Meet Clementine Paddleford (September 27, 1898 – November 13, 1967)… America’s culinary “it” girl of the 1950s. The pioneering food writer and columnist had an unparalleled ability to describe foods and their flavors, and is said to have intensively researched the articles she wrote for publications like the New York Herald Tribune, the New York Sun, the New York Telegram, This Week magazine, and Gourmet.
Well ahead of her time, Clementine was matched as a regional-food pioneer only by James Beard, and in 1957, no one could come near her influence in the culinary world. She is a Woman You Should Know.
10 Things You Should Know About Pioneering Culinary Journalist Clementine Paddleford
1. She was born on a 260-acre farm in Stockdale, Kansas (she rode a horse to school), but lived most of her life in New York City after studying journalism at Kansas State and at New York University.
2. In 1932, doctors removed a malignant growth from Clementine’s larynx and vocal cords, which left her with a husky voice. For the rest of her life, she breathed through a tube in her throat, concealed by a thin black ribbon, but she never allowed this to slow her pace.
3. Though no one can find record of this in any of her columns, it is often claimed that Clementine coined the term “hero” relating to an Italian submarine sandwich in the 1930s. As legend has it, she wrote that the sandwich was so large “you had to be a hero to eat it.”
4. The New York Times called her “the Nellie Bly of culinary journalism, a go-anywhere, taste-anything, ask-everything kind of reporter who traveled more than 50,000 miles a year in search of stories in a day when very few food editors strayed far from their desks.”
5. She was also a pilot, and flew a Piper Cub around the country to report on America’s many regional cuisines.
6. The prolific food writer disliked cooking for herself, and never personally tested recipes for her columns or books, leaving that to the New York Herald Tribune’s test kitchen.
7. Ahead of her time, Clementine reported on a Pennsylvania farmer named Paul Keene who had the idea of growing crops without chemical fertilizers and insecticides, which at the time was viewed as being downright un-American.
8. By 1960, at age 62, Clementine had achieved her dreams of becoming a respected household name.
9. That same year, her seminal book, How America Eats was published. To write it, Clementine began traveling across America in 1948 by car, plane, foot, and even on mule back, for a grand total of over 800,000 miles. She interviewed over 2,000 cooks and ate every single dish that was included in the book.
10. When Mastering the Art of French Cooking came out in 1961, Julia Child, one of its authors, rapidly capitalized on its instant popularity to build a career on television as the nation’s favorite cooking personality and eclipsed Clementine’s How America Eats along with her culinary celebrity.
* The famed quote in the lead image is one that Clementine included in her memoir, A Flower for My Mother. It was the cautionary advice Paddleford’s mother gave to her.
Sources: The New York Times, The Culinary Cellar, Verbatim Magazine