Sundays at the Eastern Market flea market feature a few cooking related vendors, at least they did six years ago. There was this one vendor, a bearded man in his 60s, with a massive collection of old cookbooks and an even older collection of cast iron pans. I indulged in both.
Let me be clear though, six years ago I didn’t know a fucking thing about food. I didn’t know about cookware or ingredients or experts. I did know, however, that I needed to learn more than what I picked up by casually watching 30 Minute Meals after work.
One very thick cookbook stood out in the bearded man’s collection with its firm tone and streamlined recipes. I flipped through the pages thinking this could be a great, general cook book. The bearded man asked me, as I kept flipping, “Do you have any of his cookbooks at home? Familiar with James Beard?”
“No,” I smiled, “I’m not familiar.”
He encouraged me to buy it. And so I took home the 1981 version of The New James Beard and read it like a novel, well, a novel’s sequel. That fucker James Beard is clever.
In his recipe for “Chicken Salad with Fresh Coriander” (side note: he calls cilantro “Chinese parsley”), Beard instructs: “Roast the chicken according to directions in Theory & Practice (page 83)” and then proceeds with the duration of the recipe.
I’m not sure if he assumes everyone already owns his previous book or he wanted to boost his sales, or both, but I went back to Eastern Market. The bearded vendor stocked it. I bought it. Both Beards won.
I take out New everyone once in a while when I’m looking to cook something basic, like rice. Or want some inspiration for a new way to cook a vegetable. Beard didn’t disappoint as I made the best fucking cucumbers of all time.