Influential scholar of food history Jean Longon dies at 89

A curious, heartfelt and industrious culinary scholar who started her mail-order cookbook business from her basement in Michigan, Jean Longone has found a way to work with towering cooks like Julia Child. It became a friendship that grew into one of the nation’s great cookbook collections. He passed away on August 3rd. In Ann Arbor, Michigan she was 89 years old.

Her death at the hospice center was confirmed by her husband, Daniel Longon.

Longone’s career had the most realistic beginnings. In the 1950s, when she and her husband were in graduate school at Cornell University, when she was studying Chinese history and he was studying chemistry, some fellow students invited them to a dinner party. and served the Indian food they grew up with.

The students asked Mr. Longone to reciprocate with a typical American meal. Realizing she had no idea what it was or how to prepare it, she went to the library and discovered a vast world of cookbooks.

The trip included a lifelong collection of food-related books and ephemera, including Jello pamphlets, kitchen appliance manuals, and the nation’s first cookbook, The American Cookery, written by Amelia Simmons and published in 1796. connected to The book has 47 pages of his. Included are Pumpkin His Pie recipe and the first pairing of Cranberry His Sauce to complement Roast His Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple that continues today.

She also secured an 1871 text believed to be the first Jewish cookbook in the country.

Longone liked charity and community cookbooks from the 1800s and early 1900s, and thought they depicted the country’s scientific progress, immigration patterns, and cultural shifts.

Her collection was largely European-centric, missing elements of American immigration stories, but contained the only original copy of the first known American cookbook by a black woman. was long believed to belong to “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,” published in 1881. Russell, “Home Cookbooks: A Selection of Useful Receipts in the Kitchen.” , published in a newspaper in Paw Paw, Michigan, 1866. She paid her $200.

Janice Barbara Bleustein was born on July 31, 1933 in the Dorchester area of ​​Boston. Her parents were secular Jews who immigrated from Ukraine. Her father, Alexander Bluestein, was a restaurant fixture sales manager. Her mother, Edith (Gropman) Brucestein, set up her family’s dining table, which is often filled with classic Ashkenazi dishes that are central to her home life.

She met Longone as a teenager, spending summers swimming at Revere Beach near Boston. “I gave her her splash and she turned her around and said ‘I’m sorry,'” Longone said in her phone interview. The two married in 1954 after she graduated from what was then Bridgewater State Teachers College (now Bridgewater State University) with a BA in History.

A wine lover, Mr. Longone soon became an avid partner in his wife’s literary endeavors. The two took a summer drive to scour small bookstores from his home near the University of Michigan, where he was a professor, all the way to Massachusetts, before making an extensive trip to Europe.

In 1972, Longone realized he could sell some of his acquisitions and started the Wine and Food Library, a mail-order bookstore. Her reputation has grown with her collection. James Beard became a regular customer. Before long, the basement of their modest home was filled with books, which became the core of the growing culinary movement.

“I got a call every day saying, ‘James Beard told me to call you. Julia Child told me to call you. Craig Claiborne told me to call you.’ .

She sold literary works like author MFK Fisher (which she knew, of course) and lesser-known books like Betty Crocker’s Illustrated Cookbook (1950). She has a special affection for her Gourmet magazine that began when her husband gave her her first copy of her Gourmet cookbook, followed by her lifetime subscription of $50. had a Over the years they have collected all the issues except her March 1941 edition which is rare.

According to Ruth Reichl, who oversaw Gourmet from 1999 until Condé Nast closed in 2009, Longone was one of the first to understand the power of history told through the lens of a cook.

“She knew the value of looking at an unmoderated cookbook with a historian’s perspective,” Reichl said in an interview.

Longone’s collection has grown to nearly 25,000 items and has become the University of Michigan’s Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, a predecessor to dozens of other culinary libraries. She also helped develop an academic food research program.

Professor Marion Nestlé of New York University said, “While other libraries weren’t interested in collecting groceries, she knew exactly what she had and why it was important.” I was in awe when I met her and wanted everything for NYU.” I kept doing it.

Longone also inspired a new generation of bookstores who, like her, realized the importance of cataloging rare and important books on food and drink.

“Her legacy is integral to my existence,” said Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Mr. Longone had a great influence on modern American restaurant culture, especially in the late 1970s and 80s. As he began to remove the constraints of continental cuisine and develop a more eclectic, regional and adventurous style.

Before Instagram provided a networking platform where you could search the web for a particular cooking style with just a few keystrokes, she was Yenta for chefs.

Using ingredients from her collection, Ari Weinzweig opened Singerman’s Delicatessen and its mail-order artisan food business in Ann Arbor in 1982 with Paul Saginaw.

“I knew very little about food, but I was about to start selling artisanal cheese and smoked fish, so I had to learn,” he said. “For me, a history major, going to Jean’s basement to look at books was far more exciting than going to his store for candy.”

Without a basement of books, chef Rick Bayless said his career might not have existed. I was on vacation. He asked Mr. Longong for help.

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

She told the editor of The Ann Arbor Observer about Mr. Bayless and his class, and a subsequent article launched his culinary career.

Longone founded Ann Arbor’s Culinary Historian in 1983 as a way to bring together people interested in the study of culinary history and gastronomy. She was a founding member of the American Institute of Wine and Food and served on the editorial board of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. She also hosted “Adventures in Gastronomy”, considered the first food show on public radio, and has been a judge for numerous cookbook awards.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her older brother, Bernard Brustein.

Though generous with culinary information, Longone was tight-lipped about his sources. But she always gave aspiring collectors the same advice.

“I made this mistake myself,” she said. “I never regretted what I bought, but I regret not buying it.”

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