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Culinary Cunning

Sylvia Schur

By Wendy Ward | Posted 12/30/2009

Back in 1966, women wore wide-legs to hostess, recipe books included multiple versions of aspic, and Clamato--a blend of tomato juice and clam juice--was brand new on grocer's shelves. The latter was just one of the ways Sylvia Schur, the lady mixologist behind Mott's odd savory beverage, influenced the way we eat and think about food. She died Sept. 8 at age 92.

Born in 1917, Schur grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. ,and edited her high school paper before studying at Hunter College in Manhattan. After graduation, she worked at PM newspaper and became the food editor for multiple periodicals, including Flair, Look, and Woman's Home Companion, integrating food and meal planning into style magazines, which broke the ground for today's inclusion of cooking and eating in women's magazines from Vogue to More. She also wrote cookbooks aimed at busy women for everyone from temp agency Kelly Girl to corporate giant Seagram's. In 1958, she started the Creative Food Services, a food marketing and creation company that employed many young women in its test kitchen.

''Food is a very emotional factor in people's lives,'' Schur said in 1981. She knew successfully working on the technological aspect of food--creating recipes that used processed ingredients--included taking the cook's heart into consideration. People wanted homemade taste out of three-ingredient meals, thus her recipes for chuck roast with condensed mushroom soup and dry onion soup mix. Remember the early cookbooks for those huge, first-generation microwave ovens with their scrambled egg recipes? Home cooks want it warm and fast; Schur delivered. She also consulted on the creation of the '60s diet drink Metrecal, a sort of resume oddity considering this is the woman who knew the girls who read Seventeen magazine 40 years ago would eat up articles about the effects of a good diet.

Her company was also involved in the invention of food products and consulted prepackaged food companies to better market their products. She worked on the menu of New York's hallowed Four Seasons restaurant and invented the sweetly tart Cran-Apple juice drink. After the Duffy-Mott company bought a small clam processor in Maryland, it hired Schur's CFS for product development and Clamato, a savory tomato juice with a shot of clam broth, was born. The drink is a bit of a joke for the uninitiated, but those who love it, love it. If that's the way you roll, raise your bloody Caesar (made with Clamato, natch) or red eye (Clamato and beer) to a culinary visionary with good taste who changed the atmosphere of reading about, creating, and eating food.

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