Beard’s World

I’ve had so much fun reading the 1965 edition of James Beard’s “Menus for Entertaining” which I picked up for free at the Boonville Famer’s Market. It really was a different world back then, at least for the James Beards of the world.

Pretty much every meal, even picnics, concludes with coffee and cognac, or his other favorite, kirsch. I imagine that mixing a stimulant with a depressant would completely flummox one’s system, but what do I know? I’ve never understood the coffee after dinner thing anyway. You’ve just gotten a nice buzz from the wine, so why kill it, especially just hours away from bedtime? And I seriously doubt that a cup of coffee, or even two, could cancel out a dinner’s worth of wine enough for safe night-time driving.

Having said that, though, back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, my parents did attend the occasional cocktail party with their pajama-clad brood in tow. When they were ready to leave, they’d pile us in the car and off we’d go. Nothing untoward ever happened. Many of my baby pictures feature Mom with a cigarette in one hand while she fed me with the other, and cocktails (which I imagine to be a total necessity for every parent) make frequent cameo appearances in several of our baby photos. Those were the days.

Beard suggests topping steak and burgers – to which grated cheese has already been mixed in with the meat and other seasonings – with a pat of butter. He has an alarming proclivity for anchovies, which he puts into everything from deviled eggs to the butter for the steak. Note that he himself lived to the ripe old age of 81, despite all the booze’n’butter (Julia Child*, another butter advocate, made it to 91). One breakfast menu calls for champagne, croustades, chicken hash, chipolatas, asparagus, toasted brioche, and damson preserves.

Among my favorite pronouncements in the book are:

“Nothing is better in the morning than enlivening vodka drinks.”

“Have a picnic at the slightest excuse. It is even fun to have a box lunch and a hot drink in the car on a wintry day, while you look out at a dazzling stretch of landscape.”

“To give a good party you must be on the alert, though you appear to be entirely at ease. What a delight it can be to settle down later with your shoes off and have a few drinks in peace and quiet.”

*I’m really looking forward to seeing Julie and Julia this summer. Also The September Issue. ‘Cause that’s the kind of girl I am. Foodie and fashionista!