Rensselaerville, N.Y., and opened her house to different instructors who would possibly need to run a category on the energy of making an awesome pie crust.