“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard
James Andrew Beard was born on this day in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1903. Today is the 110th anniversary of his birth.
His mother, Elizabeth, was a foodie who ran a boarding house. His father, John, worked at the Customs House. James spent summers fishing, and gathering shellfish at a beach near Gearhart, Oregon. He cooked what ever he harvested from the sea and on jaunts though near by wild berry patches.
After briefly attending Reed College, Beard wanted to be an actor. From 1923 to 1927 he worked on his craft, he went abroad to study theater and voice, and tried to make a go of the acting biz, but found it difficult to pay the bills, so he turned to he other love, food and opened a catering business. “With the opening of a small food shop called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc., in 1937, he finally realized that his future lay in the world of food and cooking.” [worldculinaryinstitute.com]
In 1940 the publication of Hors d’Oeuvres & Canapés, his first cookbook, put him on the culinary map. His sophomore publication, 1942’s Cooking it Outdoors, was “the first serious work on outdoor cooking.” [worldculinaryinstitute.com]
Now based in New York, Beard continued to delight food lovers and crank out cookbooks. He embraced the new media of Television in 1946 when he hosted TV’s first cooking show. He wrote prolifically and contributed to countless magazines. By 1954 he’d earned the title “Dean of American cookery” by the New York Times.
In 1955 he established The James Beard Cooking School. He continued to teach cooking to men and women for the next 30 years, both at his own schools (in New York City and Seaside, Oregon), and around the country at women’s clubs, other cooking schools, and civic groups. He was a tireless traveler, bringing his message of good food, honestly prepared with fresh, wholesome, American ingredients, to a country just becoming aware of its own culinary heritage. [worldculinaryinstitute.com]
In all he wrote more than two dozen cookbooks, most notably:
- Fowl and Game Cookery 1944
- The Fireside Cook Book: A Complete Guide to Fine Cooking for Beginner and Expert 1949
- Paris Cuisine 1952
- Complete Cookbook for Entertaining 1954
- How to Eat Better for Less Money 1954
- James Beard’s Fish Cookery 1954
- Casserole Cookbook 1955
- The James Beard Cookbook 1959
- Delights & Prejudices: A Memoir with Recipes 1964
- James Beard’s Menus for Entertaining 1965
- How to Eat (and Drink) Your Way through a French (or Italian)
- Beard on Bread 1973
James Beard died in January of 1985. “He was hailed as “The Father of American Gastronomy” and his name remains synonymous with American food.” [worldculinaryinstitute.com]
One of his lasting legacies is the Award named in his honor. Since 1986 the James Beard Foundation, an NPO started by former student Peter Kump, has honored outstanding chefs, cookbook authors, wine specialists and food writers.
- James Beard’s Best of the Best (friendseat.com)
- At the 2013 James Beard Awards, Latinos are the ones to watch (nbclatino.com)
- Beards name ChopChop top food publication of 2013 (cnsnews.com)