- Category : 1927-births
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 2
American writer, journalist, restaurant reviewer and college instructor, Fussell has written such diverse material as "Mabel," the biography of comedienne Mabel Normandy, "Masters of American Cookery" (1983) and "My Kitchen Wars" (2000).
Fussell's parents were both teachers and though her mother killed herself by ingesting rat poison on April 30, 1929, when little Betty was not even two, education was emphasized. Food was not, as her stepmother had little affection for cooking. Fussell attended Pomona College, graduating in 1948. The following year, on June 15, 1949, she married Paul Fussell, a professor and writer and learned how to cook by using those kitchen appliances and cookbooks she received as wedding presents. She then earned her Master's from Radcliffe in 1952. Two children, a teaching career, and twenty-four years later, she earned her Ph.D. from Rutgers in 1976.
Fussell has always been interested in the theater; from 1956-1962, she was an actress, director and trustee for Princeton Community Players. She was an instructor in English and Shakespeare from 1963-1965 and then in English and comedy from 1974-76. From 1977-79, she was a lecturer in "theater in action" and comedy. She became a trustee of the Theater of the Open Eye in 1983. Her first book, "Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care Girl" was a biography of Mabel Normandy, a film comedienne.
A home cook, Fussell turned to writing about food.
From 1978-1979 she reviewed restaurants for the New York Times and in 1983 became a regular columnist for the feature "Cook's Tour" in the magazine "Country Journal." That same year, she caught her professor-husband with a male student and knew the marriage had to end. As her marriage disintegrated, she wrote "Masters of American Cookery," examining origins and variations of foods from Native American dishes to cuisine that arrived with European settlers. "My Kitchen Wars," a memoir written in 2000, scans the changing nature over time of food, dinner parties, and relationships.
Fussell has traveled widely and brings together her interests in her columns and books. She said, "I am most interested in theatre, film, food, and travel as writing subjects. I am obsessed with trying to make sense out of the diversity of this country and out of the diversity of my own life--and so I search for a writing style and form that will express contraries without homogenizing them. For this, both theatre and food are metaphors."
Fussell won IACP’s Jane Grigson Award for her book, "The Story of Corn" (1992).