The mood at yesterdays memorial service for Sheila Lukins, under the sky-blue ceiling of Riverside Memorial Chapel, was surprisingly joyous. Lukins, the legendary author of The Silver Palate Cookbook, died Sunday at the age of 66, only three months after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Among the gathered crowd of Sheilas friends and family including a large slice of New Yorks food glitterati (among others: Tom Colicchio, Food & Wine editor Dana Cowen, Gael Greene in a riotously pink hat) she was remembered for her sense of humor and great capacity for love. As her friend Lance Jay Brown, a restaurant architect, recalled, the tiny Lukins was well over six feet tall when she smiled.
Sheila was memorialized as well for her extraordinary culinary legacy and the indelible impression she made on the landscape of American food. She introduced home cooks to things like capers and curry powder ingredients that, back in 1982, when The Silver Palate was first published, were exotic as Mars. Sheila taught us to cook with style, verve, and a lot of balsamic vinegar, said her longtime editor Suzanne Rafer. Her vision was recognized early on by another culinary legend, Julia Child, who handpicked Lukins to be her successor as the food editor at Parade. This is a pioneer, Child told Parade editor Walter Anderson in 1986. This Sheila Lukins, shes hot stuff.