Archive for the ‘James Beard’ Tag

Improving the Palate   Leave a comment

After watching the HBO series about Julia Child and how she not only elevated American cuisine but also played a significant role in the rise of Public Television, I became interested in Judith Jones.

Jones edited Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As a fictional work, the TV series played with some facts, not just about the Childs, but also Jones. This led me to her memoir The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food.

Jones grew up in a privileged family where food was given little attention. If not for the family cook, meals would have been completely uninspired. Food was meant to be consumed not talked about. This makes it fascinating to learn about how not only her palate but also her passion evolved.

Jones approach is unassuming and engaging. Yes, she drops names, as in culinary celebrities, but not before she shares her experiences as a college coed in New York City and Paris. The City of Lights is where she met the loves of her life: Evan who she would marry and fine cuisine.

After spending several years in Paris, The Joneses return to New York, where she worked first at Doubleday and later at Knopf. It was there she saved The Diary of Anne Frank from oblivion and made her name as an editor.

Jones recounts her interaction with chefs, her own cooking endeavors and her efforts that helped home cooks move from the bland to the sublime. Jones also includes many recipes in the memoir.

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food

Four Bookmarks

Anchor Books, 2007

290 pages, includes photos and index

Too Much Not Always a Good Thing   Leave a comment

Bawdy and boastful could easily be the title of Gael Greene’s memoir Insatiable. Subtitled “Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess” only highlights my point.

When the book was published, she’d been the dining critic for New York magazine for more than 30 years. (She continued in that role another 10 years.) Greene recounts meals at once-popular restaurants in New York City, where she lived, and several in France. Along the way she dishes on the men she slept with and the chefs she knew (occasionally they were one in the same).

I finished the book only because I hoped for more about food. Sure recipes are included and she describes some meals in more detail than others, but attention is on her sexual appetite as much as her culinary one. The braggadocio simply gets old.

Greene briefly recounts her Midwestern childhood, but the memoir emphasizes her role as a restaurant critic as the impetus for creating access to travel, men and, oh yeah, meals. She was granted impressive freedom to not only review dining establishments in the Big Apple, but also elsewhere. The assumption was what was happening in the food scene in France would soon make its way to the States.

The final chapters read like a serial obituaries for the many restaurants that met their demise.

Fortunately, she included how Citymeals On Wheels came to exist. With James Beard, she co-founded the nonprofit to help feed the homebound elderly in NYC, which is still fulfilling a need.

Insatiable
Two-and-a-half Bookmarks
Warner Books, 2006
368 pages, including index

A Good Taste of Fiction   Leave a comment

18167006

If Ruth Reichl published her grocery lists, I’d read them. I’ve enjoyed all her books and remember many editorials/stories from her days prior to and at Gourmet magazine. She’s high on my list of someone I’d to meet – although I’m sure I would say nothing to make a positive impression.

Delicious! is Reichl’s first work of fiction. Previously, her focus was nonfiction, but a story teller as good as Reichl can make words and images come alive no matter the genre. The novel blends Reichl’s knowledge and passion for food with the publishing business, restaurant world and thriving culinary scene of New York City. The story follows Billie Breslin as she lands her first job as an editorial assistant with Delicious!, a Gourmet-like magazine with an expansive history.

Billie has secrets, including an aversion to cooking despite having a palate that easily identifies all the ingredients in whatever she tastes. Billie is the focus, but Reichl also introduces a diverse cast of characters, including,  James Beard peripherally. Billie and a colleague discover letters written to Beard by Lulu Swan, a young girl from Akron, Ohio. As Lulu’s story unfolds it’s not just her correspondence with Beard that grows, but Billie does, too. She evolves from a self-deprecating young woman to a more confident and lively person. Billie’s transformation from ugly duckling is predictable, but still enjoyable.

The fun continues as Billie embarks on a quest to discover what happened to Lulu and recognizes the richness of her own life.

Delicious!
Four+ Bookmarks
Random House, 2014
380 pages