Cushing — Leslie Land, 66, longtime resident of Cushing, prolific writer, editor, cook, gardener, former gardening columnist for the New York Times, and a former editor of Yankee magazine, died from complications from breast cancer Aug. 10 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where she lived with her husband Bill Bakaitis.
Long before locavore was a word to consider, Leslie was known in Maine and throughout much of the country for a deep respect and enthusiasm for locally grown, locally produced food — so long as it lived up to her high standards of excellence. An artist in the kitchen, she was an active member of the Maine arts community, and a dedicated supporter of Maine agriculture. Her own gardens and kitchens, in Cushing and outside Poughkeepsie, were a source of inspiration for much of her writing which, in recent years, focussed on a website, leslieland.com. She pubished four books, including "The 3,000 Mile Garden," which became a BBC/PBS series.
Leslie began writing with a weekly column, Good Food, at the Camden Herald in the 1970s and went on to compose more than 400 gardening columns as well as feature articles over the years for the New York Times.
Her cooking career began earlier, at Chez Panisse, the famous California restaurant, where she was one of the very first chefs — and memorable for a revolt she instigated among female kitchen staff when, on an exceptionally hot day, she took off her clothes and continued to cook clad only in her apron. Remembering her, Alice Waters said, “She was fearless, an uninhibited presence in every conceivable way.”
In addition to her husband, she leaves a step-daughter Celia, granddaughter Ursula, a sister, brother, niece, two nephews, and countless friends whom she inspired to love gardening, good food, and life.