Jan Longone, Influential Scholar of Food History, Dies at 89


Jan Longone, a curious, cordial and diligent meals scholar who began a mail-order cookbook enterprise from her Michigan basement that led to friendships with towering culinary figures like Julia Baby and grew into one of many nation’s nice cookbook collections, died on Aug. 3 in Ann Arbor, Mich. She was 89.

The loss of life, at a hospice middle, was confirmed by her husband, Daniel Longone.

Ms. Longone’s profession had probably the most sensible of beginnings. Within the Nineteen Fifties, when she and her husband have been each in graduate faculty at Cornell College, the place she studied Chinese language historical past and he studied chemistry, some fellow college students invited them to a cocktail party the place they served the Indian meals that they had grown up consuming.

The scholars requested Ms. Longone to reciprocate with a typical American meal. She realized she had no concept what that is likely to be or learn how to put together it, so she went to a library and found the huge world of cookbooks.

That journey led to a lifetime of amassing food-related books and ephemera, together with pamphlets about Jell-O, directions for kitchen home equipment and the nation’s first cookbook, “American Cookery,” written by Amelia Simmons and printed in 1796. That e book’s 47 pages comprise recipes for pumpkin pie and the primary pairing of cranberry sauce to enrich roast turkey, Thanksgiving stalwarts that endure right this moment.

She additionally secured an 1871 textual content believed to be the nation’s first Jewish cookbook.

Ms. Longone had a passion for charity and group cookbooks from the 1800s and early 1900s, which she thought painted an image of the nation’s scientific development, immigration patterns and cultural shifts.

Though her assortment was largely Eurocentric and missed parts of the American immigration story, it included the one authentic copy of the primary recognized American cookbook by a Black lady. Meals students had lengthy believed that distinction belonged to “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,” printed in 1881. However then a West Coast bookseller referred to as Ms. Longone and requested her if she would possibly desire a fragile 39-page e book by Malinda Russell, “A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen,” printed by a newspaper in Paw Paw, Mich., in 1866. She paid $200.

Janice Barbara Bluestein was born on July 31, 1933, within the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Her dad and mom have been Ukrainian immigrants and secular Jews. Her father, Alexander Bluestein, was a restaurant gear gross sales supervisor. Her mom, Edith (Gropman) Bluestein, made the household desk, which was usually full of traditional Ashkenazi dishes, the middle of their home life.

She met Mr. Longone once they have been youngsters who spent their summers swimming at Revere Beach, close to Boston. “I splashed her and she turned around and said, ‘You’ll be sorry,’” Mr. Longone mentioned in a cellphone interview. They married in 1954, after she graduated from what was then Bridgewater State Academics Faculty (now Bridgewater State College) with a bachelor’s diploma in historical past.

Mr. Longone, a wine aficionado, quickly grew to become an enthusiastic associate in his spouse’s literary pursuits. The 2 searched out small bookstores on their summer season drives from their residence close to the College of Michigan, the place Mr. Longone was a professor, to Massachusetts, and later throughout intensive travels to Europe.

In 1972, Ms. Longone realized that she might promote a few of their acquisitions and commenced the Wine and Meals Library, a mail-order bookshop. Her status grew alongside along with her assortment. James Beard grew to become an everyday buyer. Earlier than lengthy, the basement of their modest home was stuffed with books that grew to become the nexus of a rising culinary motion.

“Every day I would get a phone call saying ‘James Beard told me to call you. Julia Child told me to call you. Craig Claiborne told me to call you,’” she mentioned in a 2012 interview with the weekly journal Concentrate.

She bought literary works from the likes of the writer M.F.K. Fisher (whom she knew, in fact) and fewer ostentatious books, like “Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book” (1950). She had a specific fondness for Gourmet magazine, which began when her husband gave her a duplicate of the primary Connoisseur cookbook, adopted by a $50 lifetime subscription. Over time, they collected each situation, save the uncommon March 1941 version.

Ruth Reichl, who presided over Connoisseur from 1999 till Condé Nast shuttered it in 2009, mentioned Ms. Longone was one of many first to know the ability of historical past informed by means of the lens of cooks.

“She knew the value of looking at cookbooks unmitigated by a historian’s perspective,” Ms. Reichl mentioned in an interview.

Ms. Longone’s assortment, practically 25,000 gadgets robust, grew to become the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive on the College of Michigan and the antecedent for dozens of different culinary libraries. It additionally powered the event of educational meals research applications.

“Other libraries were uninterested in collecting food materials, but she knew exactly what she had and why it mattered,” Marion Nestle, a professor at New York College, wrote in an e-mail. “I was awe-struck meeting her and wanted all that for N.Y.U.” Ms. Nestle would go on to determine the nation’s first meals research program, which attracts closely on the gathering of meals and cookery supplies at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

Ms. Longone additionally influenced a brand new technology of booksellers who, like her, realized the significance of cataloging uncommon and important works about cookery and drink.

“Her legacy is vital to my existence,” mentioned Celia Sack, proprietor of the San Francisco bookstore Omnivore Books.

Ms. Longone had a big affect on trendy American restaurant tradition, particularly within the late Nineteen Seventies and ’80s because it threw off the constraints of continental delicacies and commenced to develop a extra eclectic, regional and adventurous model.

She was a yenta to cooks, passing on her huge meals data and connecting them to 1 one other earlier than Instagram offered an area to community and allowed them to go looking the online with a couple of keystrokes for a specific model of cooking.

Utilizing materials from her assortment, Ari Weinzweig opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor and its mail-order artisan meals enterprise in 1982 with Paul Saginaw.

“I knew relatively very little about food, and we were about to start selling artisan cheese and smoked fish, so I needed to learn,” he mentioned. “As a history major, going to Jan’s basement to look at books was way more exciting for me than going to a candy store.”

With out that basement of books, the chef Rick Bayless mentioned, he won’t have had his profession. Within the late Nineteen Seventies, he had taken a 12 months off from writing an anthropology dissertation to show cooking lessons. He turned to Ms. Longone for assist.

“She would lead you down the rickety back stairs to her basement with all these dehumidifiers going and these metal racks full of books and you could spend as long as you wanted there,” he mentioned in an interview. “I thought I had struck gold.”

She informed the editor of The Ann Arbor Observer about Mr. Bayless and his lessons, and the next article launched his cooking profession.

Ms. Longone based the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor in 1983 as a option to deliver collectively individuals within the research of culinary historical past and gastronomy. She was a founding member of the American Institute of Wine and Meals and served on the editorial board of Gastronomica: The Journal of Meals and Tradition. She additionally hosted “Adventures in Gastronomy,” believed to be the primary meals present on public radio, and was a choose for quite a few cookbook awards.

Along with her husband, she is survived by her brother, Bernard Bluestein.

Regardless of her generosity with cooking info, Ms. Longone was tight-lipped about her sources. However she all the time gave would-be collectors the identical recommendation: “When you see something you want, buy it.”

“I’ve been guilty of this mistake myself,” she mentioned. “I never regret the things I’ve bought, but I do regret some things I didn’t buy.”


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