The Food Lovers' Cookbook Collection
James Beard's American Cookery by James Beard
James Beard was born and raised in Portland, Oregon but a strong desire to be an actor saw him move to New York where he started a catering business for the arts community.
He went on to become a food writer and published classic books such as Beard on Bread, James Beard's New Fish Cookery and his classic reviewed here, American Cookery which was first published in 1972 and updated at least twice.
As we mention above, one of the reasons why this book deserves its central role in the pantheon of great cookbooks is that the recipes are, for the most part, timeless. As Beard himself wrote in the introduction to the paperback version in 1980:
As for my American Cookery, I think it has well stood the test of time. Were I now compiling this book for the first time, the recipes selected would be no different. They represent the diversity of the country's tastes, and reflect its varied and bountiful produce and the ethnic background of its people. It is a feast: if I must be thought presumptuous, a well-prepared and - I venture to hope - a timeless one.
It is a large tome at 877 pages and more than 1500 recipes and ranges widely over topics such as salads, soups, fish, shellfish, poultry, game, beef, sauces, vegetables, pasta, beans, cakes, preserves and much more.
The recipes range widely from seafoam frosting (made by heating egg whites and brown sugar) to anadama bread (a specialty bread from New England made with cornmeal and molasses) to caponata to pork liver tourtiere to Teriyaki chicken hearts.
As with many books of this size there were collaborators in the background and together they have produced a fine outcome.