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New James Beard Biography - The Man Who Ate Too Much


weinoo
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I haven't read John Birdsall's book yet; it came out in October 2020. The NY Times review was written by Ligaya Mishan:

 

Quote

How lucky we are, then, to have John Birdsall, a former professional cook and restaurant critic who writes broadly and deeply about food — which is to say, about culture, politics and what it means to be human. He shifts at ease between the glossy establishment (Food & Wine, Bon Appétit) and the more fractious iconoclasts (First We Feast, the now defunct Lucky Peach), all without ever losing sight of that simple pleasure.

 

And then this week, Julia Moskin wrote a piece in the same publication, about the book and Beard, entitled:

 

A Deeper, Darker Look at James Beard, Food Oracle and Gay Man

 

Quote

 

James Beard, who died in 1985 at age 81, was a master of the charcuterie board long before it became a staple on Instagram and Pinterest — and even before those platforms’ founders were born.

 

Discovering seeds of the present in the past happens again and again when revisiting Beard’s body of work, which I did this fall in anticipation of the first new biography of him in 30 years: “The Man Who Ate Too Much,” by John Birdsall, published in October by W.W. Norton. For the first time, Mr. Birdsall brings both scholarly research and a queer lens to Beard’s life, braiding the strands of privilege and pain, performance and anxiety, into an entirely new story.

 

 

Some hoiliday reading, perhaps?

 

This is interesting too:

 

 

 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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1 hour ago, weinoo said:

I haven't read John Birdsall's book yet; it came out in October 2020. The NY Times review was written by Ligaya Mishan:

I thought I would be thanking you for bringing this book to my attention. I need something new to read. But after downloading a sample I realize that I cannot digest the prose without a very large supply of Tums or something similar:

 

“At 8:15 their train, the northwest-bound No. 29 to Astoria, juddered out of Portland’s red-brick North Bank station, the passenger terminal for the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. It rocked along at twenty miles an hour on steel rails quivering in bright, cloud-filtered light, tracing the south bank of the Columbia River. In the southeasterly distance, the solitary twisted fang of Mount Hood dissolved in haze. Soon even Portland—the frieze-topped hotels downtown and houses poking corbelled mansards through the trees of the western hills—petered out.”

 

Now I will judder, rock and quiver back to my thesaurus.

 

But I’m not totally ungrateful. It’s another book I can add to my list of those to avoid. Your mileage may vary. 

 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

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28 minutes ago, Anna N said:

I thought I would be thanking you for bringing this book to my attention. I need something new to read. But after downloading a sample I realize that I cannot digest the prose without a very large supply of Tums or something similar:

 

“At 8:15 their train, the northwest-bound No. 29 to Astoria, juddered out of Portland’s red-brick North Bank station, the passenger terminal for the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. It rocked along at twenty miles an hour on steel rails quivering in bright, cloud-filtered light, tracing the south bank of the Columbia River. In the southeasterly distance, the solitary twisted fang of Mount Hood dissolved in haze. Soon even Portland—the frieze-topped hotels downtown and houses poking corbelled mansards through the trees of the western hills—petered out.”

 

Now I will judder, rock and quiver back to my thesaurus.

 

But I’m not totally ungrateful. It’s another book I can add to my list of those to avoid. Your mileage may vary. 

 

 

Have all editors been fired or something?

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36 minutes ago, gfweb said:

 

Have all editors been fired or something?

Heard they have been an endangered species for some years now. Perhaps they have finally gone extinct including the cookbook editors.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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  • 1 month later...

So I'm currently reading (in and of itself that's amazing, as I don't generally read too many books) John Birdsall’s new biography of James Beard, “The Man Who Ate Too Much.

In the time it will take me to complete the book (it has already once been returned (digitally) to the library, and then renewed (digitally) by the library after a gap of 3 weeks), others might read a dozen or more books. Once again, if you've guessed I don't read (many books), you'd be right.

 

In any event, it's pretty good (I think). But how would I know? 

 

One thing I'm having fun doing while reading the book, is heading to my bookshelf to see which of the books I have that Beard wrote, as they are recounted in this bio. And I have a few (15-20), for sure.  Beard is credited with writing, or having participated in the writing of, at least 30 cook books; a few memoirs, shilling product books, etc. etc. thrown in along the way.

 

Old (and first) editions are especially cool - the artwork in a few of them is just great, as they were sometimes done by (real) artists and (obviously) not food stylists.

 

BeardIMG_3497.thumb.jpeg.a99c20b9d245c1cbce9b49ffca9ef253.jpeg

 

BeardIMG_3498.thumb.jpeg.db7760d6628b4fa4d051feb695e2242c.jpeg

 

Beard.thumb.jpeg.548b5f2c47d7587e148fb70c46f77b1e.jpeg

 

Americans were not eating a lot (or any) fresh fish; they were eating fish sticks. Beard wanted us to eat more.

 

BeardIMG_3501.thumb.jpeg.d18dc12003c8a489c0968da85b90060a.jpeg

 

By no means Beard's first book on outdoor cookery (like his 3rd). 1955. This was groundbreaking shit.

 

BeardIMG_3500.thumb.jpeg.bf94ba8935505ff67d918fcce9e241de.jpeg

 

For those who don't know much about Beard, he was considered the foremost authority on food in America for many, many years. He ran a seminal catering company in NYC, and his cooking classes were sought after. He was also a pretty unhappy guy.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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3 hours ago, weinoo said:

He was also a pretty unhappy guy.

 

2 hours ago, Duvel said:

Why ?

 

12 minutes ago, gfweb said:

Some of it was certainly endogenous. Success and acclaim don't necessarily bring happiness. Orson Wells...Bourdain. 

 

Yes, for sure.  A closeted gay man for much of his life. Large size led him to be bullied early on. And probably some undiagnosed depression thrown in.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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