Cecily Brownstone, who wrote cookbooks and twice-a-week feature articles on food for the Associated Press for 39 years, has died. She was 96.
Brownstone died Tuesday at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City, said a nephew, author Jonathan Ned Katz. The immediate cause was pneumonia.
Brownstone, a native of the tiny hamlet of Plum Coulee in Manitoba, Canada, became interested in food at an early age and devoted most of her life to writing about it, becoming a leading figure in New York's circle of cookbook authors and restaurant critics and one of the nation's most widely published food writers.
Katz said Brownstone "was one of the foodies before they called it that."
"She was a diva in the field, and she spoke on the phone every morning at 8 o'clock with [cookbook author and cuisine expert] James Beard," he said. "They gossiped about food."
Her close friends in the field also included Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, the principal authors of the "Joy of Cooking" books.
From 1947 until she retired in 1986, Brownstone wrote two columns on cuisine and five recipes a week for the AP, an estimated 14,200 articles.
She also was food editor of Parents magazine and child- care editor of Family Circle magazine.
Her cookbooks included "Cecily Brownstone's Associated Press Cookbook" and "Classic Cakes and Other Great Cuisinart Desserts," the latter written with Carl Sontheimer, founder of Cuisinarts Inc.
Brownstone, who never married, lived in a brownstone -- a row house in Manhattan's Greenwich Village -- where she hosted frequent social gatherings at which food was the primary subject, Katz said.
Although Brownstone's main interest was American food, her favorite recipe was country captain, a chicken dish of Indian origin. As published by the New York Times, the recipe called for "one cup of pepper." The typographical error caused one reader to complain that he "nearly died," Katz said.
Brownstone amassed a collection of some 8,000 cookbooks, 5,000 food pamphlets and hundreds of letters, which she donated to the Fales Collection at New York University in 2002.
A separate collection of photos and other personal items was at Katz's downtown Manhattan office and was lost in the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Katz said.
A private memorial will be held Tuesday.