FLORENCE LIN, who was born in the port city of Ningbo, near Shanghai, is America’s doyenne of Chinese cooking. Her books, lectures and classes long ago established her as one of our most prominent authorities on Chinese cuisine. Yet equal to her knowledge is her voice. She makes me appreciate the resourcefulness of Chinese cooks in creating a cuisine so innovative despite tremendous limitations.
Not familiar with her name? In 1968, Lin was one of the principal consultants for Time-Life’s groundbreaking “Cooking of China” volume in its “Foods of the World” series. During the 1960s, when Chinese cooking was at a peak of popularity, she co-founded the Chinese Cooking School at the China Institute in New York, where she taught thousands of students over the course of 25 years. Her classes were so famous even Julia Child attended. She also poured her knowledge into five other cookbooks (one of them, “Florence Lin’s Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads,” is a sought-after collector’s item).
At age 92, Lin continues to disseminate her vast culinary knowledge. Most recently I was delighted to learn she had spent the day teaching her granddaughter to cook a few of her favorite classic Chinese dishes.
— Grace Young, whose most recent book is “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge”
MARION CUNNINGHAM, the woman with the bright-blue eyes and silver ponytail, could be a gentle scold: “Everyone’s always saying they’re so busy,” she would say. “I’d like to know one thing: What is everyone doing?”
Before I started making restaurant reservations for a living, I used to cook. A lot. During my first tour of duty at The Washington Post, the Food section published Wednesdays and Sundays. One of my jobs was to play Joe Reader and test the bulk of the recipes.
Looking back now, I’m struck by the ones that made the most-lasting impressions. They were grounded in common sense and American tradition, courtesy of Cunningham, who didn’t transition from full-time housewife to cooking teacher until she was almost 50. She went on, of course, to famously revise “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” (1996) for a new generation of readers and to become an advocate for simple home cooking. She kept her California telephone number listed so anyone with a cooking question could call.
From the pages of her books, Cunningham taught this greenhorn many lessons.
A recipe for graham crackers appears in “The Fannie Farmer Baking Book” and involves fewer than 10 ingredients. Homemade graham crackers are craggier than factory versions, but they are infinitely fresher-tasting and nuanced.