Edna Lewis; Chef, Author of Southern Cuisine Cookbooks

Associated Press
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Edna Lewis, 89, a chef and the author of acclaimed cookbooks on traditional Southern cuisine, died Feb. 13 at her home in Decatur, Ga. No cause of death was reported.

Ms. Lewis co-wrote the 2003 book "The Gift of Southern Cooking" with Scott Peacock. She grew up in Virginia on her family's farm, and in her books, she described the dinners she made from food she had harvested.

Among her other books were "The Edna Lewis Cookbook" (1972), "The Taste of Country Cooking" (1976) and "In Pursuit of Flavor" (1988).

She came to New York before World War II and got into the restaurant business after a friend tasted her cooking. Her second book, "The Taste of Country Cooking," established her as an authority on the subject.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she was known for her work as chef and consultant at Gage & Tollner, a landmark century-old Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant.

After a long career, mostly in New York, Ms. Lewis moved to the Atlanta area in 1992.

Ms. Lewis grew up in Freetown, Va., a small community in Orange County that was settled by freed slaves. She recalled growing and gathering corn and taking it to a mill for grinding.

"So when we were shelling the corn, we knew it was going to be made into our cornmeal," she once said. "When we brought it home from the mill, we would taste it to see what this corn tasted like that we grew and shucked and shelled ourselves."

In 2003, the James Beard Foundation gave Ms. Lewis a KitchenAid Cookbook Hall of Fame Award for her body of work. The foundation is named for the famed journalist, cookbook author, chef and cooking teacher who died in 1985.

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