She was born February 11, 1922 in Los Angeles. Her parents were Joseph Enwright and Maryann (née Spelta) Enright. Her mother was frail. Her father later became an invalid and an alcoholic. She graduated from high school in Los Angeles. She met her future husband in kindergarten. After her 1942 marriage to medical malpractice lawyer Robert Cunningham, they moved to San Diego. He was a marine there. Later they settled in Walnut Creek in the East Bay area of California. Before 1972, she spent most of her time as a homemaker and mother. She said of her husband’s food sense, “He doesn’t like homemade bread and he doesn’t like vegetables. The only green thing he says he likes is money.” They had two children, Mark and Catherine. She was afflicted with agoraphobia. She also overcame a drinking problem and then avoided alcohol entirely.
In 1972, when she was about 50 years old, she started on the path that would make her famous in the cooking world. She took a cooking class from James Beard. For the next 11 years, she became his assistant and she helped him establish cooking classes in the Bay Area. Upon Beard’s recommendation, she was hired to rewrite the classic Fannie Farmer Cookbook for modern audiences. Her revisions were published in 1979 and 1990. Cunningham died of respiratory problems, a complication of her Alzheimer’s disease, at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, California, at the age of 90.
- February, 11, 1922
- Los Angeles, California
- July, 11, 2012
- Walnut Creek, California