“Every cookbook author needs a Judith Jones,” Madhur Jaffrey wrote in the 2012 edition of the SAVEUR 100, lauding the elite Knopf editor of Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking (Knopf, 1984) as well as titles by such heavyweights as Marcella Hazan, Edna Lewis, and Julia Child.
In 1984, our first cookbook, Square Meals, filled with hearty classic American dishes of yore—think tuna noodle casserole—was also published by Knopf, though Jones was not our editor. We’d sit in the office right next to hers, talking raucously with editor-in-chief Bob Gottlieb, who acquired our book, and Martha Kaplan, our editor, about such culinary mischief as Undescended Twinkies, a dessert in which whole Twinkies are set into a Jell-O base, and roast pork with a “sinner stuffing” of bourbon-soaked dried fruit.
At some point we learned that Jones had overheard all of our silly conversations, and because she was well known as an editor of lofty epicurean tomes, we felt like schoolhouse rowdies, our knuckles in need of a good rap. One day she cornered us in the hall, saying, “I have something to tell you two.” We expected a good talking-to, but what we got was “P&H Truck Stop. The raisin bread is grand.”
Sure enough, the déclassé diner in Newbury on the way to Jones’ Vermont farmhouse was a gem. Each time we brave the diesel fumes that surround the P&H and are rewarded with the delicious bakery aroma that envelops us once inside, we remember that it was Knopf’s legendary cookbook editor who first sent us there.
Jane and Michael Stern are SAVEUR contributing editors.