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mcohen

why is james beard so reviled in this piece?

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i was reading michael ruhlman's blog, and sometimes he has his friend, anthony bourdain, write some guest pieces. well, in one of those pieces, bourdain calls james beard a 'much disliked crank'. i understand why the beard awrds themselves might be viewed in a unfavorable light, but what did the man do to engender such feelings? this is the first time i've ever read or heard something so nasty about a man who did so much for the culinary arts in this country.

http://blog.ruhlman.com/ruhlmancom/2007/03/index.html

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An offhand swipe is nothing like a full on excoriation. Bourdain's ire was pointed much more at the organization that bears Beard's name than at the man himself. Lots of folks have not unreasonable complaints about the organization for its history of coddling embezzlement and throwing its weight around in an unseemly fashion.

Who might have been doing the disliking of Beard's crankiness that Bourdain spoke of? Who knows. Who cares. The fact that he was good with PR and media doesn't mean he was universally loved. Nor should it.


Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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i never met the guy, though i know many who did. still, i think "much-disliked crank" is a bit strong (bourdain, a much-liked crank, overstating something?) beard certainly had his, uh, down side. he was an hellacious gossip. he was a pretty notorious free-loader. he would do and sell just about anything for a buck, or less. he was intensely tribal and sometimes pushed those who found favor with him at the expense of others who might have been more worthy.

still, he did a helluva lot of good work. judge the art, not the artist.

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I read Beard's "Delights and Prejudices" last year.

If you're curious about the man, I'd recommend it.

An interesting peek into a specific period in time.

From the book, it certainly sounded like he had his "cranky" side, if nothing else.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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there are a couple of good books on beard. "delights and prejudices" is his autobiography, so it is interesting but not necessarily reliable. Robert Clark's biography ("James Beard") is very good in a fact-filled way. For me, the best picture of the man himself is in a collection of letters between him and his friend Helen Evans Brown (author of "West Coast Cookbook"). It's called "Love and Kisses and a Halo of Truffles".

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For another interesting (if equally unreliable) angle, Jeremiah Tower's book California Dish: What I saw (and cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution had some memorable passages about their apparently conflicted relationship.


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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