About Betty

Photo by Norman Jean Roy for Vogue, Aug '08

*Read a note from a friend, Rachel Laudan

For the past fifty years, Betty Fussell has been writing articles and books on the subject of what it is to be an American, first looking at movies and theater and then at food.

Her most recent, and eleventh, book is Raising Steaks: The Life & Times of American Beef (2008). In this she takes up the historical epic she began in The Story of Corn (1992), which won the IACP’s Jane Grigson Award for Scholarship. In between she wrote a food memoir, My Kitchen Wars (1999), which was performed in Hollywood and New York as a one-woman show by actress Dorothy Lyman. In 2007 she won a James Beard Foundation Award for Journalism for “American Prime” in Saveur’s Steak Issue of July. She was recently celebrated, along with other winners of the Silver Spoon Award, by Food Arts Magazine, for which she has long been a Contributing Authority.

Over the decades, her essays on food, travel, movies, theater and the arts have appeared in scholarly journals, popular national magazines and major newspapers. Critical and scholarly essays have appeared in such literary publications as Sewanee Review, Hudson Review, Ontario Review, New York Literary Forum, Culture Front. Food and travel articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Holiday, Travel and Leisure, Connoisseur, Journal of Gastronomy, Gastronomica, Country Journal, Wine and Food, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Saveur, Cooking Light, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, More, Kitchen Gardener, Metropolitan Home, Edible Manhattan. She’s also written on a variety of subjects more or less related to women for Lear’s, Cosmopolitan, Vogue.

Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including Antaeus: Not for Bread Alone (1992), where her essay “On Murdering Eels and Laundering Swine” was listed in Best American Essays 1992 and reprinted in both A Literary Feast (1993) and Women on Hunting (1994). She has contributed articles to The Cambridge Guide to Women’s Writing in English (1999), Scribner’s Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (2003), Living with a Writer (2004), Culinary Biographies (2006). Her introductions grace Jane Grigson’s The Mushroom Feast (1998), Bonnie Marranca’s A Slice of Life: Contemporary Writers on Food (2003), Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat’s A History of Food (2009).

She has lectured at museums, universities, cooking schools, food & wine associations, state fairs, corn festivals and steak workshops all over the country, at such disparate places as the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton University Art Museum, New York Historical Society, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, New University for Social Research, New York University, Friends of Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, Boston University, French Culinary Institute, Culinary Institute of America, Century Association, Cosmopolitan Club, National Arts Club, 98th Street YMHA, Institute of Culinary Education.

Born in Southern California in 1927, Fussell grew up in Riverside, took her BA at Pomona College, married her college sweetheart Paul Fussell, took an MA at Radcliffe College while he finished his PhD at Harvard University. After teaching English at Connecticut College and Douglass College, she finished her PhD at Rutgers University and taught there before moving to New York City, where she taught literature and film at the New School for Social Research and writing at Columbia University. In the 1980s she left teaching to write full time. Her first book was a biography of Mabel Normand, the silent movie comedienne, Mabel: Hollywood’s First I-Don’t-Care-Girl (1982). Since then, she has won fellowships to MacDowell Colony, Millay Colony for the Arts, Yaddo, Villa Montalvo, Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers and Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

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