Helen Witty (1921–2023) was a food writer, editor and cookbook author. Her books twice won the prestigious R.T. French Tastemaker Cookbook Award (now the James Beard Award), beginning with a 1980 Tastemaker Cookbook Award (James Beard Award) for Better than Store-Bought, co-authored with Elizabeth Schneider Colchie. She also won the award for Mrs. Witty’s Monster Cookies in 1984; Mrs. Witty’s Home-Style Menu Cookbook was nominated in 1991.
After several years overseas in the US Army during World War Two, Helen Stroop moved to New York City to complete her education. Her long career in the publishing industry began with reference and textbook editing, advertising, and writing. As she began to specialize in the food field, she published many articles in food and gardening magazines beginning in the mid-1960s under her married name, Helen Witty.
Helen worked as an editor at Cuisine and Food & Wine magazines, as well as a freelance editor and consultant. She worked with Michael Field before his death in 1971, and served as a principal editor for The Cook’s Catalogue (1975), an encyclopedic look at cooking gear. As editor for Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Foods Cookbook & Field Guide (1976) and (with Burton Wolf) The Garden-to-Table Cookbook (1976), for which she compiled and contributed recipes, she called upon her hands-on experience growing, gathering, and preparing a wide variety of foods. This launched the “back to basics” specialization that resulted in her first book, Better than Store-Bought (1979), co-authored with Elizabeth Schneider Colchie.
She went on to write Mrs. Witty’s Monster Cookies (1983), Fancy Pantry (1986), Mrs. Witty's Home-Style Menu Cookbook (1990), The Good Stuff Cookbook (1997), and, with Richard (Dick) Witty, Feed The Birds (1991), all published by Workman. Among other projects, she contributed to Christmas Memories with Recipes: Twenty-Five Great Cooks Share Recollections of Their Christmases Past, by Martha Stewart (1988).
In recent years, at home on eastern Long Island, New York, she pursued bird-watching and gardening along with her enduring passions for literature and cookbooks. With her late husband Richard (Dick) Witty, she co-authored Feed The Birds, reflecting their shared love of birds, cooking, and literature. Richard, a publisher by profession, was a stickler for testing (and tasting!) all of Helen’s recipes, and also gained brief fame as the author of a “foolproof” angel-food cake recipe that he developed as a young man.
Helen's working collection of almost 3,000 cookbooks was donated for the use of students in the Culinary Arts School at Suffolk County Community College, a program that recognizes the area’s recent emergence as an important winemaking, farm production, and culinary region of New York State. Her two now-grown children learned to cook -- as if by osmosis – and still use many of her recipes.