Bestselling Jewish food writer Marlena Spieler dies aged 74

The writer authored more than 70 cookbooks including one on macaroni cheese


The Jewish food writer Marlena Spieler has died aged 74. Spieler, who was based in the UK, wrote more than 70 cookbooks including volumes on macaroni cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and classic Jewish food.

Born in 1949 in Sacramento, California, Spieler started devising recipes whilst she was a student at an art school. Her books covered food from all over the world, from a range of cultures – she wrote about miso-pickles from Japan, corn pancakes from Indonesia and Camembert from France.

Her Jewish heritage was rooted in her writing, through her recipes for dishes such as baba ganoush, kugel, sweetmeats and tabbouleh.

Spieler’s book The Classic Barbecue and Grill Cookbook was a bestseller in the UK, and after writing Yummy Potatoes, she was invited as an ambassador to the 2008 UN Year of Potato conference in Peru. Spieler received the prestigious Guild of Food Writers Awards twice, an award given to the UK’s best radio food broadcaster of the year.

In 2011, Spieler suffered a head injury from a car accident in San Francisco, resulting in her losing her sense of smell. In the aftermath of the accident, she said she no longer recognised herself and was disorientated by the fact that she was unable to even smell her morning coffee.

Spieler also lost her sense of taste due to the accident – which she compared to “a musician losing her hearing” – because the nerve that transmitted taste to the brain had been damaged. Fortunately for Spieler, the loss of smell and taste was only temporary, and in time she revived the two senses that were so crucial to her work as a food writer.

In an opinion piece written for The New York Times in 2014, Spieler wrote that her life has been about “cooking, tasting and sharing stories about food”.

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