Leslie Mann Land, 1947-2013

Leslie Land Leslie’s obituary in the New York Times was written by her longtime friend in the publishing world, Denise Martin, with assistance by Charles Klaveness, her favorite editor at the Times and can be found here »

The obituary prepared for the Camden Herald in Maine was written by Nancy Harmon Jenkins with assistance from Sandy Oliver, two thirds of The Penobscot Bay Lady food Writers Association and can be viewed here »

At the time of this writing two articles of her passing have been published:
Here »
and here »

At least one other is being prepared for the Camden Herald/Village Soup.

In response to the Press Herald blog post, the root above, I responded with the following:

Indeed Leslie did live more in a day than even I, her husband, was aware. Together, for a quarter century, we shared the daily rituals of food, gardening, mushrooming, philosophy, politics, taxonomy, struggles with the various illnesses which have plagued our bees, our tomatoes, and crops in general. And yet, she continually surprised even me. Life with her was profoundly rich.

She was luxuriant, perhaps even extravagant with her approach to both food and gardening. She always wanted enough in the garden and refrigerator so that she could experiment, plan, compare and develop beyond the ordinary. Just as Americans in general have the most expensive pee in the world, thanks to our copious vitamin intake, I think Leslie may have had the most expensive compost.

There was an abundance to her life which filled our houses and lives to the fullest. In our New York (winter) home we have two freezers, two refrigerators, a cold room, greenhouse and several pantries which overflow with food that she has gathered from the garden, collected from the forest and field, or purchased from local and exotic purveyors. These ingredients are, of course, the raw materials and colors from which she created the ever increasing richness of her preparations. And yet, at base, it was always fresh, pure, and simply satisfying. I believe it was Edgar Alan Bean, another food writer who years ago described Leslie as having ‘perfect taste’, comparing her to musicians who had ‘perfect pitch’.

Even now that she has passed our houses and gardens overflow with her presence. In one distant corner of our NY garden , for example, are three tomato plants grown from seed which for the past three years has been collected and grown out from the best of the ‘long keeper’s’ of one particular and tasty variety. This is but one of the 30 or more varieties of tomatoes she grows and tests every year, both in New York’s Hudson Valley and Coastal Maine – so that she can compare the interactions of micro-climate and variety on taste, texture, and overall plant health.

As it was with food and gardening, Leslie applied the same lawyerly analytics and tender sensibilities to everything she approached and, as Sharon so accurately captured she filled the pages of her books and blog with wit, wisdom and insight. She was always a hard act to follow. Bright, honest, caring, loyal, the brightest person I have ever met and best friend one could ever have.

She will be missed by many.

Leslie LandThis Website and Blog will be maintained for the resource that Leslie intended it to be. In time I will attempt in some minimal way to learn enough to ‘manage’ it, although I will never know enough to do it with the richness you have come to expect.

Between here and there, however, there are her gardens in the Hudson Valley and Coastal Maine to see through to harvest; weeds to be pulled, tomatoes picked, savored and processed, corn to be guarded, flowers dead-headed, mushrooms gathered, records kept.

With her passing, the words of the poet W.S. Merwin* flood my being:

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

* Separation

— Bill Bakaitis August 18, 2013

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  • Vaughn Spurlin Said,

    I met Leslie when she was 19 at the Coffee Gallery bar in San Francisco’s North Beach, while she was a student at Berkeley. I helped her rent a cottage, so she could get out of the dorms. Then I moved in without asking. She decided to let me stay for a while, and I met her amazing collection of friends, including Owsley and the Dead. We always spent more time preparing dinner, than studying. Although we were only married for a few very tumultuous years, I’ve always thought very fondly of her. I miss her dearly. – Vaughn

  • Phyllis Janto Said,

    Terribly sorry to hear about Leslie’s passing. Though I barely know her, as a friend of Lois Dodd and a member of the drawing group,I had drawn in her wonderful garden and vividly remember the striking blooms of her fabulous flowers. The presence of Leslie will be sorely missed but her vibrant sense of beauty remains always.

  • Rob Johnston Said,

    I just found out today via the NYT obit.
    I feel honored to read your words, above, which capture my experience of Leslie. I’m with you in that she was one of the brightest people I’ve known. I’m blessed to have known her.

    My condolences,
    Rob Johnston
    Johnny’s Selected Seeds
    Albion, Maine

  • Beth Smith Said,

    I have newspaper clippings of Leslie’s food columns from the 80s; later on, I clipped many of her NY Times gardening articles. Her website was and is jam-packed with so much good advice. Always, Leslie was knowledgeable, funny and kind. We never met in person, but we corresponded once or twice through her website, and I felt honored when she answered my questions. I feel I’ve lost a dear friend.

  • Roz Lowen Said,

    Bill,your tribute to Leslie is beautiful. You were lucky to have so many fulfilling years together.

  • Dianna Smith Said,

    Leslie Mann Land was a treasure of kindness, intelligence, gentleness, caring and persistence who continues to enrich the lives of all who have been fortunate enough to have crossed paths with her. She will continue to be an inspiration to me as long as I am here on this earth.

  • Paul Friberg Said,


    Just learned of this via the NYT article too. Definitely a beautiful tribute to your wife. My thoughts are with you.



  • Well said, and so moving. Indeed, she will be missed by many.

  • Nna Koziol Said,

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Bill and the Bakaitis-Land families. This is so sad on so many levels and in so many ways, but Leslie Land was an amazing person who touched so many people through her words, her photographs, her actions and her good deeds–teaching people to love life through cooking, gardening, and companionship. Her writing was the ultimate poetry and, unlike so many gardener/cook authors today, she was unpretentious, truly creative and thoughtful. Loved her books, her blog and her good humor. Thankful that her breathtakingly beautiful words touched my life.

  • Thanks for maintaining this page. I hadn’t seen Leslie since she left Chez Panisse. Looking back on things it astounds me how rarely her name crops up in Chez Panisse histories. I’m reading Joyce Goldstein’s recent Inside the California Food Revolution, for example, a thoroughly researched (and well written and organized!) book, and Leslie isn’t mentioned. I remember her fondly and am sorry that once again it takes Death to bring a distant acquaintance back to mind. To life, you might say.

  • Tovah Martin Said,

    I first met Leslie in person at a party for Victoria magazine in NYC and the flower arrangements were upstaged by her beauty. Wearing pure white (Victoria had just run a story about her ethereal white garden in Maine), she flowed around the room. But I knew about Leslie before that — everyone knew Leslie. So we became friends. I saw her on the stage lecturing. She filled that room. I lectured alongside her–she had us all in stitches. Visiting her in Maine, she would not let me leave until I understood her garden as she understood her land…until I tasted her earth. Never was anyone so well named. For all of us, Leslie was generosity, mirth, abundance, and joy. Leslie is not gone, she’s dormant in the earth…waiting for spring…But we will so so deeply miss her.

  • Bill, Thank you so much for keeping this site available. When I wrote about Leslie’s passing in my blog, I was planning to add the sentence, “Happily for all of us, Leslie’s warmth and wisdom are still available to us all at her blog site.” But when I went to the blog to copy the link, it seemed to have been taken down. I was afraid it was gone permanently, and I’m so happy to know it is not.

  • bill bakaitis Said,

    Thank you all for your warm thoughts, your observations, and the personal memories shared.

    I am able at the moment to respond in only this general way to the comments on this page.
    My apologies to the dozens of you who have commented on many of the other pages of this web site: Given the recent turn of events, I simply do not at present have the resources necessary to give them the time they deserve. Time and some training should fix this.

    Leslie’s passing has initiated a number of Obituaries and articles. The list includes these eleven, from the Village Soup to The Times of London, and speaks to the power and influences that a personal voice commenting on immediate issues of Kitchen and Garden, can have on a Local, Regional, National and International audience. Leslie’s art was her life, personal, pointed, local, and always richly informed.


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