Every time I bake, ok maybe not every time, but almost every time, I think about Marion Cunningham, the doyenne of home cooking for whom I spent the better part of a year interning. I learned more about baking under her care than all the years since, which is why, even today, she’s in my head, instructing me to use a gentle hand when mixing my banana bread or reminding me how to cut butter into flour for tender biscuits.

When I went to Marion’s house for the job interview, I immediately noticed two things. First, she was striking to look at, tall with silver hair and cornflower blue eyes. Second, her kitchen smelled amazing, thanks to the free-form apricot tart just out of the oven that was beautiful enough for a magazine cover. She set it in front of me to enjoy as we talked on her patio out back. I was overwhelmed that she would make such a tart just for me, an intern candidate she’d never met before. It was the first of many lessons in hospitality that will forever be my example.

Marion died yesterday at the age of 90, something I learned from this lovely homage by New York Times’ writer Kim Severson. Upon reading it, I felt compelled to bake. It needed to be something of Marion’s, with no room for any of my usual healthy antics: no flax meal or oat flour, no substituting yogurt for butter, no paring back the sugar. Marion loved her iceberg wedges with blue cheese dressing, she wasn’t shy with the mayonnaise on a chicken salad, and insisted that shortening made a superior pie crust. She was admired by foodies and famous chefs alike, yet always stayed true to who she was: an excellent, unapologetic home cook. Call her a chef and she’d correct you.

After some thought, I settled on a muffin recipe from The Breakfast Book. It calls for fresh ginger, of which I had none. What I did have were several pounds of olallieberries picked yesterday morning with the kids.

The muffins turned out beautifully, a testament to Marion’s talent as a recipe writer. I think she would have approved. It felt both sad and cathartic to be baking. Indeed, a few tears dropped into the batter along with all those berries. But at least I wasn’t alone, Marion was right there with me, reminding me not to over mix the batter.

I wrote about Marion and her crispy, delicious tacos a while back. You can find that here.

Tags: , ,



  1. Anne Mullen
    07.12.2012 at 6:23 PM #

    I’ve never heard of these berries, but they look beautiful. Your baking was a wonderful tribute to your friend. She’d be pleased.

    • katiemorford
      07.12.2012 at 9:51 PM #

      Thank you Anne.

  2. Pam
    07.12.2012 at 8:17 PM #

    I did not read the paper yesterday and am very sad to hear about her death. I cook from her books – especially The Breakfast Book (my go to pancake and waffle recipes) all the time. Thanks for sharing. Now I have to go bake muffins.

    • katiemorford
      07.12.2012 at 9:50 PM #

      Her raised waffles are the best.

  3. 07.12.2012 at 11:30 PM #

    Beautiful, Katie – thanks for sharing. What a privilege to have shared a year with her. It is amazing how legacies build upon legacies, with Beard’s influence leading to her own influence, and… There are many timeless contributions here, more than can be tracked or measured, not by volume nor weight. Nice muffins!


    • katiemorford
      07.13.2012 at 7:27 AM #

      Thanks Ryan. I do love that about cooking…how we pass along our recipes and wisdom. Reading all the stories about Marion over the past few days, it’s amazing how many people she touched.

  4. Kelly
    07.13.2012 at 12:12 AM #

    what a heart warming post and I would love one of those muffins right now! I will try them soon. Thank you for carrying on the tradition of being a great home cook and helping to make the rest of us the same:)

    • katiemorford
      07.13.2012 at 7:29 AM #

      Thanks Kelly. The role of home cook is one I cherish. Like Marion, I don’t want to be called a chef…I consider it a privilege to be a home cook.

  5. Anne Mullen
    07.13.2012 at 5:40 AM #

    When I first saw Marion Cunningham’s name, I first thought of the mom on “Happy Days”. It’s clear I’m not a knowledgeable foodie.

    • katiemorford
      07.13.2012 at 7:27 AM #

      Too funny!

  6. 07.26.2012 at 4:17 PM #

    Katie, I just found your blog and I feel like I just won the lottery. I love food, food blogs and anything that has to do with COOL STUFF FOR KIDS! (I write about children’s books :)

    This made me smile like you can’t imagine. I treasure my Marion books more than all my others (I collect cookbooks). I once did a post devoted to ‘The Breakfast Book’ — it is HANDS DOWN my fav cookbook.

    Once I made EVERY MUFFIN in her muffin section. It was such a fun project! Every week, a new muffin! I adore her ginger ones.

    • katiemorford
      07.26.2012 at 9:29 PM #

      Wow. A fellow Marion devotee. I love that Breakfast Book. Thanks for sharing that. –Katie

  7. Christina
    09.23.2013 at 8:04 PM #

    I just made these for the first time today. I didn’t have olallieberries, but used raspberries instead. They were delicious!! I just wish they didn’t have the butter and buttermilk in them – feels much less healthy to me. I did use whole wheat pastry flour and next time I’ll probably add in some flax/almond meal/oat bran cereal/etc.

    • katiemorford
      09.26.2013 at 6:05 AM #

      This is a recipe by Marion Cunningham and she never bothered much with making things especially healthy, only delicious. I’m all for experimenting with wholesome ingredients and trying to improve on the nutrition front. FYI, you should be able to find low-fat buttermilk, making the recipe lower in saturated fat than full-fat buttermilk.

  8. 07.16.2014 at 11:04 AM #

    Whaaa… I had no idea you interned for Marion Cunningham! How amazing!!
    And olallieberries are my favorites…. everything about these muffins makes me happy.
    Hope you guys are having a good summer, Katie!

    • katiemorford
      07.17.2014 at 11:18 AM #

      It was pretty cool, indeed. Learned a ton and ate very well that year!

Post Your Comment