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Penelope Casas, pioneer of English-language Spanish cookbooks, dies

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Penelope Casas, one of the pioneering writers in the English language on Spanish cuisine, has died. She was 70 years old. Her death was reported to the New York Times by her daughter, Elisa.

Casas’ first book, 1982’s “The Foods and Wines of Spain,” introduced many Americans to the cuisine that is only now getting its due. Regarded by many as a classic, it is still in print after more than 30 years, a remarkable achievement for any cookbook.

“Penelope's books opened the door for many Americans to understand traditional Spanish cuisine,” wrote Spanish food and wine writer Gerry Dawes on his blog. He followed up on Twitter: “Without Penny's books, American would have had no real reliable reference to Spanish cuisine back then.”

The noted food writer Colman Andrews, who has written several books of his own on Spanish cooking, wrote on the Daily Meal website he edits: “After my book on Catalan cuisine came out in 1988, well-meaning friends would sometimes introduce me as the American who knew all about Spanish food. No, I'd always say, I just know a little about the cooking in one corner of the country. The American who knows all about Spanish food is Penelope Casas.”

He heralded “The Foods and Wines of Spain” as “a classic, a definitive collection of recipes and basic lore about the way people ate and drank in a country that was widely considered, back in 1982 when the book came out, to be pretty much devoid of culinary interest.”

Casas followed that book with “Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain” in 1985 and wrote five more books about the cuisine she loved, the last being 2005’s “La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain.”

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