The Marvelous Marion Cunningham--La Vie en Rose Part 3

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Photo Credit: Diane Boate

 There was a time when I travelled to the Bay Area on a regular basis. On every visit I made a point either to have dinner with Marion in a restaurant in San Francisco  (we both especially loved Zuni Café) or lunch in her home in Walnut Creek. I was a little in awe of her—her accomplishments, beauty. and regal stature. But she always made me feel appreciated and comfortably at home in her presence

For those who may not be familiar with her, Marion was the author of the updated 1896 Fanny Farmer Cookbook, friend and collaborator of James Beard, and a warm and generous person who supported the food community. I remember best of all, one dinner at the newly opened Fifth Floor restaurant. All the area chefs, including Wolfgang Puck who flew up from LA, were there to support chef George Morrone’s comeback. And each and every chef came to our table to kiss Marion’s hand.

 But my very favorite memory of Marion was a story she shared with me about her editor Judith Jones, which was so perfectly emblematic of the author/editor relationship—the inter-dependency, love, and yes fear!

 Judith Jones came from New York to Walnut Creek to work with Marion on the production of one of her cookbooks. When Sunday rolled around, Judith asked her to take communion with her at a nearby Protestant church. Marion explained to this Jewish me that, as a Catholic, it was considered a great sin for her to take communion in a Protestant church.

 “So what did you do?” I asked in wonderment.

“I took communion with her!”

“Why” I exclaimed in astonishment? The answer really blew me away:

“Because I was more afraid of Judith than of God.”