Pioneer of organic food cookbooks dies like she lived, quietly at 98
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Beatrice Trum Hunter, who wrote "The Natural Foods Cookbook" in 1961, long before organic foods became a staple at supermarkets, and who took an early stance against pesticide exposure, sharing information with "Silent Spring" author Rachel Carson, has died. She was 98.
Family members said Trum Hunter, died Wednesday night in hospice care in Hillsborough, New Hampshire.
Trum Hunter "was writing and educating Americans about whole, organic foods decades before the farm-to-table movement took the country by storm," said Vita Paladino, director of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, which has a collection of her personal and professional papers.
"Her quiet determination forever changed America's relationship with food and nutrition; we are proud to safeguard her remarkable legacy," Paladino said.
A native of New York City's Brooklyn borough, Trum Hunter and her husband, John Hunter, bought property in Deering, New Hampshire. They turned their home into an inn in the summer that exposed city dwellers to organic and natural foods. Trum Hunter made her own muffins, bread and soups.
Her interest in nutrition grew after she read what she called a "mind-blowing" book published in 1933, "100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics," by Arthur Kallett and Frederick J. Schlink. It argued that the population was being used in a massive experiment undertaken by food and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
"The first thing I did was to cut out sugar," she told Yankee Magazine in a 2015 interview, "and then I began to use more whole grains and more fresh vegetables." She even gave up apples for a while, concerned about the chemical sprays. Schlink published "Consumers' Research" magazine, which she joined as food editor.
When "The Natural Foods Cookbook" came out, Trum Hunter said she attracted some criticism from some dietitians and nutritionists because she wasn't using processed foods. She said others thought of her as a "crank." Through the years, though, the book has become a classic.
"Beatrice blew my mind and my sense of possibility wide open," Frances Moore Lappe, author of "Diet for a Small Planet," told The Associated Press in 2002. "I still remember my excitement in trying out her shocking combinations: barley, dill and mushrooms? Wow!"
Trum Hunter also favored meat, eggs and butter. Years later, she said she would have eliminated many of the organ meats from her book, which carried a recipe for brain salad, for example. "They were so ignored by many other cookbooks at the time," she told New Hampshire Public Radio in 2004.
Trum Hunter also was contacted by Carson before the publication of "Silent Spring" in 1962, about the potential harm of chemical pesticides to the environment. She shared research with Carson about DDT and other pesticide use.
"She was influential in helping Rachel Carson find evidence for the damage done by chemical sprays to wildlife and birds," said Linda Lear, who wrote the biography, "Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature."
In all, Trum Hunter wrote 38 books and numerous articles and columns. Some of her other works include "Gardening Without Poisons," ''The Great Nutrition Robbery," ''Our Toxic Legacy," and "The Sugar Trap and How to Avoid It."
Another passion was photography. She inherited photo equipment from her late mother-in-law, photographer Lotte Jacobi, known for her candidate portraits of such renowned figures as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Trum Hunter's work focused on ice crystals. She exhibited her work throughout New England.