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So, naturally, I stopped dusting and putting my books in order and sat down to thumb through Beard's writings. And, well, a couple of hours later, I had read most of the book again . . . and the bookshelf was still a mess.
I'm not going to review The Armchair James Beard, which consists of sixty or so short pieces of Beard's work. The topics range from Beard's childhood memories of berry picking in Oregon, to his thoughts on British cuisine (favorable), kitchen equipment, specific foods and ingredients, dieting, and drink. It's a delightful collection that is well worth your while to track down (it was re-issued with a different cover in 2004).
Instead, I'm going to share a few quotes. Enjoy!
On eating in the kitchen:
To dine in [the] kitchen is ever a satisfying experience. My preference for kitchen dining never seems to wane. It is not nostalgia but a natural expression of my love for food and its preparation. It seems to me that the pleasure of eating is heightened if one is there amidst the delightful smells to witness the moment when the finished dish comes out of the pot or oven. (7-8)On picnics:
Eating out of doors has always been one of my great joys. Just to munch a sandwich, drink something from a thermos, and talk with friends is a liberating experience never achieved in any dining room. Even the simplest of picnics can be a delight. All it takes is the right state of mind and a place to settle, whether it happens to be on the beach, in the woods, on a park bench, or in your car along the road. (88)On trains:
In my youth, I used to travel back and forth between Oregon and New York. . . . Being a great eater, I almost always took the Northern Pacific because it had a reputation for extraordinarily good food and was known as the "the line of the great big baked potato." The potatoes, specifically grown for the Northern Pacific, were huge, weighing over a pound each, and they were always perfectly baked. . . . They came from the kitchen split and dripping with butter. (133)On vodka:
Vodka has been a pleasant influence in my life ever since the day in my flask-carrying, party-going youth when my father presented me with a large, mysterious package wrapped in plain paper. "Drink this," he said, "instead of bootleg whiskey." The package contained dozens of flat tin cans of vodka, colorfully labeled in Russian characters. It was smuggled vodka, of course, brought in by ships that touched China's ports. My first taste of it was very tentative. I expected it to be fiery, and I half thought it might have the flavor of potatoes. It packed a wallop, yes, but it was by no means lethal, and I was delighted with its clean flavor--or lack of flavor. So I began as a pre-repeal vodka fan. (191)On Switzerland:
Switzerland is a land of good food rather than show-off food. I am always struck by the fact that you can go to almost any small town or village and find something attractive to eat, most likely a local specialty drawn from the products from the surrounding countryside. I can remember unpretentious restaurants on the shores of Lake Geneva, where one could sit at an outdoor table and be served huge platters of delicate, fresh lake perch, filleted and sauteed, which you ate with thin, crisp, homemade french fries, a green salad, and local white wine until you couldn't eat any more. (284)Published by Lyons Press, 1999
Source: Bought (see review policy)
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