Miriam Ungerer, a food writer whose column, “Long Island Larder,” appeared in The East Hampton Star for about 25 years, died at home in Great Barrington, Mass., on June 4. She was 84, and her death was caused by a stroke, which occurred after preparing a favorite dish of mussels, her family said.
She was the author of “The Too Hot to Cook Book,” published by Walker in 1966, “Good Cheap Food,” which came out from Viking in 1973 and in a revised edition in 1996, “Country Food: A Seasonal Journal,” published by Random House in 1983, and “Summertime Food,” also from Random House, in 1989. She also wrote a book called “Come Into My Parlor” in collaboration with her then husband, Tomi Ungerer, in 1963.
Born in Spartanburg, S.C., to George and Marguerite Combahee Lancaster on Sept. 15, 1928, Ms. Ungerer married at the age of 18 and began a lifelong culinary journey, learning from the cuisines of the various parts of the United States and Europe in which she lived.
Ms. Ungerer lived in Florida and Texas, and in Weisbaden and Erding, Germany, with her first husband, Duane Strandquest, who was in the Air Force. She first came to the South Fork after marrying Mr. Ungerer, an artist and illustrator, with whom she lived in Manhattan, where she managed a Design Research shop. They also spent time in France.
Her daughter Phoebe Ungerer described her mother as a self-taught cook who was ahead of her time in championing local ingredients. She gathered mussels before they were seen in seafood markets and went gleaning for the smallest potatoes left on the fields by farmers.
A random survey of her Star columns yields an eclectic mix, with many recipes for fish, including striped bass, cold or with bechamel sauce, as well as vegetables. There are also recipes for what today are called wellness foods. One is for yam bread, another for baked beets. One “Long Island Larder” instructs readers how to skin an eel.
She offered a turkey meatloaf, but with chanterelles, and provided a no-fail method of making a rich turkey gravy. Her first column, on Aug. 7, 1969, was for a mussel stew with saffron, turmeric, and cumin as well as the now ubiquitous garlic and wine.
Letters to the editor of The Star attest to an Ungerer fan club, appearing even after she no longer wrote the column.
Ms. Ungerer had a Southern drawl, which came and went, and often peppered her speech with folksy Southern sayings. Artists and writers of note enlivened her social life, first with Mr. Ungerer and then with Wilfrid Sheed, the essayist and novelist, whom she married in 1972. They lived for a time in a large house on Rysam Street in Sag Harbor, then moved to North Haven. Their parties were legendary not only because of the food but because Mr. Sheed, who knew the lyrics to every popular American song, led friends, and his wife, in singing around the piano.
After the house was sold and Mr. Sheed, who died two and a half years ago, took ill, Ms. Ungerer moved to Great Barrington to be closer to two of her daughters, Ms. Ungerer, who lives in that town, and Ms. Strandquest, of nearby Hillsdale, N.Y. She is also survived by another daughter, Pamela Strandquest of Bend, Ore., and by three stepchildren. They are Marion Sheed, who lives in Los Angeles; Frank Sheed of Washington, D.C., and E.C. (Elizabeth) Sheed of Queens.
No funeral service was held. A memorial gathering is planned in Sag Harbor later this summer.