U.S. food writer Marion Cunningham dies, age 90

LOS ANGELES Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:12am EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Award-winning cookbook writer Marion Cunningham, an advocate of home cooking who also hosted a U.S. television series, has died in California after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She was 90.

Cunningham died on Wednesday morning at the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, California, outside of San Francisco. She suffered from the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's and had been living at an assisted-care facility.

Her friend and restaurant consultant Clark Wolf confirmed her death. "She's the one who made cooking at home honorable," Wolf told Reuters. "She was also this kind of extra mother to a lot of people who have become top chefs and food experts."

Cunningham was born Marion Enwright on February 1922 in Los Angeles and married Robert Cunningham, an attorney in Walnut Creek. For much of her life, she struggled with agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder dealing with the fear of open spaces and public places.

But later in life she began attending cooking classes given by renowned chef and food writer James Beard, who died in 1985. In cooking, she found a hobby that would become her hallmark.

Cunningham began writing cookbooks at age 57 when asked to revise a version of "Boston Cooking-School Cookbook" that was first published in 1896 by Fannie Merritt Farmer. The result was Cunningham's 1979 edition of "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook," which was reissued again in 1990.

She went on to author more books with titles such as "The Breakfast Book," and "Cooking with Children," that highlighted her specialty in creating meals at home.

Cunningham also penned articles in magazines such as Bon Appetit and Food & Wine and for a time hosted her own TV series, "Cunningham & Company," on the Food Network.

In 1993, she received the Grand Dame award from Les Dames d'Escoffier and one year later was named Scholar-in-Residence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Eric Walsh and Lisa Shumaker)

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