Cooking is great therapy, no matter what ails you,” Sheila Lukins, a SAVEUR contributing editor, the coauthor of The Silver Palate Cookbook (Workman Publishing, 1982), and author of several other important cookbooks, told me one evening 18 years ago as I watched her spoon blueberries into a fruit soup. I thought of Sheila’s words when I learned she had passed away in August at the age of 66. Sheila’s love of cooking and her belief in its ability to enrich lives not only got her through tough situations (at the time of that meal she was recovering from a cerebral hemorrhage), but it was contagious.
After setting up a catering company and opening one of the nation’s first gourmet carryout shops, the Silver Palate, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in 1977, Lukins wrote the book that would become the foodie field guide for the Woodstock generation as its members began savoring the fruits of middle-class existence. The Silver Palate Cookbook was classy, quirky, and fun, just like Sheila, and it emboldened American cooks with recipes that ranged from classic international favorites—cassoulet, navarin of lamb—to her own creations, like pizza pot pie and blueberry-glazed chicken. She was a nonconformist in life and in the kitchen, and over the years, as she was writing cookbooks and editing Parade magazine’s food section, she attracted a fervent following, including many of the country’s best chefs. I dined out with Sheila many times; invariably, the chef would come over and the conversation would turn to recipes—usually Sheila’s. That’s how I’ll remember her: full of great ideas and possessed of an indomitable optimism that will continue to inspire for years to come.