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Arts & Culture

OREGON EXPERIENCE: A Cuisine of Our Own

OPB | April 27, 2009 10:11 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 5, 2013 11:13 a.m.

Today, good food has become a movement. “Fresh and local” is the mantra of cooks throughout the Pacific Northwest. Yet many have forgotten the name of the man, the native Oregonian, who may have started it all. James Beard was a renowned chef and cookbook author. From an early age, he had a passion for good food. During his life, Beard authored 22 cookbooks, wrote a long-running newspaper column and hosted the first-ever television cooking show. He preached a message of quality ingredients, simply prepared. And he would change the way Americans think about food. The next installment in the OREGON EXPERIENCE series, “A Cuisine of Our Own,” looks at the life and work of Beard in the context of the Pacific Northwest food environment in which he was raised. Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Thursday, May 21 at 9pm.

Beard was born in Portland in 1903 and lived his first twenty-some years in Oregon, spending summers on the coast in Gearhart. Throughout his life, Beard had a gift: an extremely good sense of taste. He could remember flavors much like a person with a photographic memory recalls images. Fortunately for him, he grew up in a world of excellent food.

His mother cooked with only the finest, freshest ingredients bought from the farmers who grew it. Good local seafood was plentiful as well. And between her and the family’s Chinese cook, the Beard home served some of the best meals in town.

Although Beard lived most of his adult life in New York City where people in the food world proclaimed him “the dean of American cookery,” Beard forever championed Oregon as a food-lover’s paradise. His friend Julia Child would say simply, “In the beginning, was Beard.”

OREGON EXPERIENCE draws on the knowledge of historians and cookbook collectors Richard Engeman and Jacqueline Williams, Beard biographer Robert Clark, personal friend Jerry Lamb, and Astoria couple Irene and Duane Jue who took several of his summer cooking classes at Seaside High School. These and other ingredients combine to form a tantalizing profile of this remarkable Oregon icon.

Portland chefs David Machado and Cory Schreiber also share how their careers were influenced by Beard’s vision and cook several recipes from old Oregon cookbooks and Beard’s books.

Beard passed away in 1985 and his ashes were scattered in the ocean off Gearhart.

Watch this episode of OREGON EXPERIENCE online after May 14 and other episodes, anytime at opb.org/oregonexperience.

About OREGON EXPERIENCE
OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting history series on OPB that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust. opb.org/oregonexperience.

About OPB
OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB’s Television, Radio and Internet delivered services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network that includes OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.

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