Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Betty Fussell

Biographical Note

The distinguished historian Betty Fussell was one of the first American writers to focus on food as a legitimate subject of scientific, social, and anthropological inquiry.

In her 1999, The Story of Corn: the Myths and History, the Culture and Agriculture, the Art and Science of America's Quintessential Crop, Fussel used the history of corn to tell a distinctly American story. She also created a genre, now much imitated by other writers, focused on a single foodstuff.

Born in 1927 in California and reared there, she has made her home in New York's Greenwich Village for decades. She lives around the corner from James Beard's cooking school run out of his home. Her only contact was a week's worth of classes there, but they share an abiding passion for American food.

Her essays in literary journals, major newspapers, national magazines and encyclopedias are written with a grace few food writers can match. She also lectures at museums, universities, state fairs, corn festivals, historical societies and culinary groups. In 1999, her food memoir, My Kitchen Wars, traced her life from her childhoood through her marriage to a college sweetheart, her travails as an academic wife, her own academic career, the women's movement, and her wider success when she found her essential subject: food.

Fussell discusses her early years as well as her life and work since 1999, including her presence in the growing food blogosphere.

Access Points

Beard, James, 1903-1985
Bocuse, Paul, 1926-
Child, Julia
Claiborne, Craig
David, Elizabeth, 1913-1992
Fisher, M. F. K. (Mary Frances Kennedy), 1908-1992
Fussell, Betty Harper
Fussell, Paul, 1924-
Jones, Judith, 1924-
Hodgson, Moira
Normand, Mabel, 1894-1930

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
American Institute of Wine & Food
Doubleday and Company, Inc.
International Association of Culinary Professionals
Ordre international des disciples d'Auguste Escoffier
Ticknor and Fields
Times Books (New York, N.Y.)
Viking Press

Authors and publishers
Cooking, American -- History -- 20th century
Cooking, American -- Midwestern style
Cooking, French
Cooking -- Study and teaching
Dinners and dining
Food habits
Food writing
Sex roles
Universities and colleges -- Faculty

Interview 1, March 24, 2010

Box: Electronic Records, E-records: MSS_309.ref22.1 (Material Type: electronic records)

Scope and Content

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Interview 2, May 18, 2010

Box: Electronic Records, E-records: MSS_309.ref23.1 (Material Type: electronic records)

Scope and Content

Running time: 1 hour

Interview 3, May 20, 2010

Box: Electronic Records, E-records: MSS_309.ref43.1 (Material Type: electronic records)

Scope and Content

Running time: 37 minutes

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012