Jules Bond: A farm-to-table food writer before there ever was such a thing

Jules Bond cooking in his kitchen in Shelter Island. (Courtesy of Tom Morgan)

For nearly two decades, Jules Bond wrote a popular food column for The Suffolk Times. His writing and recipes, which also appeared in The New York Times and Newsday, were highly regarded by food lovers, particularly those on the North Fork who appreciated that he worked with and prepared recipes using local bounty. 

His affection for the fresh-from-the-water local seafood he purchased at Braun Seafood in Cutchogue showed in everything he wrote. During the season, fresh-picked local vegetables were a gift to be prepared simply. He had no patience for anyone who didn’t eat from the bay and the farms.

When Bond died at 84 in June 1993, Peggy Katalinich, former food editor for Newsday, wrote this remembrance for the paper: “For 14 years, I had an open invitation to the best table on Long Island. Not at a restaurant, mind you, but in the dining room of Jules Bond, friend, mentor, food writer and home cook without equal.

“His genius was in taking that dead-ripe peach and letting it be, in enhancing the flavor of a fresh-from-the-water oyster with a minimum of fuss … He never fell in for raspberries in November or tomatoes anytime except August, and he expressed a pitying contempt for anyone who did.

“It is through his lobster remoulade, his classic dipping sauce for oysters, that I will remember him now,” Katalinich wrote. “And when I am able to put my hands on respectable bay scallops (Jules allowed as how the Nantucket Bay scallops were nearly as good as the dear, departed Peconic Bay variety), I plan to re-create his simple approach: one for the bowl where a sliver of garlic sits in dry Vermouth, one to pop raw in your mouth like sweet candy.”

By all accounts from those who knew him, Bond was a private person. His food columns spoke for him. He was not a trained chef — and had never worked in a professional kitchen — but was a prolific writer of cookbooks, including what’s considered his classic, “The International Gourmet Cookbook,” published in 1979. 

But there was more to Jules Bond, a personal history most people knew nothing about. 

His obituary in The New York Times, on June 29, 1993, revealed that he had been an executive with the Voice of America before retiring and moving to Shelter Island. The obituary included other little-known facts about Bond: that he was born in Vienna, fled that country in 1935 and eventually came to New York as a correspondent for two Austrian newspapers owned by his father.

It is not that Bond had a secret life deliberately hidden behind his food-related persona. It’s just that most people who crossed paths with him locally knew only that side of him. Only a few close friends knew some of the threads that made up the fabric of his life, including that his Austrian father was Jewish and his French mother Roman Catholic. Someone with a knowledge of history would have thought: Wait a second. Born in Vienna. Father was Jewish. Left in the mid-1930s. 

What story is that telling us?

“When we talked, we talked about current things,” said Tom Morgan of Orient, who was a close friend of Bond’s. “He had this other life, and that other chapter of his life was closed and a new one opened up.”

Jules was 24 when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany and began a reign of terror against Jews and Jewish-owned businesses, which were confiscated and turned over to loyal Nazi party members. Austrian Jews could see what was happening in Germany and feared the worst if the Nazis came their way, which happened in March 1938 when Austria was annexed by Germany. 

Making it far worse for Jules’ Jewish father was that he owned two Austrian newspapers. Starting in 1933, journalists were among the prime targets of Hitler’s regime. Considered opponents of the government, many were purged; some were sent to newly opened concentration camps as enemies of the people. 

It is not known what became of Jules’s father, although the Germans’ treatment of Austrian Jews is well documented. But no one who knew Bond recalls him ever mentioning his father’s first name or any specific details as to his fate after Nazi takeover.

There are some indications that his father escaped to what was then Palestine. The archives at Yad Vashem, the museum and archive center in Israel, lists scores of Austrians with the last name Bondi who were murdered or sent to Jewish ghettoes in transports. 

That’s another part of Jules Bond’s story: His birth name was Bondi. Exactly why he changed it after arriving in America, or what became of his family, remain mysteries. What is known is that after fleeing n 1935, at 26, he never saw his father again. 

What Morgan picked up in conversations over the years was that, after leaving Vienna, Bond went to Spain, where he may have owned a bar in Majorca. How long he stayed there is unclear but a good guess is that he remained several years and then, perhaps after the German takeover of Austria, managed to get to New York.

In America, Bond joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Psychological Warfare Detachment and writing propaganda leaflets. This may be when he changed the spelling of his name. But why? 

“He may have done this to avoid the notice of the Nazis and the association with his father in the event he was captured,” said Morgan.

After the war, Bond joined the Voice of America, formed in 1941 to counter enemy propaganda, and seems to have stayed there for about 20 years. 

When Troy and Joan Gustavson bought The Suffolk Times in 1977, Bond, then living in retirement on Shelter Island, came with it as the paper’s food writer. “Jules was the cooking columnist for us for about five or six years, until the mid-1980s, but I am guessing,” said Gustavson. “He was quite a character.”

In 1982, Bond and his wife, Marjorie, moved to a house in Peconic, where the kitchen overflowed with pots and pans, the instruments of his craft. Cooking with local ingredients, preparing them simply and correctly — that is what caught Katalinich’s eye when she was at Newsday. 

One of Bond’s favorite stops was Braun Seafood, where the catch came in fresh daily.

“He came in a lot,” said owner Ken Homan. “He loved what we sold and what we were doing. He also loved wild game. At some point I said I’d like it if he came in and talked to our customers about the fish that were running and how to prepare it. And he did. He loved it and the customers loved it.”

In early June 1993, Homan and his wife, Patti, went to the Bonds’ Peconic home for dinner. “It was a really great night,” he recalled.

Just a couple of weeks later, word spread that Bond had died. Accounts say he fell down the stairs at home and was found by a friend.

The food writer with the largely untold European past, who came to America as a refugee — and surely lost relatives to the Holocaust — and reinvented himself as a gourmet and a food writer, was gone. Bond had no children to pick up where he left off, or to speak for his legacy.

So here is the legacy he left behind: old, yellowing clips of cherished recipes from The Suffolk Times that many North Forkers still keep in their kitchens, waiting for the right season to take them out, and a firmly established place at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement. 

One month of Jules Bond recipes

The following are his columns from April, 1973.

Published in The Suffolk Times: April 5, 1973
Published in The Suffolk Times: April 12, 1973
Published in The Suffolk Times: April 19, 1973.
Published in The Suffolk Times: April 26, 1973