26 April 2014

Weekend Cooking: The Armchair James Beard edited by John Ferrone

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The Armchair James Beard edited by John FerroneI think I figured out why I can't get make headway in organizing my books. The other day I was going through a shelf of cookbooks and food writing and came across John Ferrone's collection The Armchair James Beard. Just holding the book in my hands reminded me of how much I enjoyed this group of essays, which are punctuated with recipes.

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
ISBN-13: 9781558217379
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 4/26/14, 6:25 AM  

I have Beard on Bread, which is one of my favorite books. I love his commentary!

Tina 4/26/14, 6:45 AM  

What an elegant yet down to earth writer. Food writers are a joy to read. I'm glad you paused over this book. By the way, I do that too.,, get distracted over books when trying to tidy!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 4/26/14, 7:33 AM  

That sounds like a great book - I love food essays and James Beard! Totally agree with him on eating in the kitchen and outdoors. At our favorite restaurant in NYC, my husband and I love to sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen, so we can watch the chefs cook. And my son's favorite treat recently is "lunch with mommy outside", which is on our patio in the backyard on day's it's warm enough.

Laurie C 4/26/14, 7:42 AM  

My husband was a big James Beard fan in the old days; we only have Beard on Bread now, though, I think. I also like to eat outside, but the older I get the less I like to fight off insects while I eat!

Peggy Ann 4/26/14, 8:27 AM  

Sounds like a delightful book. I love reading those types of cookbooks. I have never read a James Beard one. I'll keep my eye open for one!

(Diane) bookchickdi 4/26/14, 9:33 AM  

His memories of Switzerland sound divine.

JoAnn 4/26/14, 10:54 AM  

Love James Beard!

Beth S. 4/26/14, 2:30 PM  

This sounds like a great book -- and one that would make me hungry!

Couscous & Consciousness 4/26/14, 9:51 PM  

What a great post, Beth, and what a great read - I too would be distracted from organising and dusting by such a tome. You will also see from my post this week that I am sharing his sentiments about picnics :-)

Teddyree 4/27/14, 4:28 AM  

Enjoyed your post and the introduction to James Beard. Now I want a great big baked potato :)

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews 4/27/14, 6:56 AM  

Hi Beth,

This sounds like a delightful way to spend a couple of hours (maybe more).

Every one of your quotes brings back lovely memories of times we have spent together as a couple and a family, especially reminiscences of Switzerland and the many lovely holidays we have spent in the lakes and mountains of the Bernese Oberland, around Interlaken.

I shouldn't worry about the dust still on the shelves .. it was worth it to rediscover this great book and thanks for sharing.


Joy 4/28/14, 8:03 AM  

I love his enthusiasm. After reading, Provence 1970 by Luke Barr, I'm interested in reading James Beard.

Melissa (Avid Reader) 4/28/14, 7:48 PM  

I saw a one man play about Beard's life a couple years ago and it made me so curious about him.

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