Famed political reporter and food and travel writer R. W. “Johnny” Apple Jr. has died at the age of 71 due to complications of thoracic cancer.

In a career spanning more than 40 years at The New York Times, Apple “wrote about war and revolution, politics and government, food and drink, and the revenge of living well from more than 100 countries,” notes Todd S. Purdum in his obituary of the journalist with a “Dickensian byline, Churchillian brio and Falstaffian appetites.”

That omnivorous appetite—and the expense accounts that supported it—was legendary, and the sheer pleasure he took in eating came through in his writings about food and drink from around the world (his last article for the Times, a travel piece on the cuisine of Singapore, was published this past weekend).

Purdum writes:

For his 70th birthday, he gathered friends at the Paris bistro Chez L’Ami Louis, which he often described as his favorite restaurant, for heaping plates of foie gras, roast chicken, escargots, scallops and pommes Anna, washed down with gallons of burgundy and magnums of Calvados.

[Calvin] Trillin, who later wrote about the evening for Gourmet, quoted one guest who summed up Mr. Apple’s attitude toward the party, and toward the rich, long life and career that produced it: “It’s my understanding that Apple has simplified what could be a terribly difficult choice by telling them to bring everything.”

He is survived by his wife, Betsey.

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