Judith Jones, Editor of Literature and Culinary Delight, Dies at 93

“Here was the cookbook I had been dreaming of — one that took you by the hand and explained the whys and wherefores of every step of a recipe,” Ms. Jones recalled in an article she wrote in The New York Times in 2004, a few months after Ms. Child died. “It spelled out techniques, talked about proper equipment, necessary ingredients and viable substitutes; it warned of pitfalls yet provided remedies for your mistakes.”

Photo

Judith and Evan Jones in Vermont in 1982.

Credit
Bronwyn Dunne/Alfred A. Knopf

The book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” by Ms. Child and two French colleagues, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, was not a blockbuster best seller when it was published in 1961. That did not happen until 48 years later, when, in 2009, the book, often revised but still in print, got a lift from a new movie, “Julie & Julia.” The film combined scenes from Ms. Child’s discovery of cooking in France with the story of a modern blogger cooking her way through the book. (Erin Dilly played Ms. Jones and Meryl Streep played Ms. Child.)

But the book was so popular over decades that it warranted scores of reprintings and a second volume in 1970, and it eventually sold more than a million copies. It gradually shifted the culinary landscape of a nation raised on canned vegetables, cake mixes and back-of-the-box recipes. It also launched the fluty-voiced Ms. Child on a celebrated, long-running public television career as host of “The French Chef.”

For Ms. Jones, who had previously edited translations of the French philosophers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, the Child book opened a new career path, editing culinary writers: James Beard and Marion Cunningham on American fare, Madhur Jaffrey (Indian food), Claudia Roden (Middle Eastern), Edna Lewis (Southern), Lidia Bastianich and Marcella Hazan (Italian), and many others. Ms. Jones also commissioned and edited regional and ethnic food books for the “Knopf Cooks American” series.

A Knopf vice president, Ms. Jones edited some of America’s best novelists and nonfiction writers. She shepherded all but one of Mr. Updike’s scores of books of fiction, short stories, poetry and essays to publication, and edited Ms. Tyler’s novels on the American family and works by Mr. Hersey, Elizabeth Bowen, Peter Taylor and William Maxwell.

Ms. Jones and her husband, Evan, an American food writer…

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