Home Cook Hall of Fame: James Beard

via Food Republic
via Food Republic

We consider cooking the best method of doing dinner, because homemade food tastes best, is good for you, and brings you together with people, from family and friends to the artisans who melted your ghee. You already know that.

But we hardly came to this conclusion on our own: home cooking has a long history. To catch you up, we’ll be sharing the (abridged) stories of those  home-cooking heros, the chefs and reporters and cookbook authors and bloggers whose work has helped make us–and you–feel at home in the kitchen.

Today, meet James Beard.

Who He Is

A cookbook author, food journalist, champion of foodie entrepreneurs, and general epicurean  around town, Beard’s early belief in the power of good food was immortalized by the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate and nurture this country’s food past, present, and future.

His Story

In 1952, Beard made a damning observation about American food: “Why is it that each year our bread gets less and less palatable, more and more flabby and tasteless?” he wrote.

He might have specified bread, but he was likely talking about a larger , which had come to rely on processed, convenience food. The same year, he published Paris Cuisine, his fifth cookbook, one of many moves he made to get his countrymen to return to the kitchen and cook well and often. Though he’d been a public figure since the 1940s–hosting parties, attending New York City’s operas, writing, and consulting for food companies–his definitive book, American Cookery, wasn’t published until 1972. Beard passed away in 1985.

Why Cooking Matters

James Beard believe that cooking embodied the ideal education: with cooking, you never stop learning. The more you cook, the more you understand your ingredients: where they come from, how they work together, when they’re ready to eat. In other words, he believed a lifelong education in the kitchen kept the belly full and the brain sharp.

Who He Hung With

Beard and Julia Child were two pivotal figures in bringing fresh home cooking back to the United States. Both were enamored of European cuisine, especially French food, and they used this obsession to show American eaters how good food could be. But in his 30-year culinary career, he met and befriended pretty much all the restauranteurs, writers, chefs, and personalities in the industry.

Takeaways

“In my twenty-five years of teaching I have tried to make people realize that cooking is primarily fun and that the more they know about what they are doing, the more fun it is,” Beard wrote in Theory & Practice of Good Cooking. Fun, you say?! We’re in support of that!