Book Editor Judith Jones Dies At 93

Aug 3, 2017
Originally published on August 3, 2017 7:31 am
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All right, before TV foodies like Alton Brown and Rachael Ray were around to convince you that you could whip up a decent meal, there was Julia Child. Her book "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" came out in 1961 and brought French cuisine to the American public.

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But she might not have if it wasn't for Judith Jones. She was the book editor who discovered the manuscript, polished it up and sold it to her bosses. She did the same for another iconic work, "The Diary Of Anne Frank." Judith Jones died yesterday at the age of 93. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this appreciation.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Judith Jones was known for her work in food writing. But as a kid, even discussing garlic and onions was forbidden at the dinner table.

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JUDITH JONES: No, no. It was sort of a little vulgar, like talking about sex at the table. You just...

LIMBONG: That's Jones talking to PBS in 2010. She was born in New York City and grew up during the Great Depression. Her mother considered luxuriating in food indulgent. But the young Jones learned to appreciate food by spending time with her grandma in Vermont. With the help of her cook, the older woman welcomed the local homeless people and fed them.

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JONES: I sensed such a sense of pride in that something in food - it's hard to put your finger on it. But it's a very memorable experience.

LIMBONG: She fell in love with French food in her early 20s, when she was living in Paris after the war. She was an editorial assistant at Doubleday when she was asked to file a pile of rejected manuscripts. She told NPR in 1998 about seeing Anne Frank's picture on the cover of her diary.

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JONES: I looked at that face, and I started to read. And I read all afternoon with the tears coming down my face. And when my boss got back, it was evening by then. He said, what are you doing still here? And I said, it's - we have to have this book. He said, what? That book by that kid (laughter)?

LIMBONG: She ran into similar second-guessing after she went to work for Knopf. She took "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" to her boss, Alfred Knopf. She later wrote that he said, if anyone would buy a book by that title, he would eat his hat. The book went on to become an international best-seller and is still in print. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

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