03/17/2014 07:13 EDT | Updated 05/17/2014 05:59 EDT

Marie Nightingale, who championed East Coast cuisine, dies at age 85

HALIFAX - Marie Nightingale, who wrote about food and chefs in Nova Scotia for more than three decades, has died.

The author of "Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens" and a former Halifax Chronicle Herald food columnist, died from cancer on Saturday at 85, the paper reported.

Nightingale's book, a history and recipe book about how food traditions evolved in that province, was published in 1970 and is still on store shelves.

It "became an instant hit, selling more copies than any cookbook ever published in the province," Nimbus Publishing says on its website.

"It is still sought after for the information, the recipes, and the home-style comforts of great food, wonderfully prepared," the publisher notes.

In 2011, Nightingale received a Canadian Culinary Landmarks Hall of Fame Award for the book and her contribution to the country's culinary history.

"Marie's research and hence her writing was based on her ability to get to know people and tell their stories," culinary activist Anita Stewart told The Canadian Press in an email.

"'Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens' ranks up there with the best locally inspired cookbooks that we produce today, only she did it long before the notion of honouring our own was even understood.

"She was a real culinary pioneer and broke a lot of new ground for those food writers who followed," added Stewart, food laureate at the University of Guelph and founder of Food Day Canada.

More than 30 years after writing her first book, Nightingale published "Cooking with Friends" in 2003. It was nominated for a book award from Cuisine Canada, now Taste Canada.

In 1994, she was presented with the Edna Award from Cuisine Canada for her promotion of regional cuisine.

"Marie was a quintessential Canadian. She loved her city, her province and, of course, Canada. She came to Stratford, Ont., to participate in the very first Northern Bounty conference where she, not surprisingly, delivered a paper on Nova Scotia's food traditions. She participated in all the Cuisine Canada Northern Bounty conferences thereafter and was instrumental in taking the third one to Halifax," Stewart said.

Nightingale, who was also a food columnist for The Mail Star, was founding food editor for Saltscapes magazine.

She had a great sense of humour, Stewart said, and was "a great home cook."

"Her recipes are usually well-stained with use, a tribute to any food writer, and she shared them," Stewart said.

Nightingale's writings are part of the Culinary Archival Collection at the University of Guelph, which has gathered her articles, clippings, scrapbooks and publicity and research materials.