American Cookery
James Beard's influence on the way we eat in this country is tremendous, and his books truly are required reading.


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Jessica Tagliaferro is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.



June 2005


Product Reviews / Best Reads / Cooking

American Cookery

By James Beard

I own a 1972 copy of this classic handed down by a dear family friend, Blanche Skidmore. Blanche’s career with the Red Cross took her around the country, and she was often given cookbooks as parting gifts. Almost as much as I enjoy this book for its utility and instruction, and basic familiar recipes, I hold dear the inscribed comments, food stains, and dog eared pages left by a prior cook. 

Along with Julia Child, Beard was a precursor to today’s celebrity chef. He is celebrated for his championing of the uniqueness and competence of real American cooking. I turn to his recipes when I want an accessible, fundamental dish, and I don’t feel shy about building on them or experimenting with newer, fresher ingredients more readily available on today’s supermarket shelves. Some may find Beard’s interpretation of Native and Mexican dishes naive, but he was among the first popular writers to be inclusive of non-European styles.

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