Judith Jones

A name synonymous with great writers and great chefs Judith Jones showed off her literary sleuthing with the discovery of The Diary of Anne Frank in Paris. She convinced Doubleday to acquire the U.S. rights and it will probably never be out of print.


jjA Conversation with Judith Jones, The Queen of Cuisine

A name synonymous with great writers and great chefs Judith Jones showed off her literary sleuthing with the discovery of The Diary of Anne Frank in Paris. She convinced Doubleday to acquire the U.S. rights and it will probably never be out of print.

At Alfred Knopf, where she worked for over 50 years, she edited John Hersey and all of John Updike’s work. But her fame was linked to Julia Child and her recognition of that unique voice that changed the world of cookbooks.

Among those new writers were Claudia Rhoden, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey and Joan Nathan, all of whom were far removed from her Yankee roots.

I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Judith in conjunction with my Paris in New York Literary Festival. We caught up via telephone on the eve of the publication of LOVE, FEED ME: Sharing with Your Dog the Everyday Good Food You Cook and Enjoy.

Who were your earliest culinary influences?

My Aunt Marian who was married to Uncle Doc. As the most popular GP in their small town he often didn’t get home until 9PM but she always had a hot meal waiting for him. She took great pleasure in cooking and I learned that cooking is an expression of love.

Back at home in Manhattan, Edie, our housekeeper from Barbados introduced me to hot peppers, garlic (my mother hated it) and strange fruits I never heard of. I loved watching her with a big mustard-colored ceramic bowl cradled on her hip as she would beat a batter with her strong brown arm, her wooden spoon hitting the bowl with a plopping sound.

And sensing that I had inherited his food gene my father, almost conspiratorially, would take me to lunch on Saturday to La Petite Maison, a typical French restaurant on the Upper East Side.

After your earlier experiences in Paris you continued to return annually. What do you most admire about the French?

Their sheer pleasure in life-sensuality.

Craig Claiborne of the New York Times was both friend and a colleague. In the mountain of what passes for culinary journalism today his is a name mostly forgotten. Talk about him and his contribution to culinary discussion.

Along with James Beard he was one of the first male food critics. He understood and loved good food and wrote about it with great wit-the death knell for the “home-ekkers” who dominated the world of cookbooks and recipes at the time.


And, of course, the monumental Julia Child, whom you discovered, nurtured and unleashed to a waiting world.

 The manuscript for what eventually became Mastering the Art of French cooking came your way after having been rejected by Houghton Mifflin on the advice of male editors.

The book was right for me and I was convinced that there must be thousands like me who really wanted to learn the whys and wherefores of good French cooking. I convinced Alfred Knopf to “give Mrs. Jones a chance” although he promised to “eat my hat if this title sells.”

What was Julia’s magic?

We had collaborated on the manuscript but we hadn’t met until she walked into my office after four months of correspondence. I was immediately struck by the sheer force of her personality. She was a full head taller that her husband Paul and very much the Smith College girl–tweed skirt, sweater and sensible shoes with trim hair tightly permed but it was her voice, rising and falling with distinctive forthrightness, that gave her authority as well as a certain unpredictability–you never quite knew what was going to emerge.

In the kitchen she was completely innovative. She taught me the difference between cooking and suave cooking-the French way. How to cook simple things like green beans-the right way-parboiled and slathered in butter as well as many tricks of the trade. She was fond of saying: “Let them get their vitamins out of a jar.”

She paved the way for a slew of cookbooks.



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You worked with Arthur Rubenstein on his memoir My Young Years (A book I read when first published 40 years ago and still remember with delight) and found a cookbook waiting to be written by his wife Nela. Talk about the maestro and those experiences.

I went to Paris to visit the Rubinsteins (Arthur and Nela) and see if we could work together. I had done some sample editing and had sent it on ahead, and I could tell by his greeting at their elegant house on l’Avenue Foch that Mr. Rubinstein was not pleased. We went over a few pages and talked, and then I was dismissed, not even asked to stay for a Nela lunch. I was prepared to return to New York and admit my failure but the next day I was asked to come back and this time I was greeted by a smiling author who took my coat and ran kisses form my hand to my elbow, saying, Thank you, thank you. I certainly don’t want to make a fool of myself.” He had read over the first chapters and now knew exactly what I meant. “Let’s get to work.”

Our only distraction over the next ten days was the sound of Nela starting up her car in the courtyard and tearing off to the market. After she’d returned we would smell delicious aromas wafting up into Arthur’s second-floor study. The more I talked with Nela and tasted the wonderfully eclectic foods she prepared so effortlessly and with so much love, the more I urged her to do her own book.

In time NELA’S COOKBOOK was a fait accompli and I even got a call from Cary Grant telling me in his unmistakable voice (Judy, Judy) how wonderful the book was.

Still going strong Mme. Jones divides her time between her NY apartment and Vermont


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