14 October 2017

Weekend Cooking: James Beard: America's First Foodie (documentary)

Reveiw: James Beard: America's First Foodie (documentary)James Beard is a household name in America and likely around the world. Many people know his name because the most prestigious culinary awards are named after him. In fact, to be a James Beard winner is one of the highest honors a chef, food writer, or restaurateur could ever hope for.

So why is there a James Beard Foundation? Who was he as a man and as "America's Food Foodie"? Tune in to your PBS television station and watch the American Masters episode that focuses on how Beard stopped seeing himself as a struggling actor and began the journey to finding his star in the culinary world.

The "Chefs Flight" series currently consists of four documentaries. each focusing on a different pioneering chef. Although the series was launched in the spring, I started watching only this week.

James Beard: America's First Foodie follows the "Dean of American Cooking" from his childhood in Portland, Oregon, where his food senses were first awakened by his mother, a well-known and respected local cook. Even in the first decades of the 20th century, the city had a large farmers' market, and it was there Beard developed an appreciation for quality ingredients.

Despite his love of food, Beard originally wanted to be either an opera singer or an actor. Even though he appeared in some plays and a movie, he struggled to make ends meet. Beard loved the social life in New York, and cocktail parties ruled the nightlife in the post-Prohibition era. He attended many a party because he was a safe escort for married women, when their husbands were unavailable. He became, as he is quoted saying in America's First Foodie, a kind of "gastronomic gigolo."

Reveiw: James Beard: America's First Foodie (documentary)Beard loved the parties, but hated the food served at those prewar gatherings, and thus he was inspired to start his own catering business. Once he became known as a cook, he never looked back.

He was revolutionary in many ways and is credited with pioneering the farm to table movement, many decades before it caught on with restaurateurs and the American public. He was the first television chef. Beard was also one of the first famous American male cooks and changed postwar American cuisine from recipes that started with "take a can of cream of mushroom soup" to cooking with real food and from scratch.

James Beard: America's First Foodie contains vintage photos and film and interviews with people who knew Beard, took classes from him, or were influenced by him. The film isn't all serious though, and we learn some fun gossip too. It also spotlights Beard's generosity, his support of his friends, his kindness to his fans, and his part in making sure programs like Meals on Wheels were successful.

I'm looking forward to seeing the other documentaries in the Chefs Flight series, which introduce us to Julia Child, Alice Waters, and Jacques P├ępin. For more on the American  Master programs and to find a place to watch James Beard:America's First Foodie, visit your local PBS station's website or check out the American Masters website directly.

Here's the trailer for the James Beard episode. (Note: photos were supplied with the series press kit.)

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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rhapsodyinbooks 10/14/17, 6:28 AM  

One of my first cookbooks was a bread cookbook by Beard and I loved it. Sadly, it got lost somehow after multiple moves.

Jackie McGuinness 10/14/17, 7:30 AM  

I didn't know much about him, thanks for this. I am going to look for the series.

Tina 10/14/17, 7:48 AM  

I've read quite a bit about him but I'd love to watch a program...checking our library.

Linda 10/14/17, 8:16 AM  

I must say I haven't heard of this person. Will have to check to see if his books are in our local library.

jama 10/14/17, 9:00 AM  

This is an interesting series. I've only seen the Jacques Pepin one so far, but look forward to learning more about James Beard.

Nan 10/14/17, 12:12 PM  

Can't wait to see this! Thank you for drawing my attention to it.

Deb in Hawaii 10/14/17, 12:24 PM  

I have this one DVR'd--along with the Jacques Pepin one and I'm looking forward to watching even more now after reading your post. ;-)

Vicki 10/14/17, 1:27 PM  

Thanks for sharing this, I'll have to dvr the series.

bermudaonion 10/14/17, 8:16 PM  

Carl would love this series!

Laurie C 10/15/17, 1:11 PM  

James Beard was the author of the only cookbook my husband had when we got married! I'm not much for documentaries usually, but this PBS series sounds good!

(Diane) bookchickdi 10/15/17, 3:31 PM  

This chefs series sounds so interesting, I'll have to check it out.

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