DECATUR, Ga. -- Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of a slave who became a chef and the author of acclaimed cookbooks on traditional Southern cuisine, died yesterday. She was 89.
Ms. Lewis co-wrote the 2003 book ''The Gift of Southern Cooking" with Scott Peacock, her longtime friend, who was at her side when she died. After a long career, mostly in New York, she had moved to the Atlanta area in 1992.
Among her other books were ''The Edna Lewis Cookbook," 1972; ''The Taste of Country Cooking," 1976; and ''In Pursuit of Flavor," 1988.
Ms. Lewis grew up in Virginia on her family's farm, and she described the dinners she made from things she harvested in the books she later wrote.
''She had a natural gift, a sense of recall and immediacy when she wrote about the pleasures of cooking and hunting for wild things," said her longtime editor, Judith Jones.
Ms. Lewis came to New York before World War II and got into the restaurant business when a friend tasted her cooking. Her second book, ''The Taste of Country Cooking," established her as an authority on the subject.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she was known for her work as chef and consultant at the landmark, century-old Brooklyn restaurant Gage & Tollner. She said in 1989 that Southern food caught on because few people truly realize what it is.
''They call it American food, but it's really Southern food," she said. ''A lot of New Yorkers love it."