I have a new lover. And his name is James Beard. Unfortunately, he is dead.
No, I am not a necrophiliac. James Beard is my kitchen lover, the man who has spoken to my soul by cooking the American-style food I had feared I’d never find (outside spendy restaurants) then writing about it in a way I’ve always wanted to read and write. He has such love for his food that it is almost a physical joy to page through his works, with just a slight aroma of pretension that only makes him endearing, because it stays within the bounds of good humor and a consistent invitation into his realm of delicious simplicity.
I had heard his name before, usually from the mouths of Top Chefs as they grappled for supremacy in the kitchen, toting up awards and culinary battle scars. But I didn’t fully understand his impact on the American cooking scene until I committed a minor Christmas infraction by buying his book (on huge sale!), Beard on Food, while I was supposed to be shopping for others. It’s a major no no in my family to buy yourself something once December has gotten underway. I do not apologize. For that day, my heart was won by this simple phrase:
“…green beans boiled until just bitey-tender…”