I don't like gourmet cooking or "this" cooking or "that" cooking. I like good cooking. -- James Beard (1903-1985).
If James Beard were alive today, the celebrated chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, and culinary educator would have turned 102 on his birthday, May 5, last week.
While he died in 1985, James Beard's legacy lives on through his writings -- from his 22 cookbooks to his unpublished personal letters to and from luminaries in the food world. They transmit an immense passion for the pleasure of food, as captured, for example, in this passage by Beard about fresh picked gooseberries from a 1975 article on fruit (the article in its entirety is below):
They were so tempting that as I started to dress for the evening I grabbed a handful to take into the shower. With the water running over me, I bit into these luscious berries and the flood of juice was like an internal shower of goodness. On comparing notes with my friends I found that through some incredible piece of ESP they had done exactly the same thing. It’s rather amusing to contemplate three people all standing in their showers and munching gooseberries.
To explore the impact and influence of James Beard -- the driving force behind a mid-century revolution in American gastronomy -- independent producer Melissa Waldron Lehner has created a one-hour audio documentary on the "Dean of American Cuisine" entitled James Beard: A 20th Century Revolution in American Food. (Readers of The Food Section may recall Melissa from the post on International Pickle Day).
Hosted by restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, a close friend of James Beard, and featuring Gourmet magazine Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl, historian Betty Fussell, cookbook editor Judith Jones, and Dr. Marion Nestle, author and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University (NYU), James Beard: A 20th Century Revolution in American Food provides a personal and professional portrait of James Beard through recollections of friends and colleagues and excerpts of letters and manuscripts from the James Beard Papers, collected at The NYU Fales Rare Book Collection at the Elmer Bobst Library. The correspondence includes letters written to and by James Beard from M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, and Elizabeth David.
Listen to James Beard: A 20th Century Revolution in American Food:
Click on the pages below to read the rough draft of a 1975 column by James Beard on “Fruitful Feasts,” including a recipe for Strawberries Teresa:
Photo: The NYU Fales Library & Special Collections.