Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Penelope Casas, Who Explained Spain's Food to the U.S., Is Dead at 70

By Claudio Iván Remeseira | Posted Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 11:00 a.m., ET. Last Updated, Aug. 22, 0:28 a.m. ET

Photo: Elisa Casas

She was the foremost authority of Spanish cuisine on this part of the Atlantic, a prestige built upon the success of her 1982 book  'Foods and Wines from Spain' and the half-dozen recipes books that followed suite. On August 11, Penelope Casas died of leukemia at a Long Island hospital, but her legacy is alive and well in every Spanish restaurant across this nation.

Her career as a culinary expert kicked off by chance in the late 1970s after she wrote a letter (yes, there was no email back then) to New York Times star food critic Craig Claiborne. Far from your regular fan mail, the letter politely corrected Mr. Claiborne for mistakenly using in one of his articles the Spanish word anguilas (eels) when he should have used angulas (elvers). 

Clairbone first dismissed the correction, then acknowledged it, and finally accepted an invitation to taste some original Spanish cooking at the Casas household in East Hampton. He not only wrote a raving review of the supper for The Times; he also put Ms. Casas in touch with Judith Jones, editor of Julia Child's cooking books. The rest is on the table.

Penélope Fexas was born on May 25, 1943, to a Greek immigrant family in Queens. A reader of Federico García Lorca's and Antonio Machado's poetry, she took up Spanish philology in Vassar College and met her future husband, Luis Casas, during a studies trip to Madrid, Spain, in 1962. She is survived by her husband and their daughter, Elisa.  

Read it at The New York Times and El Mundo (In Spanish)

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