Local couple publishes unique cookbook 

John O'Connor talks about a painting he created for his book at the Matheson History Museum on March 18.
Courtesy of Cool Blue Photography

A local couple unveiled their new book on food and their life together during an event at the Matheson History on March 18.  

Mallory and John O’Connor are artists, educators and food lovers who wrote “The Kitchen and The Studio: A Memoir of Food and Art” as a cookbook that is part memoir, part art book and part love story. It was published on March 14. 

“The book is a ‘personal history’ of John and Mallory’s relationship with food, cooking and eating and a philosophy of food that has sustained them,” a press release said. “‘The Kitchen and the Studio’ is also an art book filled with John’s original paintings along with photographs of celebrations and participants.” 

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Mallory O’Connor, 80, said there are 107 original artworks that illustrate the various recipes. 

She said one out of the nine diaries she has collected contains a record of the celebrations, dinners, brunches, lunches, picnics and other fêtes that have been part of her life since she met her husband at the University of California-Davis in 1962. 

Courtesy of Cool Blue Photography John and Mallory O’Connor with their book “The Kitchen and The Studio” at a Matheson History Museum event held on March 18.

“We never stopped being college sweethearts,” John O’Connor, 83, who is a professor of art emeritus at UF, said in a press release. “I paint, and she writes and teaches. We love life and each other. Even when we practice our crafts separately, we always come together in the kitchen—and the bedroom.” 

Mallory O’Connor said her friend William Theo Brown told her to “live the artist’s life” when she asked for advice on her career path. 

“The art was your life—your values, your outlook, your passions, your point of view,” she said. “It was the things you cherished, whether they were people or places or ideas.” 

In an interview, she said it took John two years to create the pastel paintings that illustrate the recipes. A strong theme in their relationship is that neither of them takes food for granted, she said. 

Robert Puzio, who attended the March 18th book launch at the Matheson, said he first met the couple in January at the Sunshine State Book Festival hosted at Trinity United Methodist Church. He said he came because he’s interested in the topic of food. 

“I never use the recipe when I cook because things are always different,” Puzio said. “You always have different material available.” 

He said he learned how to cook from watching his mother and grandmother prepare meals when he was growing up. 

Even though he said he uses a different approach to cooking, he said he appreciates the O’Connor’s being in Gainesville and promoting their recipes in art. 

Attendee Barb Gibbs said she met Mallory O’Connor in the late 1980s during an exhibition at the Thomas Center Gallery in Gainesville. Gibbs said she took photographs that are featured in “Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast,” a book O’Connor wrote.  

Gibbs, who has a degree in art, said it was fascinating that John O’Connor stitched together photographs from their old house, printed it on pastel paper and then painted with the pastels. She said the paintings looked like photographs because the detail was amazing. 

The book features recipes the O’Connors used in the various places they have lived, including California, Mexico City, Ohio, Florida and Tennessee. The dishes are drawn from many cultures, including Spanish, Irish, Indian, Mediterranean, French and American, and include vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian options.  

Courtesy of Cool Blue Photography Paintings from Mallory and John O’Connor’s book “The Kitchen and the Studio” at a Matheson History Museum event on March 18.

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Jenny Dearinger

I have purchased the O’Connor’s beautiful book. It is a wonderful memoir, and the art is outstanding. Congratulations to the O’Connor’s on their success. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in food and snippets of American history.