Friday, January 6, 2012

Gourmets 50 Most Influential Women in Food- # 29 Betty Fussel-California Ambrosia

After a break for the holidays, I'm back with Gourmets list of the 50 Most Influential Women in food. This week it is Betty Fussel # 29! I've been collecting cook books for almost 30 years; so I find it hard to believe that some of these women slipped right by me. Maybe my taste in cookbooks has not been sophisticated enough...who knows...but Betty Fussel was totally unknown to me. If you read the information on her website, you're quite impressed.  Born in Southern California in 1927, she talks of her mother committing suicide by eating rat poison when she was a young child. Her memoir also mentions Betty -"falling into the hands of a dreadful stepmother, whose relationship with food is best described as adversarial: She steams all meals into submission with a pressure cooker and teaches young Betty to chew a full 50 times before swallowing." After graduating high school, she attends Pomona College where she receives her BA, and meets an aspiring writer Paul Fussell, who  will become her husband. She received an MA from Radcliff while her husband was finishing his PhD at Harvard.  I found her memoir to be sad. She writes a very personal...seething account of her life with her husband. Reading some of the excerpts made me think about all the women of the 1950's who married solely because, that was the next logical step in their life. Her memoir seems mean spirited and very salacious. I would have been happier just to know of her great accomplishments.

She has written 11 books. Her latest is "Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef" (2008). In 2007 she won a James Beard Foundation Award for Journalism for her article "American Prime" in Saveur's Steak Issue. She was recently celebrated, along with other winners of the Silver Spoon Award, by Food Arts Magazine, where she has been a long time contributing authority. She has written many articles on food, travel, movies and the arts for some very prominent magazines and major newspapers.  Fussell was crazy for good food, she even wrote a food column for the New York Times. Betty was very accomplished...lecturing at museums, universities, cooking schools, food and wine associations, etc. Among her teaching credits is the New School for Social Reform in Manhattan.
Betty Fussel, someone I never heard of, who has and is still living quite a life! She resides in NYC!
I had a hard time finding recipes for Betty so I decided on her California Ambrosia! It was an easy refreshing dish, especially after a month of eating heavy fattening food! 

An easy refreshing accompaniment to any meal
Such a small amount of Grand Marnier added so much flavor

California Ambrosia

4 large navel oranges
2/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

1. Peel and section oranges over a bowl, reserving juice. Place orange sections in bowl with juice. Add coconut and liqueur; stir gently. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours.

Betty Fussell,  Cooking Light

Thanks to Mary of One Perfect Bite for this wonderful challenge. These are the other bloggers who are also featuring the recipes of Betty Fussel. Hope you'll check them out. They are all very talented ladies.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast 
Joanne - Eats Well With Others 
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey 
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney 

Jeanette - Healthy Living
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen 

Sue - The View from Great Island 
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds 
Amy - Beloved Green 
Linda A - There and Back Again 
Martha - Lines from Linderhof 
Nancy - Picadillo
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits 

Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Annie - Most Lovely Things 

Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook 


  1. This absolutely is perfect for my mindset in January. I didn't find out too much personal stuff on Fussell but gathered there was a lot of sadness. Her zest for life remains extraordinary.

  2. Kathy, I think the ambrosia was a perfect recipe to brighten the dark winter days many of us are having. I really found the background information you provided really interesting. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  3. Kathy,
    I often ate this dessert when I was growing up, but my mother used honey instead of Grand Marnier. I didn't much care for it then, but with Grand Marnier—it's going to be on my dinner table this week.

  4. Love how simple and light this recipe is, and I agree with Mary, perfect for these darker winter days when we're looking for something cheery and bright.

  5. I love a good ambrosia and the addition of Grand Marnier sounds really good. I also have never heard of her - it is interesting that some people when you hear their life stories you almost wish you hadn't, but it is also interesting how they overcome such backgrounds and accomplish so much. Great post!